Quinton Coples looked like the best college player in America his junior season at North Carolina. In 2010, he made 59 tackles, 10 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss and was projected to be a top pick in the draft. He returned to school for his senior season and watched his numbers drop off. His tackles dropped to 55, sacks went down to 7.4 and tackles for loss dipped to 15.
Critics of his thought he took plays off his senior season, but Coples refuted that by saying he changed positions. He moved from tackle to end his final year. North Carolina fired head coach Butch Davis right before the season and the school was being investigated by the NCAA all year.
Coples ended up being drafted by the New York Jets with the 16th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft. The defensive end has played in all eleven games for the Jets while making two starts. He has accumulated 20 tackles and two sacks on the season, so far. Let’s take a look at how other rookie linebackers and linemen have fared that was picked around Coples.
Bruce Irvin was a surprise pick by the Seattle Seahawks with the 15th pick in the draft out of West Virginia. Irvin has played in all eleven games this season, making eleven tackles, seven sacks and forcing one fumble. The San Diego Chargers took linebacker Melvin Ingram from South Carolina with the 18th pick. Ingram has played in every game for the Chargers while making 24 tackles, 0.5 sacks, four passes defended and forcing one fumble.
Chandler Jones was picked by the New England Patriots with the 21st selection in the draft out of Syracuse. Jones has started all ten games he’s played in this season making 34 tackles, six sacks, two passes defended and forcing three fumbles. The Houston Texans picked Illinois linebacker Whitney Mercilus with the 26th selection. He’s played in all eleven games making 17 tackles, three sacks, one pass defended and forcing two fumbles.
If you look at the stats you might think the Jets made the wrong pick as Cople’s numbers don’t really stand out compared to his fellow rookie peers. Which rookie is having the best year? Pro Football Focus has come up with a formula to determine the best pass rushers in the NFL.
They separate their findings into outside rushers (OLB and 4-3 DE’s) and inside rushers (DT’s and 3-4 DE’s). Irvin places 8th overall in outside rushers while Ingram comes in at 12th overall. Coples checks in at 10th overall for inside rushers. The only other rookies on the inside list are Mike Martin of the Tennessee Titans and Kendall Reyes of the Chargers.
As the Jets finish out the season should they think about changing the defense from a 3-4 alignment to a 4-3 to allow guys like Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson to rush the passer more? The Jets could have three new linebackers to start next season if they let Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas and Bart Scott all leave. The Jets strength seems to be its young defensive line so why not build around them?