Today brings the last part of last week’s chat with the National Football Post’s Wes Bunting. Wes talks about defensive linemen here, offering one name who could fall into Dallas’ orbit and be a replacement for Anthony Spencer, should the team not re-sign him next spring,. Wes also discusses depth positions, which nicely match up with two of Dallas’ bigger offensive needs:
Cowboys Nation: We’re a Cowboys site, and we’re looking at Cowboys needs. For the longest time, until Tyron Smith declared, the focus was on defensive ends, guys like J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan. My guess is had Smith stayed in college Watt would have been the guy.
You’re mentioned Courtney Upshaw a couple of times, going back to the first chats after the ’11 draft. Compare him grade wise and game wise to guys like Watt and Jordan.
Wes Bunting: Upshaw is more of a stand-up guy. He’s not the most explosive, quick-twitch guy, but he plays with power, balance and he’s got enough suddenness to get after you as a rusher. At ‘Bama they play him standing up and with his hand down in passing situations, so you can get creative with him.
I think in a 3-4 front you stand him up on the strong side, and he can set the edge and give you pass rush ability. A lot of teams look at right and left, the right playing over the tight end and the left being the purer pass rusher. I think Upshaw can beat up the tight end, but he’s not a speed blitzer; he’s a natural pass rusher who wants to get into the blocker’s body, who can overwhelm. I think he’s an 8-12 sack a year guy at the next level, which is saying something for a strong-side backer.
CN: You’re saying he’s not going to have trouble taking on right tackles when he rushes the passer?
WB: No. This is stout, 6’2”, 260 lb. linebacker. He looks like a stocky defensive end. Alabama likes to play him standing up and that’s where I think he can be his best.
Cowboys Nation: Based on what you’ve just said, there will be another chance to fill that defensive line need this spring if Dallas wants to do it. Are there guys in the 2nd half of the 1st, early 2nd who could be the hybrid Rob Ryan wants, who can play the 5-technique and also slide inside and be explosive?
Wes Bunting: It’s a pretty nice defensive line class overall. We talked about Keeston Randall from Texas. I haven’t been a big fan of him playing inside, but I would not be surprised if he’s a 4th or 5th round value playing the 5. He’s got some burst off the football. He’s not a natural pass rusher, but he’s 6’4”, 300 lbs. There are some talented guys in this class who you can get later in the draft.
In the 1st, Alameda Ta’amu, from Washington. Brandon Thompson from Clemson is moving up. I think he could go in that 15-25 range. Wherever the Cowboys pick, and depending on when they want to address defensive line, they should find some talent available.
Jared Crick from Nebraska was a highly rated player coming into the year. I think he’s more of an outside player. He plays inside for Nebraska but I think he could play the 5-technique. He just tore a pectoral muscle, so he’s fallen a bit. Medically you don’t know where he’s at. A lot of people had him rated as a top-5 pick. I never thought he was that good, but I do think he’ll be a solid pro. I would not be surprised if he’s there late 1st, or in the 2nd round.
CN: What are the value positions. If this is an “impact position” draft at the top, with quarterbacks, pass rushers, offensive tackles and cornerbacks taking up most of those spots, which positions with depth and top talent will drop overall as a consequence?
WB: I was putting my charts together and I looked at the guard position, and I had 18 draftable guards. Now some are guard/tackle tweeners and I moved them around, but that’s a really high number for the guard class. I think there’s some real depth at the guard position this year.
Now the wide receiver position is really deep. I think I gave 28 draftable grades to seniors alone. That many guys are not going to get drafted. You see 30 to 35 total in an average year, and I have not even started to grade the juniors. That’s a pretty deep class as well. Those are the two positions where I said wow, there’s a lot more depth there than you usually see.
CN: So if you’re sitting there in the 3rd, 4th, 5th rounds and you want a player at these positions, you could have a really solid fit of quality to need?
WB: Without a doubt. There are guys like Jarius Wright from Arkansas, Marvin McNutt of Iowa, Ryan Broyles from Oklahoma, T.Y. Hilton from Florida International. These are all good players who could help you right away, who could all be around in the 3rd round.
Take a look at Bunting’s first mock draft, which does include underclassmen. Later today, I’m going to play the 6-up, 6-down game, moving half a dozen spots up and down from Dallas’ current projected position and see which players could fit the Cowboys plans. There are a lot of good names to consider.