Thursday, March 29, 2012

Draft Profile: Quinton Coples - DE - North Carolina

The following is the 3rd in a series of draft profiles for potential 1st and 2nd round picks for the Dallas Cowboys. These profiles are put together with the specific needs of the Cowboys in mind, and is an attempt to examine their resumes and game tape to get an idea of who might fit in best with Dallas come draft day.

Quinton Coples
North Carolina
6'6, 284
40 time: 4.71, Bench Press: 25
June 22, 1990 (21)

This is one of my favorite parts about preparing for the NFL Draft. Those who follow this closely grab a stack of games and try to trust their eyes and block out everything that has been said or written about a particular player who is being considered. Opinions this time of year can vary from constructive criticism to nit-picking to full-out-lies to increase or decrease draft stock, sometimes released by teams to attempt to get a guy to fall into their lap. Can you trust what you see out there? Or, do you just watch the player and attempt to ignore the noise?

Quinton Coples is one of those players. People have said a number of things about him and the things that are said challenge whether he actually enjoys football and wants to be as good as he can be. Does his motor run? Does he care? What is most interesting about these critiques are the parallels between Coples and a player he greatly admires, Julius Peppers.

Peppers did not wear #90 at UNC. He actually wore #49, but has wore the number #90 ever since he has been in the NFL. Coples wears #90 at UNC and their frames are shockingly close. Peppers is 6'7, 287 and Coples is 6'6, 284. "Pep" ran a 4.68 and lifted 22 bench press reps. Coples ran a 4.71 and benched 25.

Peppers had no flaws coming out of college. He had 30.5 sacks in 3 seasons and 53 tackles for loss. It took Coples 4 seasons to put together 24 sacks and 40.5 tackles for loss.

Peppers was the #2 pick in the 2002 draft - David Carr went #1 - and has put up 100 sacks in 10 seasons. But, there was a time not too long ago (2007) when he was being asked by many in the media all of these same questions about motor and love for the game and "why aren't you better?" That was the year that Peppers looked disinterested and had just 2.5 sacks. Perhaps they were right, because the other 9 seasons, he has averaged about 11 sacks per season and has made football look easy his entire career.

And that is Coples criticism: That he is not Julius Peppers. And if you are picking #14, you should celebrate that fact. Because if he was Peppers, he would not have a chance to potentially fall to you. But, here is Coples, with 1 month to go, now showing up in the mock drafts as a guy who could fall to pick #20 or beyond.

I don't believe those mock drafts for a second. Coples is a freak of nature and a dominant football player.

In 2010, because of major scandal at North Carolina that left many players suspended, Coples moved inside to play defensive tackle for the Heels. He responded with a ridiculously productive season of 10 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss from the inside position where he proved he could handle the inside double teams and stand up against the run.

Then, in 2011, with a new coach and a return to defensive end, his numbers dropped. He "merely" had 7.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss and the football world was unimpressed. And that is what we do when preparing for the draft. We end up comparing players to generational greats in the NFL (Is he Julius Peppers?) or we compare him to what we think he should do (Why didn't he have 15 sacks this season?). But, if you just watch him play a few hundred snaps, you might see that in this draft class he is a cut above. If there was one guy that you would have to put money on to be a dominant pass rusher in the NFL, for me it is easy: Coples.

So, why did his numbers drop in his senior season? I might argue with his emerging as a force at UNC that he was focused on and game planned around much more. But, it is also not uncommon for players to not go 110% when they start reading about themselves on the NFL Draft board. Players often play their final college season with their head on a swivel, trying to make sure that nobody attempts to cut them at the knees and risk an injury that could take untold millions off the table. One player who had that rap last season of whether the motor always runs as high as it should was Von Miller. His sack totals dropped from 17.5 in his junior season to just 10 in his senior year. He also changed positions and the questions about this health or whether he was playing to not get hurt also emerged. And then Von Miller went to the NFL and blew the doors off with 11.5 sacks in his rookie season.

Coples body type is that classic basketball power forward frame. His athleticism is fantastic. And he over-matches his blocker on a regular basis with quickness and an array of moves that is tough to deal with. The fact that he "only" accounted for 48 explosive plays (sacks + tackles for loss) in his last two seasons is laughable. That ratio of over 2 explosive plays per game in a major conference is well above others in this draft class who are being considered for Round 1. If he did that while "not trying", then I think I can live with it.

Here is some youtube cut-ups for your perusal:

Vs Virginia Tech

This is a great tape if you want to be talked into Coples. He seems at different times to be unblock-able. It becomes clear that he is an issue rather early in this game and I think you can see his pass rush ability to both the inside and outside as well as a chance to dispel the rumors that he never forced a fumble as he strips draft prospect David Wilson rather clearly in the 4th Quarter.

Vs Miami

Miami sure seemed to roll away from Coples path here in a game where the Hurricanes to a healthy lead early. Coples again shows that in a 1-on-1 pass rush situation, most college tackles can't do much but hold and hope. He has so many weapons and does well in pass rushes. You might wonder about his technique against the run as he gets too far up field and runs right past the ball carrier on some occasions. Very impressive "get off" at the snap.

Vs Missouri (Bowl Game)

Not the most impressive game in his final college contest. He has some moments that look impressive, but if there was a particular game where he appeared to be playing "not to get hurt", this one has some moments where you wonder if he is protecting himself a bit. But again, when he turns that corner, he absolutely looks the part of an edge rusher who can get double digit sacks on Sunday.

And then this clip Is from Pro Football Weekly where we can find out what his favorite movie is and also see one of several impressive brands that he has on his arms.

The Case For Taking Quinton Coples at #14: Honestly, I don't believe for a second that he will be around at #14. I think this is a case of many teams trying to get him to slide to them with these question marks, because when you look at measurables and game tape, he is so impressive. If he does slide to 14, then I think the Cowboys will run to the podium and happily take him, even if it requires some tweaking of their scheme to make it fully work. I cannot swear he is a prototypical DE in a 3-4 and would be best utilized as a 2-gap player who holds the line, but he absolutely could do it if you wanted that done. Instead, I think you might consider a lot more 4-3 fronts in passing situations where he can be a fine edge rusher or he can go inside and whip guards with his quickness. His tools make you wonder how good he can be in 3 seasons. He has a skill set that you don't often see at 6'6.

The Case Against Taking Quinton Coples at 14: The case against him (assuming he will be there) is that he spends a lot of time discussing the business of football already. That, coupled with the possibility that he was protecting himself his senior year does hint at the idea that he might always be a signing issue and motivated by his next contract (like his hero, Mr Peppers). That being said, he would not be alone in that regard in the NFL. Otherwise, his technique needs work as he can be much more affective once he fully understands his role with relation to the other 10 guys on the field. He sometimes plays as if he is on his own, but without knowing what he was being told from his coaches in college, it is difficult to get too worried about that. He honestly doesn't have too much that scares you. He is an elite prospect that suggests that he can be as good as he wants to be.

Previous Profiles:
Fletcher Cox - Mississippi State
Michael Brockers - LSU

1 comment:

Dannyboy said...

His strength actually makes me think he might be better as a 3-4 DE. Is that where the Cowboys would use him should they be fortunate to choose him at #14?