As a huge fan of the Carolina Panthers, I have heard the talk of drafting North Carolina defensive lineman Quinton Coples in the 2012 NFL draft. Many are comparing him to former Panthers draft pick Julius Peppers and one can understand why at first blush. They both are similar in size and they both attended the University of North Carolina. Short of these two primary facts, however, Coples should not be mentioned in the same breath with Peppers…yet.
Similar beginnings for Coples and Peppers
The University of North Carolina has always been a hotbed for freakishly talented defensive players. Coples certainly continues that tradition with his huge frame and quickness on the edges. Peppers certainly was one of the best to ever come out of North Carolina and he played the same position as Coples. Because of this, many are crowning Coples as “the next Julius Peppers” before he has even taken a snap in the NFL. Though they share some similarities to be sure, Coples has not done nearly what Peppers had to this point in his career at North Carolina.
Comparing the two players in college
Coples has had a couple of good years in which he showed tons of promise. The 2011 season was to be his break out year, but it never happened. Coples ended up with very average numbers despite the expectations. Peppers was pretty explosive throughout his time at Carolina and was a totally different type of player. The major difference between the two is in the explosive plays department. Peppers was a guy that would give you sacks, but he also would defend several passes, intercept passes, create fumbles, block kicks and generally make life miserable for the opposition. Coples has done very little of that short of sacking the passer.
If you look over his career, for example, Coples has a total of only four passes defended over four years and no interceptions. Not a single one. While that is not unheard of for a lineman, here is a stat that will shock you. Despite several awards and all kinds of accolades, Coples has yet to create a fumble at Carolina. This to me reveals that Coples is not a very high motor player. His natural talent gets him involved in tackles and sacks, but he comes up short when it comes to the other categories. Peppers was a machine when it came to these categories and stayed that way when he went pro.
What about NFL prospects for Coples?
Coples is a guy that will be as good as he decides to be. If he comes in and puts in the work, he will do very well. If he comes in and gets Albert Haynesworth disease, he will flop horribly. I think that Coples will end up being a solid defensive end in a four three set and will be well worth his top billing in the draft. Though I do find him to be overrated, his natural skills will be hard to contain in the NFL. That speed and size is undeniable.
*Southern is a huge Carolina Panthers fan that has spent the majority of the past decade waiting on the next Super Bowl. In time, he hopes the Panthers will become a franchise that can win for two years in a row.