4. Jonathon Cooper, outside linebacker
One of the most exciting potential breakout candidates for the Denver Broncos defensively in 2023 is outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper. Cooper was a 7th-round selection back in the 2021 NFL Draft out of Ohio State, and it's clear that the only reason he could have possibly fallen that far in the Draft is due to teams perhaps "failing" him medically.
Cooper has not yet emerged as a full-time starter, but that could change in the 2023 season. He was listed as the starter over Frank Clark on the opposite side of the field from veteran Randy Gregory. With 86 total tackles, 14 QB hits, and 4.5 sacks in his first two NFL seasons, it's not like we haven't seen anything from Cooper up to this point, but the 2023 season could be the year he becomes a big-money pass rusher...eventually.
What does Cooper bring to the table? Well, we know he's outstanding in the effort department. He's strong, he's athletic, he has great burst, and he finishes plays violently. At this point, all he's really been waiting for is an opportunity to play more extensive snaps. He hasn't been struggling to hold up as an every-down edge. He hasn't struggled putting pressure on the QB.
The Broncos have traded away franchise legend Von Miller and former top pick Bradley Chubb in consecutive years. If Jonathon Cooper can stay on the field, he could emerge as the next great home-grown talent off the edge for this team. I think he's in line for a huge season, one which could potentially include double-digit sacks.