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This Is The Best Linebacker In The 2024 NFL Draft

I’m just going to come out and say it. The 2024 Linebacker class is pretty uninspiring. While you can always get value at the linebacker position down the board, this class lacks top-tier talent. But, there’s always a guy that stands out from the rest of the pack, and for me, that’s the focal point of today’s Prospect Profile, Texas A&M's Edgerrin Cooper.


So if you are new to this series, the purpose of these videos is to evaluate a player's strengths, areas of improvement, scheme fit, team Fits, pro comparison, and overall draft projection. 


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STRENGTHS


Edgerrin Cooper is a freak of an athlete, plain and simple. At 6’3, 230 pounds, he has incredible length with 80 ¼ inch arms, and incredible speed for the position, running around 4.52, which are both in the 92nd percentile for the position.


Cooper had a season for the ages for the Aggies in 2023. He totaled 84 tackles, 17 for a loss, eight sacks, and two forced fumbles. That is all evidence of his true athletic explosiveness and overall speed, lining up against tight ends, and even in the slot on some snaps.


As a run defender, Cooper showcases a violent downhill trigger. He always trusts his initial read uses his quick feet to hop from gap to gap, and possesses the length to stack and shed opposing blockers.


More consistency is warranted in that area, however. Cooper takes outstanding pursuit angles and is quick to beat the opposition to the spot they want to get to. Cooper is a sure tackler in space where his length showcases well. His wingspan will cast a wide net to lure opposing ball carriers in. Skillset as a blitzer and primary pass-rusher is impressive, as well. Cooper can truly be a Swiss army knife in any defensive scheme.


In coverage, Cooper is a constant communicator whose head remains on a swivel to locate crossers, and the correct depth is consistently reached to force everything in front of him. He’s rarely beaten across his face in man principles over the middle of the field. Cooper’s length and burst force quarterbacks to consistently make tight-window throws.


Due to his elite speed, Cooper will not have an issue covering running backs and tight ends at the next level. He’s also showcased his ability as a QB spy on multiple occasions, as well. 


WEAKNESSES


Edgerrin Cooper, like every other Draft Prospect, has his fair share of areas he can improve upon. Cooper has elite speed for the position, but sometimes this works against him. In open areas, Cooper has a tough time slowing down and often over-pursues the ball carrier. He doesn’t transition his strides into chops when approaching the ball carrier, so more shifty, agile ball carriers will, unfortunately, make him look silly at the NFL Level if it’s not corrected. 


Cooper also has a wiry frame for the position. He can be bullied by a more physical ball carrier and has to resort to dragging down the ball carrier, or hip-dropping when tackling. With such a big frame, there is a lot of room for him to add at least 10-15 pounds over time. Hopefully, it won’t hinder his speed, which makes him so effective in so many different areas. 


SCHEME FIT


Now Cooper is an interesting player to project to the next level in terms of a perfect scheme fit. At A&M, Cooper was used often in a 3-3-5 or 3-2-6, which kept the offense guessing with him off the edge. He’s a fantastic blitzing linebacker with great athletic ability. I could see him used in a hybrid Haason Reddick type of role, where he could come off the edge. In a more traditional defense, I could see Cooper as a Tampa 2 dropper, or a spy. 


NFL TEAM FITS


Pittsburgh Steelers: It’s well-documented that Mike Tomlin is a huge fan of Cooper, and you would have to think he’s an instant upgrade at the inside linebacker position. 


New Orleans Saints: The Saints are still getting fantastic production from Demario Davis, but at 35, a replacement could be brought in. With Zach Baun a free agent as well, a linebacker is a big need. 


Washington Commanders: The Commanders' linebacker depth is pretty messy, and Adam Peters is coming from an organization that got insane production from the linebacker position. 


Indianapolis Colts: The Colts have two gems in Zaire Franklin and EJ Speed, so why not add a third linebacker to the mix as a long-term replacement for Shaq Leonard? 


Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles need a true long-term solution at the middle linebacker position. It might be time for Howie to use a top-50 pick on the position. 


PRO COMPARISON


My pro comparison for Edgerrin Cooper is Jerome Baker. Baker can do it all for the Miami Dolphins. He rushes the passer well, with 22.5 sacks in six seasons as an inside linebacker. He also covers tight ends and running backs well. I feel like Cooper is a slightly larger, more explosive version of what Baker has brought to the table so far in his NFL Career. 


DRAFT PROJECTION


Overall, Edgerrin Cooper is a dynamic, modern-day linebacker who will make an impact early at the NFL level inside an aggressive scheme. There remain no concerns about his ability to play on all three downs, and defense in need of a highly instinctive, athletic linebacker that can cover should evaluate Cooper as the top linebacker in the entire class. I believe he will be a top-50 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

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