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.
Let's continue to work through the defensive line in this draft which is both deep and shallow. Deep in that there are a number of really devastating inside guys who can stop the run and occasionally collapse the pocket with a strong bull rush up the middle. Shallow, in that after a handful of exceptional edge rush guys at the top -- Joey Bosa, Kevin Dodd, Shaq Lawson, and Noah Spence -- the fall to the next group of pass rushers that could either play the defensive left side (more of a run/pass guy) or the right (strictly pass rusher) is rather thin.
So, our next group of players will work to find the types of players that might fit in that next group in the late stages of the first round and into the second round where the local team appears to be more and more likely to be browsing the list of available players to plug and play in the Cowboys defensive front.
Jonathan Bullard has played for four years on the Florida defensive front and his ability to play pretty much all across the line is his calling card, along with production for at least the last two years where he has accumulated nine sacks and 26 tackles for loss in Gainesville in 2014 and 2015 combined.
What I liked: Bullard is a really active body who makes sure he is maximizing his ability with a solid motor. His explosive "get off" is very impressive when he is on his game and he is over the line of scrimmage before the ball in out of the center's hand. This seems like an elementary premise, but you would be surprised how many defensive linemen are not very good at this all-important trait that changes everything about a player. He is probably more of a DT for me than an edge guy as inside he is able to turn guards and get into the backfield to disrupt run plays with real regularity. I think he plays like his name suggests and could be an exceptional run-plugger and possibly even a 5-technique in a 3-4 with a 2-gap system. At either the 1-tech or the 3-tech, he might be stout enough to stand his ground while playing in the backfield a fair amount. He is athletic on the edge and when he is left in space, he has short-area quickness that serves him well as he walks down threats by decent lateral movement. And he also seems to rise to the occasions late in games and still has energy in reserve to deal with tiring opponents.
What I did not like:He just doesn't seem to indicate -- even through four years at the big-time college level -- that he has a whole lot of idea how to rush the passer with moves or technique from the edge. The times I would see him get to the QB happened from the inside at DT or it would be from the outside on "motor" plays and cleaning up chaos with a sack late. They all count, of course, but I am going to need some better flash against college right tackles before I label him a legitimate pass rush prospect in the NFL. He also gets stuck on blocks a bit too often for a man his size. I see a lot of "solid" in his game, but the lack of too much flash from DE puts him in a stack of players that are safe plays but not much potential to demonstrate a real high ceiling on Sundays. You need guys like this, but they also can get overdrafted.
Summary and potential fit with the Cowboys: There is nothing wrong with Jonathan Bullard and there are times (like the Tennessee game from last season) where he takes over games and gets you fired up about his output. But, overall, he is the type of guy every team needs up front who can serve more of a utility role and can play both defensive tackle spots and the strong-side end. The question would be whether you would want to upgrade from him in two years because you covet someone who can actually beat NFL right tackles for sacks eight times a year.
I think he fits in the stack of potential DE's the Cowboys will consider in Round 2, but for me, I would want to hold out until I can find someone with a bit more of an edge presence. There is no doubt there is value in his ability to disrupt and defend run plays so well, but I think for the Cowboys defensive front to really find that next level, they will need a defensive end with more of a natural pass rush ability to his game and I don't think Bullard fits here on that front. Could he actually be one of the better options as a 3-technique DT with his interior quickness? Perhaps, but if we look at him as anything but that, I don't think it works here. He seems to be receiving some first-round chatter, but I don't think the Cowboys scheme is a real fit unless they want to utilize his Swiss Army knife-like position versatility.