Five years ago, Brad Holmes pointed the Rams to Cooper Kupp in the third round of the draft and watched him lead the team in receiving as a rookie. Last year, Holmes drafted Amon-Ra St. Brown in the fourth round for the Lions and watched him lead the team in receiving as a rookie.
"Very similar," said Jared Goff, who spent four seasons with Kupp in LA before joining St. Brown last season in Detroit. "Both play in the slot. I think the first thing I noticed with both of them is the way they approach the game and the way they show up daily and how professional they are. So even before you get on the field, they both have a very similar mindset."
In Kupp's first season with Goff, he produced 869 receiving yards and five touchdowns. In St. Brown's first season with Goff, he produced 912 receiving
yards and five touchdowns. The only difference was in the volume of catches: 62 for Kupp, 90 for St. Brown.
Kupp took his game to new heights in year two. He was on pace for over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns through eight games before a knee injury ended his season. He averaged 1,000 yards in years three and four and then took the top off the NFL in year five when he won Offensive Player of the Year.
Kupp, like St. Brown, doesn't have dominant physical traits, but he's a fierce competitor with a feel for getting open and a sure set of hands. He runs crisp routes and knows how to finish. He's also quicker than he may appear. He led the NFL last season in yards after catch, an area of focus this season for St. Brown.
"Cooper is extremely analytical, St. Brown is that way as well. As rookies and second-year guys, it's very similar," said Goff. "Obviously Cooper is a little bit taller and a little bit bigger and can do some things on the outside, where St. Brown is going to have to prove he can do that, and I believe he can. We’ll move him around this year and see what he can do.
"But yeah, I think there are some comparisons there: late-round pick, guy in the slot, got a little chip on their shoulder. Both are extremely hard working, extremely internally motivated and both guys I’ve been very lucky to play with."
Want more similarities? Kupp put up 387 yards after catch as a rookie, good for 24th in the NFL. St. Brown put up 424 yards after catch as a rookie, good for ... 24th in the NFL. Kupp was on pace to nearly double his output the next season. St. Brown said ahead of this season that "one thing I've focused on is after the catch, going crazy, making guys miss, scoring, doing whatever it takes to get in that end zone every time I touch it."
He should get plenty of opportunities in Ben Johnson's offense, catching passes from a quarterback who trusts him.
"Jared’s been awesome for me coming in," said St. Brown. "He took me under his wing. He’s been with a former coach in (Sean) McVay who's kind of an offensive genius, so he understands a lot of defensive coverages, what they’re trying to give us and then what we’re trying to do on offense.
"And with Ben having taken over, he’s helping Jared a lot, Jared’s helping me, we’re all helping each other. Having a quarterback like that who’s in year seven, it's awesome because you’re never out there questioning."
And then there's this about St. Brown, one of the things Holmes loved most about him in the draft: he blocks like a madman. This goes back to his high school days, and perhaps it's what you'd expect from the son of a world body building champion. When Holmes landed St. Brown 116th overall, Lions wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El said, "Man, we stole that cat, because he brings a whole different atmosphere to the table."
"We talk about the toughness (of our wide receivers), but his toughness is above the rest," said Randle El. "He sets the bar, and I’m not just talking about in our room. You look around the league, you don’t have other wide receivers even in the league blocking the way he does. Reminds me a lot my guy, Hines Ward, when I was in Pittsburgh. That same toughness."
Cooper Kupp and Hines Ward, rolled into one? That'll do.
Other highlights from Goff's interview on 97.1 The Ticket:
On Johnson's impact on the offense: "Incredible. He’s done a hell of a job. We knew he’d do great, but I think he’s surpassed anyone’s expectations as far as how well he’s called the game and how well he's handled the duties of coordinator in his first yea. It’s been really fun to work with. And for me as a quarterback in my seventh year, he does take a lot of my input, which is really fun for me and exciting."
On his new receiving weapons: "Obviously we have those guys who can stretch it, but when we run the ball like we know we can and those guys up front get the push that we know they can, it opens everything you could ever want. For us, the play-action game is huge. … And for a quarterback, the way Ben has organized this and the way Ben is running it, you can’t ask for much more."
On his personal goals this season: "I’m going to measure myself by what we do as a team, but I will look at how accurate I am, the completion percentage and finishing red-zone opportunities with touchdowns. That type of stuff is important to look at the numbers to make sure you’re on track with where you want to be. But as far as touchdowns, interceptions, yards, less important than wins and finishing drives in the end zone."
On the Lions' offensive line: "I know they want to be (one of the best in the NFL) and we think they can be, but it’s going to have to happen on Sundays and they know that. But by all accounts, as talented a group as I’ve ever seen and as talented a group as there is in the league. They’ve got every opportunity be as good as they want to be and I believe they will."