Do The Steelers Have Cooper Rated Higher On Their Draft Board Than Warmack?

Alabama guard Chance Warmack is regarded by many as the top interior linemen in the 2013 draft class. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock even went as far to say that he might very well be the best football player in this draft.

If Warmack is indeed number the number one interior lineman on several of the draft boards, then North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper easily holds the number two ranking.

The Pittsburgh Steelers hold the 17th overall pick in the April draft, and as I pointed out recently, there is a good chance that Warmack, and Cooper for that matter, will more than likely still be on the board come their selection. Is there a possibility that the Steelers would select Cooper over Warmack if given the choice of the two, should they wind addressing the position with the selection? I believe so.

The Steelers hiring of Jack Bicknell Jr. as their new offensive line coach signifies more zone blocking will be used in 2013. Bicknell said in an interview after his hiring that he was looking for offensive linemen that could bend and move. He also said that the guards need to be more stout, wide, have some mass to them, and have toughness.

General manager Kevin Colbert took it even farther during his talk with the media at the NFL combine when asked if he could possibly draft a third offensive lineman in the last four years in the first round. Colbert stated that if they were to go that direction in the first round that the player has to have position flexibility in case they have to play other positions.

While Warmack is accustomed to running both the inside and outside zone, he is not as good on his feet as Cooper is. Don\’t get me wrong, Warmack is a fine player, who moves well, but Cooper likely best fits what the Steelers will likely be trying to accomplish with the offense next season.

We don\’t know yet if the Steelers met with Warmack at the combine this past week, but we do know that they met with Cooper, who is regarded by many as being a high character kid that plays with a mean streak. No offense to Warmack, but Cooper seems to be the smarter of the two when you listen to both of them speak to the media. That\’s just an observation, not a firm indictment.

Position flexibility? Cooper played right and left guard, and even some center, during his college career. During the combine teams even requested that he run some of the offensive linemen drills from the center position so that they could see how he moved from over the football.

“I aim to kind of try to be as versatile of a player as I can,” Cooper said during his talk with combine media. “So whether it\’s left guard, right guard, to center, I want to be able to do that at a professional level. Shotgun snap, under center, all of it—I\’m just trying to improve as a player.”

Cooper measured in at 6-2 1/2, 312 pounds this past week and the extra weight that he added leading up to the combine didn\’t hurt him one bit as he ran, jumped and lifted well. How well? Gil Brandt of posted a set of combine target numbers by position prior to the combine and Cooper achieved 5 of the 6 for the guard position. The lone target number that he failed to meet was the vertical jump, where he was 3 inches short of the 30 inch target mark. Shame on him.

While combine numbers certainly aren\’t everything, they are fun to play with just the same. Cooper posted an explosive index score of 71, which is the sum of his bench press reps, vertical jump distance, and broad jump distance. That index number has long been talked about by SiriusXM NFL Radio host Pat Kirwan, who was once a scout for the Phoenix Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the director of player administration for the New York Jets. Kirwan says an explosive index score of 70 more always gets his attention.

For comparison purposes, David DeCastro, the Steelers first round selection last April, posted a combine explosive index score of 71.7. Cooper had a faster 40 yard and 10 yard time than DeCastro posted last February, and also did more reps on the bench than the Stanford product. In a nutshell, Cooper stacks up to DeCastro and the game tape is proof of it.

As far as Warmack and his explosive index score goes, we will have to wait until the Alabama pro day to get it as he chose not to lift or vertical jump on Saturday. He also has yet to run the short shuttle and 3-cone drill. Not that it makes him a better a prospect, but Cooper did everything at that combine.

It will be close battle between these two top guards down the stretch, but I firmly believe that a few teams, depending of course on the offensive scheme that they run, might end up with Cooper ranked just a bit higher than Warmack when the dust settles in April. I am by no means guaranteeing that Cooper will wind up being the Steelers selection, but if they do decide to pick a guard in the first round, Cooper\’s name needs to be considered as a possible option.

  • zyzak

    Cooper would be a really high value pick at 17, not sure if any other player comes close. Very impressive athlete. And it’s at a need position.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Agreed. The Steelers have always marched to their own drummer when considering O-Lineman. They value athletism highly. Good or great pulling guards have been their thing for some time. Warmack is better suited as a mauler, a straight forward man blocker who will probably end up as a great guard in his own right. Cooper just has a different skill set suited to the Steelers needs.

  • Bill Eltringham

    Great article. Would love the pick and our interior line.

