2021 NFL Draft: Early, mid, and late-round EDGE targets for the Bengals
Bengals’ EDGE targets: Jonathon Cooper, Ohio State
Target round: Round 6, Pick 165
If the Bengals can find a solution, either by keeping Carl Lawson long-term or adding a veteran at the position, then edge rushers could become a tertiary need. In that case, they would be looking at taking a day three flier on a player with the potential to develop. In-state edge rusher Jonathon Cooper from Ohio State fits that mold.
Cooper was initially billed as another edge rusher on the Buckeye conveyor belt. Recruited as a five-star prospect the same year as Nick Bosa and a year before Chase Young, they formed a talented group. Unfortunately for Cooper, it meant he had to wait for his opportunities.
This year was supposed to be his breakout season. A fifth-year senior and leader of the Buckeye defense, his stage was set. However, it didn’t play out that way. Cooper finished with 3.5 sacks and the same number of tackles for loss.
His tape highlights that inconsistency. While Cooper is always a threat, occupying the offensive line, he struggles to get home. He projects as a solid base end with good athleticism but he has so far failed to put it all together and become the sack master he projected to be out of high school.
The National Championship game summed him up in a nutshell. Nullified early going against Alex Leatherwood, a fringe day one prospect, only for him to switch sides and look like a much greater attacking threat against the less experienced right tackle Evan Neal. Coupled with a good showing at the Senior Bowl, that suggests Cooper’s best football could be ahead of him.
At 6’3, 254-pounds, he is more akin to the athletic profile of Carl Lawson than our previous two prospects. It’s reasonable to think he would start his career in a similar fashion. Used sparingly on passing downs and as a backup, rotational piece. With the correct tutelage, it’s not unreasonable to think Cooper could develop his athletic traits and provide a more consistent threat off the edge.