Friday, April 25, 2014

More Defensive Line - 2014 Cowboys Weekly Draft Notebook - Episode 14

This week, as we creep closer and closer to draft day, I wanted to make sure I cleaned up any prospects I missed on the first pass for my subjective look at the draft prospects.

If you have missed any of the first 13 episodes that we have been providing every week in this space to prepare you for the Cowboys draft, you can certainly catch up by using the links below.  Basically, I have attempted to give a look at anyone who I considered Top 50-100 prospects that would be the Cowboys targets in Rounds 1 and 2 for sure, then hope we also can cover the Round 3 player as well, knowing full well that they normally grab someone in Round 3 that is not on the traditional radars.

To do this, we must make some deductions on our own of what we assume they are looking for and what they are not looking for.  Scheme considerations are weighed heavily, however, it is true that a team has to be careful here.  In the last week, a Cowboys brain suggested to me that certain players cause a bit of a conflict in the war-room because if they marry themselves to a 4-3 under pick by taking a player really high that is not scheme flexible (can play in any scheme you have) such as an undersized 3-technique like Aaron Donald, then what happens if Jason Garrett gets fired in 2014 and the new staff doesn't want a 4-3 under?  What then?

The most prudent thing to do is to get football players who you think can play in any scheme and therefore in 2 years when you may very well have an entire new brain-trust running this thing (besides the Jones family, of course), you are not up a creek without a paddle.

Anyway, this week I want to build a smaller version of the "big board" using just defensive ends and tackles and then next week, we will do the same thing on the offensive line, leading us to our final version of the big board which I will post on Wednesday morning, May 7th.  From there, the draft will be upon us, I will have broken down about 80-90 prospects and hopefully we will have a decent idea of who they have taken in Rounds 1, 2, and 3.  Beyond that, many of these guys could fall below that, but I cannot give this treatment to 250 guys and remain married so you are on your own.

I have no plans on touching positions that I don't see them taking in the Top 3 rounds (RB, TE), but OL and DL are both spots where they can go to multiple times so we are hitting that hard.

I plan having profiles and breakdowns on 20+ of the best defensive linemen and 15-20 of the best offensive linemen when this is all said and done.

We have already done about 20 DL (including those who I think are LB/DE types), but here are 4 that I wanted to make sure I added to the files before we post our Top 20:

Marcus Smith - Louisville - 6'3 - 251 - 4.68

Marcus is certainly in the category of guys (which is always large) which seem to be best suited to be a stand-up 3-4 OLB who you are going to rush most of the time.  There are positions that are constantly in great supply and one of them is the 250 lb types who can rush the QB, but who also do not look like ideal candidates to drop into coverage, chase a RB on a wheel route, or even stand his ground against a tackle in the run game.

That isn't to say, they aren't useful players - especially if they are really good at rushing the passer, but it simply means that there are tons of them in college football, and therefore on draft day they slide down the list as teams snap up those players who are in more rare supply.

However, Marcus Smith is up on that list because he can really cause trouble getting up the field and getting to the QB.  Smith moves around a ton on that Louisville defense, but is almost always standing up as a LB.  From that standpoint, he seems like a better version of Jackson Jeffcoat.  He gets to the QB by spin moves, quickness, and really a relentless motor.

Here are his explosive plays:


The oddest thing about trying to evaluate his worth is how many of his plays were made by the scheme and the confusion of the Louisville front and how he had so many free-runs to the QB.  You would think when a player has his reputation and his Defensive Player of the Year awards, teams would make sure they block him, but I guess it is a real credit to Charlie Strong that they could open up chances for him.  And then to Smith's credit, he made the most of those plays.

He isn't destroying blockers and dominating tackles, but rather he is a very active body who is staying after plays and then opportunistic in cashing in his chances.  It just seems that his sacks are inside beating guards and outside against RBs and TEs.  I just didn't see him taking on tackles and defeating them as much as others like Lawrence from Boise State.

He is not overly powerful, but he spins plenty and loses guys with his elusiveness.  He also appears to be a very smart player who was given plenty of chances to diagnose things and adjust accordingly in pre snap, but this is something that Louisville seems to teach well as many of their prospects seem like coaches on the field.

He is a useful player, I just don't know that he is dominant enough to push himself up into the Top 50.

