|ESPN.com: NFL Draft 2012||[Print without images]|
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan told Quinton Coples last week that he would be the New York Jets' selection if he lasted until the 16th pick in the draft.
The coach was a man of his word.
With several big-name pass-rushers still on the board, the Jets chose Coples on Thursday night and immediately announced their plans to make him a left defensive end.
Coples is regarded by many scouts as a risky pick because of a sub-par senior year. That, undoubtedly, caused him to drop in the draft.
Ryan said Coples reminds him of Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce, two former Jets defensive ends. This marked the second straight year the team picked a defensive end in the first round. Last year's choice was Muhammad Wilkerson, a former teammate of Coples at Hargrave Military Academy.
"He's athletic enough to stand up and play linebacker," Ryan said of the 6-foot-6, 284-pound Coples, "but that's not what we brought him here to do. He'll have his hand in the dirt."
The Jets chose Coples over South Carolina's Melvin Ingram and Syracuse's Chandler Jones, both of whom projected as outside linebackers in the Jets' scheme.
Coples caught the NFL's attention with a 10-sack junior season, when he played tackle in North Carolina's 4-3 scheme. His production dropped to 7½ sacks last season, when he was moved to right end.
The Jets pointed to Coples' tumultuous stay in Chapel Hill as possible factors for his uneven play. The program was rocked by an agents scandal in 2010, and coach Butch Davis was fired before the 2011 season. Coples played for two head coaches and four position coaches in four years.
"It's unbelievable, the perseverance it took," Coples said on a conference call with reporters. "It's unbelievable to get rewarded and become a Jet."
Many questioned his work ethic and passion for football.
"I've been working hard to do the best I can to be the best athlete in the NFL," said Coples, who finished with 24 sacks in his career. "I think I'm going to be great for the Jets."