Widely recognized as a top-five talent in the nation, Quinton Coples has likely heard the comparisons to former North Carolina star and current Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers. While that comparison has some merit since they attended the same university and possess similar attributes, on the field is where the comparison doesn’t measure up.
Coples is a good player and has great upside as a pass rusher, which was displayed during his junior campaign in 2010, when he recorded 10 sacks. But, like many pass rushing defensive ends, he’s extremely streaky and can disappear for games at a time.
Due to injuries along the defensive line, Coples lined up primarily at defensive tackle last season and was able to exploit the opposition with his quickness and ability to penetrate. However, he’s off to a slow start this year, and through four games, has recorded just two sacks, which came in the Tar Heels' opener against James Madison.
The major problem with Coples' game is his technique. He’s an impressive physical specimen who has God given athleticism, but he’s only in his second year as a starter and is still learning the nuances of the defensive end position. For Coples to become a complete player, he has to use his hands more effectively and play lower to gain leverage against the opposition.
Peppers was also considered to be a raw prospect who had freakish physical gifts and the upside to be great, but it’s always a risky venture to draft a player in the Top Five of the draft solely on potential.
If Coples ends up in the right system, preferably a 4-3 defense with a team on the rise, he could live up to the Peppers hype, but if he ends up with a dismal team that has a sketchy future, he could be a disappointment, such as former Jacksonville Jaguars first-round pick (eighth overall in 2008) Derrick Harvey.