What Amari Cooper has to do to win Rookie of the Year
By Michael McNamara
The NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award has a tendency to go to quarterbacks and running backs, but with the passing game becoming more prolific and wide receivers being more dynamic than ever, the position has gotten more attention when it comes to postseason awards. Odell Beckham, Jr. won AP ROTY last year after posting a ridiculous 12 game stretch that saw him nab 91 receptions for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns. Percy Harvin won the award in 2009 in a much different way, as he was a triple threat, posting 60 catches for 790 yards, rushing for 135 yards, and 1156 yards on kickoff returns with 8 total touchdowns.
Before that, Anquan Bolden and Randy Moss were the only other WR’s to win ROTY's in the past 20 years, and they had to rack up monster numbers to do it. Moss had an all-time great rookie year, catching 69 balls for 1313 yards and 17 touchdowns. Anquan Boldin, meanwhile posted an, at the time, rookie record 101 receptions for 1,377 yards. He also returned 20 punts and had 5 rushing attempts for a total of 230 additional yards. In some cases, the WR’s helped a team improve record wise (Moss and Harvin), and in others they didn’t (Boldin and OBJ). With quarterbacks, winning is key when it comes to getting postseason awards, but with WR’s it isn’t a prerequisite.
What would help Cooper more than anything is to rack up yards and catches in volume. Outside of Moss, all of the receivers who won ROTY or finished in the top 3 in voting averaged 6 or more receptions per game and/or 100 or more total yards from scrimmage. There have been reports of late that the Raiders are considering using Cooper on special teams, and while some fear that this could lead to injury, it is also an opportunity to get the ball in the hands of your most dynamic playmaker. In addition to helping the team, getting a few touches on special teams and in the running game could help Cooper lock down the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The other thing to watch out for is the play of James Winston and Marcus Mariota, and more specifically, their teams’ record. An improvement of 5 or more games for a team (when the rookie plays at least 12 games) almost always leads to a ROTY award. If Tampa Bay or Tennessee gets to .500, the quarterbacks will be hard to beat, even if Cooper has an epic rookie season. But that is outside of Cooper’s control. All he can do is capitalize on every opportunity given to him, and in Musgrave’s offense, he should get plenty of chances. For him to win ROTY, a stat line like this would likely be required:
1200+ Receiving Yards
8+ Total Touchdowns
200-400 Total Yards on kickoffs, puts, and/or rushing attempts