Wes Bunting’s Combine Notebooks: Safeties and “Football Players”

Part three of this week’s chat with the National Football Post’s Wes Bunting looks for Jason Garrett-type players.

Cowboys Nation:  Last year, when Jason Garrett took over, the Cowboys emphasized, “the right kind of guy.”  It may just be PR, but they are moving away from the high-risk guys they took in the early 2000s who busted out so often.  They want guys who are “football players,”  hard hat-types who are smart, dependable and hard working.

If you’re rating players with that template, name some some guys who fit that “football player” description.  Start in the 1st round.

Wes Bunting:  Brockers is a football player.  He’s not a prima donna.  He’s put on 70 lbs. since his freshman year to become the top defensive tackle on one of the best teams in the country.

Trent Richardson is a football player.  There’s no doubt about that.  DeCastro is a football player.  Kalil is a football player.

CN:  Can you name some more in the Cowboys range?  We’ve talked about guys like Janoris Jenkins, as being a good football player, but I think the term may also refers to guys who won’t hit the police blotter at 2 am, who are going to be grinding on game tape until the early hours, or getting up early to hit the weight room.

When we got to the 2nd round, who fits that?

WB:  McClellin fits that description, absolutely.  He loves the game.  There’s some question between him and Bruce Irvin.  Irvin has some off-field questions.  But staying with McClellin, he played defensive end at Boise State and he goes to the Senior Bowl andhe asked to play linebacker and he just manned up and did it.  And I though he did a really good job at it.

At the beginning of the year, he was a lower-round pick on a lot of boards and now the momentum keeps building. He was a mid-round pick, and then he’s a 3rd rounder and now we’re talking 2nd.

CN:  Is he a top 45 pick?

WB:  I would not be surprised to see him anywhere between 25 to 40.  50 maybe if he sneaks into that back end.

CN:  Let’s turn to the safety class.  Mark Barron is rehabbing from hernia surgery.  He wasn’t at Indy.  Give your impressions of the top four guys there — George Iloka, Markelle Martin, Harrison Smith and Barron.

WB:  Barron has slipped a touch.  I still think he’s in the later part of round one.  He’s highlighted with the Patriots, the 49ers, maybe the Jets if they move up from the 2nd.  I think he’s the only first rounder.  Harrison Smith ran a 4.56.  About what we thought.  I think he’s a 3rd rounder.  Iloka may sneak into the late 2nd but I think he’s a 3rd rounder.  Markelle Martin, depending on what he runs, he’s a 2nd-3rd round guy.

CN:  I didn’t see him.  Was Martin there?  Did he run?

WB: He didn’t run.  He was invited but I don’t think he worked out at all.

The guys who worked out, who are generating buzz are Brandon Taylor from LSU.  He ran in the 4.5s and I think he can end up being as good as Harrison Smith.

Christian Thompson and Kelcie McCray are two other guys to watch.  They’re both big guys.  They ran high 4.4s, they can track the football.  When the draft rolls around I would not be surprised to see them go in the 4th round.

Next:  the guards.

Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Senior Analyst Cowboys Nation.com at Sports Talk Line
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
Rafael Vela

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  • Cowboy

    Carr>Jenkins & Finnegan >Newman = Get Both then draft BPA?

  • anon


    Can you please put down for the record your view on Brockers? 

    Your view is Brocker’s is a better prospect that Ingram and Poe? 

    • anon

      for the record, here’s my take.

      generally weak year. Von Miller and Watt were safer than anyone this year (from a measurable and production point of view). 

      the safest pick this year looks like Melvin Ingram. His measurables are good but wasn’t as dominant as you would expect.  

      I’d have Ingram > Brockers, but overall a much weaker year so that ought to be drafter later than last years crop of defensive lineman/LBs. 

      • Linda

         I will add to this: with Brockers, he’s still raw.  But he has a huge amount of potential to be among the best in the game.  Also, he’s got a good motor and football is significant to him, so he won’t be getting into trouble like a player such as Dez. 

      • Let’s see:

        1.  Weaker year this year?  Definitely.  Last year’s 1st was amazing.  Start with Newton and go to Solder at pick 17.  Fourteen of those guys were solid to very good contributors right out of the box.  The top eleven is almost all perennial Pro Bowlers in the making — Newton, Miller, Green, Peterson, Jones, Aldon and Tyron Smith and Watt. This year, a lot fewer options, especially on the D.  Once you get past Claiborne and Richardson, the certainty goes way down. 

        2.  Of the OLBs, in that 1st round range — Ingram, Upshaw, Perry, Mercilus — I like Ingram a lot more. He’s got the best change of direction in that bunch, though those short arms concern me.  Every OT he faces is gonna have Tyron Smith-arms.  

        I have to say, I’m more intrigued by Irvin.  I’m looking for a Miller, Jason Taylor type of guy (and Taylor was also 245 when he came out) who can be an explosive rusher.  I don’t see that in any of the 1st round group.  Ingram is the closest, but I’d have doubts if Dallas drafted him.    

