In this post combine lull, a few draft prognosticators have gone on record to say that Jonathan Cooper is a better OG prospect than Chance Warmack. This is most likely due to Cooper’s excellent combine performance. Sometimes the combine can generate hype in the media that really isn’t prevalent in NFL War Rooms. Considering the Jets’ 2012 starting guards are currently unrestricted free agents and the team could be eyeing up a replacement as high as the 9th pick, let’s look at the tape to see who is really the better prospect.
What I Love About Chance Warmack
The first thing that jumps off of the tape for Warmack is the fact that he is a moving brick wall on the field. He reminds me of the Juggernaut from X-Men. He seems to be impervious to bodies that are in front of him and just bulls his way through people. I can’t tell you how many times I saw defenders try and get a shot on him when he’s not looking and they end up catching the brunt of the impact. What this really shows me is that he has great game strength and balance. I don’t really care what he puts up on the bench, because on the field the guy can be physically dominant.
What I Like About Chance Warmack
Let’s put this strength in terms of some of the things he does on the field. Warmack is an explosive run blocker, especially when he is stepping left. When going left, he gets off the ball fast and generally dominates whoever he is blocking. He doesn’t slip off blocks very often. When Warmack is in a rhythm and doesn’t get rattled, he can literally take over a game from the guard spot (See Notre Dame film).
His explosiveness also allows him to be a devastating combo blocker. In Alabama’s Zone Heavy run game, Warmack often times had to combo block with Barrett Jones or Cyrus Kouandjio. While it is also a credit to his teammates, any combo block that Chance Warmack is involved with on film generally has a defensive lineman being dumped in the lap of a linebacker. Their timing and coordination on combo blocks are what made the Tide so good in the run game this past season. This might be the most translatable part of Warmack’s game to the NFL.
Even though he is a powerful presence on the O Line, it’s his mix of power and athleticism that truly makes him great. Warmack is tremendous in Alabama’s mid-zone/outside zone game. His ability to reach block and use different cut-off block techniques is astounding. One of the most difficult blocks for an offensive lineman to make is the reach block of a defender who is already lined up outside of you. Even if the defender was lined up in a 3-technique, Warmack almost always makes the block. His footwork allows him to make blocks that lineman generally struggle with look like money in the bank.
His athleticism also allows him to be a solid puller and front man on screens and tosses. lthough he wasn’t asked to pull very often at Alabama, Warmack has shown good footwork and great power in his pull blocks. He is especially proficient using the “skip pull” technique where he leads the back through the hole on power run plays. He is also good, not great, out in front of screens and tosses.
While he can be a dominant run blocker, he also shows a lot of ability as a pass blocker. In the three game tapes I watched, Warmack didn’t give up one sack. Although his pass pro footwork is not the fastest, once he gets his hands on the defender’s chest plate the battle is over. I can’t count the amount of times a DL begins to rush and then decides to drop back off the line of scrimmage once he gets stoned. He is also a great “help” pass blocker. One of my favorite things that I used to do as an OL was to clean the clock of a pass rusher once he was engaged with another OL. Even when no one rushes Warmack he is always helping out and putting pass rushers on the ground. This shows he has a little bit of a nasty streak too.
What I Don’t Like About Chance Warmack
One major thing that I noticed is that Warmack is much better stepping left when run blocking. I rarely, if ever, saw him miss or fall off of a run block when stepping left in the zone game. On the other hand, when stepping right, there are plenty of examples of Chance getting beat off the ball or caught in bad leverage situations. It seems like he isn’t as explosive going right and often times takes too short of a first step off the ball. This puts him behind the eight-ball when facing a better defensive tackle. here are a couple instances where Warmack gets beat inside on a run play and Eddie Lacy makes a spectacular move to gain positive yardage.
Another issue is his inconsistent pad level. Sometimes Warmack will stand up out of his stance instead of using his explosive hips like you see him do most of the time. In the same light, he often stops his feet on initial contact with a defender. This is especially true when dealing with blitzing linebackers in the run game. He will catch them instead of driving through them. The funny thing is that these technical flaws really didn’t affect his ability to make the blocks because his sheer power made up for them and he always keeps a wide base. This is more of an NFL issue when the playing field will be evened out in the strength department.
Lastly, Warmack is not great in space. Although he does a good job getting to LBs on run plays, he has a tendency to lunge at them when they are on the move and can fall of blocks. This is probably the part of his game that would have me most concerned for the next level. He also has trouble consistently making blocks on screens. He is better than average on screens, but I would like to see him be more decisive and consistent in this area.
