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Cowboys Draft Blog #2: Defensive Tackle

April 7, 2013

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With the draft fast approaching I thought I’d break down a few key positions for the Cowboys and discuss in detail some of the options Dallas will have to address these need areas. First up is defensive tackle as it’s a possibility both with the Cowboys early round selections (#18 in the 1st round and #47 in the 2nd round) and with their later round selections due to the team needing both a starter and additional depth from this draft.

Players possibly available for the Cowboys at pick #18

Shariff Floyd

Positives: A thick, strong DT who is more athletic than most players his size but also a dominant run stopper. Most players either are pass rushers or run stoppers but Floyd is the rare type that will be a factor in both aspects of the game.

Negatives: There are few negatives in regards to Floyd but the two issues I have with him are productivity and passion for the game. In 3 seasons he never had more than 3 sacks in a season and he never watched an NFL game until 5 years ago. He openly admits to not being a huge football fan and that’s a red flag for any GM ready to spend a Top 5 pick on him.

Fit for the Cowboys: He’d be a perfect fit as he’s widely regarded as the #1 DT in this draft but as such it would be shocking if he was still available at #18.

Sheldon Richardson

Positives: The quickest, most athletic DT in this draft who has a clearly superior burst on film to the more highly regarded Floyd and likely will be a slightly better pass rusher as a pro.

Negatives: While Floyd is a good pass rusher and an equally good run stopper, Richardson is a great pass rusher but a player that is weak at the point of attack and will often be run at. Many teams think a DT’s #1 job is stopping the run and holding up at the point of attack so those teams will not be as interested in him due to this obvious weakness of his.

Fit for the Cowboys: With the Cowboys moving to the Monte Kiffin coached Tampa 2 defensive scheme I think Richardson would be a great fit. The scheme requires an explosive “under tackle” that shoots gaps and causes disruption in the middle of an offensive line. Richardson would be great in this role as it wouldn’t require him to be an anchor and occupy OL (a weakness) but would keep him on the move and allow him to be on the attack at all times (a strength). Also I have Richardson as my #2 DT unlike most who have Star Lotulelei higher than him so there is a distinct possibility that he will be available when the Cowboys get on the clock at #18.

Star Lotulelei

Positives: A thick, strong player that reminds me in some ways of Ndamakong Suh. Star has been considered a 1st round caliber player for 2 straight years now and has good film.

Negatives: Star has good film but hardly great film and too often he was invisible. Also Star lacks the elite athleticism of the first 2 and as such he’s well below Floyd and Richardson in my rankings.

Fit for the Cowboys: While I have a late 1st round grade on Star most have a Top 10-Top 20 grade so he’d still be “good value” in most evaluators eyes. He’s a distinct possibility at #18 though I wouldn’t be too excited as he’s more of a run stopper and power player while the Tampa 2 scheme prefers a smaller, quicker player like the first two I evaluated.

Players possibly available for the Cowboys at pick #47

Datone Jones

Positives: An ultra quick player for his size, Datone is very difficult to handle for interior linemen and looks perfectly suited to be an interior pass rusher.

Negatives: A tweener who is undersized as a DT and not quite quick enough to be a full time DE. At 6’4 285 some will say he can play both and some will say he can play neither well.

Fit for the Cowboys: Most have him as a 2nd rounder but I have him actually as a late 1st rounder and ahead of much more highly rated Star Lotulelei. A team that takes him will have to have a plan in how to use him but if used correctly he’ll be a beast as he’s quick, strong, and already uses his hands like a veteran due to the mixed martial arts training he’s been doing the past few seasons. He’s one of the more underrated DTs in this draft and would be a steal for the Cowboys at #47.

Kawann Short

Postives: A big, strong player that has been a force for 4 straight seasons in the Big 10 and recently has shown he’s a better pass rusher than previously given credit for.

Negatives: Until recently the thought on Short was that he was a 2 down run stopper and a team taking him earlier than the 3rd round will be betting that he’s more than that.

Fit for the Cowboys: Some have a 1st round grade on him but I have a 2nd as I’m not convinced he’s a 3 down player. At worst he’ll be a solid starting DT but he doesn’t fit the Tampa 2 style that well and I’d prefer them go in another direction. Short in my eyes profiles to be a good but not great DT and not the playmaker the scheme requires.

