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Cardinals select UNC's Cooper with No. 7 overall pick

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NFL draft prospect Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina participates in a youth football clinic in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) NFL draft prospect Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina participates in a youth football clinic in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
TEMPE, Ariz. -

The Arizona Cardinals bolstered their shaky offensive line by selecting North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper with the seventh overall pick of the NFL draft.

The Cardinals had one of the NFL's worst offenses during a 5-11 season in 2012, in large part because of an offensive line that struggled in pass protection and the running game.

An athletic 6-foot-2, 311 pounds, Cooper should give the Cardinals a lift in both areas after being the fourth offensive lineman to be taken in the first seven picks of this year's draft.

Cooper was an Outland Trophy finalist, a consensus All-American and was voted the ACC's best blocker.

Arizona liked his durability — he set a school record with 48 starts at North Carolina — and believe he is someone who can contribute right away.

The Cardinals went into their first draft under new general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians with plenty of needs, particularly on offense.

Arizona finished last in the NFL in total yards, allowed a league-high 58 sacks and were 31st in scoring while losing 11 of their final 12 games.

Coming off a season like that, the projections were that the Cardinals needed offensive line help, possibly with the No. 7 pick and throughout the draft.

But as the draft board unfolded, the available offensive linemen quickly disappeared, with three tackles going in the first four picks.

Kansas City took Central Michigan's Eric Fisher with the top overall pick, Jacksonville selected Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel with the second pick and Oklahoma's Lane Johnson went to Philadelphia at No. 4.

Finding a premier pass rusher also was a priority for the Cardinals, but two of those went in the next two picks: BYU's Ezekiel Ansah to Detroit and LSU's Barkevious Mingo to Cleveland.

When the time came to make a pick, Arizona went with an offensive lineman, the first time they've used a first-round pick on one since taking Levi Brown with the No. 5 pick in 2007.

Keim earmarked Cooper as a first-round pick when he watched him at North Carolina a year ago and was thrilled he was still available at No. 7 this year.

With good footwork, athleticism and an ability to pull out on the perimeter, Cooper should be a good fit on a team that needs help up front.

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