Dallas Cowboys: Scout's Eye

Draft preview: LSU S Brandon Taylor

April, 12, 2012
4/12/12
4:03
PM ET
The 24th installment of our draft preview series focuses on LSU safety Brandon Taylor.

Scouts Inc. ranks: No. 3 safety, No. 68 overall
Bio: Three-year starter at LSU who was a team captain for the SEC champions and BCS runners-up as a senior. Finished career with 160 tackles (11.5 for losses), 15 passes broken up and four interceptions. Had 71 tackles and two interceptions as a senior, when he wore No. 18, an honor at LSU bestowed on the senior who best represents the program.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Taylor
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesBrandon Taylor wore No. 18 last season at LSU -- an honor bestowed on the senior who best represents the program.
Size: 5-foot-11 , 209 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.53 seconds
Vertical jump: 33.5 inches
Broad jump: 9-foot-10
20-yard shuttle: 4.37 seconds
Three-cone drill: 7.32 seconds

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed Oregon, West Virginia and Arkansas games): Is built like a strong safety, but you see him do some free safety things. Does a really nice job of finding the ball and getting in on the play. ... Plays off the blocks well. Will bounce off them at times. ... Was unique to study in the way they he would appear like he was in a bad position on the tackle, then readjust himself to wrap up to bring the man down. Can be a physical tackler. ... Has a burst to drive on the ball in coverage. Will also break well when the ball is thrown to the outside. Shows some range from the middle of the field. Showed some quickness with his range. Had in interception in which he was playing center field and the ball was tipped but he was right there to make the play. ... Got fooled on a vertical route in the West Virginia game when he got caught peeking at the quarterback instead of playing his man. ... Observed him in coverage out of the slot where he got beat, but then the next time was able to drive on the ball and make the plays. ... Is very aware when it comes to picking up players in coverage. Times when the corners would bust their coverage and he was able to adjust from his man and recover to help on the play. ... Did a nice job of driving on the football when it was thrown in front of him. Plays with good footwork, which has been a problem for several of the safeties that I have studied this spring. ... If he does have a trait that bothers me, at times he will take a strange angle to the ball, which will put him in funny positions to tackle. But when he is on, things are OK. ... Would be an interesting option for a team for two reasons: he is physical and he does have coverage skills. ... Was a former high school cornerback, so you see that he is comfortable carrying a receiver in the route. Has a feel for how to drive and break on the ball as well. ... Has the strong safety build but also shows free safety traits, which will give him an opportunity in this league.

Draft preview: Okla. State S Markelle Martin

April, 11, 2012
4/11/12
1:30
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The 23rd installment of our draft preview series focuses on Oklahoma State safety Markelle Martin.

Scouts Inc. ranks: No. 4 safety, No. 76 overall
Bio: First-team All-Big 12 selection as a senior, when he had 74 tackles (five for losses), 11 passes broken up, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Three-year starter who only had three interceptions in his career, all as a junior. Did not participate in Oklahoma State’s March pro day due to his knee injury, but he was timed at 4.43 in the 40 and measured with a 37-inch vertical jump the previous year.

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Chris Morrison/US PresswireOklahoma State safety Markelle Martin could improve his tackling by playing a little more under control.
Size: 6-foot-0 , 207 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.48 seconds
225-pound bench press reps: 19
Did not work out at combine due knee injury

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed Texas A&M, Baylor and Stanford games): Is much more of a free safety type than Mark Barron or Harrison Smith. … Would call him a 50-50 tackler at best. Will take some funny angles to the ball and tends to lunge when he gets in position. Had some plays where he missed badly in the open field, but also had a play against Stanford where he blew the receiver up on a crossing route, so you do see a physical side of him. Did have a wrap-up tackle when the ball spilled outside and he was able to get the ball carrier to the ground. … Shows the athletic ability to drive on the ball when he is covering in the slot. Pretty good job in the Baylor game of reading the out route from the slot and knocking the ball down. Plays with good range, and you see him more in coverage than Barron and Smith. … Good athletic ability to stay in position on the route. Plays with some foot quickness. Will carry his man up the field, as well. Looks more natural in coverage than Barron or Smith. Will get a little high and tall in his pedal, but it doesn’t hurt him that much overall. … Had a bad bust in the bowl game on a seam route when he got caught looking into the backfield. The receiver ran right by him and Andrew Luck had no problem with the throw for a touchdown. Thought there might be some questions with his awareness after this because in the Texas A&M game, he didn’t correctly read the crack block of the receiver and got hammered. In the Baylor game, he let the receiver run an inside route on him then cross his face without adjusting. You see one of these types of plays each game. … Has a reputation as a big hitter and you do see him try and line receivers up, but if he just played under better control, I am sure that his tackling would improve. … Has the speed and quickness to walk down in the slot to cover, whereas Barron and Smith have to take a physical approach with the receiver to make that happen. Barron and Smith have the better of Martin when it comes to anticipation and the ability to quickly read the play. Martin is a much better athlete, but he makes more mistakes. Has been awarded academic recognition for his classroom work, but there are times where he doesn’t play smart football.

