Monday, March 30, 2015

2015 NFL Draft #53 - Xavier Cooper, DT, Washington State

I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
Find all the profiles here.
Xavier Cooper, DT, Washington State - 6'3, 296 - Junior - 4.86 40
Washington State defensive lineman Xavier Cooper speaks to the media at the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on Feb. 20, 2015. (Trevor Ruszkowski / USA TODAY Sports)
Washington State defensive lineman Xavier Cooper speaks to the media at the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on Feb. 20, 2015. (Trevor Ruszkowski / USA TODAY Sports)
When we discuss what sort of defensive linemen fits the profile for Rod Marinelli, maybe we don't spell out enough of the attributes.  So, here is a brief thumbnail description of that player:  Can move - needs solid times for his size group, high motor - never stop moving until the whistle, can win with his arms and quickness, and can penetrate - looking for guys who can get in the backfield.   He is looking for a pack of players who can rotate and offer versatility in where you line them up, and can wear down an offensive line with relentless battle and strength in numbers.
So, when you see a guy who checks all of the boxes, you know him when you see him from his college tape.  Xavier Cooper looks like that guy to me.  He runs as fast as any interior linemen in the draft, both in the 40, 10, or the cone drills.  He played on a  Washington State team that was often having a rough day, but he was winning his battles with consistency.  I looked at his games against Utah, Oregon, and Stanford to see what this guy is all about.
What I liked:  This guy is full of the attributes I look for in an interior defensive linemen.  He is in the backfield a ton and gets off the snap as quick as you would ever want.  He has a tremendous ability to stay after a play, even if he sees a double team in front of him (this is a true test of a player's motor as many will shut it down if they see they are facing a double).  He is bowling ball quick and just has a violent explosion right off the snap of the ball.  He is a relentless battler, and does not stop.  He has very impressive skills to penetrate and get into the backfield on a regular basis and is a nightmare at the 3-technique for opposing guards.  He is very good with slip moves and uses his short arms to his advantage in a phone booth.  He is also very aware of what is going on around him as he showed by sniffing out screens and counters, and also getting his hands up in passing lanes to knock down a few passes.

What I did not like:  If we are going to credit this player for having exceptional "move" measurables, then we better admit that he has other numbers from the combine that are troubling to some.  He has about the shortest arms and wingspan of any defensive linemen in this draft and will be amongst the shortest in the league.  This is not something that is a deal breaker, but just know that he must make up for that with his ability to move. He also had a noticeable drop off in energy late in a few games.  I rationalize this as a snap count that is too high for a player who plays with this energy, and in the NFL, his snap count will be kept down to make sure that when he is on the field he can go 100%, but it should be noted that he only has so much to give you on a given day if you want him maxed out each play.
Summary:  This is a position where the Cowboys could really use a disruptive player who will just keep battling and looking to make a difference inside.  Cooper fits this profile very well and even though I didn't know much about him before the combine, I will tell you that I never want to fall in love with a workout unless the player has the tape to back it up.  He is versatile and played all across the defensive line at every single spot - making plays at each along the way.  Washington State is off my radar, but after the work, I am satisfied that he is one of those players who is stuck in a situation where his team might not be ready to win, but he was more than pulling his own weight under the national radar.  There are quite a few defensive tackles that can help the Cowboys this spring in the crop, but the difference makers are all going to be snapped up pretty quickly.  This one, though, is one of my favorites and fits the Cowboys style perfectly.  I would be quite pleased to see this lightning-quick big guy end up in the fold on draft weekend.
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