Rafael Vela of Cowboys Nation asked the National Football Post’s scouting director Wes Bunting to produce a short list of players who fit Cowboys needs, who were likely to be available when Dallas drafts, in rounds 1-3. This was originally a 3-part series, consolidated into one post. Its focus is on players that might be a good fit for the Cowboys, but it’s a great read for anyone who follows the draft. Cowboys Nation and Blogging the bEast have a content partnership. Go here to check out the great work at Cowboys Nation.
Cowboys Nation: Let’s say the Cowboys will pick between 15-25. The window was smaller last week, but this week people are feeling much more bullish on the team. On offense, they’ll be looking for a guard, if they can get one in that range, or a quarterback if one like say, Ryan Tannehill rates in that range.
On defense, they’re probably looking again for a plus defensive end, an outside linebacker who can play the strong side and rush, if Anthony Spencer leaves, and a cornerback.
That’s in the first round. When we go 2nd, I’d add tight end to the offensive mix and safety to defense. When we reach the 3rd, I’d add a slot receiver/kick returner to the list.
Wes Bunting: At quarterback, in the 1st, obviously Tannehill would be one of those guys, maybe Robert Griffin III, if he’s still there.
At guard, I’d say Osmele, from Iowa State and Cordy Glenn, from Georgia. I know a lot of people are divided on Cordy Glenn. I think both are more 2nd round picks.
CN: That’s okay, we’ll just push them to the 2nd.
WB: Okay, at 5-technique, maybe Quinton Coples, depending on how his character questions check out. Definitely Devon Still from Penn State. I think those two definitely fit that range.
At strong-side outside backer, I think Courtney Upshaw from Alabama makes a lot of sense.
At corner, I think you’re looking at Alfonzo Dennard and Janoris Jenkins, depending on how clean Jenkins is.
CN: You didn’t mention David DeCastro. Is he rising out of that 15-20 range? You had him going 16th in your first mock.
WB: Yeah, maybe if you’re picking at 15 and everything falls into place for you, he’s there. I just have a hard time seeing him dropping any farther.
CN: Tell me more about Devon Still. He was not in your first mock. Not in the top 32. But you have him 2nd overall on your senior board. What kept him off that initial list and why is he rising so quickly? He’s on a lot of other boards as well.
WB: I’m a PA guy, so we get all the Penn State games. I saw him live twice last year. He’s a 6’5″, 310 lb. kid with a good get off burst, that played with a high pad level, didn’t seen very motivated and didn’t use his hands well.
I gave him a boom-or-bust grade coming in. I could see why scouts liked him coming into the season, saw the athleticism, but I didn’t think he was that great of a football player.
This year, his motor has been great. He’s playing much lower, extending his arms better. He sheds blockers better. He can two-gap. He’s taken his game to the next level, and one-on-one in the run game, this guy has been unblockable. He’s not a great pass rusher yet, but he can press the pocket, threaten off the football and work through contact.
Right now I have him as one of the best seniors in the nation. I think he’s been good all year.
CN: Coples was at the top of your list starting out and he’s still high and he’s still very high on others’ lists. What do you see with him, that has him dropping? I’m a bit surprised to hear his name as a possible prospect in the 15 to 20-25 range. He looked like a top 5 pick in August.
WB: You get this with a lot of top-tier seniors, where they bust their humps to get the top grades coming into their senior years, then they want to play it safe. They look like they don’t want to tear their ACLs. Coples is playing a lot more end this year. He played a lot of defensive tackle last year. He just seems like he’s going through the motions some times. He hasn’t been as dominant.
The game still comes easy to him. Even when he’s not going 100 miles an hour, he can still push his offensive tackle, he can still fend off the block. He can still make plays. He just hasn’t been as impressive as last year. Whether he’s trying to avoid an injury, or just saving it up with the NFL, it happens with these guys.
CN: The Cowboys drafted Bruce Carter in the 2nd round this year and he followed a similar trajectory. He tore it up as a junior. He didn’t play as intensely as a senior, and then tore an ACL late in that campaign. Is something similar going on here? Coples doesn’t have an injured knee, obviously, but are there similarities?
WB: See, all these kids are wired differently, and I don’t know what’s going on with Quinton Coples. There are times when he flashes the talent and he looks awesome, and there are other times when you watch him and ask, ”how is this guy a 1st-round draft pick?” But you watch him as a junior and wonder why he’s playing down, because the talent is still there.
CN: And this is how personnel guys earn their money, trying to get to the bottom of questions like this.
WB: That’s exactly it.
