40 Time (E): 5.10
Overview: After taking a redshirt year in 2008, Jonathan Cooper has been a mainstay in the starting lineup at left guard for the Tar Heels. If not for shoulder surgery, Cooper may have entered the 2012 NFL Draft but decided to come back for his senior season to play for Larry Fedora. Fedora brought an up tempo, spread offense and Cooper probably played his best football which is saying a lot considering his sophomore and junior seasons. He’s a plus athlete that if he were 3” taller he would be a top five tackle in the draft.
Pass Blocking: Coming into my evaluation all I heard about Cooper was he was a better run blocker than pass protector. It’s proof positive of why you evaluate with your eyes and not your ears. I came away impressed with most all aspects of Cooper’s ability as a pass protector. Great instincts in pass protection in working with the center and tackle. Easily slides off and keeps his eyes downfield as he’s able to pick stunts and twists on the interior. Solid base strength with the ability to anchor against power. His lateral agility is through the roof for a 310 pound man with the ability to mirror like a left tackle. Keeps a low base with great, flexible hips. Re-anchors well on rare occasion that he is blown backwards in the pass game.
Run Blocking: Cooper is an NFL ready run blocker that could excel in zone scheme. Often gets pigeonholed as strictly a zone blocker because of his athletic talents but the guy has the strength in the run game to be an effective drive blocker at the next level. Better power than given credit for and finishes blocks. He’s quick out of his stance with the ability to down block on the front side, pull from the backside and get into the second level as well as anyone in the draft. I would venture a guess that some zone teams will have Cooper as the top guard on their board. One area of concern for me is that whiffs on cut blocks on a regular basis.
Technique: From a technique standpoint, his experience shows. You see a four-year starter that has played in a pro-style offense and spread offense play out in terms of technique. He’s a natural knee bender that sinks his hips out of habit. His hand placement is spot on as I didn’t see him draw a holding penalty in any of the games that I evaluated. His footwork is phenomenal with the ability to mirror in the pass game, get into the second level and pull in the run game.
Size/Strength/Athleticism: Ideal frame for a ZBS guard. Thick lower half with proportionate top half. Cooper played at a shade under 300 pounds this season but has played at over 305 in the past. Natural athlete that can do anything from an athletic standpoint. He breaks down in space and is a plus move blocker. Could be a real asset in the screen game with his ability to hunt in open space. Long arms for a guard that is under 6-foot-3. Haven’t seen official measurements at this point but believe his arm length will impress at the Combine.
Bottom Line: Jonathan Cooper is a plug and play guard prospect that will go early in the draft. He’s a day one prospect that could overtake Chance Warmack on some teams boards. While it’s clear that Cooper is best suited in a zone blocking scheme he won’t be a guy that power run schemes shy away from. As I said, ZBS could rank Cooper ahead of Chance Warmack because of his natural athletic gifts. His movement skills are off the charts at the position. Better overall prospect than Mike Iupati, who went 17th overall in 2010. The top of this guard class is loaded with Warmack, Cooper, and Warford. Cooper has the ability to challenge the status quo on positional value.