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Oakland Raiders should make Amari Cooper their number one priority

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In an NFL Draft short on elite offensive talent, Alabama receiver Amari Cooper stands out as the can't miss prospect.

Jameis Winston (too many red flags to count) and Marcus Mariota (lack of reps in a pro style offense) are two of the top tier players available at the summit of the draft, but both have the scouts concerned.

Cooper, the All-American wide receiver who managed to thrive even in Alabama's conservative offense (124 rec, 1,727 yards, 16 TDs), is the difference maker.

This year's draft will not match 2014 at the position - the depth that produced Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham Jnr, Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans is not there this time around.

Kevin White, DeVante Parker and Devin Smith are all talented, but all three are a notch below Cooper, who belongs in the conversation with Watkins and Beckham.

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And that should make Oakland Raider fans very excited, as we'll explain below.

Cooper is in Indianapolis this week for the combine, and kicked things off by sending social media into a frenzy with this pull-up routine…

He's not got the size (according to NFL.com he's 6ft 1in) of Benjamin or superstar NFL receivers like Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant, but as Watkins and Beckham proved last year, you don't have to be 6ft 5in to dominate.

Most cornerbacks at around the 6ft mark, so it's not like Cooper will be losing out in the match-ups.

He's the 'complete receiver' and while you may hear that he's not got the blazing speed, he reportedly posted a 4.31sec 40-yard dash at Alabama's junior day.

Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage sees Marvin Harrison. He said: "Amari is super athletic, very fluid and highly skilled as a route runner and hands catcher.

"Because of his reserved demeanor and similar ability, I compared him to Marvin Harrison during the season."

Raiders draft hopes

The Raiders have the fourth pick, and many mock drafts have Cooper landing in Oakland. Tampa Bay is looking quarterback, Jacksonville is probably going defense under Gus Bradley.

Tennessee are the wildcard, they were thinking quarterback but 'early indications' suggest they'll pass on Mariota or Winston and stick with Zach Mettenberger. If that's the case, they may look to Cooper as they need a weapon for whoever's under center.

The second overall selection would be high though for the 'Bama star, with some mock drafts pegging him at six to the Jets or eight to the Falcons.

Oakland should make sure this doesn't happen, and look to cash in if Titans go elsewhere.

The Raiders don't have the best record when it comes to drafting wide receivers. Al Davis's speed obsession led to a wasted first rounder on Darrius Heyward-Bey in 2009, and Denarius Moore is the only Raider draft pick that's still a contributor at the position.

It's not for the want of trying. Since Heyward-Bey, they've spent five picks on WRs (Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore, David Ausberry, Juron Criner and Brice Butler). Butler showed flashes last year, and Moore has proved his worth.

That's not a good return though.

Raiders comeback

The Raiders, despite the record this season, are on the cusp of turning the franchise around. They have the quarterback in Derek Carr, it looks like the running back in Latavius Murray, a young defensive superstar in Khalil Mack and the cap space to make aggressive additions in free agency.

They currently have more than $49m in cap space per Sportrac, the second most in the NFL behind the Jaguars. They could save another $5.5m by cutting back-up Matt Schaub. The emergence of Murray also makes Maurice Jones-Drew redundant, so the Raiders can save another $2.5m by cutting him too.

They're in play for Ndamakong Suh, but have the cash available to go after just about anybody. Their new head coach, Jack Del Rio, is a fan of Terrance Knighton from his days in Denver.

Del Rio has got his second chance to lead a franchise, having spent eight years in Jacksonville before heading to the Broncos as DC. Replacing Tony Sparano, he joins a team with a solid foundation, if not the winning culture.

WR key to Carr's progress

With the Raiders invested in Carr, a top tier wide receiver is crucial to his development. At present, the team's depth chart is full of number two, three and four receivers but it lacks that number one.

The Raiders need to make Cooper that man, and depending on how things play out in free agency, there's some good options to make sure the pressure is not all on the young man's shoulders.

The Raiders could bring in a veteran like Wes Welker or Reggie Wayne, both impending free agents. There's also first round talent like Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin looking for a pay check, they could be in play too.

Or they could plunder an under-utilised talent on another franchise, say Miles Austin or Eddie Royal, and make him a focal point in Oakland opposite Cooper.

They're not going to find a Cooper-like talent in free agency, the two contenders - Dez and Demaryius - will almost certainly stay with their respective teams.

It's through the draft that you get a talent like this, and the Raiders need to make sure they don't miss out in 2015.

What do you think? Should the Raiders draft Cooper in the first round? Or will the Alabama star land elsewhere?

Have your say by joining the conversation below...

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Topics:
NFL Draft
Oakland Raiders
NFL

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