INDIANAPOLIS—The first of the big-name big guys to step to the podium on Thursday quickly made a pitch to all of the teams that want to run the football.
“I hope to show I’m a very athletic player, put up some good bench numbers and show I’m a complete guard that can fit in any system,” North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper told reporters on the first day of media interviews at the scouting combine.
Cooper and Alabama’s Chance Warmack are thought to be the top two prospects in a deep crop of guards in this year’s NFL draft. If you want to run the football, and especially if you want to run it with power, Warmack and Cooper are your guys.
“He’s a big guy. I’m glad I got to see him and see that he’s human,” Cooper joked of Warmack. “He’s a powerful player. He gets on linemen.”
Cooper measured out at 6-2½, 312 pounds on Thursday. He said he had played as light as 285 this past season, when North Carolina went to an up-tempo, no-huddle offense. As a senior, Cooper played in a zone-blocking scheme, which the Packers also employ, but he made it sound as though he prefers a power attack.
“I feel the power and I feel I have a little more butt behind me,” he said of having weighed in bigger than he had been during the season. “I want to be a physical player.”
Draft guru Tony Pauline compared Cooper’s ability to pull across the line of scrimmage to that of legendary offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden. Cooper said getting out in front of the ball is what he likes to do the most.
“I love pulling and I love getting out in space,” he said.
They are not prerequisite skills in a zone-blocking scheme, but when someone can run as well as Cooper does, adjustments to the scheme can be made, and Cooper was careful on Thursday not to estrange any of the several teams he said have expressed interest in him.
“I’d say I’m a combination of power and athleticism. We ran a bunch of screens and I got out on the second and third levels,” he said. “We had a few gap schemes and prior to my senior year we were a power team. Whatever they ask of me, I feel I can do it well. It’s not a glamor position. They like guys that can run power.”
Most draftniks expect the Packers to be looking for power players for both lines in this draft. Cooper has also played some center.
“I would be interested in whoever would take me as early as they could take me,” he said.
Cooper is currently projected as a late pick in the first round, but he could move his stock even higher with a big workout on Saturday.