TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Amari Cooper's one-on-one battle leading up to the NFL draft isn't with an opposing cornerback.
Cooper went through Alabama's pro day on Wednesday hoping to put one more check mark in his favor in a race with West Virginia's Kevin White to be the first wide receiver chosen in the NFL draft.
"When you do something, you want to be the best," Cooper said. "I want to be the first receiver taken, but at the same time if I'm not it won't affect the way I go in and play."
Whoever emerges at the front of the draft's two top-rated receivers could be picked at least as high as No. 4 by the Oakland Raiders.
They dueled at the NFL combine, with White getting the edge in running the 40 (4.35 seconds to 4.42). Cooper ran routes for Crimson Tide quarterback Blake Sims at pro day, not the 40.
He and safety Landon Collins are both projected as first-round picks and both said their first team visit is with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have the No. 3 pick. They were among the Alabama players working out before representatives from every NFL team, including New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese.
Cooper's college credentials include a runner-up finish in the Heisman Trophy balloting and breaking most of Julio Jones' school receiving records.
The big lingering receiver debate seems to be, Cooper vs. White for No. 1.
"What are we talking about? We're talking about a hair's difference," NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said. "At this point, I have Kevin White rated ahead of Amari Cooper. I stand by what I said. I'm not going to change that at this point. You continue to watch tape. You continue to do evaluations.
"Amari Cooper makes a great case for being the first receiver taken."
He said Cooper can run with the ball, make tough catches across the middle and block on the perimeter.
"What can't he do?" Davis said. "Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He plays as fast as whatever his time is in the 40. You name it, Amari Cooper has got it.
"They're both tremendous. I will not be shocked if at 4 the Raiders will choose Cooper over White. And they wouldn't be wrong."
Whoever goes first, Cooper seems like a lock to become the first Alabama receiver chosen in the first round since the Atlanta Falcons picked Jones sixth overall in 2010. No Tide receiver has gone higher than the fourth round since then.
The comparisons with Jones began when Cooper broke his predecessor's freshman receiving mark.
"They're totally different guys," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "Julio Jones is a fantastic, strong, big physical guy who's been very productive in the NFL. Amari Cooper's style is just a little bit different in terms of the quickness that he plays with, the running ability that he has. Great hands, smart player. Both guys are outstanding but their styles are just a little bit different."
Now, Cooper's dealing with comparisons to another receiver. Only this time the winner will get a bigger paycheck as reward.
Cooper and White met at the Biletnikoff Award ceremony, where Cooper was honored as the nation's top receiver. Cooper said White is "really cool" but chuckles when asked who's better.
"I don't know. I don't really watch him like that," Cooper said. "When he played against us he was really physical. He can high-point the ball. He's fast. He's a great receiver."
NOTES: Unlike Collins and Cooper, tailback T.J. Yeldon tried to improve on his combine time of 4.61 seconds in the 40. He ran a 4.52 and 4.53, according to NFL.com. The site also said Cooper posted a 34-inch vertical leap and Collins bench-pressed 225 pounds 16 times. They let the rest of their combine results stand. ... Sims demonstrated willingness to try another position when he ran routes at pro day. He said "plenty of teams" want to get a look at other positions but he's still hoping to make it at quarterback.
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