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Broncos Roster Review: Rookie DE Jonathon Cooper

The Ohio State defensive end and 7th round draft pick could be an immediate contributor to the Broncos’ depth

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Ohio State vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

No longer a college prospect

In the 7th round and with the 239th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Ohio State University DE Jonathon Cooper became a rookie for the Denver Broncos.

In a previous post for one of Cooper’s press conferences, I linked this video from his Twitter, which shows the kids in his neighborhood congratulating for getting his name called in the draft and officially going pro. Here it is again because it’s so dang heartwarming.


Cooper’s mother, Jessica Moorman, was in high school when she gave birth to him and she raised him by herself. Determined not to let her family become a stereotype, she taught her son the importance of being strong, kind, independent, and educated from an early age.

Jonathon was involved in basketball and football as a kid, and he played football DE all throughout high school. His football endeavors were, however, interrupted in freshman year when he was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) - a syndrome that causes an overly rapid heartbeat due to an extra electrical pathway in the heart.

The high schooler opted to have a few surgeries instead of installing a pacemaker (the latter of which would have ended his football career before it started), and was back in the game, eventually earning his place as a five-star recruit coming out of high school.

During his time at OSU (2016-2021), Cooper was a two-time team captain, two-time all-Big Ten honoree, two-time academic all-Big Ten Conference honoree, and the first OSU player to wear a Block “O” jersey for his leadership qualities and character.

While red-shirted as a senior in 2019, Cooper would play a large role in the Buckeyes’ 2020 run, earning 24 tackles (12 solo, 12 assists), 3.5 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble.

Since starting in the 2016-17 season, he’s played 46 games, totaled 77 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and two fumbles.

Cooper also made an appearance in the 2020 Senior Bowl, where he showcased his talents to NFL scouts. Prior to the draft, Cooper said that the teams he’d been talking to were considering him for a strongside (SAM) position, but he’s confident that he can also play linebacker and be comfortable in space.

The DE said he could see himself “playing SAM or outside linebacker, especially in the 3-4 defense,” per Lettermen Row.


per Pro Football Network:

Height: 6’2 3/4″
Weight: 254 pounds
Wingspan: 78 1/2″
Arm: 31 5/8″
Hand: 9 3/4″

The good

OSU can produce some reliable and NFL-ready defensive ends. For Cooper’s part, he’s a good speed-to-power rusher, strong at the snap of the ball, and possesses ideal size and length for pass rushing. He’s tough, quick on his feet, and great with lateral movement.

As indicated in Dane Brugler’s above video, the DE can employ a good bull rush to generate pressure. He’s also pretty adept with speed power and swim moves.

Cooper keeps his focus on the football and follows plays through to the end, something his position coach Larry Johnson stresses to OSU’s defense (i.e. preferring his players to go for strip sacks vs regular sacks, to prevent a team from getting a new down).

The most obvious high point to Jonathon is his leadership qualities and ability to bounce back and give it his all. After coming off his 2019 high ankle sprain, he was a bright spot on the Buckeyes’ defense in 2020, shining especially brightly in their games vs Michigan State, Northwestern, and Clemson where he managed three, six, and two sacks respectively, as well as a forced fumble in the game vs Clemson.

The bad

Cooper lacks some ankle flexibility, making it difficult for him to bend corners on pass rushes. His stiff hips also disrupt him while he’s changing directions at times. When his rushes are stymied, he struggles coming up with a counter pass and instead gets disrupted.

Although his versatility is referenced above, there’s also not much tape to showcase his ability playing in space aside from the Senior Bowl. Head coach Vic Fangio addressed this during a press conference after they picked him, and it doesn’t sound like it’ll deter the Broncos from giving him a shot.

Vic Fangio on Jonathon Cooper

“(With) the system he played in at Ohio State, he wasn’t out in space very much. That is a big transition for a lot of these guys. It is one we do each and every year with one or two guys from college. We’ll see how he does with it. We like the make-up. You’ve obviously had a taste of it already. When you have that kind of make-up, you can fight through and not get too discouraged.”

George Paton on Jonathon Cooper

“Most of these players we draft and all of the players we were looking at, we were looking for that kind of make-up. He is special with the make-up. I went to the Ohio State pro day. Watched the way he competed and the way he went about his workout and took it serious. How he worked out and the type of shape he was in. Then you speak with the kid. He’s everything you want in a teammate and a player representing the organization.”


Cooper would certainly be NFL-ready as a rotational pass rusher with potential for inside-outside versatility, depending on how he performs in training camp. He doesn’t immediately stand out as a starter, but I have no doubt he’ll immediately add quality to the Broncos’ depth.

On a more personal note, I like his story and the community he seems to have around him. In addition to his aforementioned accolades from Ohio State, Cooper devoted his time to outside opportunities like working at a food bank, organizing sports events for the local youth, and studying internationally to become more culturally aware. He’s the kind of person you want to see go far as an athlete, and I’m proud that he’s officially a Bronco.