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NFL Draft

Amari Cooper vs Jalen Ramsey: Who Has The Advantage?

  • The Draft Network
  • September 9, 2020
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Although quarterback battles like Patrick Mahomes vs. Deshaun Watson and Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees will garner most of the Week 1 attention, one quiet rivalry that is going unnoticed is the hotly contested one between Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper and Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Two uber-talented players likely to line up across from each other all night long, this battle won’t only have a huge influence on which team actually wins the game at hand, but it could also have a major impact from a fantasy perspective too.

Below I detail what to expect out of the battle and whether or not starting Cooper in your fantasy league is a good idea.

The Traits

Cooper and Ramsey are almost polar opposites when it comes to how they win, which is ultimately one of the reasons why this is such an intriguing Week 1 matchup.

Mainly relying on his pure physical gifts and aggressive style, Ramsey is a tall, thickly-built corner who’s seen most of his success come when he is able to jam or bump-and-run near the line of scrimmage. Excelling in man coverage, he’s comfortable using trail technique to follow receivers and will almost always use his length to contest windows when appropriate. Rarely outmuscled at the catch-point, he also has exceptional ball skills and will compete extremely aggressively in red-zone and fade-type situations.

Cooper, meanwhile, is much more reliant on his overall agility and sharp lateral movements to create his own success. Excelling as a route-runner in nearly all facets, his ability to run double moves is nothing short of elite, as he’s arguably the top separator in the game. Unfortunately for Cooper, his struggles don’t lie when he’s on the ground, but rather when he’s at the catch point. Armed with a small catch radius, he has a hard time challenging for above-the-rim type throws and is almost purely reliant on his separation for success. Obviously, he’s extremely successful in this regard, but it does make it slightly easier for defenses to game plan against, especially with an entire offseason to prepare.

With this in mind, Ramsey’s overall physicality seems to give him a slight edge from a pure traits perspective, even if Cooper’s quick cuts may also cause some trouble for Ramsey on Sunday. After all, Cooper posted his two of his worst 2019 performances against physical man corners in Stephon Gilmore and Darius Slay, further validating this opinion.

Past Battles

Ramsey and Cooper haven’t matched up a ton in the past, but there are two distinct battles worth mentioning—one from all the way back in 2016 and one from last season.

Blanketed by Ramsey for a one-catch, four-yard performance during the 2016 season, Cooper struggled mightily in his first battle against Ramsey, facing off against him on roughly 30 passing reps but struggling to find any sort of tangible success throughout the game.

In his second battle, it was a bit more of the same, as Cooper had just one catch for 19 yards when Dallas faced Los Angeles last year. This is a bit of a deceiving stat line, however, as the Cowboys had little incentive to pass due to their pure domination on the ground. With this in mind, it makes the disappointing performance much more palpable from a Cooper angle.

The advantage in past battles still has to go to Ramsey here, though.

Usage Patterns

Ramsey had a noticeable dip in production last season, and one of the main reasons was his overall usage. Asked to run a lot of off-man and zone concepts with the Rams early in his tenure with the team, he struggled early on in a miscast role. Once the team began using more man concepts, however, Ramsey started to get back to his old self. The hope is the Rams continue to use him in more of a shutdown, man-to-man corner role this year, and his first game against Dallas will be a huge test in this regard. It's also worth nothing Ramsey played roughly 7% of his snaps in the slot last season, but with Darious Williams and David Long both battling for the starting nickel role, it seems highly unlikely he'll see much time there on Sunday.

Like Ramsey, Cooper hasn't spent much of his time in the slot, as the wideout only played about 10% of his snaps from the inside last season. This bodes well for his overall production, as interestingly enough, Dallas was just one of three teams in 2019 (along with Tampa Bay and Carolina) who threw more passes to their outside wideouts than their slot pass-catcher last season. This means that first-round selection CeeDee Lamb (slot) probably won't be a huge threat to Cooper's production against Los Angeles. Where Cooper will run into his biggest problem, however, is likely with fellow teammate Michael Gallup out on the perimeter. Expected to match-up with the Rams’ No. 2 corner Troy Hill all game long, Gallup will have a much bigger mismatch than Cooper and is all but assured to see more targets as a result.

Given these factors, Cooper should be considered more of a WR2 for this Week 1 game. Of course, that's not to say he won't get his targets, but there’s little incentive to throw at Ramsey while the other side of the field is likely to be easy pickings all day long.

Advantage Ramsey.

Bottom Line

Cooper has the type of elite route-running ability that could expose Ramsey on a few snaps, but I’d ultimately expect Ramsey to “win” the battle when it’s all said and done.

Expect something like a 4-50-0 line in a Dallas win for Cooper on Sunday.

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