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NFL Draft Starts Tonight

If you care.

Of interest to Tar Heel fans will be the destination of DE Quinton Coples who has been facing questions about his intensity during the months following the end of his senior season.

Is Coples more the player who displayed flashes of dominance during his years at UNC? Or is he more the player prone to taking plays off, or to disappear for long stretches? Which is the real Coples, and which version will show up in the NFL?

Todd McShay, the ESPN NFL draft analyst, recently described Coples as “one of the toughest evaluations I’ve made to make in the entire 2012 class.”

“There are times you watch him, and you think, ‘This is the best defensive player in the class,’” McShay said. “And there are other times you watch and you say, ‘Man, he’s mailed it in. He’s not giving the effort that you need to give.’”

Despite the questions that surround Coples’ intensity, his size – 6-foot-6, 284 pounds – and skill set leave many considering him a first-round lock in the NFL draft beginning tonight in New York. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock ranks Coples as the second-best defensive end prospect in the draft, and Coples is expected to be the first player from an area school to be drafted.

Still, Coples’ draft stock has slid since he finished his senior season with 55 tackles, 7.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. Once viewed as a near-certainty to be a top-10 pick, most projections now have Coples being drafted in the middle of the first round.

Coples is interesting. During his junior season when the kept striking the fan over and over, Coples stepped up and won All-ACC honors filling the void on the defensive line left by Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn. His senior season was much anticipated but ended up being good but not great. Obviously opposing blocking schemes and double teams play a part not to mention Coples moving back to DE from the DT slot he played as a junior. Still, DE is his natural position so it was expected Coples would be even better in 2011. It didn't really happen and questions about Coples "taking plays off" became rampant. How much the late coaching change had to do with Coples' play in 2011 is anyone's guess but it may have been a factor.

Coples is the only probable first round pick out of UNC in this year's draft. Linebacker Zach Brown is high on various lists for that position but likely will not go until the second round. Other former Tar Heels to watch for as the draft unfolds through the weekend are Charles Brown, Dwight Jones, Donte Paige-Moss, Tydreke Powell, Matt Merletti, Ryan Houston and Cam Holland.