There is nothing that riles up people like a list. Any kind of list. If you are ranking things then people are going to have opinions about it. Deciding who has the best burgers, what movies are superior to others, which season of Survivor is the best, or who the top players in the National Football League are all things that people have thoughts about.
All throughout this week ESPN has been putting together rankings of various position groups that feature votes from NFL executives, coaches, scouts, and players. Monday was the day for quarterback rankings (Dak Prescott came in at number 7), and Tuesday the running backs got rated (Ezekiel Elliott was also number 7).
Wednesday’s rankings were for the wide receivers in the National Football League. The Dallas Cowboys are regarded as having one of the best wide receiver groups in the entire NFL, but interestingly none of their players made even a slight appearance here, not even Amari Cooper.
- Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
- DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
- Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
- Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
- Julio Jones, Tennessee Titans
- Kennan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
- Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
- DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
- A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans
There were also a handful of wide receivers who received some votes yet not enough to merit a place within the top 10: Calvin Ridley (Atlanta Falcons), Allen Robinson II (Chicago Bears), Odell Beckham Jr. (Cleveland Browns), Justin Jefferson (Minnesota Vikings), Cooper Kupp (Los Angeles Rams), Chris Godwin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Adam Thielen (Minnesota Vikings), Terry McLaurin (Washington Football Team), Jarvis Landry (Cleveland Browns).
It is actually difficult to figure out where to begin here.
There are a number of receivers in this group (they are all talented in their own right) who are not better than either Amari Cooper or Michael Gallup (and soon enough CeeDee Lamb). Some players seem to have a bit of offseason juice boosting their stock like Tennessee’s Julio Jones who is joining his new team after a recent trade. While not doubting Jones, the idea that he is the fifth-best wide receiver in the NFL right now feels optimistic, although his career resumé is certainly very impressive.
Getting back to Cooper though, who quietly had a dominant 2020 season, how was he overlooked by voters for all 19 receiver mentions? The implication by his omission is that he is, at-best, the 20th-best wide receiver in the league. That is preposterous.
Now to be fair, the voting process apparently asked voters to list their top 10-15 players at the position, but the idea of Cooper slipping past that measurement for anyone is also hard to fathom. Although he almost did even in ESPN’s 2020 rankings:
The most polarizing player on the list by a wide margin, Cooper took heat from several voters because of what he should be. One coordinator said Cooper is “top 10 in his sleep” with “effortless” ability, which is the problem. He’s 10th, but should be fifth.
“There’s something holding him back,” one NFL personnel man said. “He was the best receiver on the market and I didn’t want to sign him.”
Cooper is from Miami but doesn’t carry that “Miami swag” and is more reserved by nature, an NFC exec said. But the exec notes he shouldn’t be punished for that and is easily in the top five.
A scouting report from an offensive coordinator reads: “Big, really fast, understands runaway angles, he’ll catch it and you say, ‘How did he get to the pylon on that?’ Great double mover. Not a technician, sloppy but sudden.”
Granted it is now a year old, but this is a really weak point of criticism for Cooper. Penalizing him for what “he should be” is ignoring the great wide receiver that he is. Also, using the idea of him being void of “Miami swag” is arguably the worst point of analysis that anyone could offer on any player ever. Who cares if Cooper is reserved, loud, quiet, or boisterous? He is dominant when he is on the field and that is what matters most.
The final paragraph from a year ago does highlight Amari’s understanding of the route tree as he is one of the league’s best route-runners. He has a knack for having his way with defenders and making big plays as a result of it, in whatever kind of “swag” you want to label it as.
Most REC YDS on throws 20+ yards since 2019:— PFF (@PFF) March 24, 2021
Tyreek Hill - 858
Stefon Diggs - 850
D.K. Metcalf - 842
Amari Cooper - 774 pic.twitter.com/yeTPtMNSmq
Amari Cooper: 3 games with 200+ REC YDS since 2015— PFF (@PFF) April 24, 2021
Leads the NFL ⭐ pic.twitter.com/uVTaV5dACp
At the risk of sounding overly optimistic about the Cowboys this season, it really does seem like the national media has forgotten about how prolific someone like Amari Cooper is (with all due respect to Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb will quickly re-announce himself in 2021) as a result of dealing with a carousel of sub-par quarterbacks last season.
On-pace statistics can be tricky, but Cooper was averaging 84.8 yards per game last season when Dak Prescott got hurt (a sample size that includes a 24-yard performance in the game that Prescott was lost in). Odds are he would have turned in an even better individual season than he did with his 1,114-yard and five touchdown performance last year (where he outranked several people who showed up on the list).
What do you think? Is this list disrespectful to Amari Cooper? Or is he really not as good as any of the players listed?
We discussed the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers and what to expect from them this season in a recent episode of our Training Camp preview series on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel. Make sure to subscribe to our channel (which you can do right here) and check out why we believe there should be nothing but optimism surrounding this group in 2021!