Before the draft, I had the pleasure to engage in an extended discussion about the prospects with one of Drafttek's resident scouting experts, Longball who, as a Cowboys fan and a loyal BTB member, was uniquely positioned for such an endeavor. Unfortunately, he made the regrettable decision to move during the draft, so we haven't had a chance to check in to see what he thought of Dallas' haul and various other draft-like goings-on until very recently. Now that he is hooked up to the world wide web again, Longball can share his seasoned scouting acumen with us. This is particularly relevant given the fact that he specializes in offensive line play and the Cowboys drafted three linemen, who many in Cowboys Nation hope will rejuvenate what has been a moribund O-line of late.
We enjoyed a fairly lengthy conversation, so I've broken it down into two parts. Here, in part one, we discuss the draft picks, focusing on the three offensive linemen--Tyron Smith, David Arkin and Bill Nagy--drafted by the Cowboys. In part two, our discussion turns to the potential philosophical ramifications of those choices for Jason Garrett's offense.
Without further ado, lets see what Longball has to say--after the jump...
BTB: I’d love to get things started by hearing what you thought of the Cowboys draft generally?
Longball: The first 2 selections were good value at positions of need…Smith will be a stud and, anticipating full recovery, Carter has 1st round value and far more athleticism at ILB than Lee. After that, I thought there was better value to be had for just about every selection; quite frankly, this draft will be gauged on the performance and production of DeMarco Murray since the Cowboys chose not to address the DL (which was deeper in quality prospects than any other position).
BTB: I think a lot of Cowboys fans would agree with you. At #71, which players would have been on your short list?
Longball: Kenrick Ellis or Christian Ballard come to mind…or what if you take Martez Wilson there and then, instead of Carter, select Jarvis Jenkins or Stefen Wisniewski in the 2nd?
BTB: We can always second-guess any draft. It’ll be interesting to see how those guys are playing in 3 years; I’m hoping that we can stack up our guys against anyone’s—these big, juicy second-guessing parties aren’t much fun. Now lets move on to the offensive line. From your excellent “big uglies” series, we know what you thought of their first rounder, Tyron Smith:
There is no questioning this young man’s athleticism but there were questions about his maturity (20 years old) and lack of size (6’5” 285 lbs at USC); however, he showed up at the Combine a chiseled 307 lbs, 11” hands (“the better to grab you with, my dear”) and 36-3/8” arms that pumped out 29 reps. Yes, there are still many hours in the weight room ahead and I would have liked to see him stay in school one more year – but then again, I don’t pay his bills. USC played Smith at ROT, but he is a natural fit to slide to LOT in the NFL. His athleticism would be perfect for a zone blocking scheme, but he has the upside to play left tackle in most any offense.
Smith’s long arms allow him to effectively control defenders in pass blocking. He has an excellent kick step to his right, but will have to prove he can effectively do this on the left side. His initial punch is not overly dominating at the point of attack, but time in the weight room should cure that. He is also a little inconsistent and a bit wide with his hand placement, which can allow a defender to get into his body. Smith is most effective against speed rushers and uses his athleticism to maintain the edge well. He is a natural bender who dips low in his stance and has great fluidity for a big man. He can be overaggressive at times, but that mainly comes from lack of experience.
In run blocking, Smith is light on his feet and gets to the second level well. He finishes his blocks, gets excellent leg drive, and never quits on a play. His balance allows him to look natural on the edge in lead blocking. He is a little inconsistent in his initial movement off the ball and plays too high in the running game. Smith played in a pro-style zone blocking scheme under respected line coaches Pat Ruel and James Cregg and should be able to adapt to any scheme.
But what about the other two guys? Lets take a closer look at each of them, beginning with David Arkin. Before the draft, I wrote to you because he suddenly, without warning, appeared in the last spot on Goose Gosselin’s list of the top 100 players. You responded that Arkin was the 21st OG on your rankings. Why did you have him there? Have you seen or heard anything about him since the draft to modify or alter your initial grade?
Longball: Keep in mind that I graded prospects at multiple positions – so among the 20 prospects I had ranked above him at OG were also some players who were also graded as ROT, LOT and OC. David Arkin is an adaptable player, having played OT and OG at Missouri State – he will be a project and I speculate that one of the scouts had him as a “pet cat”, projecting talent that was not obvious on game film at the FCS level. Goose got wind of him from the Cowboys, as other teams did not project him as a 4th round selection (shades of Sam Young, Robert Brewster, James Marten, Pat McQuistan, Rob Petitti, Jacob Rogers, Stephen Peterman, . . . but I digress!)
