The Arizona Cardinals selected guard Jonathan Cooper from University of North Carolina with their first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft Thursday.
At 6-foot-2, 311 pounds, Cooper was a First Team All-American selection as a senior. He can play guard and center and his versatility was attractive to the Cardinals.
“Most times, when you think of athletic guards you’re thinking of smaller guys out in space, but this guy can really bring it at the point of attack,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s got feet, when he’s out in space he looks like a fullback running around with his change of direction; but then he hits you so hard. He’s an outstanding pass blocker.”
Cooper started 47 games in his collegiate career with the Tar Heels. After he reshirted in 2008, he started 10 games at left guard in 2009, which earned him Freshman All-American honors. In 2010, he started 13 games for North Carolina, including one at center. His junior year in 2011, Cooper made 13 starts at left guard.
Cooper’s strengths include his athleticism, outstanding blocking skills, agility and quickness.
Cooper is the highest-drafted North Carolina offensive lineman since Harris Barton was picked 22nd overall by the San Francisco 49ers in 1987.
He’s also the first offensive lineman nabbed by Arizona in the first three rounds of the draft since 2007, when they selected Penn State tackle Levi Brown with the fifth overall pick, and is the first guard to be taken in the top 10 since the Saints took Chris Naeole in 1997.
“I think the question was first posed to me at the combine in Indianapolis, of whether I thought seven was too high to take an offensive guard,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said. “I think that we have our answer.”
The Cardinals are also hoping Cooper is the answer to some of their woes along the offensive line. Arians said “it’s a pretty good bet” that he’ll play right away, and odds are he will replace Adam Snyder.
And, if all goes according to plan, Cooper will be a mainstay on the line for a long, long time.
“We truly feel like this guy could be a 10 to 12 year pro,” Keim said, adding he believes Cooper has Pro Bowl talent. “Has a unique skill set; maybe one of the more athletic offensive linemen I’ve seen in the 15 years I’ve been in the business.”
Jonathan Cooper’s College Accomplishments
• 2012 Consensus All-America Selection – Walter Camp, FWAA, AFCA, AP, ESPN.com, SI
• 2012 Outland Trophy Finalist
• 2012 First-Team All-ACC and ACC Jacobs Blocking Trophy Winner
• 2012 Lombari Award Candidate
• 2012 Midseason All-America Selection – SI.com, ESPN.com, Phil Steele, Sporting News
• 2010 & 2011 Second-Team All-ACC