Draft preview series: Notre Dame S Harrison Smith

April, 10, 2012
4/10/12
12:01
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The 22nd installment of our draft preview series focuses on Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith.

Scouts Inc. ranks: No. 2 safety, No. 35 overall
Bio: Finished career with 309 tackles, including 18.5 for losses, and is the only player in Notre Dame history with at least 200 tackles, 15 tackles for losses and 15 passes broken up. Had seven interceptions in 2010, but didn’t pick off a pass in his other three seasons for the Fighting Irish. Split time between safety and outside linebacker early in his career. Team captain in 2011 who graduated with a management-entrepreneurship degree the previous summer.

[+] EnlargeHarrison Smith
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireHarrison Smith lined up at strong safety and free safety at Notre Dame and plays with a physical style.
Size: 6-foot-1 7/8, 213 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.58 seconds
225-pound bench press reps: 19
Vertical jump: 34 inches
Broad jump: 10-foot-2
20-yard shuttle: 4.12 seconds
Three-cone drill: 6.63 seconds

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed USC, Stanford and Florida State games): Lined up at both strong and free safety in Notre Dame’s scheme. Really believe he is more of a strong than a free in the NFL. … Shows some similar traits as Mark Barron in the fact that he doesn’t have great deep or catch-up speed, but he is not afraid to blow you up. Does a really nice job of being a physical player. Plays downhill. … Doesn’t have the reaction of Barron once he sees the play, but you do see him working in that direction to get in on the tackle. Really tries hard to get to the outside from the middle of the field when the ball goes that way. If he has a flaw, it is that it takes him a little time to get going. Will waste some steps and there is not much sharpness in his breaks, but again, his effort is there. … Does a nice job of playing off blocks and throwing his body around. Not afraid to fill at the point of attack when coming forward. … Used as a blitzer in the Stanford game. Was able to get a pressure on Andrew Luck, which created an interception. … Viewed him as a wrap-up tackler. Only saw him miss one tackle in the open field, and that was against Stanford when he was off balance. … See him more in coverage against tight ends than receivers. Was solid in the Stanford game against their group of fine tight ends. Showed good position in route, but he’s a little like Barron in that he needs to get his hands on the receiver to have a real good chance to stay in coverage. Gets away with a great deal of holding while in coverage. … Needs to keep things in front of him to really be effective. When he has to turn and run, he gets in trouble. … Is not the most fluid-moving player. That surprises me, because his 20 shuttle numbers from the combine are very similar to what some of the top cornerbacks run. … Looks like a much bigger player on tape and he plays with some pop. As mentioned before, you see him line up more as a free safety than you do Barron and see him more in coverage, but I don’t think you want to line him up in the slot against receivers. Really has limited skills as a cover guy because of his speed, but teams will fall in love with his toughness and his ability to play with a physical style.

Draft preview series: Alabama S Mark Barron

April, 9, 2012
4/09/12
12:01
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The 21st installment of our draft preview series focuses on Alabama safety Mark Barron.

Scouts Inc. ranks: No. 1 safety, No. 11 overall
Bio: Two-time first-team All-American and three-time first-team All-SEC selection had 235 tackles, 12 interceptions and 34 passes broken up while starting 38 games in his college career. As a senior, he a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award and a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award while starring on a national championship team that ranked No. 1 nationally in passing defense, scoring defense and total defense. Led SEC with seven interceptions as a sophomore on a national championship team.

[+] EnlargeMark Barron
Randy Litzinger/Icon SMIAlabama safety Mark Barron does a good job supporting the run, but there are some questions about his cover skills.
Size: 6-foot-1, 213 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.54 seconds
Did not work out at combine due to hernia surgery.