(Rounds 2 and 3 after the jump)…
Cowboys Nation: Let’s move to the 2nd round. You’ve already given us two guards, in Georgia’s Cordy Glenn and Iowa State’s Kelichi Osemele. You’ve said you’re not Glenn’s biggest fan, but he does have a lot of draftnik fans. Give us a rundown on his game.
Wes Bunting: He’s 6’5”. He’s 350. He’s really coordinated. He’s a plus pass protector. He’s a real strong kid. He’s just not a natural knee bender. He’s not the most aware guy. He’ll get a bit lazy at times off the snap.
I was talking to a scout the other day who compared Glenn to a guard version of the Chargers Marcus McNeill, where it doesn’t always look pretty, because he’s bending at the waist, but he’s so big and strong that he just finds a way to get the job done.
When I watch him I always want more from him, but it’s always impressive enough because he’s so gifted and gets by at the college level. I have some reservations about him in the NFL. 2nd round, I definitely would take him. I’ve talked to some people who would not take him in the 2nd round, but would take him later. I’ve talked to some people who like him in the 1st round. I can admire the talent that he has but at the same time I don’t think he plays up to it all the time.
CN: Your report reminded me a lot of Marcus Cannon, whom we discussed at length last year. He had the lymphoma that dropped him from the 2nd or so to the 5th round. I read earlier today that the Patriots are activating him this week, which is a great story. How does Cordy Glenn compare to Marcus Cannon, whom a lot of people projected as a Cowboys lineman last spring?
WB: They’re pretty similar. Cannon didn’t bend overly well either, but he’s so big and he was such a gifted athlete for his size that he could get away with a lot. They’re really similar players in the size, power departments, and they both struggle to bend consistently and play with leverage. Cannon was rated in the 2nd to 3rd round range and I think Cordy will go in the same area, probably in the 2nd round.
CN: Moving to other positions, are there any 2nd round quarterbacks of interest? Any Andy Dalton types?
WB: It’s more guys like Brandon Foles (Arizona) thought I think he goes in the 3rd round. A guy like Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State) though it will depend on when a team feels comfortable drafting a 28 year old quarterback. I think Chris Wienke went in the 3rd round the year he came out, and I’ve talked to folks, and I agree, who think Weeden is a better prospect than Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, but Weeden is 28 and Jones is 21. That’s what makes it tough with him.
I don’t think any team will spend a 1st rounder on him, but Weeden could be that 2nd round guy, especially if there’s a team with two picks in that round.
CN: Let’s move to tight ends.
WB: We talked last week about Coby Fleener. I think he’s certainly in play in the 2nd round. I talked to a guy this week who thinks that if he runs as well as people think that Fleener could sneak into the late 1st. I think that’s a bit ambitious. I think 2nd round is where he goes and I really like him there. If I needed a tight end I would have no qualms about taking him there.
Michael Egnew from Missouri is another 2nd round guy. He’s more of an off-the-line Y, but these tight end/receiver types like Jermichael Finley are more valued, and I could see teams viewing Egnew as another Finley type.
CN: The Packers drafted Finley in the 4th round. Has he changed thinking about speed receivers that much?
WB: I’d say a couple of years ago, an Egnew would have gone in the 3rd round, maybe the 4th, but NFL teams like these tight ends whom they can split out and Jermichael Finley wants to get paid like a wide receiver when he’s franchised, and that’s pretty much what he is for the Packers. You look at Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez for the Patriots. Hernandez went in the 4th round because he had drug problems, but now he would go a lot higher even if he had problems like that pre-draft, because he’s so talented and people can see what he can do for an offense.
I think Egnew will be one of the first beneficiaries of the production that the Hernandezes and Finleys have.
CN: As I recall, you had Hernandez in your top ten, before all his off-field problems surfaced.
WB: I had him and Gronkowski 1-2, thought I can’t remember my final order. It may have been Gronkowski first and Hernandez second, and then Gresham was third.
CN: Okay, let’s look at defense. Are any 5-technique types in that mid-late 2nd round range?
WB: Melvin Ingram (South Carolina) is an interesting guy. Nobody has a real feel for him, but I love him as a player. I’m not going to say he’s a true 5-technique, but he could fit a 3-4 like yours where the linemen move up and down. He’s 6’4”, 280. He’s a guy that plays inside for them. They’ll play him on the end. He stands up for South Carolina and sometimes they’ll drop him. He’s a bit like Cam Jordan was last year for Cal.
Jared Crick from Nebraska could get some looks here. He might be gone, it depends on how he checks out medically. I wouldn’t use a 2nd round pick on him, but I could see someone like him.
Billy Winn from Boise State would be the other one. He can one gap. He’s big (6’5”, 290) and strong at the point of attack. You could play him as a 5-technique.
