I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can. To read more about the 2016 NFL Draft Project, Click Here.
Draft season is certainly about finding physical freaks who are a cut above the field in a way that suggests he might be a special player. In looking for these players, sometimes we don't have to look very far.
Consider the case of Waco's Andrew Billings. He is a guy who needs no introduction to the college football enthusiast who follows the Big 12. Billings is a very large man who has weight lifting records. He is as strong a player as you will encounter and that means as a defensive tackle he is not being moved out of the middle. This means that you are going to have a very difficult time running between the tackles on him. I read about his high school records in the Charleston Gazette:
But, then, with this strength and ability to stand his ground against double teams, what if that same player has impressive quickness and maybe even something that borders on speed? There is a play in his 2014 season (below) against the Kansas Jayhawks when he dropped into pass coverage and was caught on a screen pass to the RB to his left. Any DT in football would then be lost in the dust of this RB as he heads up field. This certainly happened initially, but Billings - who weighs at the very least 310 - tracked down the RB to demonstrate his full arsenal of freakish physical tools.
He plays the nose tackle position either straight over the center (0 technique) or right off his shoulder and in the A-Gap (1 technique). This means that it is uncommon to see top picks given to this position because teams often do not value this particular position this high in the draft. There have been some success stories at the top of the 1st round (Vince Wilfork went pick #21 to New England, Haloti Ngata to Baltimore at pick #12, Dontari Poe to Kansas City at #11), but for the most part, teams will take 3-techniques at this spot, but not the bigger anchor at the nose. Why? Because you can often fill that position well enough with a less costly asset. In other words, if we are going to spend this much on a player who is always going to be double teamed, he better be amazing.
What I liked:He can really put some great film out there for you to marvel at his prowess. He is simply so gifted that you can see the dread of the opposing interior linemen that must deal with him all afternoon. Teams quickly adjust their game plan to the flanks to avoid him and his top Greco-Roman wrestling style where his upper body strength is going to beat anyone in front of him. He is quick in tight spaces and able to shed a blocker or simply jump through a gap and destroy a play before it gets started. Often, a player of his size simply opens a hole for a linebacker to feast on, but Billings often opens the hole and then makes the play himself. He is a true bull in a china shop and has a fork-lift maneuver where he can rag doll a lineman out of the way. He plays in all situations, which is a concern moving forward where this type of player usually does not play on 3rd downs or 2-minute drills. Perhaps, Billings could stay on the field. At his best, he is amongst the most dominant defenders in the country.
What I did not like:There isn't much not to like, other than the fact that football does allow an offense to game-plan to avoid destroyers at DT to a certain extent. There are a few positions on the field that can sometimes be avoided if need be, and the man lined up right over center can apply from time to time. In fairness, he does have stretches where you don't notice him and it is hard for a player that actually gets triple teamed by a guard-center-guard combo to make substantial plays on a regular basis. Further, as the season goes on, you did see him slow down some as surely the constant chop blocks caused some aches and pains on the lower body. This will not cease in the NFL.
Summary and Potential Fit For the Cowboys: In 2014, so many of us started watch Shawn Oakman for the draft (he changed his mind and stayed in school) and were drawn to the DT inside who turned out to be Billings. This is a Grade A prospect who looks like he belongs in the 1stround. Further, the Cowboys have not had anything more than a grunt as their 1-technique since moving to the 4-3 defense. A player like Billings would be fantastic.
However, we also know that the Cowboys and Rod Marinelli do not believe this is a position to invest in heavily based on the Shariff Floyd story of in the 2013 draft. That position may have adjusted since then, but the Cowboys have a list of players they do not value in the 1st round and this position has usually been on that list.