As the Jaguars franchise broaches the idea of drafting a defensive end in the 2012 draft, the name Jason Pierre-Paul has come up a lot. And why not? He's a very talented player, and a strong edge rusher on the Super Bowl winning team. He's very much "in vogue" right now.
A lot of people have started using Pierre-Paul as a sort of "what to look for" character when scouting defensive ends. Others have criticized the Jaguars for passing on the premier pass rusher to select a relative unknown defensive lineman in Tyson Alualu. I believe that these things happen in part because people have forgotten Pierre-Paul's story. Allow me to remind you.
Jason Pierre-Paul is now a very successful Defensive end. However, in college things were different. He spent his first two years of college off the radar. First, he attended College of the Canyons in California, then did his sophomore year in Fort Scott Community College in Kansas. He was wildly successful at both of those schools. In his Junior year that he made it out of the JUCO ranks up to the University of South Florida. He had 6 1/2 sacks in 7 starts (13 games) as well as 16 1/2 TFL. Then he declared for the draft.
He was seen as a rare pass rushing talent, but really the issue was that the tape on him from his year at USF made him seem like a one-year player and while he succeeded at USF, he didn't put up incredible numbers. He did, however, famously challenge a teammate to a "backflip competition" and do 13 consecutive back handsprings. He of the hairline loved that video and ESPN showed it whenever JPP's name came up.
Essentially, JPP had everything you look for in a DE (4.71 forty, lanky 34.75 inch arms, balance and athleticism) except the technique. At the JUCO level, he thrived essentially because he was bigger and stronger than everyone around him. It was only when he got to the D-1 level that he really started working on the technical side of being a defensive end. That cast doubts upon his ability to translate to the pros.
He was not a "instant" producer. He spent the 2010 year as a backup and primarily rushed the passer, playing mostly on 3rd downs. Because he went to the Giants, who had other talented D-linemen in front of him, JPP had the luxury of spending that year in relative obscurity before emerging from his backup role into the limelight in 2011.
A lot of people will want to compare to Jason Pierre-Paul when looking at defensive end prospects this year. A great many have made comparisons between JPP and Quentin Coples.
While there are thematic similarities between the players, they are almost nothing alike on the field. Pierre-Paul was and is a physical freak. He made "wow" plays, he just had a short career at the D-1 level and questionable pass rushing technique. Quentin Coples, on the other hand, spent four years playing on a D-1 team, played at defensive tackle for a year, and to me doesn't have that "wow" factor on the pass rush nearly as much as JPP.
I looked through all of the players in the league to find a successful correlate to Coples, who is 6'6 285 pounds. There was one player of similar size with double digit sacks. That was Julius Peppers. He was 6'6 283 pounds coming out of college. Peppers didn't go to the combine, but was slated as having a 4.74 forty. He was also called "The Freak of Nature." Quentin Coples is called... Quentin. Why? Because he's no Julius Peppers.
Beyond Peppers, I had trouble finding anyone with similar height/weight combination to Coples. That could mean any number of things, both good and bad. I'll choose not to go into that. Suffice it to say that based on the players currently in the NFL at his position, Coples is oddly shaped for a pass rusher. With another 10 pounds on his frame, he'd be a good size for a 3-4 DE, which I think would be a very natural position for him considering the work he's done inside the tackles... But that's a story for another time.