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and LSU): Lined up as a safety in the Crimson Tide defensive scheme but really plays more like a linebacker than a real safety. Was a three-year starter on the nation’s top-ranked defense. He does some of his best work around the line of scrimmage. … Is not a hard player to find on film because he is always around the ball. Might not be the quickest safety, but he is very quick mentally when it comes to reacting to the play. When he sees it, he is gone. Outstanding anticipation to drive on the ball. Is rarely fooled on the play. Arkansas tried to run a reverse on him, but he totally shut it down. … Shows awareness in the scheme he plays. Doesn’t overrun plays or get out of balance. Can tell that the defensive coaches have a great deal of faith in his ability by the way they use him to make plays. … Is a read-and-react cover guy. Will see him play more in an area and pick up crossers or receivers as they run their routes. I didn’t observe many plays where he would walk down in the slot and just carry that man in coverage. … When he was in coverage, thought he needed to get his hands on the man to have a solid chance to stay in coverage. Didn’t see a player with great catch-up speed, but his physical style made up for this. … Is not a fluid-moving player, more of an explosive one. There is some tightness when you see him pedal. Doesn’t turn all that well. … Love the way he supports the run. This is one of his great strengths. Is a downhill player that is physical at the point of attack. Will make some big hits and will wrap up when in position, but has missed some too when he went too low and ended up on the ground. Is not afraid to stick his nose in the hole and make the tackle when he is near the line. Was very productive against LSU and their powerful running game at filling the hole. … Is used on the blitz in some schemes. Brings power off the edge. Has a feel for how to create pressure on his blitz. Don’t see him quit his rush or give up and stop. … Overall is an outstanding football player. But, as far as a fit for the Cowboys, I have my questions about whether he can play as a safety that can cover. I only observed one play where he had to defend the ball down the field on a pass and that was against Tennessee off the hash and he was able to make that play. There is no question about Barron’s toughness and his smarts, but we all watched last season when the ball went down the field against these Cowboys’ safeties, and plays were not being made. This roster has plenty of strong safety types in Gerald Sensabaugh, Barry Church and Danny McCray that aren’t known as good cover guys. You have to be able to handle these offenses that play with multiple wide receivers. … I have a ton of respect for the way that Barron plays, but it will be interesting to see how he fits in coverage schemes.

Draft preview series: Oklahoma DE/OLB Ronnell Lewis

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
12:01
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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
4/05/12
12:01
AM ET
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.

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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
4/04/12
12:01
AM ET
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
4/03/12
12:01
AM ET

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

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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: Nebraska DL Jared Crick

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
2:40
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The 15th installment of our draft preview series focuses on Nebraska defensive lineman Jared Crick.

Scouts Inc. ranks: No. 9 defensive end, No. 57 overall
Bio: All-Big 12 selection in 2009 and 2010 who finished his career with 167 tackles (35 for losses) and 20 sacks. His senior year was cut short due to a torn pectoral muscle suffered in the fifth game of the season. That prevented Crick from lifting at the scouting combine, but he proved he had recovered with 26 bench press reps at 225 pounds during Nebraska’s pro day.

[+] EnlargeJared Crick
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireNebraska defensive lineman Jared Crick does a good job getting up the field but needs work playing the run.
Size: 6-foot-4 , 279 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.94 seconds
Vertical jump: 31 inches
Broad jump: 8-foot-8
225-pound bench press reps: 26
20-yard shuttle: 4.40 seconds
Three-cone drill: 7.47 seconds

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed Wisconsin, Ohio State and Washington games): Lined up as a defensive tackle for the Cornhuskers but is projected to play in the NFL as a defensive end, which he did some in the Ohio State game. … The best trait he has is his ability to get up the field. When he comes off the ball, he can be a factor. When he doesn’t, he can be just another guy. … Like the way that he plays with a high motor and effort, but was a little inconsistent with it at times. Surprised when I observed plays where he was stopped in his pass rush and just stood up and mirrored the quarterback along the line of scrimmage. … His worst trait is that he really doesn’t play with much power at the point of attack. Tends to play too high, and you will see times where the blocker will simply wash him out of the play because he is not able to anchor down. You will see plays where he loses leverage at the point of attack much too often. Will tend to play too upright, allowing blockers into his chest. When you play end in a 3-4 defense, you had better anchor down against the run, which was a problem for the Cowboys last season at times with Marcus Spears, Jason Hatcher and Kenyon Coleman. … Is a much better player when he can play on the move and work the edges. … Showed the ability to rush in a way that didn’t give the blockers much of a hitting surface. Had a nice swim move shooting the gap against Wisconsin that allowed him to get in the backfield and get in on the play. … There were plays where he did flash good technique, but he still needs to do a better job of playing with his hands. Crick struggled to control blockers. You do not want to see him go toe to toe because it’s just too much trouble for him to handle their power. … Did not play with the explosiveness against Ohio State that you saw in the Wisconsin and Washington games. … When I sat down to study Crick, I really thought that I was going to see so much more to his game. There are some that think he compares to J.J. Watt from Wisconsin, but it’s really not even close. Watt was so much better at the point in the run game, but he also was a big factor as a pass rusher. … Really worry about his lack of power to hold up down after down in the running game. Will need to get a lot stronger and learn to play with his pad level down to really be effective.

