Throughout the season, the “Meet the Prospect” series will highlight an underrated senior NFL prospect with a scouting report, interview and glimpse at what NFL scouts think of the player.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington, rSR. (6-2, 215, 4.54, #10)
The Scouting Report
When quarterback Vernon Adams left Eastern Washington last summer to enroll at Oregon as a graduate transfer, the Eagles was forced to replace the face of the program. However, the loss of EWU’s record-setting passer didn’t slow down Kupp who earned Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year honors last season with 114 receptions for 1,642 yards and 19 touchdowns. His career numbers are remarkable with 323 receptions for 4,970 yards and 59 touchdowns, including 12 catches for 206 yards and three touchdowns against Washington State on Saturday. Kupp is on pace to set every major receiving record at the FCS-level.
Splitting his snaps at both inside and outside receiver, Kupp is a gliding straight-line athlete with a firm build and physical play style. He isn’t shy about using a stiff arm and defenders better square him up because he refuses to concede as a ballcarrier, using body lean and core power to generate a high percentage of his yardage after the catch. Kupp relies and trusts his technique, displaying a heightened sense of awareness at the catch point to attack the ball and quickly assess his surroundings without gearing down. A high character prospect, Kupp is the “best receiver I’ve ever played with” according to Adams and has been praised by his coaches for his team-first mentality.
While he is an adequate athlete, Kupp lacks breakaway speed and doesn’t have the fluid twitch to consistently create spacing on athleticism alone. He tends to allow the ball into his body at times and needs to do a better job with his hands to work off press and unglue himself at the top of routes. Studying him on film, it is obvious how much work Kupp commits to mastering his craft, allowing him to overcome some of these deficiencies.
According to NFLDraftScout.com, Kupp is currently ranked as the No. 3 senior wide receiver prospect and potential day two selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.
What NFL Scouts are saying
“First time I watched his tape, I saw Brian Hartline. Then I watched some more and thought, no, this kid is a stronger, more aggressive version. Good size. Athletic. Savvy. Hell of a kid too. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t carve out a solid 10-year career as a pro.” – AFC North scout.
Q: You come from a family with deep roots in football — when did you start playing the sport?
A: I started when I was nine years old, so probably fourth grade. One of my brother’s baseball games, I saw a group playing football so I went and checked out a team. I signed up and started playing.
Q: How did your recruitment go in high school? Were you surprised when you didn’t receive more interest from FBS-level programs?
A: It was frustrating. I walked off the field my senior year without any concrete offers or evidence that I would play beyond that. I knew I could. But it went a little different than what I thought. I received only two offers: Eastern (Washington) and Idaho State. I picked Eastern because of a few things — first off, I had been here a few times for camps. I knew the coaches a little bit. And I loved the family atmosphere. Just the players, the coaches, it was an open door policy. So it was the right choice. The guys on the team and the coaches, those are lifelong relationships.
Q: Your production has been off the charts since you arrived at Eastern. And last year, some expected your stats to decline with Vernon Adams no longer throwing you the ball. But you actually improved your production and played in fewer games. How was that?
A: I think it was partly me doing things a certain way, making sure I came back a better player. I never want to be stagnant where I’m at or what I’ve done. I want to move forward, look at the negatives and improve what I need to become better. The coaching staff did a great job with the quarterbacks, who played really well. There’s something about playing with good players makes everyone else around them better.
Q: What would you consider your best strength as a pass-catcher, what do you do best?
A: My biggest thing is my mentality. I take a certain mentality to the field that I think all receivers should have – I can’t be covered; I can’t be stopped. That’s the first part of winning the battle. I work hard so I’m technically sound. I look to create separation in different ways. I’m big on studying the greats and using that in my utility belt. But I’d say creating separation is my best area.
Q: What’s an area that you still need improvement?
A: A lot of things. Football is an art. There is no one way it’s done correctly. Calvin Johnson does things differently than Antonio Brown. So realizing that my game can always get better. One thing is making sure that all aspects of my game continuing moving forward. I always want to improve my strengths as well.
Q: Do you have a favorite route?
A: I’m big at taking shots, going deep. So running posts and post corners, putting my foot in the ground and going. That’s what I like to do.
Q: If you had to narrow it down to one trait, what do you think is the most important aspect of being an effective receiver?
A: Definitely lining up with a mental plan and believe that you can’t be stopped.
Q: Eastern has faced a Pac-12 team each of the last four years (Oregon State, Washington, Oregon, Washington State) and you’ve gone over 100-yards and scored multiple touchdowns in each of those games. The Cougars had all offseason to prepare, but you were still able to post 12 catches for 206 yards and three scores on Saturday — do you think there is a sizeable difference between FBS and FCS?
A: For me personally, I think the gap between FBS and FCS is much smaller than most make it out to be. Not to say there isn’t a gap. I’ve gone against some players at the FBS that are better than FCS. Probably the best I went against was Marcus Peters so you play against guys like that. There aren’t any Danny Shelton‘s at the FCS level. But I wouldn’t say the gap is as big.
Q: I think you just answered my next question, but who is the toughest cornerback you’ve faced over your career?
A: I really think Peters. He was an exceptional talent when he was at UW. Not to say there weren’t others, but he stands out.
Q: You have won a number of awards, including the Walter Payton Award as the best offensive player in the FCS last year. What are your goals for your senior year?
A: I set goals every year and my goals are very high since my very first year. I put them laughingly high and strive for those. I might not always reach them but I want to try and reach them and excel along the way.
Q: Your dad was drafted, your grandfather played in the league for a while so you grew up around the game. Has the NFL always been a dream of yours?
A: Yeah, it has been something I dreamed about since I came to the field. God gave me the passion and it’s something I want to do as long as I can. So it’s been a dream and hopefully in God’s plan for me. And if not, I’m fine with that too. It’s something I strive to do and be great. And compete vs the best.
Q: Is there a wide receiver you look up to or try to model your game after?
A: There are a few, different ones over the years. Larry Fitzgerald is one. Also A.J. Green is one I study now. The size and the way he controls his body. The ballskills and the way he plays the game. He’s one of those guys who has the full utility belt with a lot in there to get open.
Q: How was the discussion after last year about possibly entering the draft early? What ultimately made you pass on the NFL for one more year in college?
A: Ultimately, the final and biggest reason came down to my wife and I on a Sunday, fasting and praying. Asking God’s plan and we know it was the best plan. The one that would give us the most peace. We woke up Monday and God gave us a plan for us to be here one more year. I was also influenced by the chance to come back and play with the guys I came in with. Good friends. And also coming back off a year that wasn’t so great. A lot went into it.
Q: Did you ask the NFL advisory board for feedback on a round?
A: I did, but didn’t receive the info until after I made the decision. We heard between second and fourth rounds.
Q: Fast forward five years from now, where do you see yourself?
A: I see myself playing in the NFL and competing vs. the best talent out there. And striving to be great in everything I do. I believe that’s God’s plan. I was created to do it.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Meet the Prospect: Eastern Washington WR Cooper Kupp