  • grw1960

    At 17 the 3 players that could be in play for the Steelers in order.
    Vaccaro – Ansah – Cooper.
    Any one of the 3 could end up being long term Steelers.
    Cooper would fit as good as any. Cooper could start at LOG. Foster , Beachum and Colon could be a back ups this season and Colon could be released after June 1st or at the end of the 2013 season. The later seems to make the most sense since it would not affect the 2014 salary cap.

  • steeltown

    I just cant fathom drafting another OL in the 1st or 2nd Rd… but I guess value is value and best player available is exactly that.

    Going to be interesting, we already will be having some BIG contracts due to the OLine in the coming years with Pouncey, DeCastro, Adams and Gilbert (if he stays healthy) add another 1st Rd pick to that list, thats an expensive OL

    Cant have 1st Rd talent at every position

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Wonder what score Colon wuld get on that Overall Target Number for guard position, compared to Cooper’s 5 & whatever score Warmack got. Cooper & Warmack are each better than Colon, & cheaper.

    To Colon’s fans who say yeah but Colon is a mauler, no he is not that either, because he got pushed back into QB several times last year by a single lineman. Vs Pouncey wuld never allow himself to get bullrushed back into QB by one D lineman.

    So what overall score did GilBrandt-NFL give Warmack?

  • dgh57

    I agree that Cooper would be the better pick at 17. His Combine numbers tells you that. Wormack hurt himself by only doing the bench. But did Cooper push himself up the draft boards out of the reach of the Steelers? I hope not!!!

    Now if we could only draft a RB to take advantage of this athletic and mobile o-line! Someone who has VISION and can hit the holes with speed! Anyone have any suggestions at RB?

  • Jollyrob68

    Add a 4th player Tavon Austin

  • True but with Ben hitting the wrong side of 30 and his history of injuries, they may want to start grooming a younger QB that may have to take over in a couple years. An all pro offensive line can sure make a young QB look good and aspire confidence in himself.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Good article, Dave. I’m starting to rethink my opinion on drafting Cooper. A lot of people say we can’t “afford” 3 first round picks at interior OL. Not only do we miss out on drafting key “explosive playmakers” but we have to spend a butt-load of money to re-sign these guys in 5 years (money we then can’t spend on offensive weapons). True. But look what we gain…

    When you give Big Ben longer to throw, you give your WRs more time to get open. Average WRs suddenly look great. So you save money (and draft picks) at WR. When you open gaping holes, suddenly your average RBs look great. So you save money (and draft picks) at RB. You don’t need to draft a Mendenhall in the 1st round. You don’t need to draft a Holmes or Burress in the 1st round. Because even you do draft them, you’re probably not gonna be able to re-sign them.

    Most of all, when you protect Ben, his production goes way up. That is the key to winning Super Bowls. Without Ben we’re just an average team. Any money or draft picks spent on protecting/extending his career is a very good value. And when the time does come to replace him, the rookie QB will produce much more effectively if he has more time to throw. An interior OL of Cooper-Pouncey-DeCastro would be (by far) the best in the NFL. It is an interesting thought.

  • Garrett Hunt

    I would add Patterson, J. Jones, and Warmack to that as well if any are available.

    In order:
    J. Jones – Cooper – Warmack – Patterson/Vaccaro – Ansah

  • Garrett Hunt

    Ellington fits that bill

  • Mike Carroll

    There is little chance that both Foster and Colon return this year, especially for both of them to be backups.

  • steeltown

    True.. but a player like Foster has shown that he is not only capable of playing with the big boys, but was far more dependable than any of our 1st or 2nd Rd OL talent. I just hate when the Steelers groom players and then send them out into the League.. Ryan Lee is another one that ‘couldve’ possibly been a keeper.. and now we’re talking about drafting another guy in the 1st Rd

  • zyzak

    Patterson cant run routes, 2nd rd or 3rd

  • zyzak

    Too slow

  • Mike Carroll

    I agree spending another high draft pick on OL is questionable. But, even if they draft a guard in the first round this year there is still the real possibility that some of these players never pan out, for whatever the reason. Maybe 2-3 players go on to very good/great careers, maybe 1-2 are just OK, and maybe 1 ends up a total bust. No doubt that Pouncey will be due some money, but beyond him none of these other guys have earned a second contract yet. It only becomes an expensive line if they all perform well and the Steelers opt to retain them all when their rookie deals come to an end. Until that time, the Steelers could have a fairly cheap and talented O-line for the next 4 seasons or so while Ben is still in the prime of his career.

