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Redskins Draft Countdown: Alabama WR Amari Cooper

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Redskins Draft Countdown: Alabama WR Amari Cooper

The NFL Draft is just over a week away and I’ll continue researching the prospects throughout the lead-up to the draft. Along the way I’ll be sharing some of what I find out with Real Redskins readers. The focus will be on players in areas of need for the Redskins but I might look at players at just about any position since Scot McCloughan has said that he will take the best player available regardless of need.

Amari Cooper
Wide receiver
Alabama

What they’re saying:
What I liked: This shouldn’t take too long.  He is fantastic in almost every regard.  He has tremendous hands and long speed that puts him in a class of receivers that can run the entire route tree from just about any spot.  He is great as an outside threat with comebacks and crosses and go-routes, but from the slot, he is a real strong, underneath threat as well.

What I did not like: Like everyone, I have to wonder why the drops occur when they do. He has great hands and technique most of the time, but perhaps from sheer volume or a lack of concentration he sometimes loses sight of the ball.  Also, he doesn’t always appear convicted about blocking.
Bob Sturm, Dallasnews.com

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins would be fine without adding a wide receiver this year but the draft is about the future and they will be in need of a top wide receiver very soon. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon will carry cap hits totaling nearly $20 million next year and both will turn 30. Andre Roberts is younger but his cap number jumps up to $5 million next year, a number that makes him of questionable value given his mediocre production.

Amari Cooper would be an instant help to Robert Griffin III or whoever is playing quarterback for the Redskins. The fact that he’s a sharp route runner already—that’s a skill that a rookie receiver doesn’t always have—will let Griffin operate knowing that Cooper is where he is supposed to be. As Griffin works on his game he would have a friend in Cooper. With Cooper, Jackson, and Garçon in the lineup, if Griffin doesn't make it, it won't be because he had no weapons to work with.

Cooper is used to playing with a QB who is a work in progress. He caught 109 passes last year with Blake Sims as his quarterback.

Potential issues: I think we should dispose of the knock that Cooper has too many drops. Yes, he dropped eight passes in 2014 according to the guys at CollegeFootballFocus.com. You read some analysts who have watched him and you'd think he is a modern-day version of Rod Gardner, a former first-round pick of the Redskins who was nicknamed 50-50 because it seemed that those were the odds that he would hang on to a pass that hit him in the hands. But CGG also counted 174 targets for him, a huge number, making his drop rate 6.1 percent. That’s higher than you want ideally but it’s not awful by any means.

As Sturm noted, Cooper does not seem to be very enthusiastic about blocking at times. However, when he is at the point of attack he does an adequate job. There should be time to coach him up on this since so many other parts of his game seem to be NFL ready.

Bottom line: Let’s say that the two quarterbacks go 1-2 in the draft and Dante Fowler Jr. and Leonard Williams are taken next. That would mean the top two defensive players are gone and Cooper and West Virginia receiver Kevin White are still on the board. Does McCloughan go with the polished Cooper, perhaps the most NFL-ready prospect in the draft? Or does he turn in a card for White, who is not nearly as polished but a couple of inches taller, a step faster and the more physical of the two.

To put it in simplistic terms, White appears to have a very high ceiling but also a low floor. There is little chance that Cooper will bust but he may never be an All-Pro, dominant receiver. Does McCloughan take a chance on greatness? Or will he take the player who appears to be more of a sure thing (with the caveat that there really are no sure things in the NFL draft)?

In his own words:

Cooper on what he thinks he can do better:
I think I can be more consistent in everything that I do. There were definitely times when I didn't look the ball all the way through when I should've, which could've propelled me from maybe 200 yards to probably whatever that catch may have been. There were definitely times when I could've high-pointed the ball, and again could've made my numbers look better.
Previously in Draft Countdown:

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Report: One team Redskins need to watch out for when it comes to Kirk Cousins this offseason

Report: One team Redskins need to watch out for when it comes to Kirk Cousins this offseason

Mike Shanahan likes Kirk Cousins, both as a person and as a quarterback. The former Redskins coach has made no secret about that. Luckilly for the 'Skins, especially with Cousins staring at free agency, Mike Shanahan is no longer coaching in the NFL.

