Cooper Kupp has been a great receiver for the Rams in the Sean McVay era. With Matthew Stafford as his quarterback this season, he has risen to the title of best wide receiver in the NFL.
Kupp leads the league in receiving yards (924) and receiving TDs (10) after 8 games. Coming into Sunday night’s Week 9 game against the Titans, he’s also just one catch (63 catches) behind the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill for No. 1 in the NFL.
During the new 17-game schedule, Kupp is on track for 134 receptions, 1,964 yards and 21 TDs. Consider the old 16-game schedule, these are the records for a season: 149 receptions (Michael Thomas), 1,964 yards (Calvin Johnson) and 23 TDs (Randy Moss).
No receiver has ever achieved a “triple crown” of elite stats like what Kupp does in dominating Los Angeles. Kupp, who had a calmer ending in his final season with Jared Goff, just made the Sporting News top 30 before the season behind many more flashy names. He has not been slow to make the most of the ideal situation for the middle of his career.
Kupp had a good connection with Goff. But his first season chemistry with the bigger-armed Stafford has been off the charts. He has also remained healthy, having had significant knee problems in the past.
Here’s why Kupp made the leap to the league’s most dangerous wide receiver in 2021, his fifth NFL season at the age of 28:
Matthew Stafford has transformed Cooper Kupp into a deep threat
Stafford, with 8.9 yards provided per pass attempt, leads the league with 1,394 completed passing yards. 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 average depth yards from the target.
Kupp is averaging a modest 6.3 yards after the reception as part of his 14.7 yards per reception, his personal best. Kupp’s speed has been best shown relative to playing Goff, when he was more of a short to medium safety valve. Stafford has wasted another part of Kupp’s potential.
Cooper Kupp has evolved from slot catcher to versatile road racer
Kupp ran most of his routes from the slot early in his career. He’s now around 50-50 in the inside lineup vs. Exterior. 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 catcher Van Jefferson as another quick deep threat has been helpful in opening up the rest of the field for Kupp and Robert Woods, who have become more of a pure possession receiver and red zone option. It’s difficult for any defense to double-team or track Kupp since Stafford has other dangerous weapons that can line up at multiple points.
Sean McVay works to plot Cooper Kupp in the best matchups
There’s no question that Kupp has faced many teams with poor cornerbacks across the field, as the Rams have mostly had a favorable schedule for their passing game. But to McVay’s credit for acknowledging the cover man that Kupp can exploit more from game to game and put him in positions to open often. Kupp has traveled great routes and Stafford has been precise in getting the ball anywhere.
Kupp has the attributes of every Lions wide receiver in Stafford rolled into one. Stafford tends to make his main target stand out and made sure Kupp was his man shortly after he was traded to Los Angeles. McVay went from Goff to Stafford with Kupp more in mind and it paid off.
Cooper Kupp’s speed and technique make it nearly impossible to cover
Kupp has great soccer intelligence and continues to learn more as a dedicated student of the game. His work ethic and respect for his craft matches the best they have ever played, from Jerry Rice onwards.
Kupp doesn’t get enough credit for how he combines the mental with his physical attributes. He also has strong hands and his 70 percent catch rate for a career-high 10.3 yards per goal is exceptional.
In Week 9 against the Titans, Kupp could have his best matchup of the season, given they have little experience and depth as a cornerback. There’s no reason to think he’ll slow down much in the second half of an all-time stellar season and 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 all others in 2021.