Dallas Cowboys: 2012 Draft LB

Draft preview series: Oklahoma DE/OLB Ronnell Lewis

April, 6, 2012
The 20th installment of our draft preview series focuses on Oklahoma defensive end/outside linebacker Ronnell Lewis

Scouts Inc. ranks: No. 3 outside linebacker, No. 48 overall
Bio: First-team All-Big 12 last season after making 59 tackles (13 for losses), 5.5 sacks, five pass breakups and an interception. Had 37 tackles (five for losses), 3.5 sacks and an interception he returned for a touchdown as a sophomore. Was a 2,000-yard rusher as a junior and senior in high school, when he played eight-man football. Struggled academically throughout his time at OU and was ineligible for the bowl game this season, prompting the coaching staff to encourage him to declare for the draft.

[+] EnlargeDavid Ash
AP Photo/Mike FuentesOklahoma DE/OLB Ronnell Lewis was first-team All-Big 12 last season after making 59 tackles, 5.5 sacks, five pass breakups and an interception.
Size: 6-foot-1 , 253 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.66 seconds
225-pound bench press reps: 36
Vertical jump: 31 inches
Broad jump: 9-foot-4
20-yard shuttle: 4.40 seconds
Three-cone drill: 7.09 seconds

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed Florida State, Texas and Texas A&M games): Started his career at Oklahoma playing defensive end, but the defensive staff moved him to a hybrid position which I would call a strong side linebacker. Started nine of 10 games in 2011. … Has always struggled with his grades. Questions before the season whether he would even be eligible. Might not love school, but you can see that he loves to play football. … He never stops coming at you, is always on the attack and explosive up the field. Has the ability and skill to get on the edge of the blocker but will need to develop more pass rush moves to work with that explosiveness. … Can get up to top speed very quickly. Did a nice job of getting up the field and dipping his shoulder to get around the tackle against Texas. … Powerfully built player who uses his strength to his advantage. Was really impressive when he was used as a pick in a twist to get a teammate home on a rush against the Longhorns. Drove so hard down inside that it destroyed the blocking scheme and gave the defensive tackle a clear path to the quarterback. … Good job of playing against the run because he has strength. But make no mistake about it, his ability to run allows him to get in on a lot of plays. … Quick to get off the ground when he gets cut. Teams need to account for him on the backside because he will chase the ball. … Missed a tackle in space against Florida State when he didn’t wrap up but is a physical tackler. Ball carriers know he is there. … Will take on blockers, shed and fold back inside to make plays. Saw one time where he didn’t show good awareness and it caused him to get pinned inside against Florida State. He didn’t read correctly when the tight end came in motion and on the snap, got position on Lewis, allowing the ball to the outside. … Have observed him as a drop linebacker, but I really don’t think you want him to do this very much. Would have to say that movement and awareness are the biggest problems here. Need him to put his hand on the ground and let him get after it. … Is a junior that left Oklahoma early after the coaches encouraged him to. His struggles in the classroom probably had a great deal to do with that. However, he loves to play the game so that is a positive trait. … Has the strength to play as a strong outside linebacker and give you something as a rusher. Think he will need some work with moves but has some game to work with.

Draft preview series: Nebraska LB Lavonte David

April, 5, 2012
The 19th installment of our draft preview series focuses on Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David.

Scouts Inc. rankings: No. 1 outside linebacker, No. 28 overall
Bio: Junior college transfer who was first-team All-Big 12 as a junior and first-team All-Big Ten as a senior. He made 285 tackles in 27 starts at Nebraska, including a school-record 152 in 2010, when he was the Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year. Had 28 tackles for losses, 11.5 sacks, 10 pass breakups and two interceptions for the Cornhuskers.

[+] EnlargeLavonte David
John S. Peterson/Icon SMILinebacker Lavonte David made 285 tackles in 27 starts at Nebraska, including a school-record 152 in 2010, when he was the Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year.
Size: 6-foot-0 5/8, 233 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.59
225-pound bench press reps: 19
Vertical jump: 36.5 inches
Broad jump: 9-foot-11
20-yard shuttle: 4.22 seconds
Three-cone drill: 7.28 seconds

