So far, Kupp has been even better.
After a year where Kupp set franchise records with 145 catches for 1,947 yards (second most in NFL history) and a Super Bowl ring, Kupp is off to an even better start.
After two games, Kupp leads the NFL with 24 catches (yes, more than Justin Jefferson) and has 236 yards and three touchdowns (for you fantasy football freaks).
I know it’s only two games, but it’s fun to play the ‘on-pace-for’ game.
Project Kupp’s numbers forward over 17 weeks and Kupp is looking at 204 grabs for, gulp, 2006 yards, which would both be NFL records.
Yes, I know it’s a small sample size, but has anyone in the NFL shown it can stop Cooper Kupp in the last two years? Even if he drops off a bit here, to like, 10 catches a game, Kupp will set records.
Comparing Kupp To The All-Timers
Who do you think about when you think about the NFL’s greatest wide receivers? Randy Moss? Larry Fitzgerald? Jerry Rice?
Kupp doesn’t clearly compare with any. He’s a combination of them all. Kupp is 6-foot-2, 208 pounds, a third round pick out of Eastern Washington. He missed most of the 2018 season with a torn ACL.
For sake of analysis, let’s say Kupp has played for five seasons, even though he just started his sixth. In that time, Kupp has 457 catches for 5,753 yards and 43 touchdowns.
Through his first five years, Moss had fewer catches (414) but more yards (6,743) and touchdowns.
Calvin Johnson, who I love comparing Kupp to because of the Matthew Stafford connection, had fewer catches (366) but more yards and touchdowns. Johnson owns NFL record for most yards in a season at 1,967.
The great Jerry Rice never had a season like Kupp had in 2021. His best year was in 1995 when he caught 122 balls and had 1,848 yards, which is still the fourth most for any receiver ever.
In conclusion, Kupp is targeted more, has roughly the same production as Rice and Moss yardage wise, but lags in touchdowns. What we are seeing is incredible.
The Era Question
Oh yes, the whole comparing players from different eras issue. There is no doubt that the NFL is a passing league now. The most passes Joe Montana ever through in one season in his career was 520 in 1990.
Tom Brady threw the ball 719 times last year for the Bucs.
Stafford had 601 pass attempts in 2021 and is on pace to throw it 654 times this year.
But good is good.
Kupp isn’t just some rookie breaking onto the scene. He’s 29. His rookie year he was second on the team with catches at 62. His second season he got hurt. With Jared Goff at quarterback Kupp led the Rams with 94 catches then 92, and then 145 last year with Stafford.
Of the top 10 receptions in a season in NFL history, all but one have happened post-2000.
I believe the rules favor offenses today. You can’t really hit the quarterback. Defensive backs can’t chuck wide receivers going down the field, but there is a tradeoff for that.
The athletes in the secondary are better than they were back in Rice’s day. Jalen Ramsey is an amazing player, did you see that pick against the Falcons? Kupp has some advantages sure, but he’s going against some of the best athletes in the world.
How Long Can the Kupp Kraze Last?
As long as Stafford’s elbow still works, Kupp should be just fine. The Rams have built an offense that is perfect for 2022 NFL football. Kupp can run any route, and can line up anywhere (so teams’ best defensive backs can’t follow him). He’s also a good run blocker, so he doesn’t need to come off the field in obvious running downs.
NFL teams need an alpha wide receiver and then need another possession-type guy and a speed guy these days. The Rams don’t really have a speed guy who can get deep this year (remember they had Desean Jackson for a minute last year), but it doesn’t matter because Kupp is so good at finding soft spots in zones. He’s faster than people think and stronger too.
I have a personal pet peeve when an announcer talks about what a ‘good route’ the wide receiver ran on a play. Troy Aikman, you don’t know what route was called, I’m sorry. Any good route is one where the receiver gets open. Kupp is a master at that and he and Stafford read each other so well.
Looking at the other receivers in Kupp’s circle, Rice peaked at age 34 and then dropped off. Calvin Johnson retired at age 30, sick of being a Detroit Lion (I feel ya). Moss peaked at age 33, and Larry Fitzgerald never really slowed down, but his production tapered off after 34.
So barring injury, and Stafford’s health, Kupp can keep this going a few more years. The single-season reception record is 149 by Michael Thomas of the Saints. That’s in big trouble right now.
Kupp probably won’t get to Rice’s all-time receptions record at 1,549, but Cooper Kupp is officially on 2000 yards watch in 2022.