Arizona took a big step in improving that deficiency by selecting guard Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina with their first round pick, the seventh overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-2, 311-pounder should be a cornerstone for many years to come.
Strengths: 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. Flashes some attitude when challenged, maintaining contact and chasing his man out of the play. Quick recovery speed to get up after a cut block. Good pad level and surge coming out of his stance. Gets vertical movement on his man on base and double blocks. Constantly works his feet and swings his hips to get position on reach blocks. Rolls his hips through contact, and works to place his body between his man and the ball carrier.
Weaknesses: 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; stronger tackles get a bit of push against him in pass protection. Will have occasional missed assignments in pass protection.
NFL Comparison: Ben Grubbs
Bottom Line: Cooper, an extremely athletic left guard, racked up a number of all-conference awards during his four years starting, capping it off with a first-team All-American selection as a senior. He has the athleticism to play in a number of different schemes. Due to his ability to lead the way on runs and outstanding pass protection skills, he figured to be the first guard selected in the draft.
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