#7 Jonathan Cooper: Guard, UNC - From the very beginning I wanted a starting LT or a trade back. I also wanted Geno, but soured over the idea after we traded for Carson. I couldn’t justify taking a player in the top ten that wasn’t going to start. And trading up to get a Tackle just wasn’t a prudent idea. This team needed depth as bad as it needed a LT, so staying put was sensible. As to the trade back possibilities, I have to believe that the Jets wanted to move up. It was only 2 spots but it would have landed them Tavon Austin, who they coveted. We might have swung an extra mid round pick, ala Minnesota v. Cleveland last year.
A Guard hasn’t been chosen in the top ten in quite a while. So initially I expected to land a Guard later in the first or second. There was huge depth at the position and Guards usually slide back, like DDC did last year. A trade back, with say Minnesota seemed wise because you could get added depth and still land a solid player at the position. Turned out I was wrong. Every Guard worth a darn was drafted in the top 20. Unusual. The well would have dried up well before #23. Still, if we could have pried away both #23 and #25 from Minnesota, we might have ended up with two further trade back opportunities with Atlanta. Hindsight being 20/20 I’m glad we didn’t go that route.
Cooper is an elite athlete. He’s big, fast, and agile. Rare qualities even in the NFL. His physical attributes are off the chart as is his mental attributes. He looks to be an elite Center for the next decade. I love his ability to pull, to read, to adjust, to get down field. He has everything you want for a quicker ZBS. And he seems like a great locker room guy.
It’s also apparent that BA is looking to go ZBS. Passing on Warmack for Cooper should have sealed the deal on that debate.
I have to admit that I would have screwed this one up. I probably would have gone after Star or Jarvis Jones. Not that they were bad selections or anything, it’s just that I was under the false premise that a Guard would have fallen to #38. I was 18 spots wrong on that one. I thought if we were lucky Cooper would have fallen, or at the very least Fluker, Pugh, or even Long. Yeah, not so much. Turns out we got the best player at the Guard/Center position in the draft for our system.
BPA: This draft was weird. It was anemic at the top and heavy through the first 3 rounds. So BPA at #7 was harder than in most years. Cooper is right there with Star and a little ahead of Jarvis (due to medical). I think both are special players. BPA grade: A
Need: Since there was no chance at landing a LT, that means Levi is probably still ours. Scary. So Right Guard immediately becomes the weak point on offense. Center is a close 2nd. And since offense is such a train wreck, they needed more attention than the Defense. And since BA wants faster more athletic Guards and Centers, they got the best one in the draft at both positions. NEED grade: A
Positional value: Guard is the easiest position to fill. Well, for everyone but Whiz who couldn’t tell the difference between a Right Guard and a stick of deodorant. That being said, ZBS Guards are a bit harder to find. That still doesn’t make them more important than a Center, but it closes the gap. Oh, and since Cooper will probably play Center, it’s only fair to factor that into this grade. This is the one year you get a pass on taking a Guard this early. Positional value grade: B
Depth value: This draft was deep with Guards and Centers. It sure looked like we could land one of them in the later rounds. Turns out we could have landed some good ones in the 3rd but waited until the 4th to address it. But this draft was weird. The depth at Guard was a mirage compared to most years. Guards went as fast as pass rushers in the first round. Weird. So again, depth value should be adjusted given the circumstances. Depth Value grade: C
Overall: Like I said, I would have traded back with the Jets. They’re stupid and would have taken it. But that’s a minor complaint. We got the best Guard in the draft to fit our scheme. We got him right about where he was projected to go. And he seems to have all the intangibles to make our team better. Oh, and way to stick it to the stubborn fool formerly known as Coach Whiz by taking an Olinemen early. OVERALL grade: A-