NFL Draft 2013: Jonathan Cooper, EJ Manuel Among Seven ACC First-Round Picks

Now-Cardinal Jonathan Cooper Was One of Seven ACC Players Selected in Round One

Now-Cardinal Jonathan Cooper Was One of Seven ACC Players Selected in the NFL Draft’s First Round

For those who’ve been hanging with us here on the blog tonight, we’ve been keeping up with every ACC player selected in the 2013 NFL Draft — seven in all — providing some quick thoughts on each pick. All-in-all, there were certainly a few surprises, and needless to say our mock draft (and everyone else’s) was mostly wrong.

We’ll have a full breakdown post-draft next week, but for now, here’s a quick look at all seven ACC players chosen in the first round this evening, with links to our individual stories on each selection. And for those looking for thoughts on the entire NFL Draft, I was conducting a live thread over at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician tonight, going pick-by-pick in the comments. But back to ACC matters…

#7 Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Cooper, OG/North Carolina (Mock Draft: 8th overall)

By the time we got to draft day, Cooper was suddenly being considered a once-in-a-generation guard. And given his speed and size combination up front, and the running game he’s facilitated at UNC, why not? Arizona had one of the NFL’s worst rushing attacks in 2012, and this goes a long way toward fixing that.

#16 Buffalo Bills: EJ Manuel, QB/Florida State (Mock Draft: 43rd overall)

Once Buffalo swapped picks with the Rams, I thought we were perfectly set up for a regular old Syracuse family reunion between Doug Marrone, Nathaniel Hackett and QB Ryan Nassib. Instead, the Bills made one of the more surprising moves of the first round, picking Manuel, who’s seen as a proven commodity by many scouts. He’ll have some ramp to adjust to the pros — the team has Kevin Kolb on the roster as well — but there’s suddenly a lot of weight on Manuel’s shoulders.

#19 New York Giants: Justin Pugh, OT/Syracuse (Mock Draft: 48th overall)

If not for some later moves in the first, THIS would’ve arguably been the biggest reach of the entire round. And that’s not to discredit fellow Syracuse alumnus Justin Pugh, either. But with a glut of elite defenders falling to the later selections, most Giants fans (this one included) seemed convinced they’d go with someone on that side of the ball. Still, Pugh addresses a major need on the line for New York, and will have an opportunity to make an immediate impact. He’s the second straight Syracuse player to go in the top 20 after the Patriots picked Chandler Jones last year.

#24 Indianapolis Colts: Bjoern Werner, DE/Florida State (Mock Draft: 19th overall)

Werner’s lack of real size pushed him down a bit in the first round, but obviously the Colts decided to put a lot of stock into the results he’s put up on the field. Among the fastest pass-rushers in the draft, Werner should be the centerpiece of a rebuilt Colts D-line that’s looking to rebound from several years of atrocious play on that side of the ball. Werner’s workman-like approach should fit right in with this young, yet dedicated team.

#25 Minnesota Vikings: Xavier Rhodes, CB/Florida State (Mock Draft: 24th overall)

Rhodes brings some much-needed help to Minnesota’s pass defense; one that plays in arguably the toughest quarterback division in the sport. His physicality and ball awareness are his biggest strengths, though he’ll need to improve his tackling quickly to avoid being labeled as a simple big-play corner (players that usually end up as liabilities later on in their careers).

#27 Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR/Clemson (Mock Draft: 27th overall)

For years, all the pressure in Houston has been on QB Matt Schaub and receiver Andre Johnson for any and all play-making. Now, finally pairing Johnson with a viable second option, the Texans may be able to take “the leap” everyone around the NFL has assumed they’d have made several seasons ago. Hopksins’s homerun potential and elusiveness in the open-field are what’s brought him this far, and there’s no doubt Houston will primarily utilize him in that capacity.

#28 Denver Broncos: Sylvester Williams, DT/North Carolina (Mock Draft: 33rd overall)

There were varied expectations on Williams heading into the draft, but his selection by Denver may actually be the one that works out best in the long run. Joining a young, yet accomplished defense, Williams will not be forced into a situation where he’ll have to carry the load all on his own. His quick interior pass rushing will be a valuable asset to Denver, and more importantly, will be part of a larger, detailed defensive scheme that will greatly assist his development.

***

Have any additional thoughts on the first round? Any snubs or reaches we didn’t discuss? Share your thoughts down in the comments.

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