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.
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA- 6'1, 245 - Junior - #30
Throw a rock in any direction and you will find someone giving you thoughts on which stud prospect the Cowboys should grab at #4 these days. This is the highest the team has picked in 25 years, so draft fever is already uncommonly high with 10 weeks to go. Many of those have had plenty to say to endorse Myles Jack, the very young, incredibly gifted, and extremely versatile run-and-hit linebacker from UCLA.
Jack is quite a talent who took the Pac 12 by storm when he was a 2-way freshman and was "freshman of the year" on both sides of the ball as a running back and linebacker. Just let that soak in. This past September, he suffered a rather significant knee injury (torn meniscus) that shut down his college career after just 3 games this year. But, the recovery has already reached a point where he has said he plans on competing at the upcoming NFL Combine with no limitations.
He is a 3-down linebacker, but he is also so much more. His versatility as a "football player" is simply off the charts. The question that must be asked is whether he plays a position that is worthy of a Top 5 pick or not. Traditionally, if linebackers are going to go this high in the draft, they better be edge rushers. Non-pass rush linebackers seldom go in the Top 10 of the draft because they are not seen as a premium position (QB, LT, Pass rusher, CB) or a game breaker (WR, RB). Rather, the TE, G, C, FS, SS, and non-pass rush LBs are acknowledged as important for sure, but perhaps not the gold bricks at the top. Since 2005, AJ Hawk, Ernie Sims, Keith Rivers, Jerod Mayo, Aaron Curry, Rolando McClain, Luke Kuechly have all gone in the Top 10. Only Kuechly and perhaps Mayo for a few seasons would be considered "special" in the NFL from that list. The others ranged from "solid" to complete flops. If they were all Kuechly, you would run to the podium for Jack, but this isn't how the draft works.
What I liked:He is as explosive as it gets in the middle of the field. He runs with the speed of a defensive back and yet hits like a thunderous linebacker. He covers as well as any linebacker, including long stretches where UCLA would just put him in the slot against a wide receiver and he would seldom give up anything. He takes on blockers with pop and is able to manipulate them despite giving up 50 pounds. He has a mean streak and determination that is very impressive. He can run sideline to sideline and seems to always have a read on where the ball is headed. His athleticism allows him to almost stay flat-footed and watch the QB, then react in time to make the play. It is really uncommon ability. He is so much fun to watch. I don't believe he is a safety (245 is a huge safety), but I don't doubt he could play it pretty well.
What I did not like:His production. This is why this position is a tough sell to someone who believes that you must get a premium position that high in the draft. In 26 college games, he had 15 tackles for loss and 1 sack (as well as 4 interceptions). He doesn't make plays behind the line of scrimmage because that isn't his job. But, in the Top 5 picks in the draft, you better get someone who has the job of making explosive plays - either offensively or defensively (with the possible exception of a shutdown corner or left tackle). As for his technique, there is very little not to like. His knee might make you a bit nervous, but I am already hearing that very few concerns exist at this point. He is very versatile, but does he have a perfect home? Perhaps as your middle linebacker, who can then cover downfield like a slot corner. That is a rare bird.
Summary and Potential Fit For the Cowboys: It is a really interesting discussion because there is no doubt this is one of the finest football players in the draft. I just don't believe you take a non-pass rush linebacker this high 9 times out of 10. Jack is masterful at making tackles and covering guys downfield, but how high can that be valued unless we are confident he is Luke Kuechly's clone? In other words, he has almost no weaknesses in his game, but does he play a position that impacts your end result enough to justify at that spot? Can you take this position in Round 2 (Bobby Wagner, Sean Lee, Lavonte David) or Round 3 (Navarro Bowman) and find gems there?
If I am picking in the Top 5 (where game changers are available at nearly every spot on the field), I must make sure I am getting a premium player at a premium position. Now, if the Cowboys trade-back a bit, it makes all the sense in the world. I think he will be a household name for the next decade. I just don't believe in paying premium prices for a non-premium position. That said, Myles Jack is one of the more flawless players in this draft and there will come a point where someone with fewer needs to address might snap him up and haunt you with him for years to come.