Cowboys Draft Prospects: Gabe Carimi

Our last, loving look at the offensive players in whom the Cowboys have expressed interest sets Wisconsin's big (6-7, 314) left tackle Gabe Carimi in our sights. Carimi comes highly decorated; he was the 2010 Outland Trophy winner (nation's best offensive lineman) and was named the Bog 10 offensive lineman of the year. In addition, he was a unanimous first-team All American, a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection (and an Academic All-Big Ten selection). Whew...that's a lot of trophies to put in the case. Over the last four years, Carimi registered a whopping 49 starts at left tackle, since taking over for the Browns first-rounder Joe Thomas. In 2010, Carimi helped pave the way for the nation's No. 5 scoring offense (41.5 points per contest). 

And he did this while facing some of the best defensive linemen in the country. Including practice, he has battled four potential first-rounders (Ryan Kerrigan, Adrian Clayborn, Cameron Jordan and teammate J.J. Watt) this season, which gives scouts solid evidence that he can play--and play well--against NFL-caliber talent. Indeed, Carimi was quick to remind scouts of this during Combine interviews. He told the assembled masses, "I have a better resume of going against better talent than anyone else, so that makes me more ready," adding that he is "physically stronger and have more career starts and better knowledge of the game than any other tackle out there. That's why I'm the No. 1 tackle out there." No shrinking violet, that Carimi. Video of his combine workout can be found here.

Indeed, Carimi has the game to back up his claim. At the Senior Bowl, he had a terrific week of practice--playing at both tackle spots as well as guard--until he rolled an ankle. Nonetheless, his performance solidified his status as a first-rounder. During the week of practice, Carimi looked to be the best offensive tackle at Mobile--indeed, that's when he really came onto my radar. 

He's been on teams' radar for some time now. In addition to his trip to Valley Ranch, Carimi has visits scheduled with the Jets, Falcons, and Bills--and I'd guess that a slew of other teams know enough about him to draft him without a visit. What makes the ex-Badger such an attractive prospect? See what your connoisseurs of big ugliness have to say after the jump...

National Football Post (Wes Bunting) 2nd-rated OT; 12th overall

A long, well put together offensive tackle prospect who has some real nasty to his game and possesses good overall strength for the position. However, isn't the most flexible of linemen when asked to sit into his stance. Struggles to consistently keep his base down and footwork compact on his kick-slide and can be bullied at the point at times because of his overextended footwork. Now, is a very patient puncher and does a nice job delivering a compact, strong jolt into contact. But too often explosive defensive ends are able to reach the corner on his kick-slide, forcing him to quickly open up his hips and lunge into his target in an effort to push them past the play. Displays the ability to anchor with consistency against the bull rush and exhibits good power in his upper body once he gets his hands on you. Does a nice job moving his feet through contact and sticking to blocks and is much more comfortable when engaged.

Exhibits a good first step off the snap in the run game and is able to keep his pad level down much more consistently, creating initial movement as an in-line guy. Gets his big paws up quickly into contact, exhibits good hand location, creates a jarring punch and is heavy handed through the play. Likes to finish runs and plays with a mean streak. Looks comfortable when asked to seal defenders away from the play. Also, was pretty impressive in the open field for a guy his size, getting out to the second level with ease, reaching a target and sealing them from the play.

Impression: Isn't a guy who I would trust on the left side at this stage in the NFL, but he can win for you in the run game and looks more like a very solid right tackle prospect to me.

The Sporting News (Russ Lande) 11th-rated OT; 40th overall

Strengths: Has rare size for the offensive tackle position. Shows strong hands and a violent punch in his play. Has proven to be tough, physical and durable in his career. Displays good initial quickness and short-area quickness. Is an excellent finisher who displays nastiness. Has excellent functional upper body strength.

Weaknesses: Appears short-armed for the position. Plays with locked hips, straight legs and poor body control and balance in all situations. Gets lazy and sloppy with his footwork at times. Plays with marginal leverage as a run blocker at the point of attack. Lacks the ability to sustain a reach block or to adjust to sustain a block on the move. Leans too often as a run blocker.

Bottom line: Carimi has rare size and tremendous toughness, but there are also significant athletic limitations. Because of that, he merits late third-round consideration, at best.

Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki) 2nd-rated OT; 17th overall

Positives: Has a short trunk, long torso and very long arms. Plays with a good base and balance. Efficient leveraging the edge and sliding in pass protection. Rose to the occasion against top competition, handling Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn and Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward and showing he could match up against size and create some push off the line of scrimmage. Solid technician with good footwork. Works to the second level and fits cleanly on linebackers. Very tough and will play through injuries. Showed surprisingly well at the Senior Bowl. Smart and assignment-sound. Takes the game seriously, works hard and wants to improve.

