Futures: Alabama WR Amari Cooper
by Matt Waldman
Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper tries too hard. Think that’s an odd criticism? Go watch Reggie Bush during his first few years in New Orleans or Robert Griffin III after his rookie year in Washington. They’re poster children for Hero Syndrome — a psychological football malady that seduces young players into thinking that they must make a highlight reel play with every touch.
Bush’s manifestation of Hero Syndrome was the tendency to bounce too many plays outside, attempts to reverse field, or trying that one extra cut on a run. Bush had to learn that maintaining the original course may result in a small gain, but it keeps the offense in manageable situations.
Griffin, who displays this malady as both a runner and a passer, has a more advanced stage of the disorder: Savior Syndrome. When Griffin breaks the pocket he often launches himself into contact to finish plays. In the pocket, Griffin stares down the gun barrel of pressure and often waits until the last possible second to throw the ball. The kind of hits he took at Baylor and now in Washington would make Evel Knievel wince.
Combine Griffin’s Savior Syndrome with his two ACL tears, the beating he took last year, and the dysfunctional relationship between the quarterback and Mike Shanahan, and as my friend Sigmund Bloom says, “Griffin looks like a baby fawn trying to run on a frozen pond.”
Cooper reminds me of a combination of Michael Crabtree and Roddy White. The Crimson Tide receiver is closer to White with his explosiveness, but he has the short-area quickness, footwork, and open-field power of Crabtree.
At this point, Cooper is only displaying symptoms of Hero Syndrome — trying to do too much with and without the ball in his hands — but if he doesn’t correct these issues, his development could take a slower trajectory than many would expect from a prospect of his athleticism, physicality, hands, and effort.