That evaluation, which included determining the how draft-eligible receivers in April 2019 compared to Cooper, and the kind of person Cooper is on and off the field.
The Cowboys’ scouting department determined Cooper, 24, is better than any potential first-round option. And the reports on Cooper’s attitude and personality, going back to his time playing under Nick Saban at Alabama, came back with high marks.
“We have heard so many positive things about him. His love of football and wanting to be part of something special,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “I just feel he is excited to come here and get acclimated with our team, get to know our game and playing football with the cowboys. He expressed that on the phone with me yesterday.”
Garrett, who was Saban’s quarterback coach with the Dolphins, has long been an admirer and trusts Saban’s opinion on his former players. Garrett heard the right things about Cooper.
“By all accounts from everybody we know at Alabama, he’s one of the best players they’ve had there, one of the best people they’ve had there,” Garrett said. “So the combination of his physical ability, his production at this level and the kind of guy he is at a position we feel like we feel we need to add some firepower.”
Cooper, who was the fourth overall pick in 2015, is younger than Dak Prescott and just a year older than Ezekiel Elliott, the No. 4 overall pick in ‘16.
“He has a bright future, goes about it the right way, feels like he fits into the culture of our team, the kind of guys we want to have, the cornerstone players we’ve built here over the last few years,” Garrett said. “He has all the physical traits you want. He has all the intangible character qualities that you want.”
But make no mistake, Cooper (6-foot-1, 211 pounds) is highly talented, gifted receiver. He’ll wear No. 19 and take Brice Butler’s spot on the roster.
“He’s an explosive outside receiver,” Garrett said. “The more weapons you have to attack the defense, the better it is for everybody. They can’t focus in on one aspect of your team, one guy on your team. Isolated coverage outside, hopefully we feel like he’s capable of winning. If he draws attention, that certainly opens up opportunities for other people.”
The Cowboys, who don’t play again until Nov. 5 against the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football, have plenty of time integrate Cooper into the offense. Helping different players and personalities coalesce is one of Prescott’s strengths, Garrett said.
“He has such a great way about him with so many people on our team, young guys, older guys, guys at different positions, guys on either side of the ball,” Garrett said. “He does that very naturally as well as anybody I’ve been around. For a quarterback and a receiver to connect to develop its just time on task.”
Cooper had 1,000 yard seasons in ‘15 and ‘16 but dropped to 680 yards on 48 receptions in 14 games a year ago. He has 280 yards and a touchdown on 22 catches this season. The way the Cowboys view it, Cooper is less risky than a draft pick next April because he’s already proven he can excel in the NFL.
“Amari’s demonstrated he can be a very productive player at this level. We see him run routes against good corners in this league and have production. Running quick stuff, running intermediate stuff and running stuff down the field. You see him make contested catches. You see him run with the ball after the catch. You see a lot of really positive things,” Garrett said.
“If you’re in the draft next year, are you going to be able to get a player of this quality at this position? Our scouts look ahead. They understand what the draft class is all about. We feel like he’s the kind of guy that we’ve drafted in the first round over the last few years, these building-block players who we think are going to be here for a long time.”