Negatives: Needs to get stronger in the lower body and play with more consistent knee bend. Does not have enough lead in his pants or snarls. Not powerful and too often falls off blocks. Has a white-collar mentality at a blue-collar position and carries an inflated opinion of himself. Thinks he’s better than he is and came off as arrogant and selfish in interviews at the Combine. Durability is concerning—was consistently slowed by injuries. Did not look comfortable on the inside at the Senior Bowl. Appeared very upright and slipped multiple times in positional drills at the Combine.

Summary: a long-limbed, rangy leaner who may never be great, but answered questions about an injury-riddled junior season and showed the mental toughness to win tough battles as a senior. Some NFL evaluators have projected him to the ORT and OG positions, but should be able to step into the starting lineup readily at left tackle in the pros like he did in college. Compares favorably with Giants 1999 19th overall draft pick Luke Petitgout.

ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton) 4th-rated OT; 22nd overall

Pass Protection: Shorter, explosive edge rushers can get under him and drive him back. Too much depth and not enough width with kick step, giving defenders an extra split second to build steam. Doesn't sink hips enough either. However, capable of holding own on an island most of the time. Can hold ground when able to establish position before making contact. Absorbs initial push and re-sets feet quickly working against one-dimensional bull rushes. Locks on and can use long arms to ride defender past the pocket working against one-dimensional speed rushes. Not a great athlete but shows adequate lateral mobility and footwork when forced to redirect.

Run Blocking: Struggles to stay low coming out of stance but drives legs and can move defenders off the ball. Though not a great athlete and can whiff in space, takes adequate angles to downfield blocks and quick enough to get into position at the second level. Can open hips and pull around tight end.

Awareness: Does an above-average job of picking up blitz. Shows great poise in pass protection. Recognizes and makes sound adjustments to line stunts. Shows ability to make in-game adjustments.

Toughness
: Plays with an edge. Doesn't just sustain block. Drives defenders 10-15 yards downfield.

Intangibles: Hard worker that plays with great intensity regardless of whether it's game day or practice. Academic All-Big Ten in 2009, 2008 and 2007. Team's rookie of the year in 2007.

Drafttek (Longball) top-rated ORT; 24th overall

Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin (6’7", 314 lbs) can play LOT – but his mauling, take-no-prisoners attitude lends itself to the right side. His technique is excellent, little slow on his footwork but can protect the flank. The Badger power running game went to the left behind Carimi and John Moffit. The Senior Bowl coaching staff tried him at OG and he excelled – when you have Carimi, Castonzo and Boulder on the same team, you do want to get them all on the field, right? Like I said, he would be a solid pro at LOT, but will be a Pro Bowl ROT.

The first thing that pops off the tape with Carimi is how quick he is right off the snap. It takes him no time to bounce out of his set and engage with a defender. He's very aggressive with his hands and will maintain an excellent hand-punch through the play. While he's not a comfortable second-level blocker, he down-blocks very well -- this is where his power is displayed. Having played LOT, he has an excellent kick-step and ability to fan back in pass protection and because of his excellent technique off the snap, he's less susceptible to inside moves.

Carimi also has good short-area pop when he chips off the line and goes after linebackers in goal-line situations, but his footwork at the second level in other situations leaves something to be desired. He looks like he's on roller skates in short spaces, and it can take him a second to adjust and get his power going at times. He also lunges when asked to perform tackle pulls, but that may be a product of inexperience.

One other technique issue that might affect him is that he plays with more power coming out of the three-point stance than he does when standing up. This is true of most tackles, but in Carimi's case, the difference is more pronounced. With some NFL teams asking their tackles to play out of two-point more often, that may be a problem. Carimi reminds me a bit of Green Bay's Bryan Bulaga (one of Long Ball’s favorites from last year) because of his athleticism and aggressiveness off the snap.

I'd agree with Longball on this one: Carimi's game looks a lot like Bryan Bulaga's: it may not be pretty but he'll fight like hell, play hurt, and do what needs to be done to get the job done. In fact, this reminds me a bit of Dallas' incumbent at RT, Marc Columbo. While number 75 is clearly done, I wouldn't mind a younger replacement with a similar level of nastiness, determination and fight.

Like many of the other O-line candidates that the Cowboys have brought in for a closer looksee, Carimi is hard to justify at the ninth pick. But he'd be a terrific choice should Jerry Jones receive a trade-back offer he can't refuse (particularly because the range in which he's likely to be drafted--the low 20s--would net the Cowboys an extra second rounder). I'll add him to the list of first-round trade-down candidates.

Next up: North Carolina SS Da'Norris Searcey

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