Draft 2012: Are the Juniors Really Better Then the Seniors?

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In part one of this week’s chat with the National Football Post’s Wes Bunting, he looks at the underclassmen who have just declared, and whether one of them would be a better fit for Dallas with its first pick.

Cowboys Nation:  Which juniors have you graded in the last week who look like possible 1st round picks?

Wes Bunting:  I watched Trent Richardson’s coaches tape for the first time today, and he’s as good as everybody has said he is.

The one I watched who could be interesting for you guys is Fletcher Cox, a defensive lineman from Mississippi State.  He’s 6’4”, 295 lbs.  They play him as a 5-technique and a 3-technique.  He’s got a quick burst off the ball. He’s athletic when he’s asked to stunt.  He plays with a poor pad level, however.  He gets upright off the football.  Even when he got a step one-gapping, you could still push him past the football because he played so high.

He did much better as a 5-technique, especially on perimeter runs.  He was okay with the bull rush.  If he learned how to play better if he got his pad level lower.  We’re always talking about these one-gapping guys who could rush the passer, and I think he could do this.  He could be a fit for the Cowboys in that role.  I don’t like him as a 1st round pick.  I think of him more as a 2nd rounder.  I know some people has him as a top-20 guy.  I don’t think he’s that good, but I do think that as a 5-technique, he’s a guy who could start in year two or three.

CN:  Let’s move to the Cowboys 1st round.  They can go in a lot of directions depending on the Giants outcome.  If they lose, they could jump all the way into the 14-16 range, and that might be the best situation for this team going forward.

Say they wind up there, around pick 15-16.  Who could be there for them, given Dallas’ biggest needs of interior offensive line, pass rusher and corner?

WB:  As pass rusher?   [Courtney] Upshaw from Alabama.  I still think Bruce Irvin has a run up the boards in him.  He’s talked about as an early 2nd rounder right now, but I believe he’ll test well at the Senior Bowl and with the lack of top pass rushers, he’ll rise.

Nick Perry from USC is an interesting guy.  He’s just declared.  He’s got a good get off.  He’s a bit linear, though, especially when he has to flatten out.  As a complement to DeMarcus Ware, however, you just need to have a good motor, which he does.  Some dynamic qualities, which he has, and you need the ability to find the quarterback.  He’s also good against the run, so Perry might be in play as well.

None of these guys are in Von Miller’s or Aldon Smith’s class.  When he talked about Smith last year, I thought he would be a 15 sack a year guy.  He’s got 14 as a rookie.  These guys, Upshaw, Perry, they’re more in the Ryan Kerrigan class, 8-9 sack-a-year guys.

[David] DeCastro may be there at 14-15.  I think it’s possible to have a guard in the top 10, but both Pouncey brothers went in the 15-18 range.

CN:  Aside from DeCastro, are there any guards who merit 1st round attention?

WB:  It’s a nice guard class.  Osmele from Iowa State could slide into the late 1st, but I’ve talked to some scouts lately who have some concerns about him.  Not off the field, but as a player, so I’m not sure you can slot him into the 1st.

CN:  Let’s go back to the top pass rushers.  Let’s say Bruce Irvin runs as well as you anticipate, has a strong Senior Bowl week, and starts rising.  If you’re Dallas, and you’re at 15 or 16, who’s the better fit, if you want a dynamic rusher, Irvin or Melvin Ingram?

WB:  Oooh, that’s a good question.  I like dynamic guys off the edge and I know Bruce didn’t have the greatest senior year, but watching that guy get after it off the edge on his junior tape, I think I would take Bruce Irvin.  That’s thinking he comes in at 240-245.  He could come in at 225-230 and I’d have some concerns and drop down down the board.  Now if he weighs in at 240, and is flying in off the edge and causing fits, which I think he can do, I like him.  

This is nothing against Ingram.  I see other sites are starting to move him up.  I think Ingram is one of the most dynamic rushers in the draft.  I like him better than Nick Perry.  I just like the makeup and the demeanor of Irvin a little more.  When I watched his junior tape, he flashed like Von Miller.  And he played a 5-technique at 240 pounds.

CN:  You’re taking on offensive tackles.  And I imagine he’s the guy all West Virginia’s opponents targeted, so he was chipped a lot.

WB:  They also had a new coaching staff there.  These are things that can drop him down a draft board.

CN:  I’ve heard he had some off-field problems when he was very young.  Would that hurt his draft stock?

WB:  I just know he was from a tough family situation, from a tough area and he plays with a real buzz to him, like “I’m going to prove the world wrong, ’cause everyone said I couldn’t.”  I like that about him.

CN:  Can he hold the edge in the NFL if teams put a tight end opposite him and run right at him?

WB:  It’s not going to be his strength.  He would rather run around blocks than try and stack.

CN:  You talk about Upshaw and Perry being in the Kerrigan class. Talk about Irvin and Ingram, since I sense that to you they are the two best edge rushers in this draft.  Can they be double-digit guys in the NFL?

WB:  Yeah.  Irvin could one of the better pass rushers.  Ingram?  I like him as a rush guy.  They’re not the same physical prospects, Irvin and Ingram, but when I watch Ingram,  he’s so sudden in tight areas.  When I watch him change directions and that sudden, violent hand movement, he reminds me a bit of Aldon Smith.  And he plays around.  He stands up.  He plays inside.  He plays end, just like Aldon Smith.

Next:  Wes runs down a guard class which now has seven players in his top 40.

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Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ TheBoys.com in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for SportsTalkLine.com