2012 NFL Draft: Is Quinton Coples the Right Pick for the Panthers?

Tyler Horner@BR_TylerHornerCorrespondent IIMarch 25, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Defensive lineman Quinton Coples of North Carolina wipes his face after workouts during the 2012 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In ESPN's Todd McShay's recent mock draft, the draft analyst projected that Quinton Coples would go off the board to the Panthers, who stand with the ninth pick in the first round. Here's his justification of the pick: 

The Panthers have big needs at wide receiver and corner, but with no worthy options at those positions, Coples becomes an attractive option. Coach Ron Rivera is looking to shore up the defensive front, and you can never have enough good pass-rushers. And because Coples is a top-five talent who should slip just a bit because of an inconsistent motor, he is almost a value pick at this point.

McShay is right that pass-rushers can always find a home in the NFL, but the problem is that Coples is not a great pass-rusher. Sure, he piled up a few multi-sack games against low Division I teams, but he's yet to show the ability to step up against elite competition. 

If Coples simply lacked strength or technique, I'd understand taking a chance on him at this spot. But his problem is his attitude, and that can be far more detrimental to a pro prospect than lack of physical talent. He wasn't a dominant player at North Carolina and doesn't seem to have the work ethic where an NFL team can trust in him to improve and fulfill his natural potential. 

At nearly 6'6" and about 285 lbs, Coples has ideal size and is very athletic, which could tempt the Panthers to take a chance on him. Head coach Ron Rivera prides himself on getting the most out of defensive talent, and he could take the young defensive end on as a project that could bear serious rewards. 

Coples can also play the five-technique in a 3-4 defense, which could give Rivera even more motivation to push the team towards selecting him. Rivera has tried to mix in some 3-4 in his short time in Carolina, but he doesn't have the talent to run it effectively. With Coples, he could easily justify mixing in more of his old playbook from San Diego

However, I'd urge the Panthers not to take a chance on Coples. They do in fact have talent at the position and have bigger needs elsewhere—including defensive tackle, where Coples was apparently reluctant to play last season, despite having the size to play inside. 

Ultimately, the Panthers have other options with players who have just as much upside, but fewer character concerns and will come at a position of greater need. At this point, Coples should be considered only as a backup option.