His son Kyle, however, seems highly likely to take over as San Francisco 49ers head coach. And soon.

Kyle Shanahan currently serves as the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, and once their playoff run ends, most expect Shanahan to be named Niners head coach. 

Why should Washington fans care? Allow ESPN's Adam Schefter to explain:

Kyle Shanahan is set to become the San Francisco 49ers' head coach after Atlanta's season ends. San Francisco needs a quarterback as much as any other team in the league. If Cousins is available, the 49ers would pursue him as hard as they've pursued Shanahan.

Even if Washington tags Cousins, San Francisco could attempt to pry him loose in a trade with a package that could include this year's No. 2 overall draft pick. And if Washington doesn't want to deal now, it could have issues later.

This news should not be a shock to Skins fans, but it should be taken seriously. Remember, Kyle Shanahan was part of the Washington organization when Cousins was drafted and the duo worked together in 2012 and 2013. Most quarterbacks would love to run Shanahan's No. 1 ranked offense from Atlanta, and the guess here says Cousins would probably jump at the opportunity. 

Still, much must be worked out.

While some in the Washington front office might have questions about what the long-term value should be in a Cousins contract, the team still has some control. They can place the franchise tag on Cousins this season, like they did last season, and work until mid-summer on a multi-year deal. Or Cousins can again play on a franchise tag in 2017, like he did in 2016 and passed for nearly 5,000 yards.

MORE REDSKINS: Kevin O'Connell to be hired as QB coach

What makes Schefter's report the most interesting is the mention of the No. 2 overall pick. Observing the Redskins in 2016, it became obvious the team needs more impact players on defense, and with the second overall pick combined with their own 17th pick and eight more after that, that could deliver an immediate boost. 

Whatever boost a package of draft picks might bring in will be hard pressed to match the production of Cousins. Finding a starting quarterback in the NFL is exceptionally hard, and while Cousins has shown flashes of a special player, he has certainly confirmed he is a capable player in two seasons at the helm of Jay Gruden's offense.

Scot McCloughan and the Redskins brain trust have a few more weeks before free agency, and with it, the deadline to again place the franchise tag on Cousins. It's nearly impossible to see a scenario where Cousins hits the open market this season, but if the No. 2 overall pick comes into play, other scenarios start to seem more possible. 

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

 

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The Final Countdown: Josh Norman INT makes for Redskins 7th best play of 2016

The Final Countdown: Josh Norman INT makes for Redskins 7th best play of 2016

As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and at the 10 worst.

No. 7 best play of 2016

Redskins vs. Browns Week 4

6:37 left in Q4, Browns ball at their own 30, 2nd and 2, Redskins leading 24-20

Cody Kessler pass short middle intended for Terrelle Pryor INTERCEPTED by Josh Norman at CLV 25. Josh Norman to CLV 24 for 1 yard (Andre Hawkins).
PENALTY on WAS-J.Norman, Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 15 yards, enforced at CLV 24.

Related: The Redskins week that was

Tandler: Sometimes you have a great win, sometimes you dodge disaster. This one went in the latter category. The Redskins couldn’t quite shake the feisty Browns and Kessler for three and a half quarters. Then Norman stayed in Pryor’s hip pocket as the receiver ran a slat. Norman lunged in front of Pryor as the ball arrived and made the interception. He did draw a penalty for doing a bow and arrow celebration but the Redskins overcame that and drove in for the clinching touchdown in their 31-20 win.

More Redskins: Offensive coordinator situation set?

Finlay: Josh Norman was the story of the Redskins offseason, and this game came one week after playing, and beating, Odell Beckham in New York. The spotlight was burning bright on Norman, and he made a crucial play when the Skins really needed it. Washington got out to a big lead early in this game only to let the Browns climb back in, mainly on the strength of Isaiah Crowell and th Cleveland run game. Losing at home to an awful Browns team would have completely derailed the modicum of momentum Kirk Cousins and the 'Skins established with the Week 3 win over the Giants, and Norman's INT made sure that didn't happen. 

10 best plays countdown

10 worst plays countdown

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!