It might be a cliché, but the more you can do on a football field can usually increase your chances to be a contributor on an NFL roster. That should bode well for the prospects of Pharoh Cooper. South Carolina's top offensive weapon in 2015 was a Swiss Army Knife option on a Gamecocks team that suffered plenty of upheaval -- not the least of which was its coach resigning midseason. But will Cooper's jack-of-all-trades skillset make him a fantasy master in 2016? I looked into the tape the find out.
» Versatile; played a number of roles in the offense
» Releases quickly from line of scrimmage; gets to top speed quickly
» Reliable hands
Cooper did a little bit of everything during his time at South Carolina. He was the team's leading receiver (posting a statline of 135-2,109-17 over his final two seasons); he also lined up as the wildcat quarterback, rushing 71 times for 513 yards and four scores in his three seasons in Columbia. If that wasn't enough, Cooper completed 9-of-16 passes for 118 yards and four touchdowns and even returned punts. Not bad for a guy who was a cornerback when he first stepped foot on campus.
That level of versatility held him in good stead in the Gamecock program and he finished the 2015 campaign as the team's leader in scrimmage yards (1,084) and total touchdowns (nine). But he truly made his name as a receiver. Cooper lined up all over the field and was the primary target for the litany of signal-callers who took the field last season. Part of it was Cooper's ability to explode off the line of scrimmage and force defenders to commit early. The other part was Cooper's consistent ability to catch most anything in his atmosphere.
» Needs more work as a route-runner
» Struggles to make contested catches
» Lacks agility to make tacklers miss after the catch
Sometimes the problem with doing a little bit of everything is that you never really get good at one thing. For all of Cooper's positive attributes, he still lacks some polish as a wide receiver. He has a tendency to round off his underneath routes and often struggles to find space to get open in the middle of the field. These are issues that can be improved, but they are likely to limit his wide receiver snaps early in his career.
The other issue that might hurt is that Cooper struggles to make catches in traffic. Anytime Cooper was forced to battle with a defender to come up with a football, there was a better than even chance that he wasn't going to win the battle. That will be crucial at the next level where it will be harder to gain separation from defenders. Something that might be harder to overcome is Cooper's general lack of wiggle. Once the ball is in his hands, he doesn't often make tacklers miss in the open field. Instead he relies on his (not inconsiderable) straight line speed to try and outrun them.
Ideal fantasy fits
With Chris Hogan apparently on his way to New England, the Bills could use another crafty receiver to work in the slot when they go with three or more receivers. Cooper could also be an intriguing piece if the Bills want to run wildcat sets with Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy. Even though the Patriots are adding a receiver in free agency, we've seen what Bill Belichick can do with players that have myriad skills. You might not be able to project Cooper's role in New England, but it's certain that the Patriots would make it work. Going to the Rams would give all of us the sadz, but this just feels like the kind of player that Jeff Fisher stockpiles only to have him waste away on the roster for four seasons.
Early fantasy draft projection
Make no mistake, Cooper's football IQ and willingness to do whatever is asked of him will endear him to plenty of NFL personnel types. His lack of standout ability in any one area means he'll probably wait to hear his name called during the NFL Draft. It also means that he'll have a cloudy fantasy future as well. In redraft leagues, it's hard to envision Cooper getting a lot of attention from fantasy managers. In the right offensive system, he could have some late dynasty appeal, but it could take a few seasons before you see any real dividends.