CN: Going back to the bigger names, Winn, Coples and Still. Dallas uses its linemen up and down the line, because they play with three linemen, sometimes they’ll use two and have the OLBs Ware and Spencer play stand up 4-3 DEs and sometimes they’ll use one lineman and either slant him on the nose, as a 1-technique or play him over a guard. Rob Ryan isn’t alone in doing this. I’m seeing more of the 3-4 teams float their linemen around.
It seems flexibility is the key word with plus defensive linemen these days. Do these guys all have the broad game to hold the point if they’re trying to stuff an off-tackle run, and can they slide inside and push a pass pocket?
WB: Still does that at Penn State right now. Winn does that some at Boise State. They run a 3-man line at times and Coples played a 3-technique at North Carolina last year. They can do it.
WB: I think the 2nd is where the real depth of this corner class is. Depending on what Jamell Fleming (Oklahoma) runs, I think he could make a rise up draft boards. I think he’s more of a 3rd rounder, but some of these guys have to be chosen in the 2nd round.
I think Coryell Judie from Texas A&M is a good player. I think Chase Minnifield slides into the late 1st.
It will all depend on how they run at the combine. There’s a 2nd-3rd round group with Judie, Fleming and Casey Hayward from Vandy. Once we know their times, we’ll have a better idea of how they’ll go. These are guys who can fit the mold.
CN: Any strong safety types who are that high?
WB: Mark Barron, from Alabama. He’s played better than I gave him credit for coming in. I still have reservations about him playing centerfield, turning and running in the deep half, but clicking and closing on balls, he’s been more instinctive this year.
Tony Dye from UCLA has missed a bunch of games, and I have no idea what’s going to happen with him. My guess is he’ll come back to school for a 5th season. Same with Kenny Tate (Maryland). Mark Barron is that one strong safety type whom teams have targeted.
CN: You haven’t said much about pass rushers in this round.
WB: Maybe Brandon Lindsay, from Virginia. I think he’s more of a 3rd round guy, but some people like him a lot. If he doesn’t go, he’ll be part of a pretty good group of outside linebackers who I see in the 3rd round range.
CN: We didn’t talk about the Alabama/LSU game, but that field had to be littered with top prospects. Since we’re still in the 2nd round I have to ask, did anybody or anybodies stand out for you?
WB: Yeah, Chance Womack is a nice guy to bring up to your Cowboys people. He’s the right guard for Alabama. He is a nasty 6’3”, 320 lb. guy who can bend, create leverage, anchor. He’s got good enough quickness. He’s a nice interior line prospect and I was really impressed with the push he got all night, and really every time I’ve seen him. Plus he’s got the athleticism to pull when they run power.
He’s a really intriguing guy and I think he could be a late 1st, 2nd round rounder if he were to declare.
CN: Do you know if he’s coming out? Is he on the fence?
WB: You never know with those Alabama guys, but if he were to declare I’d be very interested in keeping tabs on him.
Cowboys Nation: Let’s move to the 3rd round. Let’s start on the defensive line.
Wes Bunting: Kendell Reyes from UConn. It’s not a deep defensive line class and in most years, Reyes would have a 3rd day pick, 4th to 5th round, but I think he moves up this year. His play isn’t overly impressive, but he’ll flash and I think he could rise into the 3rd. Christian Topou from USC, could go in the 4th-5th round range. Dominique Hamilton [Missouri] is another 4th to 5th round prospect. J.R. Sweezy from North Carolina State is another one in that range.
CN: It sounds like you have to move really fast if you want a 5-technique this year?
WB: These guys are going to go fast. That’s just how it is.
CN: We didn’t talk about 2nd round outside linebackers. You’ve mentioned Shea McClellin from Boise State in the past. Can he slip into the 2nd?
WB: I see him more as a 3rd round guy. Cam Johnson, from Virginia is more of a 3rd round guy. Brandon Lindsey from Pitt is a 3rd round guy. A lot of people like him more than I do, so he could go in the 2nd, but I see him more as a 3rd.
CN: To repeat, you’re of the opinion that if you don’t get a corner in the 1st that you could find a good one in the 2nd and even the 3rd?
WB: Yeah, I think there are a lot of good players there.
CN: I don’t want to beat it to death, but you’ve said the safety crop isn’t deep, and if guys like Tony Dye won’t come out, that you’re better looking at corners if you need secondary help.
WB: Markelle Martin [Oklahoma State] is the only guy I really like in the 2nd round. After that, you get your Brandon Taylors [LSU] your Trenton Robinsons [Michigan State] Aaron Henrys from Wisconsin. Those are the guys you could see in the 3rd to 5th round, the second tier guys. Their placement will depend on what teams are there and what their needs are.
