The prospects for the #24 overall pick have slimmed over the last two days, with the signing of a RT and a Safety. One position that was also upgraded via Free Agency was at one of the Guard spots, as the Colts signed Donald Thomas. However, there are two Guard positions, and Jonathan Cooper would look great in the blue horseshoe protecting Andrew Luck.
Cooper started 48 games in his Tar Heel career, and what a decorated career it was. He made the All-ACC Freshman team back in 2009, was named to the All-ACC Second team in both 2010 and 2011, and really blew up in 2012. An Outland Trophy Finalist, First Team All-ACC, and a consensus First team All-America at Guard. He had such a standout career in Chapel Hill his number 64 is being retired. I don't know of too many schools that do that, so it's a pretty big honor. Sure looks like he earned it.
Cooper brings both strength and athleticism to a position that is usually not synonymous with those two adjectives. He ran the 40 at the Combine in 5.07 seconds (at 311 pounds), as well as put 225 up on the bench press 35 times, tied for second best at the Combine for all the Offensive Linemen. Because of this he is the ideal pulling Guard, able to get out in front of the RB and not slow him down too much, and able to find the Linebacker and drive him away. With that he has excellent footwork and doesn't get pushed around too much in the passing game. I guess there's a reason he's easily going to be selected in Round 1.
The biggest downside to Cooper is his apparent lack of size, as 311 pounds is small when it relates to the normal Guard. At 6'3", he could easily put on 15 pounds of weight, something I expect him to do no matter which team he ends up on. He also has some work in the passing game to work on, but if the Colts end up running Stanford's offense from the last several years, I think they'll really like his run blocking ability first and foremost. Even first rounders have weaknesses, just not nearly as many.
Cooper would clearly come in and start Day 1 for the Colts, if he were to drop to pick #24. One team that I saw consistently selected a Guard in mock drafts was the Titans, but with the signing of Andy Levitre I don't see that happening. Several other teams are in the market, but they aren't quite as in demand as other positions, so the possibility is there that Cooper will last that long. If he does, expect a sprint to the podium with the Colts selecting Cooper. Just think about that Offensive Line...
Scouting Profile from NFL.com:
Athletic guard, but with some girth in his lower body to anchor against oncoming tackles. Tough to beat in pass protection, possesses foot quickness, bend, and arm extension to mirror. Excellent mobility behind the line, regularly pulls to the left and right. Excellent at adjusting quickly to negate moving targets on the second level. Springs out of his stance to reach linebackers in the run game or to jump inside of tackles to seal off a rushing lane. Used as a personal protector on a moving pocket. Shows good hand strength, popping his defender quickly off the snap and getting inside hand position.
Has only average height and bulk, and is a bit long-legged for the position (though he should continue to grow in an NFL strength and conditioning program). Functional strength is only adequate;
STRENGTHS: Cooper is a smooth, coordinated athlete with fluid footwork and outstanding balance, blocking well on the move and constantly getting to the second level. He is an extremely effortless mover with explosive quickness in tight quarters, and is just as effective moving to his left or right. While slighter shorter than scouts would prefer, Cooper has long arms and plays with a wide base, anchoring effectively. Standout high school wrestler who understands leverage and blocking angles.
WEAKNESSES: Cooper lacks overpowering strength and can be pushed into the pocket by bigger, stronger defensive tackles when he allows his pad level to rise. Was prone to an occasional slipped block and/or needless penalty earlier in his career, though he showed much more consistency as a senior.
COMPARES TO: Rodney Hudson, OC, Kansas City Chiefs -- Possessing the rare combination of balance, agility and durability that helped Hudson earn the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as a left guard back in 2010, Cooper ranks as one of 2013's safest prospects and a future Pro Bowl contender at whichever of the three interior line positions his future NFL team most needs help.
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