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NFL draft analyst on UNC’s Quinton Coples: ‘I wouldn’t draft him’

The Carolina Panthers should not draft North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples with the No.9 overall pick Thursday night, according to NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock. But they should – and ultimately will – draft Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, Mayock predicted.

Panther general manager Marty Hurney and coach Ron Rivera took a last-minute visit to Chapel Hill Monday to visit with Coples for “a couple of hours,” the former Tar Heel said on Wednesday.

“They came down to visit with me and my parents and got a chance to see my family and get familiar with where I came from,” Coples said. He added that it “would be great” to be drafted by Carolina and that in his mind the talk of his taking plays off is unwarranted.

But Mayock – who will be one of the primary analysts for NFL Network’s draft coverage – said he is not a fan of Coples and said he believed Coples would ultimately be picked somewhere from No.12 to the “early 20s” of the first round.

“Here’s my deal with Coples,” Mayock said in response to a question from The Observer Wednesday at an NFL pre-draft event. “I’ve never liked his (game) tape (from his final season at North Carolina). I wouldn’t draft him. But I do recognize the talent. He showed it at the Senior Bowl when he was motivated. I get nervous when guys have bad senior-year tape but great Senior Bowls. It tells me there’s a money drive there…. He’s a boom-or-bust guy. He can be an All Pro, and I don’t deny his talent… I just say ‘Buyer beware.’”

Mayock is high on South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore – he has Gilmore (a former quarterback at Rock Hill South Pointe) as the No.8 overall prospect. But he said he thought Carolina would ultimately end up taking Cox to shore up the defensive line.

“Because there are so many offensive players in those first six, seven, eight picks, I think they (the Panthers) might have their pick on defense,” Mayock said. “You can look at (Boston College linebacker Luke) Kuechly. But I think ultimately Fletcher Cox makes a lot of sense there. He’s a 300-pound defensive tackle that can actually play on the edge also. He’s powerful. He’s young, which I like. He played in the SEC. He was dominant at times. His best football is ahead of him just because he is so young and hasn’t even grown into his body yet.”

Cox was also in New York and spent some of his time with the media Wednesday deflecting questions. He wouldn’t talk much about the teams he visited – although he did say he went to Charlotte and enjoyed talking with Rivera. When asked what his strengths were as a player, Cox refused to say.

The biggest draw at the NFL event – even more than soon-to-be No.1 pick Andrew Luck – was Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. Griffin promised to unveil a mysterious pair of socks for Thursday night’s draft and also called himself a “hopeless romantic” with a love of the music of Luther Vandross. Griffin will almost surely go No.2 to Washington Thursday night, with Luck going No.1 to Indianapolis.

Then the intrigue begins. The Panthers could choose between Gilmore, Kuechly (who almost alone among the top prospects is not in New York), Cox, Coples and several others when they get to No.9 – or they could trade down.

“It’s a waiting game right now,” Gilmore said. “But I’m tired of waiting. I’m ready to go.”

Around the league

ATLANTA: The Falcons gave up only a seventh-round draft pick on Wednesday when they acquired four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel from the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Falcons announced the trade after Samuel agreed to restructure his contract to a three-year, $18.5 million deal. His contract with Philadelphia called for him to earn $9.9 million in 2012 and $11.4 million in 2013.

New Orleans: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league is still doing interviews regarding player punishments that likely will be handed down for the Saints’ pay-for-hits bounty system.

Speaking to reporters at an NFL draft event on Wednesday, Goodell said he doesn’t expect to issue a decision this week, but the league is “in the final stages of working on discipline involving the players. We hope to do that very soon and get that behind us.”

A league investigation found that from 2009-11 New Orleans coaches and players put together a bounty system that paid out improper cash bonuses for hits aimed at knocking opposing players out of games.