Jordan Hill

Positives: One of the more productive DTs in this draft and one that has varying draft grades. The believers in him think he’s only slightly inferior to Sheldon Richardson and a similar style as he struggles when a team runs at him but if allowed to penetrate and trail a play he’s a difference maker.

Negatives: Just like Richardson he doesn’t fit every scheme and unlike Richardson he isn’t an elite athlete. More agile than explosive his best attribute is his ability to trail a play and make tackles sideline to sideline. He’s not as good at getting sacks or TFL which are the stats that are the most valuable.

Fit for the Cowboys: At #47 he’d make sense value wise and fit wise as I think he would work well in a Tampa 2 scheme which is predicated on quickness and penetration. The opinions on him vary widely though and I’d be intrigued to find out what the Cowboys think of him as some have a late 1st on him and some have nothing higher than a 3rd. I’m in the middle with a 2nd round grade as to me he profiles as a good but not great DT that has a unique skill set which fits well in a Tampa 2 scheme.

Sylvester Williams

Positives: A player that when his motor is on is one of the more talented and productive players in the country. At 6’3 313 a player his size and strength shouldn’t be as quick as he is.

Negatives: The problem with him is he has a poor motor and rarely plays up to his immense potential. Some analysts still have a 1st round grade on him (I once did until his inconsistent play changed my mind) but I have an early 3rd round grade as he looks like a player that will drive his coaches crazy as he will disappear too often.

Fit for the Cowboys: Many have him as a fit at #47 but I’d be disappointed as a mid 2nd round pick is too high for a player that you can’t count on regularly. He’s a boom/bust type pick though as with 1st round talent someone will roll the dice and hope they can get him to work harder. It rarely works out in my opinion so to me he’s not a good fit at #47.

Other intriguing players later in the draft

Brandon Williams-A small school player from Missouri Southern who is a beast at 6’1 335 lbs. He has great quickness for his size but even then doesn’t fit perfectly into the one gap scheme employed in the Tampa 2. That being said I think he’s one of the steals of this draft and a likely 2nd rounder if he was coming out of a USC or Alabama instead of a no name school like Missouri Southern. I have a late 3rd round grade and would love to see him snatched up in the mid rounds.

Joe Vellano-An undersized player from Maryland who was the most productive DT in the nation in 2011 but ended his career on a down note due to injuries. He fits the Tampa scheme perfectly as at 285 lbs he won’t be able to hold up against the run but has great quickness and would be a devastating one gap penetrator. Some analysts don’t think he’s worth even a late round draft pick due to his poor measurables but with +200 tackles and 12 sacks the past 3 seasons he’s been arguably the most productive player in the nation over that time frame and I think he’ll be a steal. I have a late 4th round grade on him and would love to see them take him in the later rounds.

Mike Purcell-Another small school kid, this one from Wyoming, who dominated on tape against Texas early in the season and showed off NFL caliber measurables at the Combine. He’s another late round guy that I’d like to see the Cowboys take a shot with as he’s a relatively unknown commodity due to the level of competition but has a skill set that projects as a starter down the road.

Players I don’t think fit the Tampa 2 scheme

John Jenkins-Last year he played at 370 lbs and even with his massive weight loss I don’t think he fits a one gap scheme.

TJ Barnes-Another huge player at +360 lbs who fits a 3-4 NT profile better than a 4-3 one gap DT.

Johnathan Hankins-First off I think he’s one of the more overrated players in this entire draft (currently has a late 1st by most while I have a late 3rd) but also at 330 lbs and with an inconsistent motor I don’t see him being a good fit for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys have a clear need at DT as there is no obvious starter for 2013 besides Jay Ratliff and there is little depth behind him either. The Cowboys likely will address the position early with either their 1st or 2nd round pick and then again in the mid to late rounds to address the depth. The perfect scenario would be if Sheldon Richardson was available at #18 as to me he’s great value there and a perfect fit for their scheme. If not I’d wait until the 2nd round to address the position as the depth at DT is great in this year’s draft, a rarity that the Cowboys should take advantage of, and then hopefully Dallas could add a player like Williams, Vellano, or Purcell who all intrigue me as mid to late round candidates. I also posted my entire DT prospects rankings in case anyone wanted more detailed information on any candidate. My next Cowboys blog will break down the OGs.

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