North Carolina OG Jonathan Cooper hopes to be long gone by the time the Cowboys draft 18th

Posted Wednesday, Apr. 24, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Jonathan Cooper hopes the Cowboys don’t pick him 18th for one reason: He hopes to be off the board well before they are slotted to draft.

“I probably wouldn’t like to fall that far,” the North Carolina guard said with a laugh Wednesday. “But if they want to come up and get me, that would be exciting that I meant that much to them, that I was a good enough player for them to do that.”

The Cowboys are more likely to trade down than they are to trade up, but if one of the draft’s top guards falls to them, they might stand pat. The chances of Alabama guard Chance Warmack falling to 18 are remote at best, but if there is a run on quarterbacks and receivers in the top 17, Cooper might be available.

Cooper visited Dallas-Fort Worth, and he had a private workout with the Cowboys in North Carolina.

“It was almost like the professional version of Alabama,” Cooper said of the Cowboys. “You could see tradition, and the stadium is unreal. Dallas is huge. I met with [owner] Jerry Jones, and that was pretty cool. It was a great trip.”

Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, on the other hand, doesn’t hide the fact that he wants the Cowboys to draft him. He gladly will wait until the 18th choice if it means spending his NFL career in Dallas.

“It’d be crazy,” Vaccaro said. “I played high school football in Texas and then in college, and then to get to play for Dallas, it’d be crazy to play in my state for my whole career. It’s close to home, so I’d get to see my family all the time.”

Reid’s healthy

LSU safety Eric Reid promises that his shoulders will hold up to the pounding of an NFL career. Reid dismissed suggestions that some teams have concerns about his medical report.

“My shoulders haven’t been a problem with me at all in my college career,” Reid said. “I did have three shoulder surgeries in high school. I haven’t had one minor injury to them since then, so it’s not a problem at all. I think that shows on film. I’m a very physical tackler. I’m very confident in my health.”

Reid had a private workout with the Cowboys at LSU and also visited Valley Ranch. He met with Jerry Jones and posed with the five Super Bowl trophies in Jones’ office.

Heads Up Football

Cowboys executive vice president Charlotte Jones Anderson helped the NFL launch a new program, Heads Up Football, which is designed to make youth football safer.

The USA Football program is funded by a $1.5 million grant from the NFL Foundation, which Anderson chairs. The program intends to advance player safety at the youth levels by providing coaching education and teaching resources aimed at “taking the head out of the game.”

“We want the coaches teaching the game the right way,” Anderson said. “We want to make sure they’re teaching the right fundamentals, that they’re teaching kids how to tackle properly, and taking their head out of the game. Hopefully, we can also educate parents. We’ve seen how we can make the game safer, and we know things that have happened in the past and how we can improve on that. So we’re here to offer advice and mentoring.”

Unpredictable draft

With no Andrew Luck or Cam Newton atop the draft board, some critics are calling this a down year for top prospects. An offensive tackle is expected to be the first overall pick for only the fourth time, and the top three tackles — A&M’s Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson — all could go in the top five.

“It’s not as pretty as years past, because there’s not a good-looking quarterback or anything like that,” Joeckel said. “It’s three mauling, ugly tackles at the top.”

It is possible only one quarterback will go in the first round, and even though West Virginia’s Geno Smith is top rated at his position, it could be Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib. Nassib’s college coach, Doug Marrone, is the new coach of the Buffalo Bills.

“Whether I get drafted early or late is not really a big deal to me,” said Smith, who conceded he is annoyed with the criticism he has received the past three months. “I’ve worked hard. I’ve done everything I can possibly do up to this point. Wherever I go, I’m going to go in with the same mentality.”

Charean Williams 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean

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