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.
Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson - 6'5, 277 - RS Junior - #98
There is no question you find interesting stories in each and every draft. Guys who required some good luck along the way to find their way into this spot and did not take the traditional road to where they currently stand. In the case of Dodd, it is possible that he was on nobody's radar six months ago because nobody knew who he was. It took him until well past his 23rd birthday to move from the ranks of the anonymous in college football, but now he sits pretty before he turns 24.
It happens that Dodd played at a program that was stacked. Last year, Clemson filled the 2015 NFL draft with fantastic prospects - including the eighth overall pick, Vic Beasley, who now plays in Atlanta. This means a guy like Dodd watched from the sidelines until '15. Then, playing full-time for the first time since high school, he dominated the country and with his teammate and fellow top prospect Shaq Lawson, finished tops in tackles for loss and sacks. In Dodd's case, he made 35.5 explosive plays behind the line of scrimmage in just 15 games. That type of production puts you right on top of the pile of tapes to examine. He had been an academic "non-qualifier" that required him to go to prep school for a year and then missed a year with injury. But, once he played, he was dominant.
Making his situation even more unique, it is possible that Dodd's best performances of his life were his last two games that happened to be two of the most watched college football games of the season when Clemson played Oklahoma in the national semifinal in Miami and then played Alabama in the Championship Game 10 days later. He destroyed both offensive lines in front of him and made himself a lot of money. But, had Clemson not been in the Final Four, would Dodd have ever showed the world what he was capable of?
What I liked:He is an incredibly athletic defensive end who stands tall and plays with power, but his best attribute is his quickness and agility in close quarters. His second-best attribute would then be his non-stop motor that is a joy to behold. Put those two things together and you have a play-maker that lives in your backfield and ruins a lot of offensive ideas. He is quick off the snap and defends zone plays to his side by jumping inside a gap across the face of his man. It is great when he times it correctly. But, his ability to covert speed to power and to defeat more than one blocker on a pass rush is really what makes this guy interesting. The way he sets up pass rush moves with great hands and technique is very well developed. He also stands up and plays with his hand in the dirt, perhaps making someone think he could be an OLB in a 3-4 as Clemson did have him drop into pass coverage on occasion. At his size - almost 280 - that seems nuts, but he really does have the hips to make you think he can pull it off. Still, he is a 4-3 DE for me, primarily as a LDE which battles right tackles and handles the strong side so we need stoutness against the run which he provides at a reasonable level. But his real spots are penetration and play-making behind the line.
What I did not like: Well, the primary spots of concern will go back to where we started. This guy has almost no body of work before September of 2015. He also will be 24 before his team goes to camp this year. That means that as a 24-year old rookie, the idea that he has a higher ceiling or that he might need some time to develop is both good and bad. As teams project ahead, you realize that any contract extension would thing take you past the 30th birthday which some teams would drop a player in value over someone else (Joey Bosa is 20 years old and will turn 21 in July. What is the value difference on a big board of prospects that have a 36-month age difference?). He also is not a mauler at the point of attack, but game-tape wise, he doesn't have many flaws to speak of.
Summary, and potential fit with the Cowboys: When you watch Kevin Dodd play - especially his final few college games - he looks awesome and well worth first-round grades. He also has that motor that makes him a textbook Rod Marinelli defender. That means a "rushman" who is always set to "high" and burying the RPM needle in the red when the play is going, whether that means right at him or directly away from him. Marinelli is looking for guys who never loaf and I am telling you that if you watch Dodd, he is trying to get to the play no matter what. He is relentless and playing like every play matters. He also is so productive and would fill a Dallas area of need. The issue is that there seems to be little chance he falls out of Round 1 unless the age scares people off a bit. If that happens, the Cowboys would be delighted to line this guy up at strong-side DE for many years. He is quite a player.