North Carolina Senior
Has an excellent combination of size, strength, and athleticism. Is comfortable moving in space and shows good burst to the ball. Able to close on the backside pursuit to make the hit on the back or sack-strip on the quarterback. Does a nice job going for the ball in such situations. Flashes bend and flexibility to be able to function in space at the next level. Has experience playing multiple techniques and roles, lining up both inside and outside. Has good straight-line burst that he can use to beat the guard or tackle off the ball. Has enough speed when he lines up inside to beat the guard to his outside shoulder from the 3-technique. Also displays a decent rip move there. Has good speed off the edge where he can set up the offensive tackle. Occasionally flashes a spin move to disengage. Shows potential with his hand use, able to slap away the hands of the tackle and work his way around the edge. Shows good potential as a bull rusher, able to get his hands inside and power through blockers with his strength. Has the size and strength to win at the point of attack. Shows ability to shoot through gaps and make plays in the backfield versus the run.
His motor runs too hot and cold at times, shutting it down too often when the ballcarrier or quarterback is out of his range. Doesn't play with that aggressive edge needed to be a dominant pass rusher. Can be inconsistent with his first step off the edge. Not a guy that is going to just blow by most NFL tackles. Doesn't display a good counter move when he is able to set up the offensive tackle with his speed. Runs around too many blocks on the edge, struggles to disengage, and too easily nudge off his rush when trying to beat the tackle around the corner. Doesn't quite know how to dip the shoulder and will take some extra steps when trying to turn the corner. Gets redirected wide too often by tackle, especially when he lines up in the 5-technique, not using his superior strength. Struggles to get off blocks, and even when he is effective at collapsing edge with his bull rush, can't get off the block to make stop. Similar things happen when he's working against the run and is effective at getting upfield. Plays too high at the point of attack when trying to get leverage. Is effective in college because of his size and strength, but won't be so against bigger and better NFL tackles. Doesn't always use his hands to get leverage at the point of attack also. Too often displays poor recognition and loses outside contain against the scrambling quarterback. Bites on the zone read too much, and can get sack-happy at times. Doesn't show a great first step when he plays with his hand off the ground. Slows down when trying to make initial contact on the edge with his power move, rather than consistently being able to jolt the blocker off the ball. Is too easily chipped by the back at times.
Coples emerged as a junior when Marvin Austin was suspended last year, playing mostly inside. He flashed a lot of upside, enough that people really had huge expectations coming for him as a senior. He got off to a very slow start, but things definitely picked up as the season wore on. But that slow start, inconsistency, questionable motor, and general underachieving raised a lot of red flags among observers this year. You see the flashes of elite potential similar to past UNC ends like Julius Peppers and Robert Quinn. But he never really consistently dominates and you question whether or not he has that "want to" to reach his full potential. COples has the ability to fit in both a 4-3 or 3-4, although he'll probably fit best in the former. He is a versatile guy that has the upside to be one of the more feared pass rushers in the league because of his unique physical traits, but it will require a lot of coaching to coalesce his talent into a refined weapon. That makes him the epitome of a boom/bust prospect, which almost always seems to be the case with the elite pass rushers. He attended Hargrave Military Academy as a senior.
