Our man 'Invictus' is a huge fan of Washington State defensive tackle Xavier Cooper, a player who could have his name called on Day 2 of the 2015 NFL Draft. Have a conversation with Cooper and you figure out quickly that his on-field skills are not the only thing to like about the young man.
I had that opportunity late last week, and came away away impressed with Cooper.
The 6-foot-3, 298-pound Cooper is ranked at the No. 58 draft prospect by CBS Sports. Cooper is confident enough to call himself an "elite prospect" and to compare himself to Aaron Donald. Taken by the St. Louis Rams one pick after the Giants selected Odell Beckham Jr., Donald went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie and was voted AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.
"I think I've shown on film that I can play with anybody," Cooper said.
We will talk more about Cooper's on-field talents in a bit. We have to talk digress a bit first, however, and talk about the reason why Cooper seems to be an easy guy to root for. Talk to him and you realize that Cooper appears to get it. That he appreciates the opportunity he has. That he has worked for it. That doing the right thing and being accountable to his teammates appears to be important to him.
Should he end up with the New York Giants, those, as you should know, are all traits that would endear him to head coach Tom Coughlin.
"What you're getting in Xavier Cooper is a guy who's going to handle himself like a pro on and off the field. I've never hand any issues with the law, any failed tests. I work hard. I'm counted on and respected by my teammates and my coaches," Cooper said.
While stressful, Cooper called the chance to be drafted by an NFL team a "blessing."
"It's really a blessing, all of it is. I'm really blessed to be here and I know a lot of people would give up a lot of things to be here," Cooper said. "I try to think of that whenever I feel myself stressing about the situation."
There was a time when Cooper wasn't even sure he would get the chance to play college football. Diagnosed with a learning disability while in high school, colleges shied away from recruiting him because he wasn't academically eligible. Washington State took a chance, but Cooper still spent a year at a community college and a year as a redshirt trying to get him school work in order so he would be eligible to play.
Cooper is now just eight credits shy of getting a Criminal Justice degree and plans to go back to finish school following his rookie season.
"I think all people learn different. I think everybody was made different from the man above," Cooper said. "I've embraced it. It's made me a better man because I've had to work harder and harder."
Cooper has no doubt that his athletic ability can translate to the NFL.
"As far as a player I've got everything that you want," Cooper said. "I'm strong, I'm athletic, I'm quick and I fit into any scheme."
Watch video of Cooper and you see a player who has been used all across the defensive line in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes.
A team like the Giants would likely look at Cooper as a three-technique defensive tackle, a role he feels ideally suited for.
"If I'm in the position of drafting a guy like me I want to use him to every bit of his ability. I think wherever I go they're going to run multiple fronts. There's a lot of defenses in the league that do that," Cooper said. "I'm a 300-pounder but I move very well, I'm very athletic. I can play outside, I can play inside. I can play nose, I can play it all."
Will the Giants be the team that gives him a chance to prove that? Invictus wonders if Cooper's short arms and lack of power to anchor vs. the run will turn the Giants off.
If Cooper does, however, land with the Giants he is undoubtedly a guy who will be easy to root for.