Written by Mario Tovar
I remember the words like it was just yesterday, “With the Fourth Pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, The Oakland Raiders select Amari Cooper, Receiver from Alabama” and with those words given by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell the Raiders believed they were adding to a long tradition of great wide receivers that have donned the “Silver and Black”. Consequently since making the decision, Raiders’ General Manager Reggie McKenzie has been proven right in choosing the receiver who with his calm, almost timid demeanor, has captured the fandom of Raider Nation. By accomplishing so much in little time Amari is well on his way to joining the legacy and company of Raiders’ route runners such as Tim Brown, Cliff Branch, Fred Biletnikoff, and Todd Christensen. And it’s the legacy of leadership, strength, and commitment that makes this club special and unique.
Prior to the 2015 Draft the Oakland Raiders were in desperate need of an upgrade at the wide receiver position, in fact it could be said the team hadn’t had a productive and reliable receiver corps since the 2002 campaign which featured Brown, Jerry Rice, and Jerry Porter. It’s not a slight on the receivers who wore the uniform during those transitionary years but the talent just wasn’t there, though in my opinion one exception was Ronald Curry who probably won’t be found in any record books but was nonetheless a good receiver and more importantly a leader in the locker room during one of the most unstable and unproductive eras in the history of the Raiders.
After winning the Fred Biletnikoff Award for excellent play as a college wide receiver at Alabama, under the great Nick Saban no less, Amari came into his rookie season with high expectations after Derek Carr established himself as the legitimate “quarterback of the future” the previous season. His crisp route running, which some receivers spend years trying to polish, seemed to come natural to him, though he did have a lot of drops; no receiver is perfect, especially a rookie. The 7-9 record under first year head coach Jack Del Rio might not seem impressive to people, especially those who have supported winning franchises in the last 14 years, but the fact was that the team had finally “turned the corner”. This new core of Cooper, Carr, and linebacker Khalil Mack was going to revive the Oakland Raiders.
Finally for the first time since Tim Brown was released in 2004 the Raiders had their new number one receiver. Just like Brown, Cooper has shown his talent on the field while maintaining a level of professionalism not seen by many top receivers who are often seen as “divas” by fans, writers, and even fellow team mates. Having been joined by a former 49er in Michael Crabtree, the Raiders now have one of the top wide receiver duos in the league, the explosiveness, reliability, and talent are now all being showcased this current season. Barring any major injuries or setbacks there’s little doubt that Amari is well on his way to joining that great club of former Raider wide receivers. Despite the injury to Derek Carr the duo of Cooper and Crabtree will be crucial in helping the team advance in the playoffs and with that, showing just why Cooper in particular, is very much a special player. In the end, just catch the ball baby!
“He can run routes with his eyes closed.” -Reggie McKenzie on Cooper May 1,2015