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NFL Draft Preview: Biggest Tar Heel draft busts

These first round draft picks did not match their collegiate successes in the NFL.

NFL Draft Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

As the saying and the legal disclaimer on the bottom of your television screen goes, “past performance is not indicative of future results.” These North Carolina Tar Heels had successes and accolades that will forever enshrine them in the Charlie Justice Hall of Honor inside the Kenan Football Center. They are members of an exclusive list of Tar Heels taken in the first round of the NFL Draft, however their professional results have not lived up to their high expectations when drafted.

Jonathan Cooper - OG - 7th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals

Cooper was an unanimous All-American and first-team All-ACC selection in 2012. According to the UNC Football Media Guide, Cooper was the “first offensive guard selected in the top 10 of the NFL Draft since 1997” and was “the highest selected offensive guard since Bill Fralic was taken No. 2 by Atlanta in 1985.” Cooper broke his left fibula during a 2013 preseason game and was out for the entire season. Injuries have plagued him since then, and it seems as though he was never able to return to form. He signed with the Dallas Cowboys this offseason; his fourth team since 2013. In three seasons of play, he has started just 14 games, seeing action in 29.

Quinton Coples - DE - 16th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft by the New York Jets

Coples was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2010 and 2011, and ranks third in career sacks at Carolina with 24. After a solid rookie season at end, the Jets moved Coples to outside linebacker. This positional change, combined with a hairline ankle fracture during a 2013 preseason game, led to less-than-desirable production. In 2015, Coples was cut from the Jets due to an incident on the team plane. He was subsequently claimed by the Miami Dolphins, then signed by the Los Angeles Rams during the 2016 offseason. His stay in LA was short, as he was cut before the 53-man roster was announced and did not play during the 2016 season.

Kentwan Balmer - DT - 29th overall in the 2008 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers

Balmer was a second-team All-ACC selection in 2007. After entering the NFL, he had a propensity for not showing up to training camps and practices. In 2011, Balmer showed up in the NCAA Notice of Allegations.

Ryan Sims - DT - 6th overall in the 2002 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs

Sims was an All-American and All-ACC first-team selection in 2001. He and teammate Julius Peppers were the top players on a dominant UNC defense in 2001 that, according to the UNC Football Media Guide, “led the ACC and was 15th in the nation in yards allowed.” He was selected four slots behind Peppers in the 2002 NFL Draft, but did not achieve nearly the success of his Carolina teammate. After a productive second pro season, his numbers dropped. He spent four seasons in Kansas City before being traded to Tampa Bay, where he spent three years before retiring after the 2010 season.