What I Love About Jonathan Cooper
On ESPN.com UNC Head Coach Larry Fedora said, “I’ve been coaching 26 years now, and I’ve not had an interior lineman with his athletic ability…So he’s pretty special.” Sometimes a coach will speak in hyperboles to hype up a player before awards season or the NFL draft. Let me assure you, this is no hyperbole. The first thing you notice on film is Cooper’s athleticism. It’s not often you find an interior lineman with the quick feet that he displays. The first play I watched on film has Cooper pulling on a power play and leading Giovanni Bernard about 20 yards through a hole. I immediately stopped the film and said, “Wow!”
What I Like About Jonathan Cooper
His athleticism allows him to be extremely versatile. As I alluded to, he is an excellent puller and he is asked to do it a lot more than Warmack. I have never come across a college lineman who gets out of his stance on pulls as quick as Cooper. His quickness in skip pulling will translate extremely well to the NFL. His swift feet also allow him to be a great blocker out in space. He is exceptional in UNC’s screen game. He has no problem identifying the most dangerous threat to the screen in the open field and getting a body on the defender.
When he is in the open field, Cooper is great at mixing up his blocks. He is good in attacking a defenders upper body in space, but he is fantastic at cut blocking. Generally when you think of a lineman that delivers punishing blocks, you think of a guy with a lot of pancakes at the line of scrimmage and big blind side hits in the open field, but some of the most devastating blocks are cut-blocks. Cooper utilizes this technique better than any other lineman in the draft. Because he is so fast, he can really propel himself through a defender’s legs, often times sending him flipping through the air. I love the cut block, because defenders on the second level will start to slow down their pursuit once hit with one or two shots to the legs. He has also mastered an interesting technique when a run play is going outside. He will battle with a defensive lineman that is pursuing the play and as soon as that lineman gets off the block, Cooper will quickly drop down and cut him. I’ve never really seen this technique, but it is completely legal and is just another weapon in his arsenal.
In pass protection, Cooper displays some of the best footwork I have seen from an interior offensive lineman. Watching his footwork reminds you of watching a blindside tackle’s footwork. He is very comparable to Luke Joeckel in pass pro footwork. I would imagine if Cooper was a little taller, he would have been a blindside tackle. His footwork allows him to cover up nearly any pass pro move that a defender can make and his hand placement is really good. Like, Warmack, he is also a great help pass protector, constantly looking to get an extra shot on a teammate’s guy.
What I Don’t Like About Jonathan Cooper
As you know in most things there are trade-offs. For what Cooper gives you in athleticism, you lose a little bit in raw power. While Cooper is clearly a strong player, he is not a dominant run blocker by any stretch of the imagination. He is not a bulky lineman so he doesn’t have the raw power and size to recover, and sometimes falls off of his blocks because of it. Cooper is explosive off the ball, but he often times finds himself simply placing his hands on the defender as opposed to punching through him and driving to extension. his hurts him because he doesn’t get the initial movement that you would like to see at the point of attack. It also hurts him in his combo blocks, because when he doesn’t get initial movement on the down lineman, he bails and goes to the second level too early.
This issue has also shown its face in pass protection. Even though his footwork is fantastic, he can be bull rushed. He doesn’t consistently do a great job of “dropping his anchor” and stalling a bull rush against bigger pass rushers. He can be dominant in pass pro at times and falter at others. In the Virginia Tech game from 2012, he manhandled anyone in his general vicinity in pass pro. In the Maryland game, he got driven back a few times and actually got ran over once or twice. His man also tipped several balls throughout the game.
Who Is The Better Prospect?
The fact of the matter is that both players are fantastic OG prospects. hey are certainly better than DeCastro and Zeitler, 2012’s first rounders and they may be the best OG prospect tandem to come out of the draft in decades. They are both mentally ready to start in the NFL. There didn’t seem to be any glaring issues as far as carrying out scheme and blocking the right guys on film. This fact is backed up by the fact that both players average over 90% on their game grades throughout the 2012 season.
I love both players, but if I were a GM in the 2013 draft, I would pick Chance Warmack. While I am in awe of Jonathan Cooper’s athleticism, I think it is easier to sure up some of Warmack’s footwork and pad-level issues than Cooper’s lack of power.
People that are rating Cooper higher after the combine are putting too much stock in it. Cooper’s excellent performance didn’t tell us anything new. It simply reinforced what we already saw on film: Cooper is a quick, agile big-man with some good strength. While Warmack is not as purely athletic as Cooper, he displays significantly above average agility and incredible balance and power on the field. In fact, Warmack’s 10 yard split was only slightly higher than Cooper’s and about the same as Luke Joeckel’s. This is the more important number from his 40 yard dash because we don’t care that much about his distance speed. All we care about is explosion and Warmack has it. In fact, Warmack also had a standing broad jump that was 2 inches longer than Cooper’s.
Most of all, I would take Warmack because he has a nasty streak and has shown on film that he can completely dominate a game in all aspects of offensive line play. Although I think Jonathan Cooper has the ability to develop into a Pro-Bowl offensive lineman, Chance Warmack can be the best Guard in the NFL in only a few years.