  • Jason White

    I wouldn’t put too much stock in the 40. Check out the tape, the guy can move and he has the vision and ability to run in a ZBS. They could draft him and ask him to add 10 pounds of muscle and then you have yourself a feature back.

  • mokhkw

    The NFL’s competition committee is considering out-lawing low blocks. I wonder how much that will affect the Steeler’s thinking?

  • steeltown

    Very True

    I like Gilbert, but something tells me he wont perform well enough to require a BIG contract.. Decastro and Adams might be the real deal, but I’ll reserve judgment till I see them play 1-2 seasons

  • nikgreene

    Wasn’t sure which page to post this thought. Just read that David Nelson (WR) was just released by the Bills and I think he could be an interesting add for Pittsburgh to consider. He is pretty young (26) and has a big frame (6’5″), which would add a new look our WR corps. Can you say red zone weapon? Down side: he is coming off ACL surgery, and mainly plays in the slot (which isn’t ideal because I believe the slot is considered Sanders ideal position). Considering Nelson is coming off major surgery he should be pretty cheap and I’m pretty sure whatever contract he signs won’t have much in the way of guaranteed money.
    My main point – I hope Pittsburgh signs a WR in FA to add depth to the position. Even if we do draft a WR, it is unlikely they will make an impact (outside of special teams) until 2014.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Too slow? You’re joking. His 40 wasn’t great at the combine b/c he injured his hamstring during the first attempt. Watch tape before you ignorantly comment based off a number.

  • Pete

    Thanks for the excellent analysis Dave! I thought Warmack was the man so it will be interesting to see how Cooper pans out and if the Steelers ultimately see him as a better fit in Bicknell’s scheme.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Cant is a bit extreme. And he can learn to improve his route running skills. He has the intangibles that cannot be taught.

    The addition of Mann could be just what he needs and he could learn from Antonio Brown, who’s strength is route running.

  • HarryBackside

    Well stated. I think the “to many picks invested in the OL” argument is dumb. The Ravens OL made Flacco look elite during the post-season. It was their ability to keep him clean that allowed the Ravens to win the Super Bowl. Another elite talent on the OL will make the entire offense more productive. The Steelers need the ability to score more points. Cooper would provide that.

  • RW

    I’m a big fan of Zac Stacy and Kniles Davis as zone-type RBs, but I’m not sure anyone quite fits the bill in this year’s draft.

  • steeltown

    True, but Birk was originally a 6th Rd pick, Yanda a 3rd Rd pick… more than anything the Ravens OL got healthy at the right time, while the 49ers played the same 5guys across the OL the entire season…. boy that must be nice

  • steeltown

    They said Arian Foster was too slow, way back when

  • walter mason

    We lost Ryan Lee? Grrrrrr

  • dgh57

    I agree with you about having a solid o-line with high draft picks would make your WRs and RBs look better I once posted something to that effect. That would be a expensive o-line when when it comes to resigning them! But then I got to thinking that if your expensive o-line made your WRs & RBs look better meaning their STATS went up would that not also mean these same WRs & RBs will want more money because they put up the stats backing their claim for more money? This shows that not only is football a team sport on the field but off the field on the salary line! I still hope we draft Cooper!

    It’s a catch 22 kind of thing defined as: A catch-22 is a paradoxical situation in which an individual cannot or is incapable of avoiding a problem because of contradictory constraints or rules.[1] Often these situations are such that solving one part of a problem only creates another problem, which ultimately leads back to the original problem. (source Wikipedia)

  • HarryBackside

    You can always provide names of guys who were late pick ups and have been successful in the NFL. That doesn’t mean that every third or sixth round pick will be successful. By that logic, the Steelers should never draft another OLB because of James Harrison’s success.

  • Dan

    OK, so then what is the liklihood Cooper is there at pick #48? If Cooper is as good as Warmack, do other teams agree?

  • steeltown

    Yea.. Saints claimed him off waivers back in December.. we released him to make room for Barron (I’m always hurt) Batch on the practice squad.. and ironically Colon went down with injury two weeks later.

    Lee was a LG too, exactly where we are hurting depth wise

  • steeltown

    Exactly.. just like every 1st or 2nd rd pick isnt always successful either.

    Proof is in the pudding, we know Foster can start and play well and be dependable..we groomed him and now he’ll most likely walk when we need him most because we waited till he was Unrestricted and now cant afford him…. craziness

  • Maurice_hill_district

    Agreeing on Foster. We landed an undrafted rookie who played his rookie year even filled in at tackle like a vet, how rare is that. Even though I doubt he has above average tools, he earned the right to get paid now, yet we mite not have the money. Yes its weird.

