If the Raiders want to take the next step, they’re going to need Amari Cooper to take the next step an be a great receiver for them in 2018.
In the 2015 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders selected then Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper with the fourth-overall pick. He immediately paid dividends with 130 targets and 72 catches as a rookie with 1,070 yards and six touchdowns. In 2016, Cooper proved it wasn’t a fluke, as he increases his targets (132), receptions (83), and yards (1,153).
Last year was a down year for Cooper,. He had career lows in targets, receptions (48), and yards (680), but he did set a career-high in touchdowns (7). So that’s a plus.
The Raiders did bring in Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant to bolster the receiving corps. That said, they need to be complementary pieces to Cooper. Cooper is no longer a rookie and needs to be the man if the Raiders want to make another playoff run. When he was at his best, the team was at its best.
With the hiring of Jon Gruden, they now have the perfect head coach to get the best out of him. In 2001, the Raiders acquired Jerry Rice, who was at the backend of his career, an coming off one of the lowest production years of his career. Rice had more catches, yards, and touchdowns in 2001, and the Raiders went to the Super Bowl the following year.
His production led him to two Pro Bowls. However, the season before he got there the team was 3-13. As he improved in his first two seasons, so did their record. His first step led the Raiders to a 7-9 record, and they went from last to third in the AFC West. His next step in improvement took the team from that 7-9 record and third place finish to a 12-4 record and a Wild Card berth.
The return of Derek Carr should help Cooper, and the addition of Gruden will most certainly help. An improved Cooper could lead to big things for the Raiders. All they need to do is make the playoffs and anything can happen. Cooper is the key to that.