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan games): Played as a Sam linebacker for the Cornhuskers in their scheme. Has a build like that of a strong safety. Surprising how well he is able to hold the point of attack at this size. Really does a nice job of playing with his hands. Is able to extend and play off blockers to stay on the move. … Has a nose for the ball. See him play low blocks well and work down the line to get in on plays. Reads and reacts very quickly. … Only observed one time against Wisconsin where he allowed himself to get hooked by a blocker. Did a nice job of taking on blockers that were pulling. Wasn’t fooled by blocking schemes. Plays with awareness and understanding of his assignments. … Showed good awareness when he read a screen against Michigan. Read the blockers, saw the back and was able to get in the middle of the play to disrupt. … Did a nice job of being a physical player when he was moved inside behind the line, attacking to fill the hole. Will take on blockers one-on-one and not back down. … Does bother me some when he tries to run under blocks because I didn’t see that type of quickness on the move that would allow him to have much success using that type of technique. … Will wrap up as a tackler in the open field, but there were some plays where he went low and bounced off. Overall was able to get his man on the ground. … Has a feel as a pass rusher even though he doesn’t have much pop like you would see from a Courtney Upshaw of Alabama. Is one of those players that rushes with effort. Doesn’t quit on his rush. … Have seen him be effective in his rush from the outside and the inside where he was able to get a sack against Wisconsin. Did a nice job of bringing the dangerous Denard Robinson of Michigan down in the pocket with really nice effort when he beat the block and wrapped Robinson up. Is not afraid to take a shot on the quarterback when he blitzes whether he gets home or not. … Was effective when he was asked to play in coverage. Good balance and awareness when he dropped. Observed him carrying the tight end up the field against Wisconsin and looked very comfortable doing it. Good position in the route and not allowing separation. … Projects more to a weak side linebacker in the NFL but his nose for the ball, his ability to rush and his ability to play both inside and outside make him an interesting player, flexibility wise. Plays much bigger than his listed height and weight.

Draft preview series: Illinois DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus

April, 4, 2012
The 18th installment of our draft preview series focuses on Illinois defensive end/outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus.

Scouts Inc. ranks: No. 7 defensive end, No. 37 overall
Bio: Led the nation with 16 sacks and an NCAA-record-tying nine forced fumbles as a redshirt junior in 2011, when he also had 57 tackles, including 22.5 for losses. Was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award and semifinalist for the Bednarik, Lombardi and Hendrick Awards in his only season as a full-time starter at Illinois. Had only two sacks, 6.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles in the previous two seasons.

[+] EnlargeWhitney Mercilus
Brad Schloss/Icon SMIIllinois' Whitney Mercilus led the nation in sacks (16) and set a Big Ten record with nine forced fumbles.
Size: 6-foot-3 5/8, 261 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.68 seconds
225-pound bench press reps: 27 times
Vertical jump: 32 inches
Broad jump: 9-foot-10
20-yard shuttle: 4.53 seconds
Three-cone drill: 7.17 seconds

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed Arizona State, Northwestern and UCLA games): Played as the strong defensive end in a four-man line for Illinois. Will project to an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme in the NFL. … Physically is a good-looking player and plays with a great deal of quickness. Does a really nice job of rushing up the field and putting pressure on the blocker. Gives you a variety of pass-rush moves. … Of these defensive ends that are projected to linebacker, he and Andre Branch of Clemson did the best job of playing with pass-rush moves. Mercilus will explode up the field, gauge the depth of the tackle, and when they raise their hands to punch him, he will slap them down and take the corner. Used this technique for a sack against UCLA. … Likes to also set the tackles up by going hard up field and getting all their weight on the outside foot, then spinning inside. Was able to pull this move off against Northwestern for a sack. … Really nice lateral movement and quickness. In the running game, played the trap block with the correct shoulder, which allowed him to hold his ground and keep the ball inside and allow his teammates to make the play. … Did a solid job against Arizona State when he was rushing hard up field and they tried to run a draw. He was able to fight the blocker and retrace his steps to get in on the tackle. … Has the quickness to play around blocks but will also show a physical side to his game to hang in there against the run. Had a tackle for loss when he worked down the line of scrimmage, beating the block against UCLA. … Is a much better player when he can do things on the move instead of trying to fight the blockers one-on-one. … Thought he needed to at times do a better job of extending his arms and getting off the blockers a step quicker. There were times where he was just locked up for too long. This doesn’t always happen, but he needs to disengage quicker. Think he could be a much more effective player if he was able to correct this. … The area that bothered me the most about Mercilus was there were times where he flat didn’t find the ball. It was bad in the UCLA game, but really noticeable against Northwestern. The main reason for this was he got hooked up on blockers too long. Thought he could have shown some better instincts when he came to locating the ball. At linebacker, you have to be able to play with instincts and feel. … Saw him play in a two-point stance against UCLA as an inside backer on a nickel rush, but that was the only time that I saw him do this. Will need to be trained how to drop and cover. … As mentioned, played as a strong defensive end at Illinois but will most likely play as a weak outside linebacker in NFL and rush the passer. Comes with a better than average skill set as a rusher.

Draft preview series: Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw

April, 3, 2012

The 17th installment of our draft preview series looks at Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw.

Scouts Inc. ranks: No. 3 defensive end, No. 17 overall
Bio: First-team All-SEC and All-American was a finalist for the Lombardi Award and Butkus Award as a senior. Had 9.5 sacks, 11 quarterback hurries, 18 tackles for losses, an interception he returned 45 yards for a touchdown and two forced fumbles for the nation’s top-ranked total, rushing and scoring defense. Had seven sacks and 14.5 tackles for losses as a junior

[+] EnlargeCourtney Upshaw
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAlabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw plays with serious power and was a finalist for the Lombardi Award and Butkus Award as a senior.
Size: 6-foot-1 5/8, 272 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.81 seconds
Did not work out at scouting combine

