First, it was Dak Prescott, a “marginal” quarterback.
Then, it was Ezekiel Elliott, a non-top-10 running back.
Now, it’s Amari Cooper’s turn for anonymous scorn.
One NFL front-office source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler — who surveyed over 50 league executives, coaches, scouts, and players to rank the sport’s best wide receivers — that he considered Cooper unsignable this offseason.
“There’s something holding him back,” the exec confided to Fowler. “He was the best receiver on the market and I didn’t want to sign him.”
The Cowboys certainly would disagree with this assessment considering they moved quickly to retain Cooper, who inked a five-year, $100 million contract in March. And it’s unlikely this nameless personnel man resides in Washington, as head coach Ron Rivera previously admitted the team pursued the four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver “all the way until the end” of his brief free-agent stint.
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It’s a borderline ludicrous take, no matter who uttered the words. Cooper was worth every bit of the first-round pick Dallas surrendered for him, finishing last season with 1,189 yards (eighth-most in the NFL) and eight receiving touchdowns (tied for ninth-most) despite ranking 22nd in catches (79). He played in all 16 games despite battling a slew of debilitating lower-body injuries. He averaged 10 yards per receiving target (t-ninth) and made 54 first-down grabs (t-12th) despite the many other weapons at Prescott’s disposal.
Across 25 games with the silver and blue, following his October 2018 arrival from the Raiders, Cooper has tallied 132 receptions for 1,914 yards (14.5 YPC) and 14 scores, quickly (yet quietly) asserting himself as Prescott’s go-to option — no small feat.
And here’s the scary part: He just turned 26. His ceiling has yet to be scratched.
Is Cooper on the same level as, say, New Orleans’ Michael Thomas or Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins? You can make the argument against that. Is he the game’s best WR1? You could posit he isn’t even the Cowboys‘ best WR with Michael Gallup and first-round rookie CeeDee Lamb in tow.
But is he deserving of being dragged to this extent? Absolutely not. Is he, as Rex Ryan famously decried, a “turd” or a “disappearing act?” Absolutely not.
He’ll prove as much this fall. In the interim, don’t expect a response a la Zeke. True to form, Cooper will do his talking on the field, and his actions will speak louder than any detractor cloaked in cowardly anonymity.
Ezekiel Elliott Had Perfect Reaction to Criticism
The Cowboys’ star RB issued a response after Fowler on Thursday slotted Elliott as the league’s 11th-best running back. One particular offensive coach, as Locked on Cowboys‘ Marcus Mosher noted, contributed to the curious placement by pointedly critiquing Elliott’s 2019 performance.
“Very few breakout runs, doesn’t look as strong anymore. Feels like he’s about 60 to 70 percent of what he was,” the coach told Fowler.
To which Zeke replied with an appropriate mixture of umbrage and self-deprecation.
Whoever that is, is faded lol https://t.co/mCqdYv1U2a
— Ezekiel Elliott (@EzekielElliott) July 9, 2020
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL