Despite being the first guard selected in the top 10 of the NFL Draft since 1997, in the eyes of many Arizona Cardinals guard Jonathan Cooper was thought to be a rather safe pick.
But safe might not be the only word used to describe Cooper during his first season in the Valley.
CBSSports.com’s Will Brinson named his top 10 impact offensive rookies this week, and the 2012 Consensus All-American had no problem making the list, coming in at No. 5.
5. Jonathan Cooper, OG, Cardinals
It’s counter-intuitive to think that an offensive guard on a bad offensive line is going to make an immediate impact for a team in a division featuring three extremely dangerous defenses. But Cooper is talented and athletic enough to make a difference immediately, and you can’t understate the importance of what an improvement at guard will mean for the Cardinals. Cooper’s presence will shore up the left side of the line with Levi Brown at tackle and that in turn makes life easier for everyone on the line, including Bobby Massie on the right side, who improved over the course of 2012. It’s a trickle-down effect that will result in Carson Palmer having more time in the pocket and could result in another rookie — running back Andre Ellington — becoming an important piece of the offense, particularly in the screen game, where Cooper excels in blocking.
Just by the numbers themselves, it’s hard to disagree with Brinson’s optimistic projection.
In 2012, the Cardinals were the worst rushing team (75.3 yards/game) and fifth-worst passing team (188 yards/game) in the NFL. The Redbirds’ offensive line also allowed a league-high 58 sacks.
Joining Cooper on Brinson’s esteemed list were Giovani Bernard (Bengals), Tavon Austin (Rams), Le’Veon Bell (Steelers), DeAndre Hopkins (Texans), Eric Fisher (Chiefs), Luke Joekel (Jaguars), Cordarrelle Patterson (Vikings), EJ Manuel (Bills) and Eddie Lacy/Jonathan Franklin (Packers).