Every draft prospect comes into the NFL with questions about the transition from college football to the NFL. There are no questions about Quinton Coples’ ability to be an impact player for the Jets, who took him as the No. 16 player on Thursday night. He’s got the ability to fit perfectly with what the Jets want to do defensively on the field. Eight times in the press conference discussing the pick, general manager Mike Tannenbaum, vice president of college scouting Joey Clinkscales and head coach Rex Ryan combined to describe their top pick as “athletic.”
The talent is obviously there, now it is up to Coples to show it.
The major knock on the defensive end out of North Carolina is that Coples takes plays off and doesn’t have what football coaches refer to as a “motor on him.” One current NFL scout, speaking to Metro New York on the condition of anonymity, said, “Coples has tremendous skills, but he floats in and out of games.” Coples disagrees.
“I’ve been working hard and doing the best that I can, and to be the best athlete, and be the best Jet as possible,” Coples said. “I think I’m going to do great for the Jets.”
But there is no denying that Coples saw a drop in production between his junior and senior seasons at North Carolina.
After 10 sacks his junior season, Coples got to the quarterback just 7 1/2 times last year. Ryan worked Coples out during his Pro Day and doesn’t see a player with question marks. Instead, he excuses the drop-off as part of Coples switching from the interior of the defensive line to an end position, a move which may have been an adjustment for the player. Coples will be called on to play defensive end for the Jets and will likely compete with Mike DeVito for one of the starting positions on the edge of their 3-4.
There was heady praise from Ryan, who compared Coples to former Jet Shaun Ellis, now with the Patriots. In 11 years with the Jets, Ellis had 72 1/2 sacks and 499 career tackles.
“That takes some time and some adjustments. Everything you’re used to working off, a right-handed stance, now you’re down to a left-handed stance. Some guys they can make that transition easy and sometimes you can’t,” Ryan said.
“I remember when I went to Baltimore the first thing I did was make Tony Siragusa right defensive tackle because he’s a natural left-handed guy. When a guy’s a natural right-handed guy, it’s easy. There are some guys who can do it and some who can’t do it so well. I feel that he’s a guy, and I compared him before to Shaun. I think Shaun was much better on the left side than he was the right, so when I got here, we never flipped Shaun. We left him on the left, and I think that’s what we’ll do with this young man.”
Character and work ethic issues didn’t deter the Jets from doing their due diligence on Coples. It ended up with them not being scared away by a player who entered his senior season at North Carolina as one of the most talked about draft prospects in college football and finished more whimper than bang.
“I think that the thing you have to do is sit down and talk to the kid and find out where his heart is. Again, coach worked him out and he found out how athletic the kid was and you can see some of that stuff on tape. You dig as deep as you can,” Clinkscales said.
“We were comfortable with that.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.