The draft offers two exceptional guard prospects in Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack.
But they are two completely different guard prospects in terms of playing style. Scouts say how teams rate them is a reflection not so much on the players, but on the teams doing the picking.
If a team runs an offensive system that relies on guards to pull and move a do a lot of second level blocking, Cooper would be their man. You couldn’t’ find a better guard for a zone blocking scheme than Cooper. But if a team uses a lot of power runs and stresses anchor and physicality from guards, Warmack may be a better choice.
“Cooper and Warmack are two different animals,” an NFC front office man said. “It depends what you are doing offensively. Cooper is an elite athlete, great in space, but a little undersized. Warmack is big, strong and physical, a close quarters mauler. Both are really good. I’d go with the North Carolina guy. He’s pretty unique.”
One high ranking personnel executive said he would take Cooper over Warmack because of his “freakish athleticism.” A national scout agreed Cooper is a much better athlete, but pointed out that Warmack is surprisingly agile and quick footed for a 317 pound man.
Some prefer Warmack because of his ability to impact a run game. Teams draft guards for the run game more than they draft guards for the passing game. Warmack can clear a hole better than Cooper.
It should be pointed out that the Tar Heels also ran the ball very effectively with Gio Bernard, in large part because of Cooper’s blocking. Cooper is a former wrestler who uses leverage to his advantage. He just doesn’t overpower opponents like Warmack does.
“He is consistent and dominant, and he has done it at a high level,” one longtime scout said of Warmack. “And he isn’t a great athlete, but he moves well enough. He is the whole package.”
The feeling is Cooper will be chosen ahead of Warmack. But both should play and excel in the NFL for a long time.
Dan Pompei covers pro football for the Chicago Tribune at chicagotribune.com.