After a successful rookie season in the NFL, Amari Cooper has had a chance to get a handle on the biggest difference between NFL defensive backs and those he faced in the SEC over his three seasons at Alabama.
Bigger, stronger, faster?
None of the above, surprisingly.
"Overall guys are better, but overall guys are smarter," Cooper told NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt during a Sunday interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "And that's the biggest thing: Guys are smarter. The talent level, to me, probably is about the same coming from the SEC. But they're smarter, so it makes them better."
Now, the notion that college defensive backs from any league, even the SEC, are on the same talent level with pros might be a bit jarring at first. But keep in mind that Cooper's perspective is unique. He drew the best cornerbacks SEC teams could throw at him, on top of frequent safety help. Among those he faced over his three seasons at Alabama include quite a few who are now in the NFL just like Cooper: Tampa Bay Buccaneers first-round draft pick Vernon Hargreaves of Florida, and second-round picks Jalen Collins (LSU/Atlanta Falcons), Darius Slay (Mississippi State/Detroit Lions), Johnthan Banks (Mississippi State/Buccaneers) and Senquez Golson (Ole Miss/Pittsburgh Steelers).
Even in practice at the college level, Cooper had to get open, as a freshman, against the likes of Dee Milliner, a first-round pick.
Considering the competition he faced in college, it's not a surprise that Cooper holds SEC defensive backs in such high regard from a talent perspective.