        3.  On Brockers, I can’t say myself.  I saw LSU twice this year.  I asked early if any of their DL were coming out and was told no, so I watched their secondary.  

        I can tell you it’s pretty solid among the draftniks, and I talk to more than Wes, and they all talk to scouts, that Brockers is rated higher than Poe and Ingram inside the war rooms.

        It’s moot from Dallas’ perspective.  One reason I think they let it slip that they like him is because it’s wishful thinking.  I see almost no chance he gets to Dallas. 

        Today, it was reported that the Rams, Redskins, Panthers and Titans are going to meet him before his pro day.  Three teams in the top 10.  I was told weeks ago that the Panthers would snag him if he was available.  And that piece of info must have been well circulated.  Look at the big mocks pre-Combine.  A lot of them gave Brockers to the Panthers.  Just a coincidence, or were they hearing the same thing?  

        It was also pointed out that Gregg Williams has drafted defense in the 1st wherever he’s been.  He politics hard for his side of the ball and almost always get his way.  In Tennessee he got Kenny Holmes, Jevon Kearse and Keith Bullock in the 1st.  In Washington, he got Sean Taylor, Carlos Rogers, Rocky McIntosh and Laron Landry to open their drafts the four years he was there.

        In New Orleans, he got Mickey Loomis to pick Malcolm Jenkins, Patrick Robinson and Cam Jordan first the three years he was there.  

        If the Rams deal down to 4, they’re taking Claiborne. If they deal  to 6 with Washington, they could take Brockers there.  They need a 4-3 DT and he’s the best option at that position.  He’s 322.  He’s a kid. Fisher took Albert Haynesworth when there were questions about his want-to and game and hit it big.  

        If Washington stays at 6, they could take Brockers there. There’s always the Panthers, whose interest still appears very strong and in addition to Dallas, I was told the Chiefs were hoping Poe pushed Brockers down so they could grab him at 11.

        That’s four teams *that we know of* who could pick him between 6 and 11.   He’ll be long gone by Dallas’ pick. 

        Besides, from what little I’ve seen, I’m more intrigued by Cox as a 5 than I am Brockers.  He played Ratliff’s positions in college and judging from his Combine times he can rush from the 5 too.  

        • Kjd811

          I’ve watched some Cox tape he looks and plays the part. Relentless rusher.

        • cowboyny

          The big question why we haven’t discussed Flecther Cox heavily until this week. Thought he was a 4-3 only player, but after further research, he is an ideal player for Ryan’s, hybird scheme. A player who can not only be an effective pass rusher, but a player that goes all out on every snap. He is a good special teamer as well. To me, he sounds like a younger version of Jay Ratliff. Hell, I read from two different sites, that he compares to Suh from the Lions. What, Suh, must be a mistake? Also, have saw a comparsion to Liuget who the Chargers drafted last season and looked real good against the Cowboys in the preseason. I want this kid on the Cowboys! Add him with Irvin and the pass rush is now a strength, rather than a weakness. Get the OL/CB upgrades through FA if you have to.

  • Ware94

    I was impressed by Harrison Smith looking at him at the combine. I saw one of the ND coaches talking about him & he stated that he always catches the ball. His foot work looked good at the combine plus I heard he was a very smart kid. I would not be surprised to see NE take him late in round 1.

  • JS1405

    The Saints just tagged Brees! Bring on Nicks.

    • Of course, they could take it off tomorrow…while announcing a new Brees deal…and slap it on Nicks before Monday.  Those devious Saints are capable of just about anything…

  • sidarc

    What about taking a guy like Trumaine Johnson and flipping him to FS?

  • truecowboyfan

    Bruce Irvin seems to be similar to Von Miller, just based on how he tested at Indy. That would be a great pick at #45! He could come in and be a pass rush specialist in 2012, giving him time to learn how to play from a two point stance and also to get bigger and stronger. If he turns in to a legitimate pass rusher with 10-15 sack potential, the Cowboys also have the option of switching Ware to the strong side in a couple of years. It’s not a foregone conclusion that Irvin needs to develop in to a strong side OLB.

    I don’t know if the character concerns are going to keep this guy out of the 1st round. Too much athleticism and too much production while playing out of position at WVU.

  • Taylor

    Why the man crush on Brockers?  His college production was not particularly impressive, his workout at the combine was mediocre at best, so what’s the deal?  If he was from Texas Tech he would have a 2nd or 3rd round grade.

    • How many of his games have you seen?  

      • Taylor

        I watched as a casual fan, he did not stand out for me.  So why the grade?  The question remains, not great production, mediocre combine, so?

        • What do you mean, not great production?  The people I know who have seen coaching tape of the guy all rave about him.  That’s he’s powerful, and well coached and is only going to get better.

          I’ve also seen that he played in a very basic scheme and didn’t one-gap much, and was such a concern for opponents that he was double-teammed on most plays.  

