The Cowboys Combine Rush Sleeper?

The Anthony Spencer debate gained momentum today with statements by both Stephen and Jerry Jones hinting that the team values the veteran, but stopping short of firmly committing to franchising him.  The big question centers on draft value at the outside linebacker position.  While Melvin Ingram and Courtney Upshaw top the OLB rankings, neither has convinced draftniks that they have a sure double-digit-sack-per-year upside.

Which brings us back to West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin.  Wes Bunting tipped us weeks ago that Irvin had piqued the interest of many 3-4 teams looking for edge rushers.  Irvin played out of position, as a 5-technique in a 3-3-5 scheme.  Scouts and draftniks looked for Irvin to switch to the linebacker spot at the Senior Bowl, but he was not invited.

This weekend, we and the professionals will get our first look at Irvin when he works out at the Combine.  Here’s a grading guide on him from Wes:

Cowboys Nation: Questions keep coming in about Bruce Irvin.  Since nobody has seen him work out,  I guess the folks at home will get an early a look at him this off-season as you have.

Wes Bunting: They’re going to stand him up and have him work out as a 3-4 outside backer.

CN:  Since he didn’t go to the Senior Bowl, and there’s no tape of this guy as a 3-4 OLB, is there a speed range into which we can slot him?  In other words, if he runs a certain time, can we peg him in one round, and if he runs a faster or slower time, in earlier or later rounds?

WB:  First off, I want to see how big he is.  There’s a big difference if he comes in at 225 pounds and he’s running 4.5 than if he’s 245 and runs 4.5.  If he comes in at 240 or 245 and runs in the high 4.4s or low 4.5s, he’s locked up 2nd round.  If he builds momentum off that, maybe he can sneak into the 1st round.

If he’s 225 and running 4.6, that’s not impressive.  It’s the combination or speed and weight.

Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Senior Analyst Cowboys at Sports Talk Line
Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for
Rafael Vela

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  • Milkshaker

    We’ve heard the story on why Irvin wasn’t at the Senior Bowl.

    Why didn’t he play at any of the 20 other all-star games? He had to know he wasn’t invited to the Senior Bowl well before the Shrine Bowl. Why wasn’t he there?

  • Taylor

    Are there really any sleepers anymore?  Everybody sees all these kids, it’s just a matter of how each team values them and how they develop at the next level.

  • ym

    The team seems to value veterans and high round picks over talent in general.  Just look at RW.  I remember when there were rumors that Ray Lewis and Peppers wanted to come to Dallas.  They may have some emotional attachment to the Cowboys because of when they grew up, but these players born in the 90’s won’t care unless the Cowboys don’t start winning.  If I were a player, I’d rather play for the Giants, Ravens, and even the 49ers over the Cowboys.

    • dacolan

      A survey of active players (taken in 2009 I believe) asked which team they’d most like to play for. They were not allowed to choose their current teams. The Cowboys finished #1.

      • Howboutdem’

        A lot of those responses have to do with knowing Jerry will always overpay.

      • ym

        Again, these players born in the 90s are not going to care or remember the Cowboys’ “glory days.”  The Cowboys have not been able to put together two consecutive good seasons since whenever.  These players are just going to see the Cowboys as a dysfunctional organization unless if Cowboys start winning.  A with a high salary cap floor, even these small market teams can play top dollar for players.

  • Ubersamoyed

    Bunting has him rated as a 6.6, which earns him a label as a true “boom or bust” player.  And, relative to previous drafts, he probably falls within the 3-5th round range rather than representing a true first day pick.  But, the very fact that we’re talking about him in the first few rounds underscores the ridiculous demand for this particular position.  3-4 OLB’s are currently a high demand, low supply position.  Now, as Bunting clarifies, Irvin can significantly impact his draft status by simply standing on a scale and weighing in, which scares the bejesus out of me.  Do you really want to select a player like this with your first three picks?  Granted, he could be a steal if it all pans out.  But, there’s a real good chance that the demand for the position has clouded the objectivity of the talent evaluators.  More importantly, this is precisely the kind of player Dallas might be forced to consider in the 2nd-3rd round if they proactively release Spencer.  Ideally, I’d like to see Dallas take their first “boom or bust” risk in the 4th-5th rounds…if they draft any at all.  Would someone like Irvin, manning a position of high demand/low supply, be available in the 4th round?  I doubt it.  Someone is going to overrate/overpay him just in the hope that he’s a valuable commodity.  Let’s hope it’s not Dallas.  I want boring success in this year’s draft.

    • dacolan

      “Now, as Bunting clarifies, Irvin can significantly impact his draft
      status by simply standing on a scale and weighing in, which scares the
      bejesus out of me.”