CN: Let’s flip it to offense now, beginning with tight ends in the 3rd and on. You mentioned the big two seniors, Fleener and Egnew. Are there any juniors who could come out and shake up this list?
WB: Yeah. I think Orson Charles from Georgia and Dwayne Allen from Clemson are the two juniors whom a lot of people like. Again, I think Coby Fleener is better, but these juniors are athletic and I think they would fall into the 2nd round range if they declared.
CN: This is a team that has taken its tight ends in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. It’s offense needs them, and this is just the way they’ve done business. I think they’re going to look for one in that 2nd to 4th round range, because that’s what the Cowboys do.
Okay, guards. You’ve said a few times there’s good depth, even in the 3rd round. Help us slot them.
WB: It’s a nice group. I think Lucas Nix from Pittsburgh will come into play here, depending on his injury. Kevin Zeitler from Wisconsin. If you can get Zeitler in the 3rd, I think he’s a guy who can start from day one. I like him a lot more than the other Badgers guard the Seahawks drafted in the 2nd last year, John Moffit.
Senio Kelemente plays left tackle at Washington and he’ll be a guard at the next level. He’s a little raw, but he’s a strong kid, and a nice small school kid.
CN: Let’s fill it out with receivers here. We can talk big or we can talk small, but they need depth and I want you to emphasize guys with plus return skills who can be found in the 3rd or 4th.
WB: If they want to be excited about, look at Joe Adams from Arkansas. He had a freaky return this week and I think he’s right in that 3rd to 4th round range now. Jarius Wright, the other kid from Arkansas, but he could go a little earlier. T.Y. Hilton from Florida International, we’ve talked about.
Ryan Broyles from Oklahoma just did his ACL. That might benefit a team like the Cowboys because he likely drops into that 4th round range. There’s a really talented bumper crop of receivers and depending on who you talk to, there are 15 different ways of evaluating them. If I had to rank the top three guys from this bunch, I’d put Jarius Wright first, Joe Adams second and T.Y. Hilton third, but I know some people who like Adams best. All three of these guys could help you in the return game and contribute on offense as well.
CN: I received a lot of tweets during the Alabama-LSU game about LSU’s secondary, and I had to caution people that a lot of those guys were underclassmen, and are so young they could not declare next year.
WB: I don’t know one starting lineman on LSU. Because they’re all underclassmen. I couldn’t tell you one starting LSU defensive lineman, from my tape study, because there are no seniors or juniors that I’ve had to check into yet. And they were very good, from what I’ve seen. Those are things I start thinking about, like ”who are these guys?”
And then you start looking at their secondary, Claiborne is awesome, the Honey Badger is awesome. Brandon Taylor, who I think is one of the best safeties in the entire senior class, and draftniks are starting to warm up to him. And he doesn’t get any attention, but he’s that savvy senior, who has balance, gets in and out of his breaks, has good ball skills. And no one talks about him. That’s a very good defense overall.
CN: Are you setting Taylor in the 2nd-3rd round range, if he’s one of the best seniors?
WB: Right now, I’d say 4th to 5th.
CN: But he sounds like a guy who could surprise, because he’s played several years in a pro-style defense against top competition. Like someone who could become a solid starter really early in his career.
WB: I have him listed higher than most right now. He got hurt last year, and he was playing really good football at the time. When I watched his tape, I though he rated as a potential NFL starter, but BLESTO and National gave him a free agent grade this offseason, maybe because he was hurt. He’s made plays and people are starting to notice, and other sites are giving him a late-round grade.
CN: And the Honey Badger [Tyrann Mathieu] is a true sophomore, correct?
WB: No, I don’t think he redshirted. He’s a true sophomore. I was talking to [CBS’s] Bruce Feldman about him and he’s 5’9″, 175. Feldman told me Matheiu is really muscular. He doesn’t look 175. And he’s just a defensive back. You can play him at safety, and some people say he’s like Troy Polamalu out there. He’s got cornerback speed, so he plays well in the slot. He’s an impressive kid, and all the time teams go 3,4, 5 receiver sets, he just plays in the secondary. Wherever you want to play him, you play him. No big deal.
CN: Is he going to get bigger? I have to wonder if he could be an effective safety or every-down NFL player at 175?
WB: I think he can get up to 190-195 by the time he comes out.
CN: If he can get up to that weight and not lose any speed, he can cash a nice bonus check when he comes out.
WB: He’s quick and he’s balanced. He finds the football. He’s impressive. This is a really good football player.