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Cooper Kupp grades out as the NFL’s best wide receiver versus man coverage

And that’s not all for the LA Rams star, he’s in the top three vs. zone

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Super Bowl LVI - Los Angele Rams v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Superlatives keep coming in for the Los Angeles Rams star wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Pro Football Focus recently released their listing of the NFL’s top wide receivers versus both man and zone coverage. Kupp was charted as THE most successful wideout vs. man-to-man coverage (93.8) and ranked third against zone coverage (86.9).

Against man coverage, he not only had the the highest grade, but also had a full yard advantage in yards per route run (4.33) over second best Justin Jefferson as well as a five point advantage in wide receiver rating (145.8). Kupp lines up in the slot often, 65.5% according to PFF, but the grades include all snaps and shows his ability to create space from both inside and out.

This comes on the heels of PFF’s May release of the best receivers vs. press coverage over the last two years. Kupp ranked third overall (90.8), first in yards per route (3.33), eighth in touch down rate (2.8), and fourth in target rate (28.4%). Again, because of the amount of snaps Kupp lines up in the slot, he probably didn’t face as much press as outside receivers, but was very successful nonetheless.

Over the last three seasons, Kupp has averaged 110 receptions for 1361 yards and 10 touchdowns. These numbers compare favorably with the all the top NFL receivers. He is second in games played (48), fourth in targets per game (9.35), first in receptions (331), first in receiving yards (4082), third in yards per game (85.0), and fourth in touchdowns (29).

How Cooper Kupp beats man coverages

When he came out of college, Kupp was known as a route runner, not a gamebreaker. Funny how that narrative has been put to bed. Still, he was known as a cerebral player, not an athletic specimen who could beat you with speed and burst. Because so many fans think the NFL Draft Combine is overrated, it might be an empty argument, but I certainly believe his forty time cost him draft position.

Watching him on film, he shows really good feet, the ability to stack moves and cut at speed. What he lacks (and I personally don’t think it’s that lacking) in top end speed and hand fighting, he makes up with play strength and that wily veterans ability to push off deftly at the right time.

To beat the jam or press, he uses those light feet to not allow the defensive back (DB) to square him up and get a solid jam. If the DB does gain contact, it’s not square enough to hinder the route because of Kupp’s play strength down the field. A deft push off as he cuts to to the landmark and he’s open. It’s a simplified version of what happens, yes, but it happens over and over with different tweaks.

Against cushions and reads, he stacks moves at ground level and keeps his head and shoulders rotating. Because Kupp catches so many short passes that he turns into good gains with strong running, DB’s cannot jump his first moves and have to play it honest. The stacked moves, head-and-shoulder fakes, and timely hand swipes can knock the best balanced coverage men off their center. It also must be noted that his willingness/discipline to carry out routes when the ball doesn’t come his way forces DB’s to respect him on every snap.

Is he the best wideout in the NFL?

His numbers and affect on the field game-in and game-out make a strong case, but it is arguable. I’ll leave it at this, if you threw a small blanket over the NFL’s top receivers, he would be under it. He has proven that he is much more than a coach-on-the-field, his athleticism matches up with ALL NFL wideouts, excepting a handful of athletic freaks. Topping last season’s record setting numbers would be very difficult, but just playing to form will keep Kupp at the upper echelon of NFL wide receivers.