Draft preview series: Memphis DT Dontari Poe

March, 28, 2012
3/28/12
11:00
PM ET

The 14th installment of our draft preview series focuses on Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe.

Scouts Inc. ranks: No. 1 defensive tackle, No. 11 overall
Bio: Star of the scouting combine was a second-team All-Conference USA selection as a junior last season. Poe played 35 games at Memphis, including 30 starts, and finished his college career with 101 tackles (21.5 for losses) and five sacks.

[+] EnlargeDontari Poe
Douglas Jones/US PresswireMemphis' Dontari Poe is the top-rated defensive tackle in the draft and was the star of the scouting combine.
Size: 6-foot-3 , 346 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.91 seconds
225-pound bench press reps: 44
Vertical jump: 29.5 inches
Broad jump: 8-foot-9
20-yard shuttle: 4.56 seconds
Three-cone drill: 7.90 seconds

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed Mississippi State, Central Florida and SMU games): Usually lined up at defensive tackle for the Tigers, but also played some defensive end when they went to a three-man line. … Plays with some initial quickness off the snap but tends to catch more blocks than play with his hands. Surprises me that he is as powerful as he is, but he just doesn’t use his hands as well as he needs to. If he really knew how to use his hands, he would be a more dominant player. … Can be a hard man to move at the point of attack because of his upper- and lower-body strength. … Have seen him take on double-team blocks and split them. Is a tough player to block when he is on the move. If he can get a head of steam coming down inside, he has too much power to slow down. When he attacks the gap, he can get some push and get up the field. … Best pass-rush moves are when he can go arm over or arm under. Those are his go-to moves, but on the majority of his pass rushes he tries to just use power and strength and bull-rush his man. Again, the fact that he doesn’t use his hands to control blockers really hurts him here. … For a large man, he shows some good change of direction. Will work down the line of scrimmage to make a tackle, but this can run a little hot and cold. … Thought he could have done a much better job of busting his rear when he needed to chase the play, which I saw in the Central Florida game. He will play with really good effort, then he goes away for several plays. … There were also times where he needed to do a better job of locating the ball. Would see him fighting the blocker and the ball would go by him. Wasn’t as quick reacting to the play as some of the other defensive linemen that I have studied in this draft. … Thought he was a much better player when they used him as 3 technique over the guard than when they tried him at end. Can be a handful to have to deal with inside for guards and centers that struggle with power. … Two things bother me about this player: the hot and cold play, and the use of his hands. I know that he can be coached in this league to play better with his hands, but effort is something that is going to be on him. … If you are a general manager, you can hit the home run with this player because there are traits that you see in some of the top players in this league, but there is also that side that scares you to death. Would not be one bit surprised if a team takes a shot at him in the top 10, or he slides.

Draft preview series: Mississippi State DL Fletcher Cox

March, 28, 2012
3/28/12
12:01
AM ET
The 13th installment of our draft preview series focuses on Mississippi State defensive lineman Fletcher Cox.

Scouts Inc. ranks: No. 3 defensive tackle, No. 19 overall
Bio: First-team All-SEC as a junior in 2011, when he had 56 tackles, including 14.5 for losses and five sacks. Had 58 total tackles in his first two seasons, including 10 for losses and 3.5 sacks. Blocked five kicks during his career at Mississippi State. Was suspended for the 2011 season opener along with four teammates for an undisclosed violation of team rules.

