I am a firm believer that any football team should pop for at least one offensive lineman in the first four rounds every year. For the Cowboys, due to our lack of diligence in the past, I want to take more than one. Ideally our first and second picks should be spent here, but i could also justify a first and third if we took a solid pass rush prospect in the second. There quite a few of those availible in the next draft too, as I will detail in the upcoming days. Some of you will remember that a couple weeks ago I looked at 5 linemen from Alabama and Texas A&M. This time I will look at 5 more top line prospects that I wouldn't be disappointed to see at Valley Ranch next season.
Dallas Thomas is a redshirt senior out of the University of Tennessee. at 6'5" and 310 lbs. he is a likely guard in the NFL even though he started at LT for the Volunteers in 2010 and 2011. He moved inside to left guard this season. Thomas was named as pre- season All SEC selection by conference coaches this year. He is also on the Outland Trophy watch list. Through the early half of the season, he is part of an offensive line that is averaging 422 yards a game and is giving up only half a sack per game. Dallas has an excellent base and shows good lateral movement and he shows good flexibilty in the hips and knees. In addition to good pass blocking skills he also locks up nicely with defenders and uses leverage to control his man when run blocking.
Jonathan Cooper out of North Carolina is getting some attention here on BtB, mostly due to Paul. ( I promise not to hold that against him). It is, however; well deserved attention. 6'3' and 295 lbs. according to the team site, he could stand a few extra pounds. It should be noted that some other sites list him at either 305 or 310. A two time All ACC performer, Cooper considered coming out last season but returned to Chapel Hill for his senior year. Cooper missed most of spring ball due to shoulder surgery, but he appears to be fully recovered at this point. So far this season he has graded out at least in the high 80s for each game, with a couple 90 plus outings sprinkled in as well. As a junior he helped to clear the way for a 1200 yard rusher by excelling at both pulling and getting to the second level. A standout high school wrestler Jonathan shows excellent footwork and mobility. His biggest weakness is that he does not yet possess overpowering strength, but he does compensate with technique.
Wisconsin center Travis Frederick is a redshirt junior who may come out this year, but who, in my opinion, would benefit from more seasoning. At 6'4" and 338, he is one of the bigger interior linemen out there, but he is suprisingly nimble for a big guy. Originally recruited as an OT, he has, however; been an interior player throughout his career as a Badger. Due to an injury to C Peter Konz, he was forced to start 4 games at center as a true freshman before being redshirted during his second year. He spent that year charting plays for the Badgers, a job normally held by a quarterback. He has shown a very high football IQ, in addition to being an honor student. He currently handles line calls and should be able to continue that at the next level. Last season he started at guard and helped block for 1900 Montee Ball rushing yards. This season he has replaced Konz as the Wisconsin center. Travis was named a second team All Big Ten player last year. and is on the watchlist for both the Outland and Rimington trophies this season. His biggest drawback is that he could use more time at center before moving to the NFL. He is, however; considered to be a highly polished blocker for someone with only 18 career starts.
Larry Warford is another wide-bodied OL. 6'3" and 343 lbs. is big for a guard but Warford is quite light on his feet. He has shown nice footwork and the ability to get downfield and block. In addition, his short and wide build makes it tough for DTs to slip by him when pass blocking. Although he is physically imposing and shows excellent leg strength Larry sometimes struggles to maintain his blocks in the running game. In 2011 he graded out at 87.5 for the season and was named second team All SEC. It was the second consecutive time he was so honored. One additional concern with Warford is that he has struggled at times to keep his playing weight down (he once reported to camp at over 360) and there are fears that he could balloon up once again.
At 6'5" 335, Baylor guard Cyril Richardson appears to be more of a tackle than a guard. In fact he played LT last year, covering the back of Heisman Trophy winner RGIII. This year he has moved inside to play left guard. He is a second year starter and redshirt junior . Again, he would likely be better off playing another year in college, but is likely to opt for the draft. Last year he was honorable mention ll Big XII, and was named a pre-season All Big XII lineman this year. He is the strongest of the Baylor linemen, benching 400 lbs. and squatting 665. His pass blocking is likely not up to what is needed to play LT in the NFL, but he should be fine inside or perhaps even at RT. He struggles with speedrushing and he lacks consistancy in his play.
All five of these guys will be solid performers at the next level, and could start for the Cowboys as a rookie. If I could have my choice, I would prefer Frederick as a center with a Cooper being a close second choice to play guard. Both were outstanding wrestlers in high school, and I like linemen with mat experience because it tends to produce players with a solid understanding of leverage and how to gain and use it effectively. It also does wonders for developing an athletes self-confidence and determination. Wrestlers also tend to have quick coordinated foot movement as well.