  • Cowboy KRS

    Safeties will be ranked different after the size & speed of some of these CB”s ,someone like Dre Swagg kirkpatrick & Alfonzo Dennard even Stephon Gilmore & Trumaine Johnson could move to Safety/Corner!

  • It seems to me that we get about three to four decent safeties out of every draft class and then the talent scale just hits the floor.  It’s odd…considering how important and prevalent the passing game is in college.  I mean, the college player pool is producing an incremental CB talent increase in proportion to the emphasis on the passing almost every year.  But, the tendency doesn’t seem to really transfer over to safeties.  What do we have this year?  As per Bunting, we have one “starting caliber” player, one “dirty starter” player, and then developmental prospects with obvious deficiencies.  What does this mean to the Cowboys?  Two things:

    1. There’s no value in reaching for any safety due to supply issues.  I’m not even sure if it’s going to be wise to draft one before the fifth round.  There’s simply too many other positions that have enough talent to last until the fourth round with decent, startable players.     

    2. If the Cowboys do draft a safety, then they had better hope that he somehow surprises everyone with some hidden ability.  Think of it like a Demarco Murray/Bill Nagy type of pick.

    I don’t really understand why there is such a shortage of talented safeties coming from the college ranks.  Any ideas Vela?

  • cowboyny

    DeCastro/McCellin sure fit that right kind of guy mold, the so called football players who love the game. If the team was fortunate enough in getting either player or even both, it would help change the team culture. Early on, last year’s class looks real good, if Garrett and the front office can have another solid class, they definiely will become a playoff team.

    McCellin is a very interesting prospect, could play DE or strong-side OLB in the 4-3 and could potentially play the 3-4 OLB position. Wes suggests that he is better rusher with his hand on the ground and is more like a Babin type. Here is a thought, yesterday’s mock had Cox with Irvin, replace Irvin with McCellin. They could both potentially form a real good 4 man front in certain situations, where Cox plays DT next to Ratliff and McCellin rushs at DE.

    • that’s possible, I just think Irvin has a higher ceiling as a rusher than McClellin.  I’d be happy with either one, though.

      • cowboyny

        As a pass rusher, Irvin looks the part far more than McCellin, but you can flip that arguement that McCellin looks to be a better fit as a strong-side OLB. Irvin may just be a very good, situational rusher, especially early in his career. I would love either player at 45!

      • fivetwos

        Do you think Irvin can handle SOLB on first and second down, or are you thinking of him as a situational rusher? That’s pretty much what he was at WVU.

        With that body type, he looks like a replacement for Butler, not Spencer.

        • He was a starting DE at West Virginia.  He played the 5 technique

          • Von Miller is 6’3”, 245, the same height and weight as Irvin.  I’m not saying Irvin is going to match Miller’s production, but they’re projected to play similar roles.  

            Miller had the same questions asked about his weight last year, and he didn’t have trouble adjusting to the NFL game.  

          • cowboyny

            Excellent point. I remember when we discussed Von Miller the arguement was, you aren’t going to move a pro bowl weakside pass rush to accomodate a rookie. Von Miller proved he can play any position he wants. I see Bruce Irvin’s impact like Aldon Smith last yr with the 49ers, elite, situational pass rusher.

          • The questions about playing well as a rookie 245 lb. DE/OLB sent me back to my old draft books.  

            My hunch was right:  
            1997 — Jason Taylor, 6’5”, 245.  He had questions about his ability to put on weight and his strength as a down DE but got high marks for his explosiveness and pass rush skills.  

            He lasted to the 3rd round because of those doubts.  I was screaming at my TV on draft day that year when Dallas passed on him twice.  He was awesome at the Senior Bowl and looked like the Charles Haley replacement the team needed.

            Dallas burned its 2nd moving up to pick David LaFleur and passed Taylor over to draft Dexter Coakley in the 3rd.  Jimmy Johnson picked him, stuck him at DE in the same scheme the Cowboys ran at the time and hit it out of the park. 

            Jerry 1.0.  Those were dark days. 

          • cowboyny

            Now you are getting me excited. For what I have read up about Irvin is he compares to a Cliff Avril, who we would do the happy dance if the Cowboys signed him. If you can land a similar player, at the fraction of the cost, it is like making it with the prom queen, eveybody leaves satisfied! Now will be be there at 45, let’s cross our fingers and hope the team doesn’t make the same mistake like passing up Taylor again!

      • Kjd811

        Love the idea of a DE with the 1st pick-Brockers or Cox. If we get Carr or Finnegan I’m fine with a OLB in round 2. If we end up with a lesser FA CB we might need to grab one in Rd 2.

  • WA_cowboy

    I thinking those 4th round safeties look pretty attractive.  Taylor from LSU and the other two guys Wes mentioned.  Hopefully we can come away with one of them.

    • Kjd811

      I think thats were the value at safety is.