Demarcus Lawrence - Boise State - 6'3 - 244 - 4.80

Lawrence is a name that you are hearing more and more as the draft season develops, with people even making the case that he might belong in the 1st round.  But, there are many things for us to consider as we break him down.

First, he ran a speed at the combine in his quickness and agility drills that is problematic for his position and size.  4.80 with 1.68 splits is not what we are looking for from a guy who is another ideal edge rusher in the 3-4 as a standup guy.

The good news is that he plays faster than his time is on the watch.  If you pop in one of his games from last fall, you will see a very explosive edge rusher who has LB quickness and is able to cause plenty of problems from a rushing standpoint, and different than Marcus Smith, he is taking on and defeating tackles routinely.

Lawrence has a smaller body of work, as he was a community college guy before he got to Boise and was also a guy who was suspended 3 times for different violations of team rules in just 2 seasons which is really quite a pace.

But, when you look at him closely, you see a Marinelli motor and a guy who has some real skills off the corner that cause you to see what the Cowboys clearly see in him.  The question is how far up the charts will he go.


31 plays behind the line of scrimmage in 2013 and another 4 fumbles forced tell you that he is exciting, but man, what do you do with him on 1st and 2nd down when teams wish to run the ball right at you?  He doesn't love run defense, but perhaps in this day where the Redskins and Eagles are certainly not running a traditional FB, I-formation offense anymore, the Cowboys are content going undersized at the edges and replace it with quickness and a number of "rush men".

If they have decided that guys who look like 3-4 outside linebackers are what they want to run at weak side defensive end to carry the torch in the post-DeMarcus Ware era, then guys like this make more sense.  He seems really undersized, but really interesting to go get sacks.  This type of guy is interesting to me at #47, but it is highly likely he is gone before that.

Kareem Martin - North Carolina - 6'6 - 272 - 4.72

If, instead of the undersized 245 lb Defensive End who might be a bit light and vulnerable to runs to the edge, you prefer the prototypical defensive end who has arms like vines and a build/frame that will resemble all of the 4-3 DEs through the years, then you are looking at Missouri's Kony Ealy and Kareem Martin from North Carolina is similar.

This is the issue when looking to build a defense.  Do you want ideal size?  Well, then you are going to get a player like Martin who is capable, but does not possess lightning quickness off the edge that makes your jaw drop.  He has tighter hips, moves more deliberately, and while athletic, is not as quick as you might hope.   Or, you take a player who is 245 and get the quickness but lose the size.  If you combine the two, you get Julius Peppers in his prime, but that of course is a rarity.

Martin, can do many things, as his numbers below will reflect, but with North Carolina, it always looks like it is a group siege with so many dominate rushers on the defensive line causing the straight push on an offensive line where 1-on-1's happen up and down the line.  The levy breaks, and the QB falls from several players meeting back there.  But, Martin is about to leave that climate and if the question is whether he is the anchor of a NFL line and can be expected to get double-digit sacks, I would counter with saying he reminds me more of Ebenezer Ekuban.  And by the way, there is nothing wrong with that as a guy who played a decade and started most of it, but you better not over-spend on that sort of guy when George Selvie might already fill that role.


I see why he would be a candidate and I admire his effort level and his accountability on plays that are not run right at him.  He is a busy player and an active guy who is not quite Ealy from a tools standpoint, but still a reasonable prototypical defensive end.  I just think at the point of the draft where he should go, I expect the Cowboys will be looking for a pass rusher with rockets around the edge and he might not be their flavor of ice cream when it comes to that.

Dominique Easley - Florida - 6'2 - 288 - Did Not Run

Last, but certainly not least, is this very interesting defensive tackle from Florida (ironically, the same school and position as Sharrif Floyd).

Now, when we talk about non-starters for people, we better get this out of the way right here:  He has blown out both knees in the last few years and both times it was in non-contact situations.  The latest blown knee was in late September of this season and kept him out of the combine and basically everything until the last few weeks.

But, if you watch him on tape, you will generally be blown away at plenty about his ability which makes him one of the really complicated guys in this draft - especially if you are the Cowboys and have some allergies when it comes to taking a player high in the draft that has injury red flags.

What if those red flags make him available to you at #47?  Would you then consider a guy who seems on tape to be way better than the 47th best player in this draft?  Would you trust your medicals and take a shot, knowing that some will be angry that you are not learning from Sean Lee and Bruce Carter that injured players are tough to keep on the field?

