NFL Draft: Cardinals select Jonathan Cooper with No. 7 pick

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With the seventh pick in the first round, the Arizona Cardinals  selected offensive guard Jonathan Cooper  out of North Carolina .

Cooper (6-2, 311) possesses uncanny athleticism and blinding speed for a guard his size. In the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, John Shoop, Cooper’s former offensive coordinator at North Carolina, told, that the guard is so quick that he could play fullback, before adding “that he is probably as good of a pulling guard as I've ever been around -- and that includes 12 years in the NFL." Cooper, in Shoop’s estimations, also played with a significantly higher aggressiveness toward the end of his Tar Heels’ career.

The former North Carolina guard excels in zone schemes with his ability to read opposing defensive sets and take the proper angles when blocking on inside runs. In a mid-November win over Virginia, Cooper sprung a massive hole for running back Giovani Bernard on a cut-back, when he used his leverage to take Cavaliers’ defensive lineman Chris Brathwaite out of the play. Several weeks earlier against Duke, Cooper anchored Blue Devils’ defensive lineman Nick Sink and pushed him back several yards on a third quarter inside handoff to running back A.J. Blue.

Cooper possesses a combination of agility and balance that reminds’s Rob Rang of Chiefs offensive lineman Rodney Hudson. The Chiefs selected Hudson in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft after he earned three consecutive All-ACC First-team selections and back-to-back First-team All-American honors (2009-2010) at Florida State. Before Hudson’s senior season, the Orlando Sentinel voted him the 24th best player in Florida State program history.

Cooper, Rang writes, is “an extremely effortless mover with explosive quickness in tight quarters, and is just as effective moving to his left or right.” Rang also believes that Cooper’s background as a standout wrestler at Hoggard High School in North Carolina has helped him “understand leverage and blocking angles.”

It has been more than 25 years since a Tar Heels' offensive lineman was taken in the first round of the draft. In 1987, the 49ers took former North Carolina tackle/guard Harris Barton with the No. 22 overall pick. 

The Cardinals struggled on inside runs in 2012, ranking 32nd on runs up the middle and 23rd on runs behind the left guard, according to  

Keep your eye on everything NFL by following Matt Rybaltowski on Twitter @mattrybaltowski.

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