Los Angeles Rams: Cooper Kupp is Back and He Might Be Primed for a JuJu Smith-Schuster-Esque Rise

by Jake Ellenbogen
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This past Sunday versus the New Orleans Saints we all saw a version of Cooper Kupp no one has seen before. This begs the question. Is Kupp primed for a rise in tier groups?

Former USC Trojan, JuJu Smith-Schuster started off college as an early favorite to go early in the draft. Due to some early inconsistencies, JuJu found his stock falling before the draft. Still, however, the Pittsburgh Steelers were quick to pounce on him near the end of the second round. Since that day, JuJu has turned into a low key star.

As for Cooper Kupp, he ended up falling to the third round of that same draft and the Rams were quick to select the Eastern Washington product. Kupp had reportedly worked out with Rams quarterback Jared Goff during that offseason which made it pretty clear the two already had developing chemistry.

Kupp really ascended his stock at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Every single review was a rave about Kupp’s hands, quickness, route-running ability, and football IQ. Back in the 2017 draft, you really couldn’t go a second without hearing Kupp’s name during the Senior Bowl process. So much so, he was projected to go in the second round.

For whatever reason, teams are extremely sold on 40-yard dash times and as we all know, Kupp was never bound to run more than a 4.6 forty. I actually compared him to Keenan Allen coming out of the college due to having all of the tools except legitimate speed and acceleration.

To this point in his career, Kupp has:

114 receptions, 1,601 yards, and 11 touchdowns

It’s worth mentioning he has started 16 of his 25 career games. Kupp, unfortunately, tore his ACL last year which halted a season in which he was looking to become one of three Rams wideouts to go over the 1,000 yard mark for the first time since the Arizona Cardinals did it with Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston.

While I would love to go into statistical analysis of why Kupp is ascending. It’s far from the stats, Kupp is clearly a better athlete post-ACL surgery. He had his knee reconstructed and it’s clearly brought the best out of him. The play this past week versus the Saints that went for over 60 yards and including multiple broken tackles and of course, the infamous stiff arm on Marshon Lattimore really spoke volumes to me. I was at the game, seeing it for my own eyes, this isn’t your really good slot receiver anymore. Kupp is ascending and it’s clear if he stays healthy he’s on the path to destruction. What is the cause of this? The simple fact that for whatever reason, Kupp’s reconstructive knee surgery again, has jolted him and has improved his athleticism. There really isn’t a scientific explanation for it but the hope is Kupp continues it.

As of right now through two games, Kupp has 12 receptions for 166 yards and while that is a small sample size, he has really made every opportunity count and has maximized it. Going back to the 66-yard reception from Kupp, according to NFL Next Gen stats, Kupp was only expected to rack up 21 yards after the catch on that play. He finished with 38 more yards after the catch than the incredible YAC formula calculated. Kupp on that same play according to Next Gen stats ran a total of 85.4 yards to get that 66 yard gain for the Rams.

The growth of Kupp isn’t necessarily even all about him. Jared Goff clearly has that chemistry with him as mentioned above and it shows. According to Pro Football Focus, Goff’s grade goes over 93 when targeting Kupp and that has been the case since 2017! Coming into the season, Kupp actually was second according to PFF in highest yards per route run on third down which came in only behind Keenan Allen and was ahead of Julio Jones. Furthermore, Goff and Kupp’s catchable pass percentage according to PFF leads all QB/WR duos in the NFL. Goff may target Kupp too much and even leave plays on the field in doing so but it goes to show you that Kupp is a big-time player and is only going to continue being a focal point of the Rams offense. I mean you know a player is the real deal when people use his absence as a legit excuse for why the Rams offense faltered in the Super Bowl.

However, the proof is certainly in the pudding…

The Rams offense is clearly better with Kupp on the field as shown above. The Rams offense is clearly going to continue getting better if Kupp continues to get better. We don’t know for sure what is in store but right now albeit premature, Kupp looks like an even better receiver post-ACL surgery and looks primed to break out in 2019. Get your Tiermaker charts ready because if Kupp keeps it up we could be looking at a Rams receiver core with three receivers in the top 12.

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