Cooper Kupp might be the best “football player” in the NFL. Now, before everyone loses their minds, please let me explain. Kupp, in my opinion, is what makes the Los Angeles Rams‘ offense go. His versatility is a football guy’s dream, and this year, the volume has followed in a big way. The NFL MVP race is heating up, and although Kupp is a receiver, I believe he deserves to be in the discussion.
Could Cooper Kupp win the NFL MVP race in 2021?
Historically speaking, you have a better shot of going to the moon than Kupp does winning the MVP. However, I think he is different than any receiver I’ve studied before.
He means so much to LA’s offense, even when he isn’t catching passes at a higher rate than anyone else in the league. Kupp is in the running for the best football player in the NFL — let me explain why.
Cooper Kupp the receiver
Obviously, receiving is what Kupp is going to be best known for. At the end of the day, this is what pays the bills. Only two receivers are averaging over 100 yards per game before the Monday Night Football matchup between the Rams and 49ers, and both pass catchers are posting more than 110 yards per contest. Coincidentally, both are playing Monday night: Kupp and San Francisco WR Deebo Samuel.
Kupp opens things up for the rest of the offense because he’s particularly good at creating space in route concepts to put zone defenders in conflict. He’s also quite adept at rubbing off defenders to open up other receivers without drawing penalties.
This is part of why I believe that if you’re going to talk about Matthew Stafford in the MVP race, you must also bring up Kupp. I’d contend Kupp is even more valuable to the Rams’ offense.
I know that’s blasphemous to even think, given the importance of the quarterback position. But I’d like to point out the Rams have been to a Super Bowl with Jared Goff, who looks like the NFL’s worst quarterback in Detroit.
Kupp’s pacing and spacing against zone almost ensure that someone will be open if Los Angeles gets the defensive look it wants. But what’s really fun is his ability to lull defenders to sleep when he’s backside the primary read. He allows Stafford to exhaust options before finding a flash of No. 10.
Admittedly, he’s not the greatest contested-catch player in the world, but it’s not for lack of trying. His toughness is off the charts. But he plays the game differently than most receivers.
It isn’t easy to find the words to describe Kupp. Everything feels like a lunch pail/coach’s son stereotype of every white receiver that’s ever existed. But he does all of those things at such a ridiculously high level.
It’s why I believe he’s one of the best offensive players in the league and as valuable an asset as they come in Sean McVay’s offense.
Cooper Kupp the blocker
Kupp is why McVay has lived in 11 personnel (3 WR, 1 RB, 1 TE) for most of his coaching career. You won’t see many receivers aligned on the wing like Kupp. He’s practically a tight end in a 210-pound frame. And he’s a better blocker than most TEs, too.
Kupp’s blocking ability was most evident against the Titans. He was tasked with blocking the end man on the line multiple times throughout the game. Sometimes, he would be trying to cut off Harold Landry chasing backside-zone runs. Other times, he’d be check-releasing against Landry, acting as an outlet for Stafford as the tight end arc releases into the deep over or corner route.
Kupp allows McVay to give a lot of different looks from the same formation. It’s not every day your leading receiver is also leading as the cross-blocker on split-zone runs and the flat player on the play-action version.
An analytical look at Kupp’s case in the NFL MVP race
Well, I would first like to tell the people that vote on this thing to watch the tape and see how important Kupp is to the offense, but I doubt they’d consider that. From an analytical perspective, his case could get better. The loss of Robert Woods vacates 7.5 targets per game. I doubt Odell Beckham Jr. will make up all 7.5, and Van Jefferson already receives nearly 5 targets per game.
Kupp is a high-volume receiver, yet he’s still catching 72% of his targets, which is 11th overall among pass catchers receiving at least 36 targets in 2021. His 10 touchdowns are 2 more than any other WR in the league, and his yards above replacement rank first in the NFL.
What are Kupp’s MVP odds?
Currently, Kupp is 80/1 (+8000) to win the MVP award. It hurts to see his QB with much higher odds, but no receiver has ever won the award, and Kupp is unlikely to be the first. In fact, only four non-quarterbacks have won the MVP since 2000, all of which were running backs.
The point of this exercise wasn’t to prove that Kupp deserves the award. The quarterback position is the most critical in all of sports. That is especially true in the modern game.
But Kupp is unique for a receiver. He’s far more well-rounded than most. And his importance to the Rams deserves Offensive Player of the Year honors.