Cowboys Draft Prospects: DeMarcus Love

After a look at the top-rated Cowboys offensive tackle invitee in Tyron Smith, we move to the guy who is almost certainly the lowest-ranked, DeMarcus Love of Arkansas. This is not to say that Love didn't also enjoy a great deal of collegiate success; on the contrary, he was a first team All-SEC selection in 2010 by both the AP and coaches. He helped to pave the way for a 3,000-yard passer, and 1,000-yard rusher, in 2010 and was part of an offensive unit that led the SEC and ranked fourth in the NCAA in passing offense (338.4ypg). Love is a key member of an offensive line that finished the season with a streak of eight consecutive games with a 100-yard rusher, averaging 174.8 rushing yards in those eight games.

That said, he entered the 2010 season expecting to pick up where he left off after a very impressive 2009 campaign and, perhaps, assume a place as one of the first-round tackles. Instead, he played poorly in '10 and saw his draft stock plummet. And his situation did not improve during Senior Bowl week. During the practices, as documented by our resident O-line guru, Longball, here, Love struggled at tackle so much that he was moved to right guard (where he had played earlier in his college career). This, combined with some mediocre tape, has caused a lot of scouting types to project him to guard, where he won't be exposed so clearly.

Most reports of his work at the Combine have damned him with faint praise: he didn't do much either to hurt or to help his draft standing. A video of his combine workout can be found here. Sadly, what this means is that, other than from the Cowboys, poor DeMarcus hasn't been getting much love from NFL teams. I couldn't find any mention of other teams scheduling a visit with him.

Why are teams avoiding a guy who, after his 2009 season, was thought by some to be the top tackle in the nation? Lets hear what the big-time draftniks have to say after the jump...

National Football Post (Wes Bunting) 7th-rated OG; 113th overall

Has experience at both guard and tackle in the Arkansas offense and is at his best in the run game when asked to quickly get out of his stance, reach defenders off his frame and eliminate them from the play. Displays natural flexibility in his lower half initially off the snap and has the ability to really fire off the ball quickly. Possesses good range and body control on the move and consistently breaks down well in space. Looks natural dropping his pad level at the point and can really generate a thrust through his hips. Uncoils his arms well into contact and has the ability to routinely eliminate defenders on the move. Now, can get overwhelmed by bigger linemen when asked to hold his own more as an in-line guy. But, exhibits good short-area body control, looks natural quickly redirecting in space and has a bit of a mean streak when asked to finish blocks through the play.

Sits into his stance well in pass protection initally, displays a good first step off the football and consistently is able to anchor on contact when lined up inside. Does a nice job dropping his pad level down, extending his long arms and displays good hand placement inside. Exhibits good lateral agility when engaged, works his feet well on contact and knows how to mirror through the play. However, isn't a real natural bender into contact on the outside. Doubles over at the waist, drops his head, doesn't see what he hits and needs some real work at the point as a offensive tackle.

Played offensive tackle last season - both on the right and left side - and although he needs to tighten up his initial kick-step and overall footwork, the guy displays really impressive range and athleticism off the edge. Possesses an explosive first step and can consistently reach speed off the corner, but doesn't consistently stay real balanced or compact with his footwork, causing him to get upright at times. Routinely gets doubled over at the waist into contact, drops his eye level and will allow his head to get out in front of him, causing him to lose balance easily on the outside. Nevertheless, plays long-armed and can dictate to blocks on contact in the pass game when he can get his hands on you. Has some versatility and upside at either guard or tackle.

Impression: He's long, athletic and can generate leverage for himself in the run game. Has experience playing on both sides of the offensive line at either tackle and guard and if he's able to work solely at one spot in the NFL, there really is a lot of upside and potential to his game. Looks like a potential NFL starter, but is going to need time.

The Sporting News (Russ Lande) 15th-rated OT; overall unknown (not in top 99)

Strengths: Is effective at blocking all types of pass rushers with his quickness, agility, flexibility and speed. Has flashed the ability to slide to the corner and cut off the edge rusher with ease. Slashes through space to get to the second level in a snap. Stays on his block consistently to eliminate his man from play when he uses good technique.

