It’s not very often that a stud offensive lineman comes out of North Carolina, but Jonathan Cooper is attempting to buck that trend in the 2013 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-2, 310-pound guard is arguably the best in this year’s class with Alabama‘s Chance Warmack as his primary (and only true) competition for that title. Cooper is an ideal prospect for the Dallas Cowboys to consider with the No. 18 overall pick in this year’s draft.
When the Cowboys were looking at Tyron Smith with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, everyone raved about his incredible athleticism and how that trumped the fact he was “raw” as a football player. So far, so good for Smith as he’s the best offensive lineman on the Cowboys’ roster, although that’s not saying much. Fast forward two years and Dallas is looking at basically the same thing in Cooper, although he’s not nearly as raw as Smith was coming out of college.
Cooper isn’t weak by any stretch of the imagination, but he does lack the brute strength that pro scouts like to see in top-tier guards. However, film study suggests he knows how to make up for that with his athleticism and displayed that in college, especially in his senior season at North Carolina, when he earned first team All-America honors. He was also a wrestler in high school and that’s a great trait for offensive linemen because that sport teaches bigger players how to use their hands most effectively, which translates directly to football when trying to hold a quicker and/or stronger pass-rusher at bay.
Cooper is also very smart with a high football IQ. He knows how to get to the second level to extend a play for the ball carrier and he knows why that is important, which isn’t as common as you might think among linemen coming out of college. Cooper shows solid explosion out of his stance on run-blocking plays when he needs to track down a linebacker and his agility makes him an ideal personal protector on bootlegs and very effective as a pulling guard on counters.
Needless to say, Cooper is the whole package and he’s versatile enough that he can be successful in any offensive scheme, so the Cowboys would get an incredible upgrade on the interior of their offensive line with Cooper if he falls to No. 18. If he doesn’t, Warmack will likely be there. The latter is an entirely different player, so it’s really a toss-up as to which of the two Dallas should target when it’s on the clock in the first round.