Summary: Cooper had big shoes to fill at Alabama as many expected him to be the program's second coming of Julio Jones, and Cooper didn't disappoint. He broke onto the field as a freshman and was a 3-year play-maker for the Crimson Tide.
Cooper caught 59 passes for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns as a freshman. He dealt with a toe injury the next season that really slowed him down. The sophomore still collected 45 receptions for 736 yards and four touchdowns in 2013.
Prior to the 2014 season, I predicted that the junior would have a huge year - not that it was a bold prediction - but Cooper exploded as new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin sent a huge amount of targets his direction. Cooper amassed 124 receptions for 1,727 yards with 16 touchdowns in 2014. He had a number of huge games against the likes of Auburn (13-244-3), Tennessee (9-224-2) and Florida (10-201-3). Versus the Gators, Cooper held his own and did well going against cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, the best cornerback in college football.
For the NFL, Cooper is a future No. 1 receiver who clearly has the size/speed combination to present a constant mismatch. He is really difficult for corners to cover as he is always getting separation to get open for his quarterback. Cooper has great route-running, speed, run-after-the-catch ability and skills to fight for 50-50 balls. All of that made him nearly impossible to cover in college. Cooper isn't overpowering with size, but he is fast enough to burn defenses over the top and stretches the field vertically. As a pro, Cooper should require safety help over the top unless he is going against one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
Cooper should go as a top-10 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. He has the ability to be a Pro Bowl receiver and a difference-maker.
Player Comparison: Odell Beckham Jr. I reached out to sources for their comparison to Cooper, and they felt that Beckham had some similarities. Cooper is a couple inches taller and isn't quite a game-breaking speed threat, but both players are superb at getting open with their speed, route-running and suddenness. While neither is overpowering with size and strength, both are good at outfighting defensive backs and winning 50-50 passes. If Cooper lands with a good quarterback, I could see him being a weapon similar to Beckham. Beckham was a top-12 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, and Cooper should go in the top 10 this year.
NFL Matches: Oakland, Chicago, Minnesota, Cleveland, San Francisco, Miami, Houston
There are a lot of teams that could target a wide receiver early in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. The highest that Cooper could hope to go would be to the Raiders withthe fourth-overall pick. Oakland needs a No. 1 receiver for Derek Carr, and Cooper could be too good for the Raiders to pass up.
In the NFC North, the Bears could target Cooper to be a No. 1 receiver after trading away Brandon Marshall. Chicago has Alshon Jeffery, but the organization may want another receiver.
It would be surprising if Cooper fell out of the top 10 of the 2015 NFL Draft, but he should go quickly in the teens. The Vikings could use a long-term No. 1 wideout for Teddy Bridgewater. Mike Wallace is a deep threat, but he may not be enough to pass on White. Especially considering Cordarrelle Patterson had a down 2014 season. Bridgewater and Cooper went to high school together, so they would have a history to draw upon.
It is obvious that Cleveland needs to improve its receiving talent. Josh Gordon can't be counted on in the franchise's long-term plans, plus the Browns have to give their quarterbacks something to work with. Cleveland would have to trade up to land Cooper, but he could be worth it.
The 49ers could use more young receiving talent even after signing Torrey Smith. Cooper would form a great duo with Smith in San Francisco. The Dolphins moved on from Mike Wallace, but Cooper could be an ideal fit in the Miami offense. Similarly, the Texans need a future No. 1 receiver to replace Andre Johnson. All of these teams would most likely have to trade up for Cooper.