With the 2012 NFL draft only a couple weeks away, ( pardon the pun) I have to admit that like most Dallas Cowboys fans, I have changed my mind numerous times the past few months about who to draft in the first round of this year’s draft.
The reason for my uncertainty is the fact that the Cowboys have to draft an immediate impact player who is not only productive, but who also fills one of our 3 major needs : (1) Defensive Back (2) Offensive Guard and (3) Defensive End.
When the off-season began in February, I have to admit, I first targeted Alabama CB Dre’ Kirkpatrick as our #1 pick. But that changed due to free agent signing of future Pro-Bowl Chief’s CB Brandon Carr. Following that signing, Saints Pro Bowl OG Carl Nicks signed with Tampa Bay. So once again, I switched my potential draft pick to OG prospect David DeCastro of Stanford, the best OG to come out of college since Steve Hutchinson in 2001. That pick would once again change as a result of the Cowboys adding two offensive guards with starting potential via OG Mackenzy Bernadeau and OG Nate Livings. Thus, making the next logical choice, the best defensive end in the draft DE Quinton Coples of North Carolina.
Coples is one of the most dominant defensive line players to come out of college since former Tar Heel and current Chicago Bears Pro-Bowl DE Julius Peppers, whose play he practically clones. Coples was named 1st team All ACC in both 2010 & 2011. During that two year period, Coples recorded 114 tackles, 30 tackles for a loss, and 17.5 sacks. Some scouts have stated that Coples lost intensity at times in his play in 2011 but I feel that was more due to him being shifted all along the D-line. That limited his sack statistics more than any perceived lack of effort.
Coples is the perfect size at 6’6” 290lbs to play the 5 technique as a DE in the 3-4 defensive scheme. And he is an instant upgrade over current starters Jason Hatcher and Marcus Spears. What makes Coples even more valuable is that he saw extensive action at both defensive end and defensive tackle during his college career. That factor is especially attractive to the Cowboys because that allows Coples to be able to rotate with current Dallas Pro Bowl NT Jay Ratiff and vice versa, giving Rob Ryan a new flexibility advantage along his D-line and more pass rush pressure to help the defensive secondary.
Now that I have pinpointed the player the Cowboys need to add to the Dallas Defense, the problem is having Coples staying available to the #14 pick in the first round. In order to have that opportunity, a couple of teams (sorry keep doing that Coples/Couples thing) must pass on Coples in round 1.
The first team is Jacksonville at #7 and the second is Seattle at #12. Most mock drafts and draft experts have Coples going to Jacksonville at #7, but I think free agency has already had an effect on that. The Jaguars re-signed DE Jeremy Mincey after most mocks came out. But they only signed one wide receiver, former Cowboy Laurent Robinson, who is talented but is not a #1 playmaking wideout. Robinson is a clear #2 receiver. That all adds up to Jacksonville adding either WR Justin Blackman or Michael Floyd at #7. The pick which Dallas fans need to hold their breath during is Seattle at #12. The Seahawks need a DE for their defense badly and Coples fits their need. But two factors Seattle will have to consider are the talent of OG David DeCastro and MLB Luke Kuechly. Another factor could be with Head Coach Pete Carroll’s familiarity with ex-USC Trojan DE/OLB Nick Perry.
So when you turn on the draft on April 26th, remember the prediction you were given from The Landry Hat’s newest writer. North Carolina DE Quentin Coples will be the Dallas Cowboys first pick at #14, because of his unique talent and versatility. And I also predict that Coples will someday become a Pro-Bowl defensive end in Rob Ryan’s Championship defensive unit in Dallas. Albeit, it may still take a COUPLE of years.