[+] EnlargeFletcher Cox
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesMississippi State DL Fletcher Cox has displayed power against both the run and the pass.
Size: 6-foot4, 298 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.81 seconds
225-pound bench press reps: 30
Vertical jump: 26 inches
Broad jump: 8-foot-7
20-yard shuttle: 4.53 seconds
Three-cone drill: 7.07 seconds

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed LSU, Georgia, Alabama and Kentucky games): Normally lined up at defensive end but has also played inside as a tackle. ... Initially didn't think he had the quickness to get the edge as a rusher, but he did a much better job of this against Alabama and Kentucky. ... Has a tendency to play tall out of the stance but makes up for it by playing with power and his effort. Was impressed with the way he never stopped working to try and get to the ball. ... Not a one-trick pony, but like some of the ends in the draft he is going to need to develop pass rush moves. His best move was the spin where he was able to get the tackle's weight on the outside foot then come back inside to free himself. Was able to work this move against LSU and Kentucky with some success. ... Did a nice job when he was used in games with twist stunts. Had some sharpness to his rush. Has a feel for how to rush tight to the stunt. Used a rip move against Kentucky that had some nice power behind it. ... There is power in his game -- both run and pass -- but got knocked around in the Georgia game more than the others, which surprised me a bit. Worked around blockers better against Alabama along with Kentucky, and this was probably his best games for this. ... Uses his hands and upper-body strength to control blockers. Really can hold the point of attack. ... Against Alabama and Kentucky he was able to split the double-team blocks and get in on the plays. Fights to keep from getting hooked on the edge, doesn't allow the blocker to get to his outside shoulder. ... Works down the line to find the ball. ... Only saw one time where he didn't show good awareness, when he got fooled on a waggle and the ball got outside. Good awareness for the screen. ... Productive player when on the move inside shooting the gap. Scheme will sometimes take him out of the play when on the move. Can get walled or washed down away from the play when on the move. ... Will get up off the ground quickly when he gets cut. ... Usually have had problems in my scouting career with defensive linemen from Mississippi State, but Fletcher Cox is a really productive player and deserves to be mentioned when the Cowboys select in the first round of this draft. His ability and traits are those of what you would like to have as a base end in a 3-4, plus he can give you quality plays inside in the nickel as a defensive tackle. If given a choice between LSU's Michael Brockers and Cox, I have a feeling that they would lean toward Brockers. But if Brockers is gone, this player would be a nice piece to put at end and go to work.

Draft preview series: LSU DL Michael Brockers

March, 27, 2012
3/27/12
12:01
AM ET

The 12th installment of our draft preview series focuses on LSU defensive lineman Michael Brockers.

Scout Inc. ranks: No. 2 defensive tackle, No. 14 overall
Bio: Declared for the draft after his redshirt sophomore year, his only season as a starter at LSU. Was a second-team All-SEC selection. Recorded 54 tackles (10 for losses), two sacks and a forced fumble last season.

[+] EnlargeMichael Brockers
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesLSU defensive lineman Michael Brockers could be on the Cowboys' radar with the 14th pick.
Size: 6-foot-5, 322 pounds
40-yard dash: 5.35 seconds
Vertical jump: 26.5 inches
Broad jump: 8-foot-9
20-yard shuttle: 4.81 seconds
Three-cone drill: 7.46 seconds

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed Oregon, Florida, Arkansas and Alabama games): Usually lined up as a defensive tackle for the Tigers, but is projected to play end in the NFL. … Has not played much football in college and there was a thought that he would come back to school, but he had to turn pro to try to help his family. Is raw in the sense of techniques, but there is no mistake when you turn on the film and watch him play that he understands what he needs to do to be successful. … Shows outstanding initial quickness and snap in his game. Plays with power in his upper body. Brockers will extend his hands and control blockers with ease. Have seen him fight the double teams against Oregon and be productive. Does an outstanding job of getting up the field. Puts blockers on their heels with a surge of power. Is a hard guy to move one-on-one. Once he gets going, he is into the backfield. You see offensive linemen get stalemated a great deal of the time as he extends to look for the ball. Does a nice job of playing down the line of scrimmage with his hands. … If he has a weakness, he needs to do a better job of fighting the low block with his hands and will need to work on his twist stunts when on the pass rush in games. Needs to try and be a little cleaner when working to the outside. Had some problems in the Oregon game, but was better against Arkansas. Was able to get around the corner and be more disruptive. … Showed a nice, quick spin move to free himself against the Florida, but, as mentioned, will need some technique work to develop more pass-rush moves. Right now it’s with more power and quickness. Showed the ability to keep his pads down and get pocket push. … Really different from Quinton Coples of North Carolina, who tends to play taller. Plays with a form of body control against both run and pass. Do not see him on the ground except when he got cut. … Like the way he is able to find the ball and work in that direction to make the play. Showed a quick burst for a tackle for loss against the Gators on a running play. … Plays hard all the time. When he got worn down some, he got hooked on blocks, but I didn’t feel that it was a lack of effort. … Played inside at nose tackle some against Arkansas in a three-man line. Will give a 3-4 team some reps inside at nose but also be a pocket pusher as a defensive tackle in the nickel. … Brockers is clearly on the Cowboys’ radar, and if he gets to their spot at 14, this will probably be a no-brainer for a team that needs a defensive end. The question will be if they feel that Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State is a better fit. Both are nice players, but I really do feel that Brockers’ best football is ahead of him.