2011 GAMES WATCHED:
(9/3) vs. James Madison: 2 sacks, 1 stuff
(9/10) vs. Rutgers: 1 pressure, 1 penalty (personal foul)
(10/22) at Clemson: 4 pressures, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 1 penalty (facemask)
(11/17) at Virginia Tech: 2 pressures, 1 sack, 1 QB HIt, 2.5 TFLs, 0.5 stuffs, 1 PD
(12/26) vs. Missouri: 3 pressures, 1 QB hit, 2 TFL
2011: 13 GP/13 GS, 55 tackles, 15.0 TFLs, 7.5 sacks, 0 INTs, 2 PD, 3 FF, 1 FR
Coples reminds me a lot of Mario Williams. They have a similar build and the sort of athleticism, burst, and strength that can make them potentially extremely difficult matchups for NFL offensive tackles. Like Williams, Coples isn't a guy that is just going to beat guys purely with his speed. But his speed is good that if/when he can set up tackles on the edge, he can use a variety of moves to beat guys, whether that is purely by blowing past the slower guys on the edge, using a counter move, or just overwhelming the guy with power and strength. Williams too had an underwhelming final year at N.C. State with a slow start despite a lot of attention going into that year. But unlike Coples, Williams never had major questions about his motor. Now I've heard and thought that Coples slow start this year was because he had an eye on the draft. But that's not an excuse. And there is some Vernon Gholston-esque issues with whether or not he really has that sort of edge and "want to" to be a top pass rusher at the next level. The talent is certainly there, and it's not going to take a huge amount of coaching to polish up his game. It'll all just go back to whether or Coples really wants it. I think the best thing for him is going to a team that won't ask him immediately to be the No. 1 guy like Williams was in Houston. I think putting him across from an already established veteran would work best for him, to try and show him the ropes and not have to throw his feet immediately in the fire. I think he can help out a rotation as a rookie, but would be surprised if he gets more than 2-4 sacks as a role player. What you're really looking for with Coples is that a guy that will start to blossom in Year 2 and beyond as he starts to put it all together. I'm not sure he's a self-starter, and thus why you want some veterans and coaches that aren't going to let him slack off in the coming years. I think down the road, if he lives up to his potential there is some potential that he could have a Justin Tuck-like role for some team. Playing outside on first and second down, and then moving inside to tackle on third downs. I think he can play in a 3-4 as well, as that looked more like his ideal scheme as a junior. I don't think he'll immediately impact there because he'll need to fill out his frame more, and learn to do a much better job getting leverage at the point of attack. Eventually, he can improve with his ability to win in a short area because he definitely has the size and strength, but that's not really where his game is. There I would compare him to a player like Chris Canty when he was in Dallas. A good but not great player. Unlike Gholston or Jamaal Anderson, I don't expect Coples to be a complete bust. I think he's too talented to be a career backup or marginal NFL player like those two. I think he'll be a starter, but I'm not sure how good a starter he'll be. If he does indeed lack that want to, then he'll probably be a decent starter but not a guy that is more than a 4-6 sack guy. And while he can be an effective starter, but due to high expectations they'll eventually cast him off and probably be a Charles Grant-esque starter somewhere. Basically a guy that flashes ability, but won't be a guy you can rely on to make the needed plays. But he certainly has the potential like a Mario Williams to be a guy that can consistently give a team 8-15 sacks per year, particularly as a left defensive end, and be one of the more dominant pass rushers in the league.
Mario Williams, Texans.
Coples chances of success probably wouldn't change in Atlanta versus anywhere else. More than likely, he would get his first shot as a right defensive end, although he's probably a bit of a better fit on the left side where his speed will work better going against the slower right tackles. But he can definitely be a rush end on the right side, it just all depends on his developing the necessary technique and pass rush moves to be able to win there. And that probably would take time. An ideal role for him right away would be having a mentor like John Abraham, and splitting reps with both him and Edwards on either side of the line. He could also get opportunities inside on passing downs. A few years down the line, Coples could be a versatile guy that the Falcons can use well in Mike Nolan's defense because they can line him up at multiple positions to create mismatches. But that sort of player is only if Coples develops and is several years away. With Abraham as a mentor and not putting too much on his plate early as a situational player, I think he could start to develop by the end of his second season. His upside is such that he could come in and immediately start for the team, although as a rookie on the right side he would likely need to be heavily rotated because of the inconsistency that is likely to come. He's definitely the type of player that if he hasn't really started to blossom into an impact player by his third year, you're probably going to have to conclude he never will. That's the amount of time it takes typically for defensive ends to really develop, and it's likely that Coples won't be any different.
Coples is definitely the talent of a guy that should merit a Top 5 pick. But his inconsistency and whether or not he has good football character means that he's a risk in the Top 10. If you can get him in the middle portion of the first round, then his upside is well worth the risk. In that Pick No. 10-15 range, I wouldn't think twice about drafting him but in the Top 10, I'd need to be a bit more cognizant of whether I have the supporting cast to help him develop.
1-pathetic, 2-poor, 3-weak, 4-below average, 5-average, 6-above average, 7-good, 8-very good, 9-excellent, 10-elite
Pass Rush: 7.0
Point of Attack: 5.5
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.