MOBILE, Ala. — The Senior Bowl practices continued on Wednesday, with the North team getting the first crack at the field at Ladd-Peebles stadium early in the afternoon.
If there's one player who has made a particularly positive impression in the first two days of practices, it's Eastern Washington wide receiver Cooper Kupp. If you haven't heard of Kupp, it's likely because you haven't seen him play. Eastern Washington is an FCS school, so that means he technically wasn't going against the top competition of the higher-profile FBS schools like those from the Pac 12, SEC, or Big Ten.
Still, Kupp has made a name for himself because he set numerous records at EWU — 26 program records, to be exact. He also set 15 FCS and 11 Big Sky conference records, including yards receiving (6,464), receptions (248), touchdown receptions (73), yards receiving per game (124.3), and touchdowns per game (1.4).
Essentially, Kupp is arguably the best receiver to ever play at the FCS level, and now he's bringing that skill set to the pros. He's been the talk of Twitter ever since he first stepped on the field on Tuesday.
One of the elements that likely aids Kupp is his hand size. He checked in at over nine inches when teams took measurables.
Senior Bowl WR hand size: Taywan Taylor - 878" Ryan Switzer - 918" Artavis Scott - 868" Josh Reynolds - 878" Cooper Kupp -948" — Shane Alexander (@Alexander1Great) January 24, 2017
But when it comes to the early stages of Kupp's career, the biggest questions will center around how he will adjust to the pro game. That process is tough enough for players that come out of big college programs at the FBS level. For those who played at FCS schools, the adjustment can be that much harder.
Kupp, however, said he feels like even though there is an adjustment, it might not be as significant as one might think.
"There are great athletes out here, very good athletes, and there's a reason you're at the Senior Bowl in that you want to play against the best," Kupp said. "I don't think there's as big as a gap as people believe there might be. But, to be able to go out here, and these guys are going to give you their best and you know it — every rep is going to be their very best.
"And that's the big difference," Kupp continued, "when you can go against guys who are going to give you their very best every single rep, max effort, great technique. They're going to make sure that if you give up anything at all, they're going to take it. So making sure I'm on my Ps and Qs with that — it isn't too big of a step up, but it is in terms of the effort and the technique that they use."
Last year, current Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was asked many of the same questions about the difference in levels at the Senior Bowl, as he was coming from North Dakota State — another FCS program. Kupp, who has signed on with the same agency as Wentz, is hoping to work with him during his draft preparation in Southern California.
"I'd love to," Kupp said. "We're working hard this offseason — moving up through the combine, through pro day, all the stuff that's coming — making sure we're putting in the right time, spending long days at the office. So I'm excited for when he's able to come back and be able to pick his brain a little bit and work with him."
But Kupp's professional football ties run deep, as he's about to become a third-generation NFL player. Cooper's father, Craig, was a fifth-round pick as a quarterback by the Giants in 1990, and also had stints with the Cardinals and Cowboys. Plus, Cooper's Grandfather, Jake, played from 1964-1975 as an NFL offensive lineman for Dallas, Washington, New Orleans, and Atlanta.
In fact, Jake Kupp was one of the original Saints in 1967. While there was also a short stint with the Falcons, Jake Kupp played a total nine seasons in New Orleans, and was inducted to the franchise's Hall of Fame in 1991.
Jake Kupp's playing experience in New Orleans is still paying dividends for his descendants. Because Archie Manning was Jake Kupp's quarterback, Cooper Kupp had an in for the Manning Passing Academy, where he was able to catch a ball from five-time NFL MVP, Peyton Manning.
"I ran a post route for him," Kupp said. "This was probably one of my first times ever talking to Peyton, obviously. And he comes up and he says, 'OK, I want you to take a angled release inside to six [yards], I want you to push it up to 12, double-stick, hit the near upright and I'll hit you at 44 yards. So I'm like, 'OK,' I'm just going to do what he said. I run it, I go back and watch the thing afterwards, and he dropped the thing at 44 yards exactly."
And, yes, Kupp caught it.
"Just being aroudn those guys is pretty cool," Kupp said. "The way those guys attack football and the respect they have for the game as well is something that I have a lot of respect for."
But this week is about Kupp and what he can do to impress scouts, general managers, and coaches around the league. And by all accounts, that's going extremely well.
SNEAD AT THE SENIOR BOWL
Among the many general managers at the Senior Bowl is the Rams' own Les Snead. He characterized the event as a worthwhile first step in the pre-draft process.
"It's, hey, we're on the grass," Snead said. "Once the fall's over and you quit playing at your school, there's a lot that goes on between that last game and the draft. And a lot of it has nothing to do with football. So the best thing about this game is, it's some of the best seniors, and they're out here between the lines, and that's where it counts."
Without being too specific — who wants to give away trade secrets? — Snead did say there are a few things that tend to catch his eye during these kinds of practices.
"As an example today, there was a corner, and you're getting to see him press for the first time," Snead said. "He's going up against a physical receiver, and boy is he beating him up at the line of scrimmage. You walk away going, 'Hey, that kid's tough. He's got what it takes to stick his hand in there and re-route some players.' So it's things like that that you get to see."
We'll have more from Snead and the scouting staff on the Senior Bowl in the days to come here on the site.
I'M NOT A SCOUT, BUT…
I think Cooper Kupp has a nice chance to be a solid wide receiver in the league. I've seen him shake guys at the line of scrimmage, make touch catches, and generally look productive. He often looks like the best wide receiver out there, and that's not easy when you're practicing with players who were at a higher level than you. It's kind of the same way I felt about Carson Wentz last year — despite coming from an FCS school, he looked like the best quarterback at the Senior Bowl.
Will Kupp come in and make an impact somewhere right away? I have no idea. But I do think he can be a successful pro. Plus, his politeness as an interviewee certainly won't hurt him in the process.