Weaknesses: Is not an aggressive, fire-off-the-ball run blocker and often gets upright and is jolted backward. Has a bad habit of stopping his feet after making contact in pass protection, which leads to him getting beaten by secondary pass-rush moves. Is inconsistent with hands in pass protection, allowing pass rushers to jolt him.

Bottom line
: Love may be athletic, but his play fell off in his senior year after a 2009 campaign that left many thinking he would be the top tackle in the 2011 draft. The decrease in production might be blamed on weight, as Love seemed to have gained more than 20 pounds between his junior and senior seasons. He's worth a third- or fourth-round pick, but if his play doesn't return to 2009 form, Love won't last long in the NFL.

Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki) 8th-rated OG; overall unavailable (not in top 150)

Positives: Very good body length. Solid base strength to handle a charge and sit in pass protection. Can latch on and control defenders. Is aggressive, competes and the game is important to him.

Negatives: Very thin below the knees. Too stiff, slew-footed and narrow-based, and it negates his power. Plays top heavy and is not agile to counter or play in space. Bad-bodied. On the ground too much. Not athletic transitioning or handling movement. Does not play with power. Gets beat inside too much-struggles to handle inside moves.

Summary: Struggled inside and outside at the Senior Bowl, but is better suited to move inside where he could be protected on each side. A long-armed, underpowered mauler who tends to smother and hold defenders, Love could compete for a job in a zone-blocking scheme, but might never look pretty executing in it.

ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton) 14th-rated OT; overall unknown (not in top 150)

Pass Protection: Lacks top-tier athleticism. Has enough foot quickness to play LT but appears to be better-suited for the right side at the NFL level. Not pretty in his pass sets and displays a lot of jerky motions. However, has adequate first-step quickness and gets proper depth with initial set. Possesses a strong punch and is very active with his hands. Flashes ability to shuffle and mirror rushers but can get off-balance against quick double moves. Very strong base and can sink hips to neutralize bull rush attempts. Does a nice job of controlling rushers once in sound position.

Run Blocking: Needs some work on overall technique and angles to the point. That said, possesses excellent in-line capability. Displays a strong power base and gets adequate movement on defenders at the point of attack. Once in proper position he can control and steer defenders and open up creases. Lateral quickness is just average and will struggle to reach 3-techniques from the backside. Balance is lacking at times and can fall off blocks as a result. Moves well in space and can get down the line or around edge in a timely manner. However, really struggles when having to adjust on the run to cover up moving targets in space.

Awareness: More instinctive in pass pro than as a run blocker. Sees and reacts to defensive line movement well. Can locate and pick up blitzers from the second and third level. Sound in the run game when assignment is along the front line. However, struggles to quickly locate and cover up targets at the second level. Is also occasionally a step late coming off of combo blocks to cover linebackers.

Toughness: Appears to have very good overall core strength that translates to the field. Plays with passion and works to sustain blocks. Will finish when given the opportunity. Flashes a mean streak but we would like to see it with more consistency.

Intangibles: Quiet and reserved. Leads by example. Hard worker both on and off the field. Active in community service. Has experience lining up as both the LT and RT in a flip-flopping offensive line scheme at Arkansas.

After reading this collection of thoughts, it looks like Love could be a Doug Free type of player: give him a few years in an NFL weight-training program and space to develop, and maximize his raw athleticism--the one thing that can't be taught. Although many in Cowboys nations are calling for immediate fixes on the O-line, I'd say Love figures as a really smart future investment--one that has the potential to pay big dividends in 2013 and beyond.

Because of this upside--and the fact that offensive linemen tend to be highly valued (rightly so)--and that athletic linemen are a rare commodity, I'm going to rate Love a bit higher than these pundits, most of whom don't have him in their top 150 or so. I'm going to slot him in round five, where the Cowboys currently have pick # 143.

Next up: Boston College OT Anthony Castonzo

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