BTB: This is really interesting. Are you saying that Goose has listed all of those guys higher than they should have been primarily—if not solely—because of what the Cowboys “braintrust” thought of them? That would shoot a pretty big hole in the theory that he gleans good info from across the league to assemble his “top 100” and other lists.
Longball: Keep in mind that Goose assembles his Top-100 Board to win the Huddle Report contest, which is strictly how many players on your list were drafted in the top 100 of the actual draft. Rick has the best reservoir of NFL sources…and the reason they trust him is he keeps his mouth shut and does not post his list until the day of the draft. It only takes one team to draft a particular player and if he has it on good authority that they are interested in that player, he goes on the list even if other teams do not have him graded that high.
BTB: So, that means that only the Cowboys might have had Arkin as a low second or high third rounder? I’m gathering that you don’t agree with them, and think there were better guys to be had when the Cowboys drafted at #110?
Longball: Here are other OL prospects still on the board when Dallas selected Arkin: Jason Pinkston, Marcus Cannon, Chris Hairston, Brandon Fusco, Jake Kirkpatrick, James Brewer, Derek Hall, Tim Barnes, Derek Newton, Darius Morris, and DeMarcus Love.
And if you wanted to address the DL, Lawrence Guy, Cedric Thornton and Lazarius Levingston were available at DE and Jerrell Powe was available at NT.
BTB: That’s an interesting list—and one that I think a lot of BTB members would share with you. I have a question though: look at where these guys were (or weren’t drafted).
I’ll grant you Brewer and Hairston as potentially better prospects at 110—although I wonder if the Cowboys thought they were more pure tackles—and that they didn’t need a tackle—or that they were too long to kick inside. But for the rest of these guys, where they were drafted suggests that the league as a whole felt that they weren’t fourth round prospects. Of course, what we’ll never know is where Arkin would have gone had the Cowboys not taken him when they did.
Longball: Rather than go through and list all the “misses” by the NFL when it comes to drafting OL, or the later round draft choices (or UDFA’s) that have prospered, let’s go back to the days of Tom Landry and his OL coach Jim Myers who believed that, like the QB position, it takes 2-3 years to develop an OL prospect—and even more time to develop cohesive play throughout the entire unit. Keep in mind that OL play is a ballet of 300+ lb ballerinas, working in close proximities that require an elaborate orchestration of movements. I would take a starting OG tandem of Jason Pinkston and Dareus Morris today and never look back.
BTB: Lets continue with the guys Dallas DID draft. I think everybody was taken aback a bit by the selection of Bill Nagy. We know the thumbnail version of his story: starting interior lineman who had a freak moped accident and couldn’t regain his starting position. What can you tell us about his game?
Longball: Not much, as there was not a lot of game tape on him. In an interview, [Wisconsin head coach] Bret Bielema bragged on his versatility as he played OC, TE, FB on various big packages. I find it hard to believe that Dallas really expects him to challenge for an OL position with the OL prospects that were still on the board…this appears to me to be a special teams selection.
BTB: The reports I’ve seen have him blowing up the Wisconsin pro day. Apparently, he “stole the show,” displaying “impressive burst” and turning scouts’ heads with an impressive vertical jump. Is it possible that he was drafted largely on the basis of that performance, or do you think the Cowboys scouts had him on their radar before this display of athleticism?
Longball: Well, you know me well enough that the “Underwear Olympics” numbers should only be utilized to substantiate performance and production on the field. One point I will make is that Garrett did talk at length with Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator before announcing that Hudson Houck would be running game coordinator, so there may have been some information exchanged.
BTB: No mistaking you for anything but an “old school” dude. What I’m hearing from you here is a sneaking suspicion that the Cowboys brass might have been seduced by these guys’ “measurables.”
Longball: Yup. For me, the jury is still out in my mind as to the level of contribution the Cowboys will realize from Messrs. Arkin and Nagy. There’s an expression among old football coaches that has to do with the definition of the word Potential: it means you ain’t done it yet! While the measurables are important, I tend to place a higher premium on production on the field. There are prospects that look good, there are prospects that practice good, and then there are GAMERS! Being a Cowboy fan, I certainly hope they have uncovered some “diamonds in the rough”; however, their track record of finding OL talent in later rounds has not been good. Out of the OL draft busts I listed earlier, only Doug Free has risen to the top from the 4th round over the past few years…so we shall see.
BTB: We shall indeed.
Stay tuned for part II, in which Longball and I address the philosophical ramifications of this draft, particularly as it applies to the offensive line.