As draft season has taken full swing, one of the most interesting arguments taking place is who is the best receiver in the 2015 NFL Draft. This is an argument Raider fans should be paying attention to because it is quite likely the Silver and Black will draft one in the first round.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock when asked on his thoughts of what the Raiders may do in the first round stated, "And as far as the wide receiver position is concerned, I would expect that at No. 4 that's where they ought to be targeting," said Mayock. "I think they've got to grind the heck out of Kevin White, Amari Cooper and DeVante Parker."
But before I analyze which of the three would be the best fit for the Raiders, here is a play profile on each receiver.
Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Measurables: 6'1", 210 lbs
2014: 124 REC, 1,727 YDS, 13.9 AVG, 16 TD
2013: 45 REC, 736 YDS, 16.4 AVG, 4 TD
2012: 59 REC, 1,000 YDS, 16.9 AVG, 11 TD
Cooper does not have the elite size that other prospects boast, but where he wins is technique and doing the little things right. He is the best route runner in this draft and has sneaky acceleration and burst. Cooper has strong hands and catches the ball with his hands, not his body. He has had great success in two completely different offenses during his three seasons at Alabama. Cooper is versatile and can be both a possession receiver, but also a playmaker and has the ability to win jump ball situations. He has the highest floor of any receiver in the draft and is the safest pick of the three.
Pro Comparison: Marvin Harrison
Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Measurables: 6'3", 210 lbs
2014: 109 REC, 1,447 YDS, 13.3 AVG, 10 TD
2013: 35 REC, 507 YDS, 14.5 AVG, 5 TD
As a JUCO transfer, White has only played two seasons in the FBS. He has great size and knows how to use his body to position himself in jump ball situations. In 2013, White struggled catching the ball consistently and often used his body. But this last season, White drastically improved and caught everything thrown his way. What impresses me most about White is his playmaking ability in jump ball situations. His combination of size and athleticism make him very hard to cover in these situations. While there are questions regarding his speed and acceleration, White has the physical attributes of a number one receiver.
Pro Comparison: Alshon Jeffery
DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Measurables: 6'3", 208 lbs
2014: 43 REC, 855 YDS, 19.9 AVG, 5 TD
2013: 55 REC, 885 YDS, 16.1 AVG, 12 TD
2012: 40 REC, 744 YDS, 18.6 AVG, 10 TD
2011: 18 REC, 291 YDS, 16.2 AVG, 6 TD
Parker has elite hands and has been credited with only three drops since 2012. He has an ideal frame along with an exceptional wingspan (80 inches). When the ball is in the air, Parker displays great focus tracking the ball and catches the ball at its highest point. Parker may find himself in more contested situations than most receivers because he does not have elite speed or acceleration. And while he has great size, Parker does not play like it and does not play with physicality. Kevin White uses his body to dominate cornerbacks, Parker does not use his body like that. He also needs to improve his route running and he is slow coming out of his breaks. Parker has a history of injuries and missed the first seven games in 2014 with a broken toe.
Pro Comparison: Jordan Matthews
While Mayock mentioned Parker, I believe when evaluating the best receiver in the 2015 NFL Draft, it comes down to Amari Cooper and Kevin White. Between those two, it is a toss-up and it depends on what a team is looking for and their offensive scheme. So instead of purely evaluating which one is the best in general, I am going to compare the two and find which one is a better fit for the Raiders.
Amari Cooper and Kevin White are very different types of receivers.
Cooper does not have the explosiveness of Sammy Watkins or the size of Mike Evans, but he does all the little things. He runs very polished routes, has sticky hands, catches the ball at its highest point, and has sneaky speed allowing him to be a playmaker. What impresses me most about Cooper is his versatility.
In his first two seasons at Alabama, Cooper had success in a pro style system. But this last year, the system changed completely when Lane Kiffin was hired as Offensive Coordinator. Kiffin focused on isolating Cooper and getting the ball to him quickly and in space, and Cooper proved he could thrive in the new system too. The only receiver I would have drafted over Cooper last year was Sammy Watkins.
The biggest negative analysts are giving Cooper is his size. While he does not have the elite frame as Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green, I would argue there is nothing wrong with Cooper's frame and in fact, it may be a positive. Because at 6'1", Cooper is big enough to contest jump balls, but is still small enough to move extremely well laterally. Cooper's size compliments his game as he is a threat to score anytime the ball is in his hands because of his shiftiness and ability to move laterally. If he was a bigger receiver in the mold of Johnson or Green, Cooper would not have that agility and would me much more one dimensional.
Meanwhile, Kevin White has great size and plays with physicality. While Cooper wins with technique and athleticism that makes him a threat after the catch, White wins during the catch using his frame to box out cornerbacks and make the catch.
When you think of White, think of Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery is a big receiver that plays with physicality and uses his body to dominate smaller cornerbacks. While he is not great after the catch and does not move well laterally, he is a playmaker because his size alone makes him a mismatch.
The biggest concern with White is that he has had success in only one season. But while Cooper is much less risky and more pro ready, White may have the higher ceiling because of his elite playmaking ability and how dominant he is in jump ball situations.
The Raiders need to add 2-3 wide receivers this off-season. With that being said, right now they need a receiver that can do it all. They cannot afford to miss with their first round pick and draft a bust. They need a day one starter. They need Amari Cooper.
As he showed at Alabama, Cooper has the athleticism and playmaking ability to be a number one receiver in the NFL. But he also has the hands and consistency to be a possession receiver.
Cooper can fit in any scheme and can be used in the vertical passing game, he can be used for screens designed to get him in space quickly, he can be used for reverses and running the ball. He is multi-dimensional and can hurt opposing defenses in so many different ways. At worst, Cooper will be a solid number two receiver in the NFL.
White on the other hand is a risk as he only played two years at the FBS level and only had success in one. He has great size and is a big body receiver, but is one dimensional. And while he has a high ceiling, he also has a much higher chance to be a bust than Cooper.
If the Raiders are looking for their first true number one receiver since Randy Moss in 2006, they will find their answer in Amari Cooper.