Will Amari Cooper or Kevin White Score More NFL Touchdowns?
“Amari Cooper is a great receiver, a great competitor, but I think I bring a lot more to the table. He’s at Alabama with Nick Saban. They have a whole bunch of other tools that help him out where he’s not getting double-covered. A lot of attention is not just strictly on Amari Cooper. … On West Virginia, it’s just, ‘OK, let’s shut Kevin White down.’ They have a lot of attention toward me.” –Kevin White
White seems to think he’s the best receiver in this class, but is he really better than Amari Cooper? I want to address the specifics of White’s argument, but also I want to attempt to answer the question all fantasy owners really care about: Will Amari Cooper or Kevin White score more NFL touchdowns?
Debunking White’s Argument
First of all White’s argument seems to be based on the specious idea that people think Amari Cooper is better because he had better raw production. While that may be true among the general public, in terms of people who put serious effort into scouting prospects I don’t think that belief holds up. But let’s focus on White’s argument for why he has worse raw production than Cooper.
White’s argument suggests that defenses were more geared toward stopping him than they were Cooper. I think that assumes a huge inefficiency on the defense’s part. As you can see, Cooper trumped White in both market shares of yards and touchdowns in 2014; the Alabama passing game was more reliant on Cooper than the West Virginia passing game was reliant on White. On top of that, Cooper’s production in earlier seasons generally trumps White’s 2013 production. Coming into the season defenses had more reason to be concerned about Cooper than White.
Here’s each team’s secondary receiver:
Mario Alford was better than Deandrew White across the board. White definitely had the better secondary receiver.
I’m not saying White’s argument is necessarily wrong. It could be the case that he did face double coverage more often than Cooper. But when he happened to play Alabama, a quality SEC defense, they only employed double coverage on him once. I think White’s argument is built on multiple assumptions that are seemingly contradicted by the hard evidence.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming…
But Who Will Score More NFL TDs?
Let’s start with who scored more college football TDs since that’s pretty cut and dry. As you can see above, Cooper was actually the superior TD scorer. Cooper scored 16 TDs in his final season and 31 in his career across three seasons. White scored 10 TDs in his final season and 15 in his career across two seasons. And Cooper was two years younger than White for all of this. Of course, if projecting was as simple as looking at past production we’d all be masters at it. So let’s move on.
Let’s talk about their size and athleticism, an area where White is generally considered to trump Cooper. But does he really?
White beats Cooper in every category, with the exception of agility. Let’s break these fields down one by one.
White is undeniably bigger than Cooper, but does it matter? I’m a firm believer that height and weight do matter, especially weight, and especially when it comes to scoring TDs. But ultimately we’re talking about two inches and four pounds. Those aren’t big differences, and I’d argue four pounds isn’t much of a difference at all, especially since Cooper is big enough. A 6 foot 1 inch, 211 pound WR is plenty big.
The difference in forty yard dash times is actually pretty sizable, especially given that White is bigger than Cooper. But what if Cooper is actually faster than that?
Teams were informed it was between 4.35-4.38 seconds. RT @askmetostay323: So, what is Amari Cooper’s official 40 time?
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) March 22, 2015
That makes sense as shortly after they ran the forty simulcast showed that Cooper was if anything faster than White. The nod still goes to White given his slightly larger size, but it’s much closer than it appeared at first glance.
Explosion is just a sum of their broad and vertical jumps. Both scores are around average and the difference isn’t particularly appreciable. Agility is the sum of their 3-Cone and short shuttle times. This is by far the biggest difference between them and Cooper trumps White pretty handily.
What Does the Film Say?
I can’t really tell you what the film says because the film is largely subjective. Some might say that Cooper will excel in the red zone because of his short-area agility. Others might say that White will excel at scoring TDs because they believe he is great at making contested catches. This is where I’ll again remind you that White is two years older than Cooper, so you may want to be more generous when interpreting Cooper’s film.
Where film can really help you is when people start breaking it down and quantifying it, which Pro Football Focus has recently started doing with college players. On passes going for 20 or more yards in the air, both Cooper and White scored 7 TDs. But the inverse of that is what’s interesting to me. Since White only scored 10 TDs, no more than three of his TDs could have come in the red zone, as opposed to nine for Cooper. It’s reasonable to infer that Cooper was actually more productive in the red zone last season.
Truthfully, it’s impossible to say who will score more TDs with much confidence in this case. When it was Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins last year, I would have felt pretty comfortable projecting Evans for more TDs. Personally I lean Cooper because of his superior production at a younger age with worse supporting receivers. But this is far closer than Evans and Watkins.
And that’s really my point here. In a lot of ways Cooper and White are actually pretty close prospects in regards to TD potential. I’ve seen people rank White over Cooper because they perceive White to have significantly more upside. I’m not sure that’s actually the case. I can’t blame someone for ranking White over Cooper but if you’re doing so because of a perceived difference in upside, you may want to reevaluate.