Part One of this week’s chat with the National Football Post’s draft expert Wes Bunting covers an intriguing fullback prospect who has popped onto the radar late, and a junior center who would jump to the top of his position ratings were he to declare.
Cowboys Nation: I’m looking at a piece you put up today, on Temple’s F-back, H-back, you call him a “new-age fullback” Evan Rodriguez. You talk up his versatility and I’m thinking this is exactly how Dallas uses its fullbacks, or wants to use its fullbacks.
When they get a guy who meets their profile, they use him in the backfield, in an I or an off-set I as the F-back. They’ll put him on the wing when they go double tight end, and they’ll flex him out into space. They want a guy who can block and catch, and they can either get one quality with their recent fullbacks, but not the other. This guy can apparently do all of those things. Tell us about him.
Wes Bunting: He reminded me at first of USC’s Stanley Havili, who came out last year. Havili was more of a finesse fullback; he was more of a running back than anything. This guy can catch the ball like Havili. He’s a bigger stronger kid, a similar athlete and he’ll get down and dirty.
This is the first time I’ve gotten a good look at Evan Rodriguez. I don’t know if I want to start with Temple tape or fullback tape today but he’s one guy I could start with ’cause he’s on both. He’s really good. They line him up at H-back and he’ll pull on running plays inside. He’s a former strong safety and quarterback in high school and a basketball player who could dunk.
He was 6’2”, 220 and now he’s up to 250 and he’s a really good athlete. He can run. He’s coordinated. He can play low. He’s got a snap when he plays as a tight end as an in-line Y. He can reach out to the second level and pull. They don’t ask him to be a traditional guy but I see enough qualities to his game that I certainly think he can develop into an inside F-back as well. He’s very good in that area.
Plus he can really catch the football. He can make plays down the field. He’s a unique athlete for the position and he’s got a physical nastiness to his game as well.
CN: Where do you project him?
WB: I’m thinking 5th to late rounds.
CN: Sounds like this guy could be a folk hero if he pans out, wherever he winds up.
WB: I’d go to bat for this guy. He really jumped out at me. He’s not a traditional guy. When they use a lead guy they use another player, but you see enough situations where he’s pulling where he acts as a lead guy. And he’s got the perfect fullback build.
He’s going to run well at the Combine. They have him at 4.67 and he looks a little faster to me, maybe low 4.6s. And he can go pluck the football. He’s a basketball guy. He’s my top-rated fullback now.
CN: I’m looking at your big board, which you’re updated and I’m impressed by how the guards have moved up. The Osemele’s, the Kevin Zeitlers, the Cordy Glenns, the Lucas Nixes. These guys are all in your top 20 now. Let me do the annual disclaimer. When you put this list together, this is your projection of how you think they will play as pros. This is not your prediction of where they will be drafted, correct?
WB: That is correct.
CN: You still have Osemele as the of the bunch. Are you still holding to these guys as 2nd-to-3rd round prospects?
WB: I would say Osmele and Cordy Glenn both could go late-1st to early-2nd. I wouldn’t be surprised if a team like the Steelers of the Packers, who like those big wide-bodied players, grabbed one. They fit what these teams like to do. Depending on where they pick, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cowboys took a look at them. They’re athletic wide-bodied guys who can play with power but also pull and get out to the second level.
Depending on how well they run and test. I’d say mid-to-late 2nd on Zeitler and Nix, with Mix maybe in the early 3rd. This is a good year for guards.
CN: What this team really needs is a center. Where will the centers begin to go, in your opinion? In the 3rd?
WB: Because of need, and this is always what happens, they go a bit high. If Peter Konz from Wisconsin comes out I wouldn’t be shocked if he snuck into the late 1st, because he’s a step up from everyone. And then I would say 2nd round Ben Jones (Georgia) would have a chance, Brewster from Ohio State would have a chance. There’s a hole in each of those players’ games and I think they’re really 3rd round value picks, but depending on need and when teams want them, I could see both going in the 2nd.
Then, David Molk from Michigan is more of a 3rd-to-4th round pick, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he went in the 3rd, because of the need for centers.
CN: Some people have brought up Konz and I’ve cautioned that there’s been no news that he’s coming out. Have you heard anything?
WB: I have not. SEC guys are much easier to read, but those Big 10 guys, they’re loyal and they’re not looking for much fan-fare, and it’s hard to get a read on them. If you put a gun to my head, I’d say he’s coming out.
CN: You do think he’ll declare?
WB: As of right now? I think he would come out. My gut tells me he’ll leave, because he has to see how weak the senior class is at center and figure he’s got a chance to go pretty high this year.
CN: Have you seen him play enough to have a book on him? Can you give us a report on Peter Konz?
WB: I’ve seen enough to know he’s better than the other guys. He’s coordinated enough in pass protection. He can anchor. There’s a snap to the game on run downs. When he snaps the ball and steps he can create a push in the run game.
And he’s coordinated enough to pull when they run. That’s what unique about the offensive line at Wisconsin. These big 6’5”, 320 lb. guys can pull and reach the second level and trap block and create inside.
CN: Well, I’ve got to put him up then, because center may be the biggest need on this offense, and if there’s a chance…
WB: Oh, there’s more than a chance. I’d say 60% for him right now that he comes out.
CN: If a Peter Konz comes out and Dallas is in the back half of the 2nd round, they may have to move up a bit to get him.
WB: If you are picking there, I think that’s where he’s likely to fall.
CN: Great, but I don’t know if they would take that risk In ’09, they missed out on Max Unger. They were sitting at pick 50 or 51 and Unger started to fall. He was the last player with a 1st round grade on their board and they thought they were going to get lucky, but the Seahawks moved one spot ahead of them and grabbed him. Dallas didn’t have any ammo to move up because of the Roy Williams deal, and missing on Unger started that spiral. They started moving down and stocking mid-round picks and they’ve got nobody left from that class.
WB: John Phillips is all that’s left, right?
CN: I think you’re right.
WB: Yeah, that was a terrible draft. And they had twelve picks.
CN: And they were all…
WB: Jason Williams
CN: If they like Konz and had a shot at him, I can’t see them replaying that ’09 disappointment.
WB: He would be a perfect fit for the Cowboys.
Next: cornerbacks, quarterbacks and switching players to new positions in the pros.