Former Top Prospect Cooper Gets Chance With 49ers

Former No. 7 overall pick in the NFL draft will compete for a starting guard spot after having the best season of his four-year career in Dallas

In the 2013 NFL draft, Jonathan Cooper was considered a can't-miss prospect. The North Carolina guard, at 6-foot-2 and 311 pounds, was a first-team All-America pick who was athletic, moved well and was praised for his quick feet and strength.

When the Arizona Cardinals took him at No. 7 overall, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock praised the Cardinals.

"I think that is a great pick," said Mayock. "I really do. You plug him in inside, your offensive line is better, your run game is better. I think this team just got better with the drafting of Jonathan Cooper."

Five years later, however, Cooper's career still has question marks.

Cooper, who signed a one-year free-agent deal with the 49ers this week, comes to his new team with a history of injuries and disappointment. He's missed numerous games and moved from the Cardinals to the Patriots, Browns and Cowboys.

It was with Dallas last year that he finally found some traction. He started 13 games and helped power a running game that averaged 135.6 yards per game, No. 2 in the NFL.

In training camp last season, Cooper lost a battle for one guard spot with Chaz Green. But when Green was injured, Cooper stepped in and did a solid job. His work with Dallas earned him the attention of 49ers' general manager John Lynch, who decided to give him a one-year deal. Cooper, 28, will fight for a starting spot at guard and could provide depth at the position, too.

"Having started 27 games in four NFL seasons, Jonathan brings great experience to the interior of our offensive line," Lynch said in a statement. "We look forward to him competing for a starting job at guard while also bringing a veteran presence to our locker room."

Cooper suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee in the final game of the season, but is expected to be ready to be active for spring workouts with the Niners.

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