CLEVEALND, Ohio (WCMH) — The Denver Broncos select Ohio State defensive end Jonathon Cooper in the 7th round of the NFL Draft on Saturday.
Cooper came to Ohio State from Gahanna Lincoln as the No. 2 recruit in Ohio for the class of 2016. He spent five years at OSU earning a role as a captain while learning and playing alongside guys like Chase Young, Nick Bosa and Sam Hubbard.
As a sophomore in 2017, Cooper recorded 15 tackles and two sacks followed by a solid junior season where he made 22 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
2019 was shaping up to be Cooper’s breakout season at Ohio State playing opposite Chase Young at defensive end. But a high ankle sprain forced him to miss all but four games, so he decided to come back for a fifth and final year.
Despite only playing eight games, Cooper managed to equal his junior year performance totaling 20 tackles and 2.5 sacks, including a sack and forced fumble against Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal.
Cooper is the first player from Gahanna drafted since John Hughes was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
“I think really with Coop it’s his passion to absorb football knowledge,” Hughes said. “You know he’s one of those guys that can always learn more and he knows he’s only as good as his work ethic, so he takes that knowledge and applies it and that’s really hard for a lot of guys to do sometimes.”
Cooper is undersized for an NFL defensive end but then again he’s been undersized compared to others ever since high school, according to Gahanna Lincoln football head coach Bruce Ward.
“He wasn’t the biggest and he’s still not the biggest,” Ward said. “But he just has something different. He’s a motivated young man, his work ethic is tremendous, he’s just one of those guys that you want to follow and that was noticeable right away.”
What Cooper lacks in size he makes up for with a tremendous first step of the snap, incredibly high football IQ and a work ethic that might just earn him more than a spot on an NFL roster. Cooper ranked fourth among power 5 conference edge rushers in top pass-rush win rate (20.8%), per Pro Football Focus.
But Cooper may not be an edge rusher in the NFL with some teams wanting him to play linebacker due to his size as well as teams who run a 3-4 defense (3 defensive linemen and 4 linebackers).
“With all the teams I’ve basically been talking to, they kind of see me as an outside linebacker, Sam-type position, which is my body type,” Cooper said. “I just want to make sure I show the scouts and everybody I can play linebacker and I feel really comfortable in space and that I’m ready for the next level.”
If Cooper does get drafted by a team who wants him to play defensive end, he has the added benefit of learning under Larry Johnson who has helped mold some of the best NFL defensive players in the last five years. Prior to the 2020 season, Johnson said Cooper is everything a coach wants in a player.
“Our whole entire team looks up to Jonathon Cooper,” Johnson said. “He is what you’re looking for in a player. Jonathon Cooper has some special things ahead of him.”