Two of the three prospects I have analyzed thus far in 2012 have been potential rush linebackers for Dallas, and I am continuing the defensive trend today with UNC’s Quinton Coples. A lot of DCTers have talked about their interest in Coples, but the problem is he may be a poor fit in a 3-4 defense.
The players I have assessed prior, Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw and South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, have no question marks surrounding their position in a 3-4–they would be outside linebackers. Upshaw is a consensus top 15 pick, but I see a borderline second-round talent when I watch him. Chances are the true experts are accurate and I am missing something in his game, but I won’t change my report on him because others see an elite player.
I actually much prefer Ingram, whose strengths and potential outweigh his weaknesses. He has great burst and tremendous athleticism, but he may be a bit of a project for Dallas. The same might be true for Coples, although to a lesser degree. At 285 pounds, though, Coples is too heavy at his current weight to play as a rush linebacker, but perhaps too light to play the five-technique. I like the idea of moving him to end, giving the ‘Boys a pass-rushing presence on their defensive line to complement Jay Ratliff and finally take pressure off of DeMarcus Ware, but it is a gamble. With first-round picks, you want to minimize risk.
Does Coples’ skill set limit him to playing end in a 4-3? Let’s examine. . .
Quinton Coples played primarily defensive tackle at UNC, although some of his snaps also came as a defensive end. He played mainly a seven-technique position when lining up at end, only kicking in a bit in rare situations. Thus, his transition to 3-4 defensive end would be a relatively new one for him.
A lot of people have compared Coples to Julius Peppers, and I think those comparisons are silly. Coples is a totally different player who is nowhere near as athletic as Peppers. He doesn’t have the same pass-rush repertoire by any means. Actually, he really uses just a bull rush and, on rare occasions, a swim move.
Coples’ bull rush is outstanding, as strength is the name of his game. Check out the 5:16 mark below where he uses total power to blow the offensive tackle backwards to get the sack and force a fumble. On the very next play, you can see Coples use his strength to hold off and shed a blocker before making the tackle.
I have some questions about how effective Coples will be as a pass-rusher if he cannot overpower people in the NFL. He’s strong enough that he might get away with it at times, but you cannot consistently garner pressure using only a bull rush.
So, is Coples suited only for a 4-3? It is difficult to tell. He has great size and length, and he gets off of the ball really well. Coples plays with great pad level, and he will be really effective as a run defender in either scheme. He will be considered to be light for a 3-4 end, but he’s strong enough to hold up in the five-technique. I’m not sure how much consideration 3-4 teams are giving Coples, but I think he has some versatility.
Coples is likely going to go in or near the top 10. If he falls to Dallas, they will have a difficult decision to make. They certainly could use a dominant defensive end. Those who argue that 3-4 ends don’t make enough impact to be taken so highly don’t understand the nature of the position. A great five-technique player can and will take pressure off of Ware, aiding the outside linebacker opposite him to garner some single-teams. There are players I would rather have at pick No. 14, but I wouldn’t be miserable if Coples was the guy.