Draft preview series: North Carolina DE Quinton Coples

March, 25, 2012
3/25/12
11:45
PM ET

The 11th installment of our draft preview series looks at North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples.

Scouts Inc. ranks: No. 1 defensive end, No. 7 overall
Bio: Two-time first-team All-ACC selection. Finished his college career with 144 tackles, 24 sacks and five forced fumbles. Led the Tar Heels with 15.5 tackles for losses and 7.5 sacks last season. As a defensive tackle in 2010, he had 15.5 tackles for losses and 10 sacks.

[+] EnlargeQuinton Coples
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeNorth Carolina DE Quinton Coples has the talent to be dominant, but there are some questions about his motor.
Size: 6-foot-5 , 284 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.71 seconds
225-pound bench press reps: 25
Vertical jump: 31.5 inches
Broad jump: 9-foot-1
20-yard shuttle: 4.78 seconds
Three-cone drill: 7.57 seconds

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed Miami, Virginia Tech and Missouri games): Usually lined up at right defensive end for the Tar Heals but played some left end, as well, and even some tackle. … If you were to physically draw up with a 3-4 base end would look like, he would be your model. When I worked for Bill Parcells and we were switching from the 4-3 to the 3-4, this was the perfect height and weight that he wanted at end. The first guy that we were able to get like this was Chris Canty from Virginia. … Runs and moves well. Has some initial quickness out of his stance, but he showed some snaps where he got a little tall coming out of his stance and was a little late. … When he was ready to play, he did a nice job of getting up the field. Showed the ability to dip his shoulder and get around the corner. He has a burst to threaten the edge. Can really put some pressure on the tackle when rushing. … Did a nice job of showing some power with a rip move against Miami and also fighting through the double-team block. … There were some questions about his motor and if it ran all the time, but against Virginia Tech showed hustle and effort to chase the ball. … Was very impressive with the way he ran in space. This guy is an outstanding athlete. … Did a nice job of playing with his hands against Missouri both run and pass, but against Miami and Virginia Tech, thought he could have done a better job disengaging with the blocker quicker. … Showed a nice arm-over move that freed himself on an upfield rush against the Tigers. … When he wants to rush, he can be outstanding. He really does have the talent to be dominant, but he doesn’t always play that way. … Mentioned that he played some defensive tackle. If he goes to a 3-4 team, you will see him do more of this in the nickel. His first-step quickness and length would give guards plenty of trouble. Showed the ability to get push inside in the Missouri game. …Will most likely be the first end taken, but starting to hear more and more questions about his effort and intensity, so it will be something to keep an eye on as we get closer to the draft to see if he were to slide out of the top 10.

Draft preview series: Baylor C Philip Blake

March, 23, 2012
3/23/12
12:01
AM ET
The 10th installment of our draft preview series looks at Baylor center Philip Blake.

Scouts Inc. ranks: No. 3 center, unranked overall (not top 100)
Bio: He’s a 26-year-old native who did not play football until his senior year of high school. Played one season at Tyler Junior College before going to Baylor. Started every game for the Bears the last three seasons, playing right tackle as a sophomore and center as a junior and senior. Was first-team All-Big 12 last season, when he helped the Bears rank second in the nation in total offense and fourth in scoring offense.