      That’s not what I got outta Wes’ comments. It’s the combination of weight AND speed scouts are looking at. Big and slow = not good. Small and fast = not good. But big & fast when taken with his game film and production = good prospect with potential.

      • Jazzbo251

        It is weird to me when we’re talking about the difference between 4.5 and 4.6 40 times. (And I acknowledge the 20 lb difference that Wes is talking about).

        We’re talking about one tenth of one second. Is there evidence that suggests a real in-game correlation between these type of minute differences and production? I am curious.

  • Cowboy KRS

    Tru sleeper CB/FS  Trumaine Tru Johnson from Montana!

  • fivetwos

    I’ve only seen him once, in this year’s OB.

    I’m working off memory, and maybe someone could help me, but I recall him standing up and rushing off the edge in that game.

    Also he wasn’t playing full time and didn’t do much.

    I recall thinking that he didn’t show much in the way of pass rush moves, he simply tries to run around the tackle. If he doesn’t get there that way he’s beat.

    Maybe it’s the dreads and the number, but it sure did look like Larry Fitzgerald put on a Mountaineeer uni and was told to try to outrun the tackle to the QB.

    Does he not appear to be someone who could spell Ware on occasion (don’t we already have that?) rather than someone who could be stout enough to replace Spencer?

    The words “project” and “boom-or-bust” have to be tied to him, which makes me realize as I’m typing, practically puts the star right on his helmet.

    I think Vinny Curry and Nick Perry are way better options, although both are likely way gone at 45 IMO.

    Then again, steering clear altogether of this group of mediocre pass-rushers wouldn’t be bad long-term business.

    Let’s all hope for a nice break at pass rush in UFA.

  • Keith Mullins

    Nick Perry, Andre Branch. That’s who I’m watching most intently this weekend in the event Spencer leaves.

    • Ark

      Andre Branch has my intereat know going to have to watch some you tube of him

  • AustonianAggie

    If weighed 225 and played 5 tech for West Virgina I’d be impressed, little dude playing a large man’s spot

  • cowboyny

    Wes predicted Irvin a few months ago that when teams see him workout, he has an excellent chance of becoming a late 1st rd selection. Kind of like what he said about Tyron, when most sites had him as a early 2nd rd selection, his draft stock flew up the charts after his measurements, individaual workout, since he was unable to particiapate in the combine due to an injury. Could the team land him at 45? Maybe, maybe not.

    The questions that I have with Irvin:

    -Can he become a three down OLB, is he more of a situational speed rusher? Is Irvin a better version of Victor Butler? 

    -Does he project more as a weakside 3-4 OLB than a strong-side one that the Cowboys need to replace Spencer with?

    If the team does indeed bring back Spencer, drafting a player like Bruce Irvin makes alot of sense. You first can push Spencer to perform at a higher level, but you can take him off the field in obvoius passing situations with a legitimate pass rusher. I am on board with Irvin at 45, if Spencer returns, but would perfer a more balanced OLB if Spencer departs.

  • Lee1936

    Amazing the amount of speculation about Irvin, and we still don’t know whether he’s round 1 or 4.  Thank God for the Combine.

    • His weigh will be a big deal.  amazing. 

      • anon

        what does that imply about scouting?

        that they can’t tell by eye a really straightforward, easy thing like how big a player is? 

        • Proxy406

          its not to see litterally how big he is, its more about what he can do athletically at 240 vs 220. Their is nothing special about a 225 player turning in a 4.4-4.5 time, thats expected, but a 240-250 pound athlete carrying that extra mass, strength, and power, at that same speed is completely different. Thats a much larger more explosive prototype.

          Think about all the people crying about Jay ratliff at NT, he’s hovering around 300, usually a little lower, but imagine that quickness and ability on a “prot-type” NT that everyone is clamoring for, the 320-330 sized wide body. Its the same concept.

          20 pounds is means more the ilb’s and ascetics.

          • anon

            Wes literally cannot tell you the most fundamental, basic information by eye. 

            How big is a player. How fast is a player. 

            I’m not knocking Wes specifically. 

            But what does that tell you about the limits of scouting? 

      • Milkshaker

        Why though? He was a DE on a 3-man line.

        He’s already proven he has enough size/strength for OLB, even if he was only 230-235 at WVU. He was playing DE. He was fighting OTs and double teams. And he was still a top tier pass rusher in a major conference.

        What he hasn’t displayed is LB skills. He may have them. Nobody knows. Related, it also means he has received no relevant coaching and has no experience doing LB stuff.

        Even if he “only” runs high 4.5s/low 4.6s…that’s still dang fast. Almost no 3-4 OLBs run that fast.