Draft preview: RB Dexter McCluster

April, 13, 2010
4/13/10
11:50
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ESPNDallas.com will look at a potential Cowboys pick each weekday leading up to the draft.

DEXTER McCLUSTER

School: Ole Miss
Size: 5-8 , 172
Position: Running back/slot receiver/return specialist
Scouts Inc. rank: No. 4 at RB, No. 83 overall (scouting report)

POSITIVES
[+] EnlargeDexter McCluster
Jim Brown/US PresswireDexter McCluster isn't big, but he has the ability to break tackles and is a better blocker than might be expected.
McCluster is an explosive playmaker with significant experience as a tailback and slot receiver, racking up 1,169 rushing yards and 520 receiving yards as a senior. He has tremendous acceleration and burst and a knack for making tacklers miss in the open field. He excels at changing directions without slowing down, which is why he’s projected as an impact return man despite not filling that role much for Ole Miss. He’s tough and has excellent intangibles. He’s a much better blocker and breaks many more tackles than his size would suggest.

NEGATIVES
He’s tiny and has a troubling injury history, missing games in college due to a concussion and shoulder injury. For a player considered a home run threat, he has pedestrian speed, running in the mid-4.5s at the combine and mid-4.4s at his pro day. He has soft hands but isn’t a polished receiver, having run very basic routes for the Rebels. He has small hands (8 3/8 inches) and had problems protecting the ball in the SEC. While he has the athletic ability to be an outstanding punt and kick returner, he returned only 19 kickoffs and eight punts in college.

COWBOY FIT
Jerry Jones is intrigued by a prospect who could add some juice to his team’s substandard return units, and the Cowboys might be willing to take a shot on McCluster if he’s still available in the third round. He could have a niche role in certain offensive packages as a rookie and could develop into a multi-purpose threat, similar to ex-Cleveland star Eric Metcalf. The Cowboys’ backfield is crowded at the moment, but that could change if the Cowboys decide to part ways with Marion Barber within the next two years. McCluster has been compared to San Diego mighty mite Darren Sproles as a diminutive but dynamic change-of-pace and third-down back. There’s always room for “wow” threats at Valley Ranch.

OLE MISS RB COACH DERRICK NIX
“He has the quickest first step of any guy I’ve ever coached. He has the ability to stop on a dime and go back 100 miles per hour. ... He can dot the I, motion out of the backfield and go to wide receiver or line up in the slot and run bubble screens. He can returns punts and kicks. He also ran the Wildcat for us. He can run that inside zone or get to the corner and makes good decisions. ... If you get him in space in one-on-one matchups, he’s hard to tackle. The key is getting him in space. ... He was really, really, really good in pass protection. Every defender thinks he’s going to cut every time. Sometimes he hits them up high, but he gets them to the ground almost every time. ... You’ve got to be real selective and choose your spots [to use him], but he’ll last. Physically and mentally, he’s very tough. I’ve seen him fight through pain. His ribs were hurting against Auburn and he got back in there and busted a 70-yard run. He’s a guy you want to go in an alley with, because he’s going to leave everything he’s got out there. ... As good of a player as he is, he’s a better person. You don’t have to worry about him when you lay your head down at night. He’s going to do the right thing and be a leader for whatever team gets him.”

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