“You can never have enough pass rushers.”
That phrase should be well-known to New York Giants fans, particularly after the mantra has repeatedly lead to success for the team. That phrase doesn’t just mean elite pass rushers selected at the top of the draft, it also applies to maintaining a consistent supply of depth players that defensive coordinators can send after quarterbacks in waves.
Ohio State has gained renown for producing some of the best pass rushers in the NFL in recent years. So we should always keep at least one eye on the Buckeyes’ EDGE prospects, even when they don’t have widely heralded prospects.
Red-shirt senior EDGE Jonathon Cooper won’t be coming into the NFL with the excitement of Chase Young, Nick Bosa, or Joey Bosa — all of whom he has played with. But that doesn’t mean he should be ignored either. Teams still need players around those elite rushers who can benefit from the attention paid them and keep the pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Prospect: Jonathon Cooper
Games Watched: vs. Northwestern (2019), vs. Clemson (2020), vs. Alabama (2020)
Red Flags: High ankle sprain (2019)
Games Played: 37
Tackles For a loss: 15.0
Forced Fumbles: 2
Games Played: 8
Tackles For a loss: 3.5
Forced Fumbles: 1
Best: Burst, lateral agility, hand usage, speed-to-power, competitive toughness
Worst: Flexibility, bend
Projection: Rotational pass rusher in a 4-3 or multiple front
Ohio State edge rusher Jonathon Cooper possesses good size, length, and explosiveness for the position. Cooper normally aligned as a 7 or 9-technique in Ohio State’s 4-man front, typically rushing out of a 3 or 4-point stance. However he also aligned as a 4i technique in Tite front packages, as well as rush out of 2-point stance in certain sub-packages.
Cooper shows a good burst off the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball, with a crisp first step. He generally plays with good hip and pad level to maximize his leverage at the start of the play. Cooper is a well-coached player, showing a good variety of speed and power rush moves. He showcases a good long-arm move as his go-to, typically using a club or swim move as his speed counter. Cooper is a good speed-to-power rusher, able to uncoil his hips at contact and drive blockers into the backfield. He also has surprisingly quick feet and lateral movement, giving him a dangerous inside counter when blockers overset against an outside rush.
Cooper is a disciplined run defender, able to use his leverage to set a firm edge. Cooper is also assignment sound, with good gap discipline as well as discipline against RPO or read-option plays.
He typically processes information quickly enough, and shows impressive competitive toughness. Cooper is persistent in pursuit, routinely pursuing ball carriers across the field and through the echo of the whistle, as well as doggedly fighting through multiple blockers.
Cooper shows definite stiffness in his lower body, with a limited flexibility in his ankles and fluidity in his hips. He struggles to bend and carry speed around the edge as a pass rusher, making wider alignments more necessary. Cooper also has a tendency to become reliant on his swim move as a counter, exposing his flank and raising his center of gravity, in which case blockers can disrupt his rush. He can also be prone to losing his feet if he needs to radically change direction quickly.
Overall Grade: 6.2 - This prospect is a high floor player who can provide consistent value as a rotational or depth player.
Jonathan Cooper projects best as a rotational pass rusher in a 4-3 or one-gap defense using multiple fronts.
He is a safe prospect who has been well-coached at Ohio State. While he lacks the physical traits — namely bend and lower-body flexibility — to be an elite pass rusher, he should be a ready contributor in a rotation.
Cooper was primarily a 4-3 defensive end in college, but he has enough versatility to be an EDGE player in a variety of fronts and stances. He appears more explosive and much more comfortable rushing out of a 3 or 4-point stance, as opposed to as a stand-up rusher. He has a bit of wasted movement when rushing while standing up, but I believe that is likely a matter of experience, which should improve with coaching and reps. Coaches might also want to work to pair his long-arm move with a club-rip, rather than his current swim move. That could help him lower his center of gravity and carry speed around the edge.
But while Cooper is capable of rushing out of a 2-point stance, he should not be asked to drop into coverage. He struggles to open up his hips and his backpedal is functional in that he moves backward, but it’s neither smooth nor swift.
Cooper should be a good depth and a rotational player who can contribute right away coming onto the field in obvious passing situations or “Four Aces” sub-packages. He could also be a reasonably reliable player spelling a starter for multiple snaps. Though being a true starter and every-down player might be beyond him.