His numbers above show that you are taking a risk by investing too much, but let me talk about the tape that has me wondering if he was healthy if he would be available at #16 in a normal draft season.  

He is a true 3-technique who can do many of the things that Aaron Donald can, and also can comfortably play at the 1-technique as well.  He is a leverage expert and plays with high emotions and high energy.  He penetrates and plays in the backfield and has real quickness.  At times, he looks like he might be too emotional and seems a bit insane, but when he is forklifting guards backwards, you will appreciate how he feels.  

Now, I want to be clear, he isn't Aaron Donald for me, and he isn't going to destroy run plays as you might wish for a true Warren Sapp type.  But, he is a bear to deal with on any one on one situation that we make sure 3-techniques feed on.  He is too quick to block and too high with RPMs to stay fresh against.  He also gets unreal jumps off at the snap that get you real excited.  

He also has technique issues that need work and I am very concerned to hear he has never watched any NFL football and considers himself a cartoon expert.  It may not matter, but I do wonder how much of a student of the game a guy can be if he doesn't love to watch football.

But, the tape tells a story, and that is he has exceptional talent and is a real temptation for me in Round 2.  

He also has blown out both of his knees and was unable to stay on the field at Florida.  So, if we hear that the Cowboys did not put him on their board, it would be understandable.  


OK.  I think that is all of the DL types I will profile, so now let's see how all the defensive line players I have examined stack up - the idea here is that I have ranked them with the Cowboys perspective in mind.  I would be fine stacking them like this and taking the highest available name.

After #4 and #15 I drew lines in the groupings to show round distinctions for the Cowboys top 3 picks.

Rank #PlayerNotes
#1Jadeveon Clowney, DE, S Carolina
#2Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
#3Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
#4Anthony Barr, LB, UCLATremendous upside, disconcerting scheme fit
-----Above this line are Pick #16 worthyFor players below, try to trade down
#5Kony Ealy, DE, MissouriThis would be a fallback pick at #16. Too high.
#6Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
#7Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida St                 
#8Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
#9Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise St
#10Stephen Tuitt, DE, Notre DameWould try at 3-technique
#11Will Sutton, DT, Arizona StateComparable with Easley, with good health
#12Rashede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
#13Dee Ford, DE, AuburnJust don't love positional/scheme fit
#14Dominque Easley, DT, Florida 2 Knee injuries, too good to pass on at #47
#15Jeremiah Attaochu, DE, Georgia Tech
-----Above this line are Pick #47 worthy-------------------------------------------------
#16Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas
#17Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
#18Trent Murphy, DE, StanfordCould be made into a 4-3 DE? Very Productive
#19Marcus Smith, DE, LouisvilleGreat energy for pass rush
#20Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, TexasNot positive of positional fit on 1D/2D
#21DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State
#22Carl Bradford, DE, Arizona StateBetter at LB
-----Above this line are Pick #78 worthy-------------------------------------------------

Past Draft Profiles:

Weekly Notebook - Cornerbacks - Episode 13 - Justin Gilbert, Kyle Fuller, Jason Verrett, Darqueze Dennard, Bradley Roby, Marcus Roberson, Stanley Jean-Baptiste

Weekly Notebook - Wide Receivers - Episode 12 - Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham, Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Brandin Cooks, Jordan Matthews, Kelvin Benjamin, Davante Adams

Big Board #1 - April 3, 2014

Weekly Notebook - Quarterbacks - Episode 10 - Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, David Fales, Zach Mettenberger, Jimmy Garoppolo

Weekly Notebook - Offensive Guards - Episode 9 - David Yankey, Xavier Sua Filo, Gabe Jackson, Cyril Richardson, Brandon Thomas, Dakota Dozier

Weekly Notebook - Offensive Tackles - Episode 8 - Jake Matthews, Greg Robinson, Taylor Lewan, Zack Martin, Cyrus Kouandijo, Antonio Richardson, Jack Mewhort, Morgan Moses, Billy Turner

Weekly Notebook - Linebackers - Episode 7 - Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr, Ryan Shazier, Kyle Van Noy, CJ Mosley, Telvin Smith, Jeremiah Attaochu, Carl Bradford 

No comments: