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Redskins Draft Countdown: Alabama WR Amari Cooper

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Redskins Draft Countdown: Alabama WR Amari Cooper

The NFL Draft is just over a week away and I’ll continue researching the prospects throughout the lead-up to the draft. Along the way I’ll be sharing some of what I find out with Real Redskins readers. The focus will be on players in areas of need for the Redskins but I might look at players at just about any position since Scot McCloughan has said that he will take the best player available regardless of need.

Amari Cooper
Wide receiver
Alabama

What they’re saying:
What I liked: This shouldn’t take too long.  He is fantastic in almost every regard.  He has tremendous hands and long speed that puts him in a class of receivers that can run the entire route tree from just about any spot.  He is great as an outside threat with comebacks and crosses and go-routes, but from the slot, he is a real strong, underneath threat as well.

What I did not like: Like everyone, I have to wonder why the drops occur when they do. He has great hands and technique most of the time, but perhaps from sheer volume or a lack of concentration he sometimes loses sight of the ball.  Also, he doesn’t always appear convicted about blocking.
Bob Sturm, Dallasnews.com

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins would be fine without adding a wide receiver this year but the draft is about the future and they will be in need of a top wide receiver very soon. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon will carry cap hits totaling nearly $20 million next year and both will turn 30. Andre Roberts is younger but his cap number jumps up to $5 million next year, a number that makes him of questionable value given his mediocre production.

Amari Cooper would be an instant help to Robert Griffin III or whoever is playing quarterback for the Redskins. The fact that he’s a sharp route runner already—that’s a skill that a rookie receiver doesn’t always have—will let Griffin operate knowing that Cooper is where he is supposed to be. As Griffin works on his game he would have a friend in Cooper. With Cooper, Jackson, and Garçon in the lineup, if Griffin doesn't make it, it won't be because he had no weapons to work with.

Cooper is used to playing with a QB who is a work in progress. He caught 109 passes last year with Blake Sims as his quarterback.

Potential issues: I think we should dispose of the knock that Cooper has too many drops. Yes, he dropped eight passes in 2014 according to the guys at CollegeFootballFocus.com. You read some analysts who have watched him and you'd think he is a modern-day version of Rod Gardner, a former first-round pick of the Redskins who was nicknamed 50-50 because it seemed that those were the odds that he would hang on to a pass that hit him in the hands. But CGG also counted 174 targets for him, a huge number, making his drop rate 6.1 percent. That’s higher than you want ideally but it’s not awful by any means.

As Sturm noted, Cooper does not seem to be very enthusiastic about blocking at times. However, when he is at the point of attack he does an adequate job. There should be time to coach him up on this since so many other parts of his game seem to be NFL ready.

Bottom line: Let’s say that the two quarterbacks go 1-2 in the draft and Dante Fowler Jr. and Leonard Williams are taken next. That would mean the top two defensive players are gone and Cooper and West Virginia receiver Kevin White are still on the board. Does McCloughan go with the polished Cooper, perhaps the most NFL-ready prospect in the draft? Or does he turn in a card for White, who is not nearly as polished but a couple of inches taller, a step faster and the more physical of the two.

To put it in simplistic terms, White appears to have a very high ceiling but also a low floor. There is little chance that Cooper will bust but he may never be an All-Pro, dominant receiver. Does McCloughan take a chance on greatness? Or will he take the player who appears to be more of a sure thing (with the caveat that there really are no sure things in the NFL draft)?

In his own words:

Cooper on what he thinks he can do better:
I think I can be more consistent in everything that I do. There were definitely times when I didn't look the ball all the way through when I should've, which could've propelled me from maybe 200 yards to probably whatever that catch may have been. There were definitely times when I could've high-pointed the ball, and again could've made my numbers look better.
Previously in Draft Countdown:

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Redskins Week 15 injury report: Two out, seven questionable vs. Cardinals

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins Week 15 injury report: Two out, seven questionable vs. Cardinals

Redskins linebacker Zach Brown may want to power through his myriad of injuries but he won’t be able to do it this week.

