Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper was good as a rookie. As a second-year player in 2016, he was much better.
That could mean even bigger and better things ahead for Cooper and the Raiders offense in 2017 and beyond.
The analytic website Pro Football Focus this week released its ratings of the most improved players in the NFL this past season and made Cooper its runner-up for most improved offensive player behind Chargers running back Melvin Gordon.
Wrote Pro Football Focus: “Cooper dropped 18 passes on 87 catchable targets (in 2015). On the exact same number of catchable targets this season, he dropped only four. The rest of Cooper’s numbers improved only marginally, but he displayed far better hands in his second season. He remains a dangerous weapon for the Raiders’ passing attack, flashing much of the playmaking ability that helped make him the No. 4 overall pick in 2015.”
As a rookie, Cooper had 72 catches on 130 targets (a catch rate of 55.4 percent) for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns. In his second year, Cooper had 83 catches on 132 targets (a rate of 62.9 percent) for 1,153 yards and five TDs.
Cooper came into the NFL with a reputation for being sure-handed, but had some trouble adjusting to the pro game. In his senior season at Alabama in 2014, Cooper had just eight drops versus 124 receptions and a catch rate of 71.3 percent (on 174 targets).
In 2016, Cooper became just the ninth player in NFL history to have at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons, and the first Raider to have back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons since Jerry Rice in 2001-2002.
Cooper and Michael Crabtree gave the Raiders a duo of 1,000-yard wide receivers in 2016, with Crabtree catching 89 passes for 1,003 yards and eight TDs.