Kupp's Evaluation Pays Off for Rams in Year One

Posted Mar 10, 2018

Head coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead saw something special in WR Cooper Kupp at the Senior Bowl. And their evaluation paid off in dividends in 2017.

The Rams are fresh off their trip to the 2018 Combine — the franchise’s first chance to evaluate some of college football’s top players. And as the club heads into Pro Day season, the organization will be taking an in-depth look at those prospects in anticipation for the NFL Draft.

Looking back to the 2017 Combine, it didn’t take long for Rams general manager Les Snead to notice wide receiver Cooper Kupp.

“I was personally probably sold on Cooper Kupp long before last year,” Snead said at the NFL Combine last week.

The Eastern Washington product and two-time Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year recipient was one of 2016’s top playmakers at the collegiate level — setting the FCS record for both all-time receiving yards (6,464) and touchdowns (73).

And though Kupp was a member of an FCS program — a lower level of play than its FBS counterparts — it didn’t stop the wideout from catching Snead’s attention. 

“You’re watching Oregon and [Kupp] plays — he may have had 400 yards catching and you’re like, ‘OK who is this kid? He’s fun to watch.’” Snead said. “I think any time you turned on the film, I know this, other teams knew he was the guy to stop. They just couldn’t stop it.”

“When he went to the Senior Bowl he did some of the same things,” Snead continued. “And I think when you see somebody do it against guys that are going to be playing in this league, there’s an element. Okay, there’s definitely a chance that what he does in college is going to translate to what he does in the NFL.”

Then came the 2017 NFL Combine, where the Rams got the chance to know Kupp not only as a player, but as an individual off the field.

“I think immediately what stands out is not only the person, but the ability to communicate,” head coach Sean McVay said at the Combine. “He’s a mature player beyond his years. But specifically, in the meeting, you could see that he was a special person and that he has a special understanding of the game.”

Fast-forward a year, and Kupp emerged as arguably the best rookie receiver in franchise history, setting a new record for single-season receptions (62) and receiving yards (869) by a first-year player. He was also second among all NFL rookies in receiving yards and touchdowns (five), en route to a spot on the PFWA All-Rookie team.

Making the numbers more impressive is the fact that Kupp was not drafted early. Instead, he was snagged by the Rams in the third round, becoming the latest in a series of mid-round receivers who have seemingly outperformed other first-rounders.

“I think similar to the defensive backs, if you got a lot of DBs on the field, there’s a lot of wide receivers on the field,” Snead said. “And I do think that kind of the farther you go back in the draft, maybe the less mom-dad, God-given, physical skills you have.”

“That’s probably the reason [they] get pushed back a little bit, but they are obviously successful and I think because they were less gifted they’ve really learned a craft of how to get open, make catches, move the chains,” Snead continued.

And as good as Kupp’s rookie season was, the future is even brighter. As the receiver continues to improve in the system, Snead said he can see a scenario where Kupp lines up on the outside, along with his primary role in the slot.

“Definitely can be. I think when we lost Robert Woods this year he was able to go out and play outside because he is a bigger kid," Snead said. "I think with us he [fits] exceptionally well in the slot so I think coach McVay would love to keep him there just because he values that slot receiver.”