2017 NFL Draft: EWU’s Cooper Kupp and Samson Ebukam Drafted by the Los Angeles Rams

By Logan Stanley, Copy Editor

After breaking record after record during his time at EWU, wide receiver Cooper Kupp begins his next journey in the NFL. With the No. 69 selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams drafted Kupp. It is the highest an EWU player has been drafted since offensive lineman Michael Roos was drafted No. 41 overall by the Tennessee Titans in 2005. Kupp was also the second FCS player taken in this year’s draft.

Originally thought of as a late-round draft pick, Kupp began to spring up in the draft boards after an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama back in January. The hype around Kupp intensified leading up to the NFL Scouting Combine, with some scouts and analysts having the Eastern Washington University product ranked as a top four wide receiver.

A somewhat subpar outing at the Scouting Combine factored into the built-up buzz partially dieing down. After a handful of private workouts and a Pro Day that saw Kupp shave off time from his 40-yard dash — his speed had sparked questions about his athleticism — that decline appeared to experience a boost prior to the draft as the negative chatter surrounding Kupp began to dissipate. It was looking like Kupp was going somewhere late in Round 3, but an early 1st-round run at wide receivers changed the dynamic of the draft.

In the first 10 picks, three wide receivers were selected:

  • -No. 5 Corey Davis (Tennessee Titans)
  • -No. 7 Mike Williams (Los Angeles Chargers)
  • -No. 9 John Ross (Cincinnati Bengals)

The quick selections were genuine surprises, with most projections having Williams as the first wide receiver taken, and not until at least the middle of the first round. And with a wrench thrown into the works, the timeline of Kupp’s selection was subsequently moved up.

The selection at No. 69 made Kupp the sixth wide receiver taken overall in the draft. He’ll be joining last year’s No. 1 pick quarterback Jared Goff and a receiver unit that features Tavon Austin, Robert Woods, Mike Thomas, Pharoh Cooper and Bradley Marquez. It is an aspect of the offense that is in need of a boost. Last season, the Rams finished No. 31 in passing offense, per Pro Football Reference.

Kupp looks slated to be competing for the No. 3 wide receiver spot, behind Austin and Woods. A majority of his playing time at the NFL level figures to be in the slot position, with the potential to create mismatches using Kupp’s 6-2 frame against nicklebacks, who usually tend to be smaller in size.

During his time at EWU, Kupp was one of the most prolific wide receivers in NCAA FCS history. Among the 15 records Kupp owns, he set the record for career yards (6,464), receptions (428) and TDs (73). Kupp’s receptions stand as the most at any collegiate level.

As well as becoming the second highest drafted player in EWU history, Kupp added another accolade to his name. The Kupp family became the fifth three-generation family in NFL history and the third family to have players drafted in three different generations. His father, quarterback Craig Kupp, was drafted by the New York Giants in 1990 and his grandfather, offensive lineman Jake Kupp, was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1964. Craig Kupp played one season in the NFL with then Phoenix Cardinals, while Jake Kupp played 12 seasons with four teams (Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints). Jake Kupp ended up being enshrined in the Saints Hall of Fame in 1992.

Joining Cooper Kupp in Los Angeles will be linebacker and former teammate Samson Ebukam. At No. 125, the Rams selected Ebukam in Round 4 via a trade with the New York Jets. Los Angeles gave up a sixth-round pick to move up 16 spots, a likely indication that Rams’ defensive coordinator Wade Phillips values the pass rusher from EWU.

Ebukam spent a majority of his career at EWU as a defensive end, where he stood up as a pass rusher. His listed position in the NFL is as outside linebacker but the position change does not actually alter what role Ebukam will fill at the next level — he will still be a stand-up pass rusher on the edge.

The pick at No. 125 caught some off guard, as various draft rankings had Ebukam as a late-round selection in the 200-250 range, and the fact that Los Angeles gave up a draft pick to acquire him. He will be coming into a situation that features elite pass rushers Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin, who Ebukam will be learning after. It remains unclear just exactly where the Rams intend to place Ebukam, whether that be at weakside linebacker or at left/right defensive end.

While it has yet to be confirmed by the teams themselves, it appears that two more former Eagles will be joining Kupp and Ebukam in the NFL. Just after the draft concluded, it was reported that wide receiver Kendrick Bourne signed with the San Francisco 49ers and wide receiver Shaq Hill signed with the Houston Texans — each as undrafted free agents. Multiple sources have said Bourne has signed a three-year non-drafted free agent contract with the 49ers, and EWU has announced Hill signed a non-drafted contract with the Texans. Both posted the information online, but no official reports have come in.

In San Francisco, Bourne will stepping into a wide receiver corps that consists of Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Jeremy Kerley, newly-drafted Trent Taylor and fellow free agent rookies KD Cannon and Victor Bolden. Garçon, Goodwin and Robinson are expected to get a majority of the reps at the starting positions, whereas Bourne will be fighting to earn a roster spot and fill in depth at wide receiver.

Over in Houston, Hill will link up with a group of wide receivers that has 2015 Pro Bowler DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V, Jaelen Strong and Braxton Miller. Hill was not the only undrafted free agent at wide receiver the Texans signed, as Deante’ Gray and Justin Hardee agreed to deals as well. Those three just mentioned, alongside Keith Mumphrey, Wendell Williams and Tevin Jones, will all be battling it out for the final wide receiver positions.

Additionally, EWU quarterback Jordan West has said he’s been offered a tryout at the Chicago Bears rookie mini-camp on May 10-14. If offered a contract, West will be competing for a quarterback spot on the roster behind free agent acquisition Mike Glennon and 2017 No. 2 pick Mitchell Trubisky.

If confirmed, that would make it five EWU players from this current draft class in the NFL. Counting Kupp and Ebukam, EWU officially has six players in the NFL as it stands.