[+] EnlargePhilip Blake
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesCenter Philip Blake started every game for Baylor the last three seasons but may need time to develop.
Size: 6-foot-2 , 311 pounds
40-yard dash: 5.18 seconds
225-pound bench press reps: 22
Vertical jump: 29.5 inches
Broad jump: 8-foot-9
20-yard shuttle: 4.65 seconds
Three-cone drill: 7.88 seconds

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed TCU, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington games): Physically, he looks the part with a large lower body, but he surprisingly really didn't play with much power when it came to the running game. I really didn’t see much snap or shock to his game when taking on defenders. Too much catching and trying to steer. Likes to lean on his man, and it gets him in trouble because he gets overextended in his blocks. Tends to get a little straight-legged, and I think this hurts him with his power. … If he learns how to play with more of a flat back, I think he would have better success. Seems like he is always reaching on his blocks. His sustain comes from grabbing and holding his man. … Thought he could have done a much better job of finishing blocks. There were times when he looked like he was peeking to find the ball then let up when it got past him. … Has outstanding timed speed for an offensive lineman, but you don’t see him play fast. Plays more like his 20 shuttle time of 4.65. Is not that quick-footed athlete that you would like to have at center. Had problems getting to and securing blocks on the second level. … Thought he could have played with better balance, especially on reach and cut-off blocks. Was a nonfactor in the screen package against TCU and Oklahoma. Would clear his man, then it was a struggle for him to get out in space, leaving a defender unblocked. … He did a much better job when he was asked to pass protect. Was more active with his hands in the Oklahoma game. Is really comfortable playing against an opponent that doesn’t have many pass rush moves, like against Texas, but Alameda Ta’amu of Washington (one of the top nose tackles in this draft) gave him some fits with his power. … Solid when asked to help in the pocket with blitz pickups. You see awareness and vision in this area. … Comes from an offense that runs a great deal of read option but that also threw the ball, so he will need some development as a run blocker, which right now is his biggest weakness. … Don’t like the fact that he only lifted 22 times with 225. He is a little bit behind in that area too, but it is something that he can work on. … Will be a consideration in the middle of the draft because he does have some tools that could be developed.

Draft preview series: Georgia CB Brandon Boykin

March, 15, 2012
3/15/12
11:45
PM ET
The fifth installment in our draft series looks at Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin.

Scouts Inc. ranks: No. 8 cornerback, No. 60 overall
Bio: Second-team All-SEC selection at cornerback last season, when he had 55 tackles (11 for losses), nine passes broken up, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Finished career with nine interceptions. Also a dynamic kickoff and punt returner. Averaged 24.2 yards on 110 career kickoffs with four touchdowns. Averaged 12.9 yards with a touchdown on 14 punt returns. Played some offense as a senior, when he had seven carries for 103 yards and a touchdown and five catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Boykin
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesCornerback Brandon Boykin isn't the most physical player, but he has good speed and quickness and was a dynamic punt and kick returner at Georgia.
Size: 5-foot-9 , 182 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.44
Did not participate in scouting combined due to broken leg suffered at Senior Bowl.

Broaddus Breakdown (viewed South Carolina, Georgia Tech, LSU and Michigan State games): Lined up at the right cornerback, slot and even safety at times for the Bulldogs. … Small-looking player on film, and at times will play small. … Like Stephon Gilmore from South Carolina, he plays with outstanding foot quickness and does a nice job reading routes and driving on the ball. Plays with range and good initial burst. Really shows some closing speed when he sees the play develop. … Skilled enough to carry routes across the field and maintain position. Will show the ability to cut his man off in route. Is a fluid-moving athlete. Can turn and run with little trouble. Don’t see much separation from receivers in his game. … Plays smart. LSU tried to fool him with a double move on the outside, but he did not bite on the route. … Thought he was a much better zone player than man, and that might have something to do with his size. … Starts well in his pedal but will tend to get a little high. … Showed good ball skills. Had an interception against South Carolina, but also dropped one. Played the ball well in the air against LSU. … Will struggle when he has to set the edge in the running game. This just really isn’t one of his strengths. Bothered me when the ball came downhill at him; he went into retreat mode. The LSU game was awful for him when it came to being physical on the edge. Missed two tackles in the open field that both resulted in touchdowns. If he can tackle you by running you down from the backside, he has a shot at making the play, but otherwise, there could be some problems. … Did drive on the ball against Michigan State on a hitch screen and tackled his man, which resulted in a safety. … A club will draft and use him in the slot to start his career. There is no doubt of his ability to cover anywhere on the field, but he will need some work when he has to play at the point of attack. … Can easily see him going mid to late second round of the draft. Did not work out during the combine because he got hurt in the Senior Bowl, but that really shouldn’t be a problem for him because you can see the speed and quickness on tape.

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