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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: EDGE Jonathon Cooper

  • The Draft Network
  • January 5, 2021
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There’s something in the water in Columbus with these pass rushers. I don’t know what it is, but they’re a different breed out of Ohio State. Cooper isn’t the next Chase Young or Bosa brother, but he is a breath of fresh air to study in 2020 after a high-ankle sprain bogged down his 2019 campaign. Cooper was one of the pass rush spark plugs for the Buckeyes defense this year and turned in quite an impressive year, showcasing speed to power, urgent hands, refined counters, and a persistent motor in pursuit. Cooper isn’t the most explosive, he isn’t the longest, and he isn’t the most powerful, but Cooper absolutely made the most of his decision to redshirt the 2019 season and return this year by becoming a more fluid and complete player. Cooper projects favorably as a designated pass rusher and in a system that features savvy stack linebackers behind him—perhaps even an NFL starter.

Ideal Role: DPR (designated pass rusher).

Scheme Fit: Single-gap penetration front, odd/even flexible.


Written by Kyle Crabbs

Games watched: Penn State (2020), Indiana (2020), Northwestern (2020), Clemson (2020), Alabama (2020)

Best Game Studied: Clemson (2020)

Worst Game Studied: Alabama (2020)

First-Step Explosiveness: Cooper illustrates the needed burst off the edge to dial-up heat and win with speed. His coil in his stance is impressive, he’s the lowest build body to the ground across the OSU front. All that coil allows him to drive vertically up the field and stress tackles quickly before parlaying that into an array of rush counters. 

Flexibility: I do wish he had a little bit more lateral lean to reduce off the edge to flatten his angles at an optimal rate. He’s very close to turning over a lot more of his opportunities into finishes, but he hasn’t found his groove with the outside track. He’s got plenty of coil throughout his frame and generates a lot of force in short space as a result—he’s got a stiff set of pads when he crashes or slants inside. 

Hand Counters: His hands are very active and actually quite effective. He does well to force a punch before throwing a stab of his own and transitioning into dropping hands off his frame. Chop, cross-chop, and rip all complement his speed rush dynamics well and he’s in tune with anatomical trigger points at the wrist and elbow to effectively shed hands of opponents off his frame. 

Length: I would say he’s adequate here. He’s had some success with long-arms and rolling through the frame of a blocker, but bigger tackles will belly-bump him at the point of attack and I’m not sure he’s built to last in such an environment. He’ll clear needed measurement thresholds but I wouldn’t describe him as a “long” rusher. 

Hand Power: He’s got good pop and power in his game all around. There are clear examples of him shooting the hands, jolting the pads, and putting tackles on skates in their pass set. Even a one-handed stab or the chop counters he implements have effective power—he’s not throwing counters against a brick wall. 

Run Defending: He will be most effective in systems that promote gap penetration and also allow for gap exchanges up front to try to set up some wins via slanting or crashing. He’s not someone who holds a lot of appeal to punch and stun before sitting on the LOS and reading the block; his lateral mobility and quickness are best when he’s rolling momentum into his redirection. 

Effort: Cooper was relentless in 2020, I was very impressed to see not just the motor to peel back and retrace his steps on the rush track but also with just how urgent his hands were and how persistent he was on the backside of plays. If you want a rusher who plays with an edge, Cooper found that level in 2020. 

Football IQ: Cooper’s refinement is impressive and 2020 felt like a season of putting everything together in Year 5 with the Buckeyes program. There’s a fair question about how much higher his ceiling is as a player, but he’s done very well to squeeze every bit of effectiveness out of his physical gifts. He's a savvy pass rusher with a keen sense of navigating the box to find the football. 

Lateral Mobility: Cooper is fluid and does well rolling through his charges upfield—showcasing the ability to peel back inside if space is vacated by an overt. His short-area agility from a standstill position or once he’s committed to scraping and flowing with the play isn’t quite as appealing as he overruns a number of finish opportunities and has gotten frozen by the mesh point. 

Versatility: The ceiling here is an NFL starter and I think he could feasibly play that role in both odd and even base defenses. He’s going to be best with his hand in the dirt and when asked to play forward at the snap to take advantage of his slashing style of play. I would not, however, endorse playing him with frequency to the frontside of the set—let him work with reduced traffic and let his mobility shine. 

Prospect Comparison: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (2018 NFL Draft, Los Angeles Rams)


TDN Consensus: 72.88/100

Joe Marino: 71.50/100

Kyle Crabbs: 74.00/100

Jordan Reid: 73.00/100

Drae Harris: 73.00/100

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