There are few 2012 NFL draft prospects more enigmatic than North Carolina's Quinton Coples. At 6'6" 284 pounds, he has an ideal NFL defensive end frame, and when he fires off the snap on time, he seems unstoppable (just like he was during Senior Bowl practices). On the other hand, his motor runs hot and cold and it shows. Effort questions are a major red flag to some teams, others feel that they can light a fire under a player. He recorded only 7.5 sacks last year, and four of those came against Duke and James Madison.
Coples also played some games at defensive tackle and could add even more punch to a pass rush lining up there on third down.
His scouting reports run the gamut from strongly negative to strongly positive:
There are enough times where Coples comes off the snap late and seems to give up after a hard block instead of re-directing, and this lends legitimacy to the concerns about his overall effort. It's pretty disturbing to see a 6-foot-6, 284-pound guy who can run a 4.78 40 at the combine get rolled up by tight ends and blocking backs as much as he did. Coples' tape very much brings to mind Arkansas' Jamaal Anderson, a 6-foot-6 288-pound mountain of a man who was selected eighth overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2007. Anderson never came close to validating his high prospect status, and there was enough on his college tape to make people wonder. Anderson's size/speed combo hoodwinked the Falcons, and though he had his moments as an interior pass rusher, Anderson's NFL career has been an unqualified disappointment to date.
When Coples gets leverage, it is over. He has too much strength for tackles to hold back and is too fast for them to recover to move in front of. In the NFL, he would be best as a 4-3 defensive end where he can rush the passer with free abandon. Coples has the strength and size to be left defensive end, and when lining up there, his speed has been too much for right tackles to handle. He also has the speed to battle left tackles as a right defensive end. Left tackles don't typically see ends with Coples' power, size and speed. Coples is a solid run defender who holds his ground and can disrupt running plays that go the perimeter on his side. If Coples lands with a good coach who keeps him motivated and focused, he could be a Pro Bowl defensive end.
A top-10 physical talent who lacks the heart, desire and glass-eating makeup desired in the trenches and must ratchet up the intensity if he wants to play against the big boys in the pros. Has natural core power and flexibility reminiscent of Oakland Raiders DT Richard Seymour and could be a perennial Pro Bowl performer at multiple positions and excel in multiple schemes if he wants to be. Has bust potential.
Quinton Coples should at the very least get some looks as a pass rush specialist early in his rookie year, although if his effort issues persist, he could also be in the doghouse before his first training camp is over. He has flashed the ability to look like a man among boys against his peers, and if he is motivated he could be a Pro Bowl-level player from day one.
Coples has the ability to be the best defensive lineman, even the best defensive player from this draft. He also has the ability to be yet another exhibit in the case against taking players in the first round who don't give full effort.
Coples is a player with top 10 talent, to be sure, but in 2011 at UNC he failed to meet expectations. A bit surprising the Jets would be willing to roll the dice on a defensive lineman with questions marks (Gholston, anyone?), but if Rex can light the fire under Coples, he could be a star.