When Cooper Kupp finished playing his senior year of high school soccer, it didn’t look like he was going to play soccer at the next level, at least not on a scholarship.
Kupp had no scholarship offers until three weeks after his senior season, according to ESPN. Despite the fact that both his father Craig Kupp and his grandfather Jake Kupp played in the NFL, no coach responded to the tape he sent.
Nine years later, Kupp is one of the best receivers in the NFL. The 6-2 playmaker operates out of the Rams’ slot and is off to a stellar start to the 2021 NFL season. He has built a strong relationship with Matthew Stafford and ranks as the number one wide receiver for fantasy football in most formats.
How did Kupp get to this point? It was a long journey for him that started at FCS. Here’s a look at how Kupp rose through the ranks to become the Rams’ primary pass-catching weapon.
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Cooper Kupp College Career
Kupp went to eastern Washington during his college career. FCS School is best known for its field, which is made up of red grass and affectionately known as “El Infierno.” By NCAA.comKupp decided to go to eastern Washington on an offer from the state of Idaho.
Kupp flourished playing for the Eagles. He helped Eastern Washington to a 41-11 record during his time with the team and set numerous NCAA records. This included the NCAA’s all-time receiving yards per receiving record (6,464 yards), and below are the FCS records that belong to him:
|Running receiving yards per game||124.3|
|Average TD per game||1.4|
|Games with at least 100 receiving yards||31|
|Consecutive games with reception||52|
Kupp’s good play put him on the map before the 2017 NFL Draft. He was considered one of the best catching prospects in a strong draft class that also included Mike Williams, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Curtis Samuel.
“He didn’t waste a minute, never,” then-East Washington coach Beau Baldwin said of Kupp in 2017, according to ESPN. “I know a lot of people say it, but he really wasn’t going to let anyone get over it.”
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Why the Rams selected Cooper Kupp
The Rams ultimately selected Kupp in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He was the seventh wide receiver chosen and was the 69th overall pick at the start of the third round.
Rams coach Sean McVay was “excited” to land Kupp at that point in the draft. He was enthusiastic about Kupp’s intelligence and said he was one of the most prepared receivers he had ever tested.
“I think it’s wired in the right way,” McVay said of Kupp in a post-draft press conference. “You can see that he always has a plan on the line of scrimmage on how he’s going to work against different covers and where the holes are in that cover. He has great hands.
“You see a guy who understands the game,” added McVay. “You watch him play, you see he has these pre-launch plans that, a lot of times, you don’t see. He’s one of the most polished college receivers I’ve evaluated in a while.”
McVay’s evaluation turned out to be spot on, as Kupp made rapid progress with the Rams.
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Cooper Kupp’s first four years with the Rams
Kupp burst onto the scene and posted 869 receiving yards and five touchdowns. This did not surprise anyone, least of all Sean McVay.
“I think one of the things that really impressed us about Cooper, just seeing him in college is that one of those receivers that sees the game through the eyes of the quarterback,” he said. McVay said at a press conference in August 2017. “He always has a plan on the line of scrimmage, he understands coverage and road concepts and I think that’s what allows him to be such a productive player and too advanced for a rookie. .
“He is one of the most mature rookies I have ever been with and we expect some good things from him in the future.”
The Rams were hopeful that Kupp would make him a bigger role in 2018. He played well early in the season, adding 50 receptions for 566 yards and six touchdowns in eight games. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL and missed the second half of the season.
Kupp made a full recovery before the 2019 season. He put together his best season to date, racking up 94 receptions, 1,161 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. That included a game in which he recorded 220 receiving yards, the most of his career.
In 2020, Kupp was just shy of consecutive 1,000-yard seasons while recording 92 receptions, 974 yards and three TDs. His profile continued to rise and received praise from another of the NFL’s elite wide receivers, Davante Adams.
Cooper Kupp is the most underrated wide receiver in the league.
– Davante Adams (@ tae15adams) November 24, 2020
And a year later, Kupp has risen to another level, thanks, in part, to his new quarterback.
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Cooper Kupp’s connection to Matthew Stafford, Route Eight
After two weeks with Matthew Stafford, Kupp had two 100-yard receiving games and it was clear that he and Stafford were becoming a dynamic duo. All he had to do was listen to Stafford talk about Kupp after the Rams’ 24-21 win over the Colts in Week 2.
“He’s one of those guys that is as ignored as anyone in the league,” Stafford said of Kupp. at his press conference. “He’s extremely talented, he does everything we ask him to do, whether it’s blocking for his other guys on the team, whether they’re catchers or running backs, running down the field making big plays, catching the ball behind the scrimmage line and going for great plays. He is a very talented player, and I am happy to be able to work with him. “
Stafford is surely making it known. He has already targeted Kupp 46 times in four games. Kupp has 431 yards and five touchdowns this season, the highest in the NFL, and he is proving that he is one of the best receivers in the NFL.
Not only is Kupp on track for a career year, he’s making moves few have made on the soccer field. This includes running the “Eight” route, a move that he created himself. Essentially, he pretends to pivot on the play and backs out to the outside while stopping the defensive back in his tracks.
In fact, Kupp has been so deadly as a road running back that teams have targeted him on third downs to make the Rams’ offense shake. Byron Murphy of the Cardinals acknowledged that it was a big part of his game plan in Arizona’s 37-20 win over Los Angeles.
“We know what kind of player he is”, Murphy said. “This week (he) was emphasized because we know that on third downs, he is a favorite target.”
Kupp will continue to attract a lot of attention for the rest of the season. After all, he was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for September, and he ranks as one of the top 10 receivers in the NFL, according to Professional soccer approach.
Not bad for a kid who didn’t get a college offer until three weeks after his senior season ended.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.