I realize I am going rather heavy on defensive players this season, but that is the fun thing about my exercise each spring; I can tailor my search to what I perceive to be the Cowboys' main focuses. I have deduced that Dallas is search for sacks, cornerbacks, and selected skill position players on offense in the first two days of the draft. And, I have modified my search accordingly. That means that for the 3rd straight week, I am looking for big fellas who can get to Aaron Rodgers in a playoff game and help this team continue down the road.
Now, I want to make one simple point this week that seems obvious, but often gets lost in the shuffle. There is no point in taking a player who you already have (at least in Round 1). So, every time I look at this board, I am trying to ask myself, "Do the Cowboys already have someone who can do this?" And, if they do, is that player in the fold for a while? Because, I do want depth and a rotation, but this Cowboys front is definitely missing some elements -- and I would sure love to find players who fill the void, rather than players who simply provide redundancy. Redundancy is useful. It helps you sustain injuries and fatigue. But, it doesn't help you get to the QB on that one play in that one playoff situation. And that is the guy I am looking for. Of course, picking at #28 complicates the matter, too.
So every week we grab five more prospects and really give them the eyeball -- 200 snaps -- and try to look at what they do and don't do well, with a projection as to how they would fit A) in the NFL, and B) in the Cowboys' defense. Some, obviously, look like terrific pros, but not a scheme fit.
So, now, let's move on to Week 3: Here we have: Alabama's Jonathan Allen, Alabama's Ryan Anderson, Michigan State's Malik McDowell, Temple's Haason Reddick, and Ohio's Tarell Basham. All of these players seem quite qualified to rank in the Top 50 (or so) prospects in this draft.
Allen has been considered one of the top names in this draft for quite a while and is perhaps the top defensive tackle in the entire group (Stanford's Solomon Thomas has something to say about that, too). Allen is a freakish athlete and can provide fabulous results against the run or pass.
POSITIVES: Allen is a very impressive athlete for a man his size which qualifies him for the rare title of being a "dancing bear" in the middle. These players possess size, but also the ability with their quickness and balance to seem unblockable for large parts of the game. He fights to beat double teams and can live in the backfield. He has great wrestler leverage which is important for defensive tackles. Perhaps one of his best traits is he appears highly intelligent in realizing what play is coming and knows what to do next to bring it to a stop. He certainly can play many spots, but I see him as a fantastic force inside. He is productive and he lives in the backfield where run plays go to tide. He seems a lot like Geno Atkins to me. You can't zone block him very well. Really has great hands and uses them to control the blocker in front of him easily. He is a destroyer at DT.
CONCERNS: Very few concerns to be honest. He seems like he can do whatever you ask him to do. Perhaps the closest thing to a concern is that he has already played a lot of football with 56 college games under his belt at a position where that means something. Otherwise, this is a true talent.
--- Has every quality you look for in a Top 5-10 selection.
Anderson is another key piece in this Alabama defense that will soon populate the NFL. There is a reason offenses felt hopeless trying to account for each of these studs.
POSITIVES: He can do a lot of things and Alabama asked him to prove that. Sometimes, he is a DE and is rushing the passer. Other times, he is clearly a stand-up OLB in a 3-4 and is dropping in coverage mostly into zones. In man, he seems a bit uncertain about his ability to stay with and thus can get too hand-on. He can really shed and tackle against the run. He is not afraid to go inside. He can dip around the edge, but I would be careful about expectations as a pure pass rusher.
CONCERNS: It is really difficult to analyze Alabama players who are a bit lower in the pecking order. When you feel like they are surrounded by 1st round picks, you have to be careful not to evaluate based on proximity. At Alabama, players get favorable matchups and sometime are left unaccounted for because of the scheme where Nick Saban will design a blitz and get a free rusher. We cannot assume a player like Anderson would shine as the top threat, and from what I have seen, there is some of that to consider with him. He is a very nice player, but I find him a bit of a tweener who causes me some real uncertainty when trying to picture him as a key component on a Sunday. I think I like him, but I don't love him. He isn't quite strong enough to win at the edge all day, but when he does, it is great. I have issues with his positional fit and quality projections.
