Cooper Kupp has been a great wide receiver for the Rams in the Sean McVay era. With Matthew Stafford as his quarterback this season, he has ascended to the title of the NFL’s best wideout.
Kupp leads the league in receiving yards (924) and receiving TDs (10) after 8 games. Going into Week 9’s Sunday night game vs. the Titans, he’s also only one reception (63 catches) behind the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill for No. 1 in the NFL.
Over the new 17-game schedule, Kupp is on pace for 134 receptions, 1,964 yards and 21 TDs. Consider in the old 16-game schedule, these are the single-season records: 149 receptions (Michael Thomas), 1,964 yards (Calvin Johnson) and 23 TDs (Randy Moss).
No receiver has ever put together a “triple crown” of elite statistics like what Kupp is doing dominating in Los Angeles. Kupp, who had a quieter end to his final season with Jared Goff, just made the Sporting News top 30 before the season behind many flashier names. It hasn’t taken long for him to take full advantage of the ideal situation for the middle of his career.
Kupp had a good connection with Goff. But his chemistry in the first season with the bigger-armed Stafford has been off the charts. He’s also stayed healthy, given he’s had major knee issues in the past.
Here’s why Kupp has made the big jump to the league’s most dangerous wide receiver in 2021, his fifth season in the NFL at the prime age of 28:
Matthew Stafford has transformed Cooper Kupp into a deep threat
Stafford, with 8.9 intended yards per pass attempt, leads the league with 1,394 completed air yards passing. The Rams also have 1,088 yards after the catch, which is No. 5 in the NFL. They are tied for second with 8.8 yards average depth of target.
Kupp is averaging a modest 6.3 yards after the catch as part of his career-high 14.7 yards per reception. Kupp’s speed has been better on display in relation to playing with Goff, when he was more of a short-to-intermediate safety valve. Stafford has untapped another part of Kupp’s potential.
Cooper Kupp has evolved from slot receiver to versatile route runner
Kupp ran most of his routes from the slot early in his career. Now he’s about 50-50 in lining up inside vs. outside. At 6-2, 208 pounds, he has the frame to beat smaller cornerbacks and the quickness to beat bigger cornerbacks.
The emergence of second-year wideout Van Jefferson as another speedy deep threat has been helpful to open up the rest of the field for Kupp and Robert Woods, who has become more of a pure possession receiver and red zone option. It’s hard for any defense to double-team or track Kupp given Stafford has other dangerous weapons who can align in multiple spots.
Sean McVay works to scheme Cooper Kupp into the best matchups
There’s no doubt Kupp has faced a lot of teams with poor cornerbacks all over the field as the Rams have mostly had a favorable schedule for their passing game. But credit McVay for recognizing the cover man Kupp can exploit most from game to game and putting him in positions to get open often. Kupp has run great routes and Stafford has been accurate in getting him the ball anywhere.
Kupp has the attributes of every Lions go-to wideout of Stafford, all rolled into one. Stafford tends to make his top target stand out and made sure Kupp was his man not long after he was traded to Los Angeles. McVay upgraded from Goff to Stafford with Kupp most in mind and it has paid off big time.
Cooper Kupp’s quickness and technique make him almost impossible to cover
Kupp has high football intelligence and keeps learning more as a dedicate student of the game. His work ethic and respect for his craft matches the very best who have played, from Jerry Rice on down.
Kupp doesn’t get enough credit for how he blends the mental with his physical attributes. He also has strong hands and his catch rate of 70 percent for a career-high 10.3 yards per target is exceptional.
In Week 9 against the Titans, Kupp might have his best matchup of season, given they are short on experience and depth at cornerback. There’s no reason to think he will slow down much in the second half of a stellar all-time campaign and will threaten to rewrite the record book with his yards and TDs.
The NFL has a lot of special wide receivers, but Kupp’s performance and numbers put him above everyone else in 2021.