The Chicago Bears needed to address the offensive line this offseason. To that end, GM Phil Emery signed free-agent offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod, who will protect Jay Cutler's blindside for the foreseeable future.
While left tackle has been upgraded, there are still serious issues along the interior of Chicago's front five. With that need in mind, we come to the prospect rated as the second best offensive guard in this draft.
Jonathan Cooper was a four-year starter for the North Carolina Tar Heels, and when you watch him on tape, it's easy to see why. Like Lance Louis, Cooper is an athletic guard who is ideally suited for an outside-zone scheme or a power-man scheme.
If the Bears are looking for a player to help get the most out of running back Matt Forte then they'd be wise to stock up their offensive line with athletic guards like Cooper. He is a player that fits the immediate needs of this team and, as it so happens, he could be available at the 20th overall spot in the draft.
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Arms: 33 inches
Hands: 10 1/4 inches
40-yard dash: 5.07
Bench Press: 35
Vertical Jump: 27-0
Broad Jump: 9-0
3-cone drill: 7.78
20-yard shuttle: 4.84
If ever there was a case to be made for a player that is an exceptional athlete, the case could be made for Cooper. He is extremely athletic and nimble for an offensive guard, and he possesses elite quickness and balance. Pulling, or getting out in front on screens and moving laterally down the line, are what Cooper does best. He can mirror defenders in pass protection and doesn't let speed beat him. He gets to the second level in a hurry and when he does he can get back under control and then make the appropriate block.
Cooper rarely misses when he hits the second level and always delivers a blow. He doesn't struggle with smaller faster players because his own unique athletic ability allows him to target agile defenders.
He shows a very good nasty streak through contact and is also a very aggressive cut blocker. If he can't beat you physically, he'll get you on the ground by any means necessary. He's ideally suited for the Mike Shannahan/Gary Kubiak outside-zone/stretch-play offense, which new Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer is likely to install. Cooper won't get beat in pass protection because he plays with good leverage and is able to adjust to stunts and twists on the fly. He's a very good technician who understands angles, hand placement and punch. Overall, he's an athletically gifted and smart player.
Cooper does not possess the same raw power as Alabama's Chance Warmack and isn't going to "wow" you with his ability to drive a man five yards off the ball and then into the ground. Cooper has good strength but he needs to translate that better through contact. He's not a drive blocker and will more likely play the angles and allow the defender to take himself out of the play. If he loses the leverage game he can be driven back into the quarterback's face, causing the pocket to collapse.
Cooper may struggle in short-yardage situations where he's asked to push the pile or be that road grader in the middle. He needs to translate his quickness into power to better win battles at the point of attack. He's essentially the opposite type of player that Warmack is.
The key decision the Bears must make is whether they want a mauler in the run game or a player who has pure athletic talent with the potential to add more strength. Cooper possesses the ability you can't coach, whereas a player like Warmack is more likely to drive a player into the ground versus beat them to the edge laterally. On my personal draft board, I have Cooper rated higher than Warmack, making him a no-brainer for the Bears in the first round.
Brett Solesky has worked in TV, newspapers and, for the last seven years, in radio. He also co-hosts the best Chicago Bears podcast on the Web, Bear Report Radio, which appears on BearReport.com and his blog MidwayIllustrated.com.