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed Penn State, Arkansas, Auburn and LSU games): Played at Alabama as the open- or weak-side defensive end with his hand on the ground. Will most likely play as a strong-side linebacker in the NFL in a 3-4 defense. … The first thing you notice on film is how much power he plays with at the point of attack. The strength level is not the problem here. He really does a much better job than Melvin Ingram at using his hands and controlling the blockers. … Can split double-teams with his upper-body strength. Can easily take on double-teams and not be moved off the spot. … You see him walk blockers back into the quarterback with his bull rush in passing situations. … Does a really nice job of holding the point of attack in the running game. Is a hard guy to run at or to try and get around the corner on, but he did have one play where Auburn was able to get the ball on the edge and around the corner. That was the only one in four games. … Outstanding job of finding the football and playing with awareness. You see him play off the block and slide down inside when he sees the ball heading in that direction. Plays with an explosive burst and can close quickly. … Can run down plays from the back side, doesn’t give up on plays like others I have observed in this draft. Always trying to get to the ball. Is a downhill, attacking player. … Is a load to deal with when he is making a tackle. Has a great deal of natural power and snap when making a tackle. Ball carriers are stopped in their tracks when he delivers a blow. … Thought he did a nice job of playing the low block with his hands. Has to deal with this quite a bit because blockers do not want to take him on high. Really good technique here. … Will use an arm-over move to free himself, but will need to develop more pass rush moves because he can’t be a one-trick pony in this league when dealing with offensive tackles. Like the way he will work up the field, but he doesn’t have that elite pass rush speed to get the corner. His balance of quickness and power help him to do his job. You will see him win pass rush battles with his power, but again, he will need to learn some other techniques. … There are scouts that I talk to that aren’t sure if there is really a position for Upshaw, but what I saw with my own eyes is an outstanding football player. He, like Ingram, will have to be taught how to drop in coverage. Right now, it isn’t good enough, but he does show awareness and the ability to find the ball. … The best way to describe Upshaw is he is a fall player and not a spring one. Film shows he plays football very well in the fall, and that is all I care about.

Draft preview series: S. Carolina DE/OLB Melvin Ingram

April, 2, 2012

The 16th installment of our draft preview series focuses on South Carolina defensive end/outside linebacker Melvin Ingram.

[+] EnlargeMelvin Ingram
Gerry Melendez/The State/MCT via Getty ImagesDespite Melvin Ingram's athleticism, he was late off the ball in some games -- a trait that can't carry over to the NFL.
Scouts Inc. ranks: No. 2 defensive end, No. 11 overall
Bio: Finished career ranked fourth in South Carolina history in sacks (21.5) and fifth in tackles for losses (30.5) despite only being a full-time starter one season. Was a first-team All-SEC selection as a senior, when he tied a school record with 10 sacks, made 15 tackles for losses, recovered two fumbles, intercepted two passes and scored three touchdowns (two fumble returns and a 68-yard run on a fake punt). Had nine sacks as a situational pass rusher in 2010. Was a high-scoring point guard in high school.

Size: 6-foot-1 , 264 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.71 seconds
225-pound bench press reps: 28
Vertical jump: 34.5 inches
Broad jump: 9-foot-1
20-yard shuttle: 4.18 seconds
Three-cone drill: 6.83 second

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed Florida, Clemson and Nebraska games): Played primarily as a right defensive end for the Gamecocks in a four-man line. Played some left end against Nebraska. Projected to play as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. … In the Florida game, I did see him drop some like he was playing linebacker in the scheme. It was a simple zone drop just in the flat and his technique wasn’t that clean. Just didn’t look comfortable and aware when he did it. It was more like he was floating in the area without much responsibility. Will not have to drop much in the league if he plays the weak outside linebacker, but if he is on the strong side, it’s something that he will have to be taught. With his athletic ability, it should not be a problem. … Lined up inside at defensive tackle when the Gamecocks went to their nickel package. Showed some productive rushes and awareness from the three technique inside. … Was able to sniff out a quarterback throwback in the red zone not once but twice against Clemson and the bowl game against Nebraska. … Showed the ability to flush the quarterback on an inside spin move that resulted in a sack against Clemson. Showed some burst on his rush in the same game to cause a poor pass. … See natural pass rush and skill more than technique. Would like to see him use more of a variety of rushes to free himself. Will tend to get tied up with blockers when he has the ability to do better. If he doesn’t get you with his quickness up the field, you see him stop, then try and restart his rush, which throws him off. … Observed some plays where he allowed the blockers to carry him past the quarterback. Needed more sharpness to his rush around the corner, attacking that shoulder, but there were times in these games where you didn’t see it. Ingram has the quickness and the burst to sharpen that edge and put pressure on the blockers, but it was inconsistent. … Can hold his ground in the running game and play with some power at the point of attack. Physical tackler. … Will work down the line to find the ball, but you will see some laziness in his play when it comes to chasing the ball. Effort needs to be better than it was against Florida and Nebraska. … There were also times where he was late off the ball and that bothered me. This is a trait that can’t carry over to the NFL because the blockers are too good. Needs to take advantage of his quickness on any opportunity he gets. … See this guy as a good player but not one of those special rushers. Think there is going to be some struggle early in his game until he develops.