Brown is one of two Redskins who have been declared out for the game against the Cardinals on Sunday. Jay Gruden listed his injuries as toe/ankle/Achilles/hip. This will be the first game that Brown has missed with the Redskins and his first since he was with the Titans in 2014.

Also out is safety Montae Nicholson, who will miss his fourth straight game with a concussion.

MORE REDSKINS: IS GALETTE ON HIS WAY OUT?

Listed as questionable are OT Morgan Moses (ankle), OT Trent Williams (knee), OLB Ryan Anderson (ankle), WR Ryan Grant (ankle), WR Maurice Harris (concussion), DE Terrell McClain (toe), and C Chase Roullier (hand).

Williams’ status for Sunday is very much in doubt. His usual pattern since sustaining a knee injury in Week 4 has been to sit out the first two days of practice and then participate in the third. However, he was not on the field on Friday during the portion of practice that was open to the media. Jay Gruden said that he did join the team at some point but he didn’t indicate that he took part in any football activity.

He has missed three games and it would not be surprising if he missed a fourth on Sunday. If Williams can’t go, Ty Nsekhe will start at left tackle.

RELATED: REED LIKELY TO STAY IN 2018

Roullier has been out the last three games with a broken right (snapping) hand. He has had the cast off of it for a couple of weeks now and he could be ready to go on Sunday.

Harris was out of the game against the Chargers last Sunday with a concussion. He has been practicing on a limited basis all week. The chances that he can pass the concussion protocol seem good, although with concussions it is always difficult to know for sure.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

  

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Why ailing Zach Brown has plenty of incentive to keep playing

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USA Today Sports Images

Why ailing Zach Brown has plenty of incentive to keep playing

Redskins linebacker Zach Brown missed practice for a second straight day on Thursday, putting doubt into his availability for the game against the Cardinals.

Brown is leading the league in combined tackles and, probably, in injuries.

The team’s injury report says that he is dealing with four of them—toe, Achilles, and ankle with an illness piled on top of those.

“They’re hindering him quite a bit,” Jay Gruden said of Brown’s laundry list of ailments.

“Sickness is starting to clear up a little bit but he’s still a little sore. We’ll see if he makes any progress tomorrow. It’d have to be pretty significant, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

MORE REDSKINS: IS GALETTE ON HIS WAY OUT?

The illness might clear up but the other injuries are unlikely to go away until a few weeks into the offseason. He is getting treatments that include massage, laser, and acupuncture but rest is the only thing that will get rid of the problems.

Some have wondered why Brown persists with multiple injuries and the team now mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. For one thing, playing is what he does.

“I like to play the game,” said Brown last week.

RELATED: WEEK 15 POWER RANKINGS

“I like to play the game with passion and I hate to lose. I try my best to help people do better, just trying to help some of the young guys. At the end of the day, you rest when the season’s over.”

There are financial considerations as well, on a couple of different fronts. Brown will be a free agent in 2018 and he is risking further injury that could lower his value on the market. He says that does not factor into is thinking.

“Last two years I was on the free agent market, it’s the way I play,” he said. “If that was the case I would have just shut it down already.”

There are other, more immediate financial considerations as well. Brown has per-game roster bonuses of $15,625 that are paid if he is on the list of 46 active players. And he has incentive bonuses of up to $2.3 million according to Over the Cap. It’s safe to say that at least some of those bonuses will be attainable only if Brown is able to play effectively in all or nearly all of the scheduled 16 games.

RELATED: REED LIKELY TO STAY IN 2018

Brown hasn’t spoken about the incentive bonus money being important and, given his answer to the free agency question, he probably wouldn’t. But this is not a player who has made a ton of money in his career. According to Spotrac, if he hits on his roster bonuses and on his likely to be earned incentives this year he will have about $7.7 million in career earnings. That’s a good chunk of money but once you take away taxes, a cut to his agent and other various and sundry expenses it’s not “set for life” money. It’s likely that his bank account would notice whatever he can collect in incentives.

Gruden has said that Brown is a player who could go on Sunday even with only one practice under his belt. We will know a lot more about his status this afternoon when his practice status for Friday and his game status for Sunday will be announced on the injury report.