It is easy to forget about Jonathan Cooper.
The seventh pick in the 2013 draft out of North Carolina, he plays a position (guard) that does not receive much fanfare and, well, there was that whole thing about missing the entire season due to a broken leg suffered in the Cardinals’ final preseason game.
But if all goes according to plan, Cooper will be the team’s starting left guard this season, combining with free agent pickup Jared Veldheer to solidify the left side of the offensive line.
NFL.com’s Gil Brandt believes he’ll do that and more, as he detailed in a piece on players who will take a big step in their second NFL season.
Three rookie guards — Kyle Long (Bears), Chance Warmack (Titans) and Larry Warford (Lions) — played every down for their teams last season, with Long going on to make the Pro Bowl. And I thought Cooper had a chance to be better than all three. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, a broken leg suffered in the preseason kept the seventh overall pick from seeing a single regular-season snap. Now, though, I’m told by Cards people that he’s 100 percent and looks great. Cooper has great functional strength, having tossed up 35 bench reps at the NFL Scouting Combine, and fine character to match. I expect him to start and play at a high level for the next 10 years, becoming a familiar face at the Pro Bowl in the process.
Cooper arrived with expectations fitting of a player selected early in the draft, and he seemed ready to live up to them prior to getting hurt.
And though he had to wait an extra season to make his impact on the Cardinals, he’ll have another chance very shortly.