Draft Profile: Jonathan Cooper Fits Guard Role With Ease
APR 10, 2013 10:17a ET
40 time: 5.13 Bench Press: 35
January 19, 1990 (22)
Football has been evolving since the day it was born. Things are constantly changing and improving as the sport attempts to find ways to perfect things that were already thought to be perfect. Part of that evolution is clearly making the move from big humans to big athletes at many of the premium positions around the field.
Offenses have been looking to convert tight ends into tackles for just the reason to have better athletes at the tackle position. This helps in getting out into space and running, but more importantly, it assists in the lateral movement to stay in front of edge rushers and their dynamic explosions off the snap of the ball.
That means that the last spot to hide guys who may not be athletes would be offensive guard. You can still get away with a big body who doesn't move real well but can fill the role of the bulldozer. And we saw an amazing bulldozer in Chance Warmack in our last profile.
But, seldom do we see a guard come along that resembles an athlete quite like Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina. With a 40 yard dash that is fantastic for a man his size and the ability to put up 35 reps on the bench press, it is fair to wonder if Cooper is the athletic equivalent of Tyron Smith, but at guard.
Is he a guy who can do anything athletically the position would ever ask for and a whole lot more?
When you watch him play, the most impressive thing that does stick out is his movement skills. This shows itself in many ways, but the most obvious is when he gets out into space on screen plays or pulling situations. If you had Cooper, I would feel that this is the type of strategy that you would employ on a regular basis to show off this talent. He comes around the corner and unlike Warmack has the ability to lock in and destroy just about anyone in his path. He doesn't have balance or lateral movement issues that keep him from getting to any position, and on those rare situations where there isn't a man, he is the type of athlete that can run with his running back all the way to the end zone without being dominated with speed.
In pass protection he is able and decent. In the run game, he often gets his assignment done properly. I will say that when you compare him to Warmack, though, it is clear that Cooper while only 6 pounds lighter and clearly a very strong man on the bench press, he is just not the same marvel of strength that the Alabama guard is. What that means is that in football situations, you almost never see Warmack meet his match in a battle of strength or muscle. Whereas Cooper, for all of his movement skills, can get bull rushed or pushed back with his shoulders over his heels (rather than shoulders over your toes for best balance) and lose his balance.
Now, admittedly, to compare the bulldozing qualities of Warmack to Cooper might be unfair, because Warmack doesn't come along very often. And what Cooper offers you is a guy who appears to be extremely intelligent, versatile (he has played center), and a guy who might age better than Warmack with his body that looks like he will always be in proper condition.
Cooper is an incredible prospect who shouldn't be penalized for coming out in the same draft as Warmack. Both are expected to be elite guards for a long time. However, we must remember something about the guard position - they never work their ways up the draft board. Here is the entire list of guards who have gone in the Top 20 in the last 20 years:
#14 1995 - Ruben Brown, Bills
#10 1997 - Chris Naeole, Saints
#17 2001 - Steve Hutchinson, Seahawks
#16 2004 - Shawn Andrews, Eagles
#17 2010 - Mike Iupati, 49ers
That is the entire list. Guards are not valued highly on the draft board where rarity and importance of the position is counted upon. But, when one appears to be special, you make exceptions. And amazingly, both Cooper and Warmack may fit in this list that is usually just one guard every several years.
When it comes to the zone blocking scheme, Cooper gets people going because of his elite movement skills, his ability to get to the 2nd level and get his man on the move, and versatility which allows you to go to man blocking at times and pull him into space. Cooper would fit that like a glove.
Here are some youtube cut-ups for your own personal eye-ball test. Lock in on the left guard who wears #64 and watch:
Vs North Carolina
The Case For Dallas Taking Jonathan Cooper at #18: Like Warmack, there is no question that the most likely situation is that both guards are gone - some are speculating both in the Top 10 picks. But, if Cooper is available, like Warmack, it would signify a special player at a position of extreme need. Cooper is a better natural fit in the zone blocking offense, but less of a bully who could control his man and rag-doll opponents into submission. Cooper is more of a quick and technical player who must stay in front of his man. He is a fine player and a guy who would also be welcomed with open arms for a myriad of reasons.
The Case Against Dallas Taking Jonathan Cooper at #18: I prefer Warmack for a number of reasons, but the most important one is his elite strength that can cover for those around him who are less than standard for starting offensive linemen (Costa). Again, considering the situation on this roster and the good fortune that the strengths of the draft actually fit the needs of the Cowboys so well, this could work out very, very well. Unfortunately, with the Cowboys pick all the way at #18 this year (their lowest pick since 2010), they may find that all 5 "elite" OL players (Joeckel, Fisher, Lane Johnson, Warmack, and Cooper) are all picked over and gone before they get on the clock. Of the 5 OL talents, I think I have Cooper ranked 5th. That is still representative of an exciting prospect. Just not AS exciting.
Most years, he would be the #1 interior offensive linemen. This year, he sits in the #2 position, but that is still very special. Mock drafts often put him in the Top 10, but I am still suspicious that teams may not be willing to spend a Top 10 pick on a guard. We shall see. But, I think there is a chance one of these two guards gets close to #18. If they get all the way to #18, I don't think I would have any issue with grabbing either. Give me Warmack as my preference, but right behind him is this impressive prospect, too.