NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
What do the Patriots need? Who will the team let go, resign, or pick up in free agency? There are so many questions that have to be answered before the picture will become clear. When it comes to the Patriots and the Wide Receiver position, the picture is very tough to decipher. Will Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola be back? What about former 2nd round pick and often injured Aaron Dobson? We always hear, watch what the Patriots do, not what they say. Well, when the new league year begins, we should start to get a better idea of whether or not the picture is going to stay the same or if we will be looking at something new this year. If they do decide to clean house and bring in some new blood, one player that might fit the mold of a Patriot’s Wide Receiver is Pharoh Cooper. Here are my thoughts on what I saw from him on tape.
Name: Pharoh Cooper (#11)
School: South Carolina (Jr.)
Weight: 208 Lbs.
For a Gamecock team that was not very good, Cooper was asked to do just about everything. Not only was he the teams leader in receptions, but he also ran the ball, played Quarterback in the wildcat formation, and was the teams punt returner. To say he was the teams Swiss Army Knife would be an understatement. On tape, Cooper shows great burst off the line, getting to top speed quickly. He shows great quickness and agility in his routes and does a nice job of finding openings in the coverage and making himself an open target. Despite his size, he shows good toughness in traffic and a willingness to take a hit to secure the catch. Cooper has good hands and athleticism to high point the ball and make contested catches. He uses his quickness and agility to make defenders miss and is a threat to make any play into a big gain. Cooper attacks defenders and is quick in and out of cuts which helps create separation on intermediate routes like comebacks and outs. He is difficult to bring down in the open field and has great change of direction skills.
Cooper’s route tree was very limited in college and will need time to develop his route running skills. He mainly ran quick screens, comebacks, and vertical routes. He lacks experience having to set up defenders for more complicated routes. Cooper will need coaching on his footwork to create separation rather than relying on his quickness. Cooper also lacks ideal size for the position, not just in height, but in bulk as well. He can easily get rerouted by defenders and must get stronger to fight through man coverage. Cooper is quicker than fast and is probably going to live in the slot at the next level.
I feel bad for Cooper. He played on a team with some pretty horrific Quarterback play this past year. Despite that, you could see Cooper’s talent on tape. He was asked to do a lot for the Gamecocks and he stepped up and made plays week in and week out. He was the guy to stop and most teams couldn’t do it. He is really shifty and with his agility and change of direction skills, he is a threat to score on any play. Cooper is the type of guy you design plays to get him the ball. In college, he was never asked to run a lot of complicated routes, in fact, most of the time his catches were no further than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. He will come into the NFL as a gadget receiver and a punt returner. If he can improve on his route running skills and bulk up to handle being pushed around by defenders, then he could be a very explosive piece to an offense. In a bubble, he has second round talent and I think that is where he should and will be drafted. When I look at him from a Patriots perspective however, I don’t think I would take him that high. For what the team needs now, I just don’t think he could make a big enough impact on offense to warrant using the teams first pick on him.
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