  • steeltown

    Yep, guy was undrafted and making around $525,000-$600,000 per season before tendering him last year at $1.26MIL …I bet he wouldve taken a 4-5yr deal worth $10-12MIL ($2.5million per year) heading into last season…

    But no,. the coaches were still enamored over Colon and switching him to Guard, i think they were hard headed about getting out of him what they paid in, but it doesnt always work out that way

  • HarryBackside

    No they aren’t, but I guarantee the success rate of 1st and 2nd round draft picks is significantly higher than the success rate of players drafted in the other rounds.

    Foster is an average NFL guard.

  • Garrett Hunt

    Kniles Davis is certainly interesting with the up and down career. Hopefully the will find a RB gem somewhere in the draft.

    To me, RB is a hard position to evaluate and say for sure one way or another in college b/c they are dependent upon so many other factors like O-line, pass offense, conference, play calling/scheme, etc..

  • HarryBackside

    Maybe it will be expensive when it comes time to re-sign the guys on the OL, but that’s a long way down the road.

  • the rams, titans and chargers ahead of us are all looking for ol, and dallas is a good bet to jump us and take either warmack or cooper.

  • steeltown

    Yes that may be, but their salaries (and cap hits) are significantly higher as well

    He may seem average, but his breakdown % on pass and run downs is above average, even more so when you consider his dependability, lack of penalties and the fact that he can play LG, RG and RT

  • westernsteel

    Those three players very well could be available at #17, but only Cooper would start next season, which is why I am against drafting a defensive player in the first round this year, this team need help right away with their picks

  • HarryBackside

    Not significantly higher, just higher.

    How many OL have the Steelers drafted outside of the first or second round, and how many have panned out? For every Foster, there’s Keith Williams, Chris Scott, Kraig Urbik, A.Q. Shipley, and Tony Hills.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I think different teams are better at drafting different positions in the later rounds. It appears the Steelers have better scouts in the WR and LB departments than they do in the OL department. Our late round OL prospects just never seem to pan out. I’d love to get a middle round OG gem, but for now, we may be stuck drafting OL early in order to get that high level talent we need.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I have Cooper higher than Warmack because we now are looking for more zone blocking guys and IMO Cooper better fits that…2 months ago before Bicknell it was a different story.

  • steeltown

    Kraig Urbik has been a mainstay for Buffalo, they just gave him an extension not to mention your Max Starks of the world, even Kelvin Beachum seems like a solid player, just saying man, of course Cooper may turn out to be a good NFL player, and its very very possible he turns out to be better than Foster, if he stays healthy

    Look I wont be upset if they select Cooper or Warmack, they are solid picks and could contribute right away, its just that I personally cant believe that we may have to select OL early, again.. but best player available most likely will be a DE/LB or OL player

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I really like Stacy and we can get this kid late in the draft it looks like.

  • steeltown

    Well I have to kind of agree with you there, overall they have struggled to find late Rd OL talent (except for maybe Beachum and Foster)

    They will have to draft OL especially with Starks, Foster and Legursky all possibly playing for other Teams this season.. if they could somehow retain Foster, the need would drop slightly. In the end I guess it doesnt matter they’ll do what they always do, ‘best player available’

  • steeltown

    Thats fine.. that just means other players at other positions fall

  • SteelSpine

    That’s right. Dallas also happens to have same other positions’ high needs as we do, so I too cannot foresee Dallas sitting still behind us to let us pick whichever one of the few high needs of ours is still there at 17.

  • SteelSpine

    Great question, I’m curious of the opinions of Kiper & Ourlads & all the draft writers to see where the draft range of Cooper. Tho I haven’t looked it up yet, athletic guys like Cooper who become the talk from cone drills etc, leapfrog other players the nearer it gets to draft day. Why do I get this hunch that if Cooper is still there at top of 2nd round he wont last past that.

  • HarryBackside

    Very low

  • HarryBackside

    Kiper’s recent mock draft has Cooper being drafted ahead of Warmack

  • Chris92021

    I would still take Warmack over Cooper. Warmack rocked SEC competition and made Manti Te’o disappear like his fake girlfriend. Cooper played well in ACC competition. Tape doesn’t lie. Warmack over Cooper any day.

  • Jack

    Dallas Thomas in the 2nd or Kyle Long in the 3rd seem to be great possible values who are versatile and should be fits for an increased focus on zone blocking. I think Thomas can play right away at LG, backup RG and RT.

  • JC

    No more linemen in round 1 this year. Please get a play maker on defense.

  • JC

    Draft Ansah and grow him into a beast.