--- Very serviceable Piece. Just have to Value correctly.
Basham is a real solid mid-major prospect that looks right at home when Ohio would step up in competition and seems to have all of the qualities to make it at the next level.
POSITIVES: Basham is a very impressive edge player who can turn the corner in a convincing manner with both speed and power. He is incredibly explosive and battles with real conviction. In one of his biggest tests of the season - at Tennessee - he put on a real show of terrorizing the entire Volunteer front. Just a defensive menace who can do many things. He sets the edge and prevents anyone from running outside zones to his side by walking his guy into traffic. He has a wonderful motor. He rallies to the ball. I love his combination of twitch and raw and functional power. I like him much more than most in this group.
CONCERNS: We need to see his weight at the combine because he ranges between 249 and 275. He looks like he has good size, but that is an awful big discrepancy. He has some technique rawness that seems plenty able to be developed, but does need to go through that process. He may be best as a 3-4 OLB and frankly, because of his abilities, he might be wasted as just a DE in a 4-3. The production does not completely match the tape. If he has been this good, we should likely have more than 41 explosives in 26 games at this MAC level.
--- I think he belongs with the group in the Top 2 Rounds. It is a bit of a projection and we want to see his testing results, but I am very bullish on Basham.
This very large inside player has unique traits that make him a rare prospect on the inside, but also comes with a number of interesting questions.
POSITIVES: McDowell is an athletic cut big man that makes you think of all of those special attributes of Calais Campbell and more recently, the big prospects from Oregon, Arik Amstead and Deforest Buckner. That means, initially, that he is a 5-technique in a 3-4, where he would take up double teams and drop anchor on plays to his side, with the athleticism to close plays down that go the other way. He is long and lean, but has freakishly long arms and on his day can really dominate inside against lesser athletes. He seems pretty smart at sniffing out plays meant to deceive the defense and is just a massive handful to contain. He has all sorts of ability and looks like a real high-end talent if everything falls right. He is very young and after watching his tape, I feel quite strongly about his ceiling.
CONCERNS: His production never approached his promise at Michigan State. He even got a tag of being lazy (which I dispute from my 200 snaps) and was hurt periodically. He will always have a leverage disadvantage in the trenches, but he battles and sneaks in creases very well. He seems to be cut like a Defensive End, but Michigan State liked him against guards inside. He had 7.5 college sacks in 37 games. That says quite a bit.
--- 1st Round talent, but it might take a few years to figure it all out.
Reddick is a fast-riser in this draft season as a jack of all trades defensive player that is simply a "baller" in scout's jargon. Not sure his best fit, just know he will be seen.
POSITIVES: He is a joker on the field in that it appears he is a safety playing up, but has the tenacity to bring the wood like a Linebacker and even rushes the passer at times like a DE. He is very small, but has electricity to his game where you try to find guys who get to the ball. He is very active and runs so well. He makes blockers miss and sheds traffic to make the stop. He may be undersized, but it seldom prevents him from getting in your backfield and getting the man down. Honestly, the way the NFL is going, where safeties play linebacker and linebackers play up, he seems to be this year's best example of that. At times, he appears to be literally everywhere.
CONCERNS: Clearly, the key will be to get a good fit with a defensive coach that will be willing to use him in a spot where it might not follow "the book". He is small. very small. And yet, at Temple, he would take over games and had an amazing ability to cause trouble all over. Finding the best fit and not asking him to do too much in coverage are both issues, but his upside and overall body of work tells you to let him play and enjoy the results.
--- Seemingly a 1st Round talent who fits in Today's NFL Quite Well.
On Monday, now that 15 defensive front prospects have been eyed, I will try to rank them against each other to get a good view on where we currently stand. And then, we will move over to defensive backs for a few weeks.