The second day of the 2012 NFL Draft was a good news, bad news kind of day for Cowboys fans. On the one hand, we had to sit idly by while almost fifty players went off the board. On the other, there were many crazy picks (T. J Graham? Lamar Holmes? a punter?) that pushed good players to the Cowboys at # 81. As the third round wound its way through the late seventies, the Valley Ranch war room cam showed defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and defensive line coach Brian Baker in the room, talking heatedly, watching a TV screen and then high-fiving, indicating that the pick would be a D-lineman.
The Twitterverse, watching these exchanges, was a-flutter with speculation about just which defensive lineman the Cowboys would snap up: would it be Washington NT Alamdea Ta'amu? Nebraska's Jared Crick? Clemson's Brandon Thompson? In fact, it was none of these guys; the pick was Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford, a country-strong football-playin' dude with a lot of developmental upside, who one draft analyst reported outplayed Bears' first-rounder Shea McClellin on more than one occasion in 2011. As Jason Garrett pointed out, both come from a college program that does things the "right way," practicing hard and developing a professional approach to all aspects of the game.
Crawford may have been under Cowboys' fans radar, but he has been liked by scouting types all draft season. Don't believe me? Allow me to direct your attention to our panel of esteemed scouting types, who will drop some good draftacular knowledge. After the jump...
Wes Bunting (National Football Post): 8th-rated DE; 85th overall
He possesses good size for the position with a naturally longer set of arms. He also coils up into his stance well, comes off the ball low and does a nice job extending his hands into contact as a run defender. He showcases violent hands and a strong base when asked to shed. He also has the ability to stack and shed on the edge, hold the point of attack and work his way toward the football. Crawford will get a bit upright at times when asked to defeat slide down blocks away from his frame, but for the most part he keeps his legs under him, can shed and exhibits good range when asked to close for this size.
He is still a developing pass rusher. Again, he coils up into his stance well and for his size he has an above-average first step. However, he is a linear rusher who doesn't quite possess the closing speed to threaten the edge consistently and he struggles to drop his pad level around the corner. He does a nice job at times extending his arms, creating a bit of a pop, but isn't the type of laterally gifted athlete to quickly shed and explode up the field. Crawford too often gets tied up through contact and needs to develop more confidence in his pass-rushing repertoire. He comes off the ball low, but doesn't exhibit much change of direction to his game off his speed rush. However, he does have the ability to change directions, as he looks natural on T/E stunts coming inside, extending his arms, being violent and working through the play. He's a former JUCO player who is still developing at the position and might need a little more time than most.
Impression: I like his skill set. I think he's going to develop quickly at the next level and he has the ability to be a solid three down lineman with some time. He isn't there yet, but as a prospect Crawford has some real upside and displays the kind of blue-collar pass rushing mentality that I like with a powerful element to his game on contact.
Dan Shonka (Ourlads): 9th-rated DE; 101st overall
One-year starter. Canadian. Junior college transfer form Bakersfield Community College. Flashes first step explosiveness. Has the length and strength in his game. Quick upfield and laterally. Accelerates off a block to get to the ball carrier. Doesn’t stay blocked. A good but not fluid athlete. Needs to improve his hand use as a pass rusher and when shedding blocks. Plays with raw power and functional strength but needs technique work. Can hold the point of attack. Possesses the tools to be a left base defensive end in a four-man front or get work as a five-technique in a three-man scheme. Has the strength to two gap. Will need pro physical development and position skill work. Has an injury history.
Nolan Nawrocki (Pro Football Weekly): 8th-rated DE; 85th overall
Positives: Good size and growth potential — has an athletic, muscular build with long arms. Quick out of his stance. Good athletic ability and body control. Is strong at the point and can jolt blockers with his hands. Keeps working to the quarterback. Pursues hard, ranges with long strides and makes tackles outside the box. Has special-teams experience. Smart, coachable and hardworking. Helped himself at the East-West Shrine Game.
Negatives: Shows some tightness in his movement. Average timed speed. Not a creative pass rusher. Lacks elite edge burst and shoulder flex. Needs to improve hand quickness and dexterity. Can play with more consistent leverage. Undisciplined eyes and average instincts. Only a one-year starter. Did not dominate (average production).
Summary: Well-built, Canadian-born junior-college product offering scheme diversity to play left end in a 4-3 or fit as a five-technique in a one-gapping "30" front. Has broad appeal and upside.
Gary Horton (ESPN. Scouts, Inc.): 10th-rated DE; 80th overall
Pass Rush Skills: Shows adequate initial quickness but snap anticipation is inconsistent. He lacks ideal torso flexibility to bend the edge tightly. But he has quick feet, good power and closing burst, and he's relentless in pursuit. Does a very good job of transferring quickness to power as a bull rusher. Shows good initial pop to stand OTs up but needs to develop a more effective repertoire of second moves in order to cash in on initial quickness and power. Has a strong upper body but needs to become more violent and compact with his hands. Relentless effort. Never stops fighting.
Versus the run: Is big and strong. Plays with good balance. Is powerful enough to keep separation and steer the OL. Inconsistent with hand usage. Shows powerful upper body and ability to disengage but occasionally gets stuck because he's not using his hands effectively. Not a great athlete but usually can change directions in the backfield quickly enough get back into the play. Will make some plays outside of tackle box. Great effort in pursuit. Strong tackler. Breaks down and wraps up on a consistent basis.
Versatility: Best suited to play LDE in a 43 front but also has the length, strength and discipline to develop into a 34DE. Has experience playing on both sides. Also has experience in a two-point stance but not athletic enough to play OLB in a 34.
Instincts/Motor: Awareness is still improving. Can be a quarter-count late diagnosing at times. But plays with good discipline and a great motor. Plays through the whistle. Works hard to get into play from backside.
Intangibles: Windsor, Ontario native. Very coachable. Works hard on and off the field. Appears to have good football character. No off the field issues to our knowledge.
In Crawford and first-rounder Mo Claiborne, we're witnessing the transformation of the Cowboys defense - and not in terms of personnel so much as in scheme and playing style. They are looking for shutdown corners who can play on an island so that the other nine players can disguise their intentions. And, I think Ryan wants those other nine guys to be versatile, with the ability to move around and to do a variety of things from a variety of locations. In Crawford, they have a five-technique who can do more than just stop the run; he can be moved along the line of scrimmage, and probably play standing up as well as with his hand on the ground. At least that's what I'd expect to see from him.
Even with these two picks, I don't think the Cowboys have stopped tinkering. It should be interesting.