Shrine Bowl’s Eric Galko: Packers’ Edgerrin Cooper Built In a Lab

Green Bay Packers second-round draft pick Edgerrin Cooper solidified his top-of-the-class status at the East West all-star game.
Edgerrin Cooper
Edgerrin Cooper / Photo courtesy Texas A&M Athletics
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – With the 45th pick of the 2024 NFL Draft, Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst had the choice of every linebacker in the class.

He chose Texas A&M’s Edgerrin Cooper.

“This is a how-you-build-them-in-a-lab type of linebacker for the NFL,” said Eric Galko, who as director of football operations and player personnel for the East-West Shrine Bowl was around Cooper during the week leading up to the annual all-star game.

Cooper led the Aggies in tackles for losses as a first-time starter in 2022, then led the SEC in tackles for losses in 2023 en route to earning first-team All-American honors. In 12 games, he paced the team in sacks (eight), TFLs (17), tackles (83) and forced fumbles (two).

He solidified his head-of-the-class status at the Scouting Combine, where he measured 6-foot-2 1/8 and 230 pounds and ran his 40 in 4.51 seconds. He’s got the size of a modern-day linebacker, the speed of a defensive back and the length (34 1/2-inch arms) of an offensive tackle.

“He’s one of the more physically impressive linebackers, even from the last couple years,” Galko said. “He’s got, obviously, the size. He’s a tremendously impressive athlete. He can come downhill, finish, play in space with control. He’s not just a guy that comes downhill. He can come downhill, stop, start, adjust, make a play when a running back bounces outside of him.”

Cooper isn’t just a run stopper, though. Galko said four of Cooper’s sacks came as an edge rusher and three came as a blitzer. In coverage, he had six passes defensed in 2022. In 2023, he ranked among the draft-class leaders in forced-incompletion percentage. Of his 14 completions allowed, the average distance of throw was 0.2 yards, according to Pro Football Focus, so he just didn’t give up anything downfield.

“He can really be a situational player as a pass-down player,” Galko said. “Don’t be surprised if they use him, kind of like how the Cowboys use Micah Parsons once in a while, off the edge, just because he’s so talented there and he has the size to do it and he can really finish with his hands when he gets in the backfield.

“And then in coverage, he was really strong this year, too. He was one of the best off-ball coverage linebackers in the country. Part of that’s because he’s just such a good athlete and can really stop, start and change direction, and he’s still getting better there. So, he really is a three-pronged, perfect linebacker body-type.”

Whether it’s Green Bay’s new 4-3 base defense or nickel, which is the NFL’s universal base defense, Galko saw no issues lining up Cooper alongside 2022 first-round pick Quay Walker.

“I’d probably want to put him at Sam [strong-side linebacker] just (for) some coverage stuff as well as coming off the edge. But he can really play all three,” Galko said. “He’s able to finish and take on blocks for a Mike [middle linebacker]. He can match up in coverage as a Sam. You can really be a little more flexible and make plays in the back side like a Will [weak-side linebacker], too. I know that’s a copout answer, but this isn’t a two-down linebacker. This isn’t a situational guy. …

“Edgerrin is, in my opinion, a better overall upside prospect than Quay, but I think both those guys can do a lot of different things and play a lot of roles in the Packers’ defense.”

At the Scouting Combine, Cooper said he patterns his game after that of All-Pro Fred Warner. The 49ers’ star is the total package of “sideline-to-sideline” athleticism, violence and intelligence.

Cooper has a chance to be that same sort of player.

“He’s everything you want an NFL linebacker to be,” new Texas A&M coach Mike Elko said.

Galko agreed. Everyone knew his pure physical ability after his dominant senior season. It was the mental side that showed up at the all-star game.

“I think what he showed at the Shrine Bowl, most importantly, was that his football IQ was there,” Galko said. “And I think he’s a year or two away from being really one of the best linebackers in football. He has that kind of talent. Because of how high his football IQ is and how much he wants this, really, the sky’s the limit. I think the Packers got a top-20 player in the draft at pick 45.”

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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Bill Huber

BILL HUBER

Bill Huber, who has covered the Green Bay Packers since 2008, is the publisher of Packer Central, a Sports Illustrated channel. E-mail: packwriter2002@yahoo.com History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: https://twitter.com/BillHuberNFL Background: Huber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played on the football team, in 1995. He worked in newspapers in Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and Shawano before working at The Green Bay News-Chronicle and Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1998 through 2008. With The News-Chronicle, he won several awards for his commentaries and page design. In 2008, he took over as editor of Packer Report Magazine, which was founded by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke, and PackerReport.com. In 2019, he took over the new Sports Illustrated site Packer Central, which he has grown into one of the largest sites in the Sports Illustrated Media Group.