2016 NFL Draft Prospect Preview: WR Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina Gamecocks
Turron Davenport, FBGP Analyst______
The spread offense has been a major part of college football and it is now becoming a featured scheme in the NFL. Because of that, numerous multi-threat players are getting more opportunities to display their ability to impact the game in many ways. The slot receiver has become a major weapon. The next prospect to be featured in our spotlight series is one of the best slot receivers in the country.
Pharoh Cooper has all of the traits of a slot receiver. He played running back, receiver and quarterback in high school. Head coach Steve Spurrier has taken advantage of Cooper’s versatility. Cooper can affect the game by taking a handoff in the backfield, working a defensive back from the slot position and by throwing the ball from the wildcat formation. He has a couple of passing touchdowns on his resume. He is a defensive coordinator’s nightmare. Let’s take a look at some of the things that make him such a big time playmaker.
Here you see Cooper taking a shovel pass and breaking off a nice gain:
His ability to tote the rock is on display here. Notice how he breaks three tackles on his way to what ends up being almost a 20 yard run. Cooper is built like a running back and carries the football like one also. Playing the slot requires the ability to make plays across the middle of the field. Sometimes there will be linebackers waiting to lay a big hit but when there is a running lane, a true playmaker will turn a short catch into a long gain.
The middle of the field is wide open. Cooper is matched up against a defensive back that he catches flatfooted. He releases off the ball slightly to the outside and makes a hard cut inside to create a huge window for the quarterback to deliver him the ball. The throw hits him in stride and Cooper is off to the races.
Slot receivers will also have to make plays outside of the numbers. Defending the slot position is one of the hardest things for a defensive back to do because there is ample space for the receiver to go inside or outside. The defensive back doesn’t have the privilege of using the sideline to his favor throughout the route against a receiver in the slot. Many think of slot guys as only making plays in the middle of the field. The better ones will make plays outside also.
Cooper battles through the contact from the corner and makes a diving catch that puts his team in scoring position. That is the kind of effort that will inspire a quarterback to throw the ball even when the receiver is covered because he trusts that his guy will make the play.
Here is another example of how Cooper shows that he can make plays on the perimeter.
Cooper again fights through contact when the corner tries to get his hands on him to slow him down. The quarterback places the ball perfectly into the end zone. Notice how he trusts his receiver to make a play. Again, that trust is earned. Cooper is able to track the ball and make the catch at the highest point. To top it off, he has the athleticism to get his foot down to complete the play.
In my opinion, Pharoh Cooper is the best slot receiver in the nation. He definitely has the chance to be a playmaker at the next level after his college career. Playing for a creative offensive mind like Steve Spurrier has given Cooper the chance to show how he can do it all on the offensive side of the ball. Just a side note, he also played some defensive back in high school. South Carolina actually recruited him as a DB but he was converted to receiver during his freshman year.