One day down, two to go.
Thirty-two players heard their names called by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell Thursday night in New York, including North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper, the seventh overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals.
Cooper became the first guard drafted in the top ten since 1997, when the New Orleans Saints took Colorado’s Chris Naeole with the tenth pick.
Here’s what some of the prominent national experts are saying about the Cardinals’ selection of Cooper:
Grade: B – I don’t like drafting guards high in the first round, but Cooper fills a need. And he is athletic and can move. He will be a heck of a guard. But it’s high for a guard.
Grade: B – Many scoffed at the idea of taking a guard so high. Going seventh overall, though, was about the right value position for the highly athletic Cooper. The question is whether he’s a better choice than someone like D.J. Fluker, who could play tackle or guard. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim better hope he’s right about Arizona’s offensive tackles, or try to find one later in the draft.
Grade: B+ – More offensive linemen! Arizona is another team undergoing a ton of changes this offseason. Protecting Carson Palmer, and enabling him to hook-up with his star receiver Larry Fitzgerald is obviously important to the Cardinals. Drafting a guy like Cooper, who is a great pass blocker and can plug up attackers up the middle, will make a world of difference. Smart pick, a little high for a guard… but as long as he plays effectively, no one will argue against it.
I wrote before the draft that two of the best players in this class were the top two guards, Warmack and Cooper. And when you dive deep, it’s not surprising that the two teams that got it right were the Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans.
The Arizona Cardinals played it safe and straight, standing pat at No. 7 and taking a guard. Jonathan Cooper was the first guard selected. He was, by definition, the one Arizona wanted the most. This was not a bold move. But with only seven picks in their possession entering the draft and only six slots ahead of them in the round, the Cardinals weren’t going to make a dramatic move up the board.
Analysis: Arizona needed tackle help, but Cooper is a very nice consolation prize and should solidify an O-line that will also be better with T Levi Brown back from a triceps injury that cost him the 2012 season. Cooper ought to keep new QB Carson Palmer fairly clean while providing daylight for recently signed RB Rashard Mendenhall.
Jonathan Cooper, an All America lineman and Outland Trophy finalist noted for his physical domination and pancake blocks, is perhaps the best run blocker available in the draft. Arizona is desperate for help on the OL: they ranked No. 32 last year on the Cold, Hard Football Facts Offensive Hog Index, No. 32 in average per rush attempt, No. 32 converting third downs and No. 31 protecting the passer.