No, that isn't maple syrup that Tyrone Crawford is devouring...or is it?
The Dallas Cowboys had already made the biggest splash of the 2012 NFL Draft when they moved up eight spots for LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, but perhaps their most intriguing pick of the draft came in the third round. After trading for Claiborne, the Cowboys were left without their second-round draft pick. If you ask me, the price for Claiborne was a steal, but it did leave some wondering if the Cowboys sacrificed potential depth for a premier player.
So when the Cowboys finally came back on the clock with the 81st pick in the third round, I was excited because there were a lot of really good prospects left on the board.
The name that was announced by Chad Hennings, who probably waited in the green room forever to make the pick for the Cowboys, was Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford. I admit that while I liked the pick at first, I wasn't in love with it. After reading some of the reports on the internet about Crawford, listening to Mike Mayock rave about the pick and checking out what fellow BTB writer Brandon Worley had to say about Crawford, I was sold.
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The first reaction that a lot of the fans had (including myself) was that Crawford was going to take time to develop. But after the training camp he has had so far, Crawford appears to be more NFL ready than I had anticipated. It's only August, and it's extremely early, but the Canadian-born defensive end looks like a beast in the making.
Dan Graziano follows each NFC East team with a close eye for ESPN.com. He recently attended a practice in Oxnard, and in his recent article Graziano tells us that he may have been wrong about the Crawford selection.
I was critical of the Cowboys' draft in general, and my feelings on third-round pick Tyrone Crawford were that they'd picked a guy who couldn't help them this year -- a project defensive end for a 3-4 defense when they'd already traded their second-round pick and still had 2012 needs to address. But watching Crawford practice -- watching him in drills against the likes of Tyron Smith -- it's easy to see how the Cowboys could indeed find a role for him this year as a situational pass-rusher in nickel or dime packages.
Graziano asked Jason Garrett about Crawford, and Garrett gave us his expectations for the rookie defensive end.
"The vision we had for him in Year 1 was, 'Come in here and be a contributor as a pass-rush guy, and then we feel like you can be big enough to play the five-technique in our base defense.' We loved his relentless nature. Passionate kid still learning the game of football. His body's going to get bigger. He's going to get stronger. He has position traits to be a starter in the future, and right now he can have a role for us because we potentially like how he can rush the passer in a third-down situation."
Originally I thought Crawford was going to be a package or situation type of player, but the more I read about him, I get the feeling that he can contribute early into his career for us. One of the first comparisons I made was to fellow Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher. Hatcher took a lot of time to develop, but you could always see the raw talent he had. Crawford is way farther along in his development than Hatcher was, and we could see Crawford on the field a lot in 2012.
Todd Archer also of ESPN.com is coming around on the Crawford bandwagon. In his recent article, Archer discusses if Crawford might be a steal for the Cowboys, and I have to agree with Archer.
The play of rookie defensive end Tyrone Crawford has me wondering if the Cowboys haven’t stolen a player with their third-round pick. He has added 15 pounds since the draft. He has the feet of a normal 4-3 end and the power you want from a 3-4 end. When the Cowboys selected him, the move was met by the general fan with a shrug (and a, "Who?"). The football people really liked the pick. Crawford is showing up almost every day and has made plays in the base and nickel packages. One member of the organization wondered whether Crawford could not start a few games this season.
Obviously Crawford needs to learn a lot more about playing defensive end in the NFL, but he must grow as a pass rusher. Keep in mind that Crawford came from a junior college and transferred to Boise State. While he had a lot of success in his two years at Boise, he was only a starter there for one season. The reps he will get in practice this summer are going to play a big part in his development.
Crawford is receiving great coaching from defensive line coaches Brian Baker and Leon Lett. Crawford admits that he has a pretty good bull rush, but he needs to find a counter move.
"I feel like I have a pretty decent pass rush as far as bull rush, but I definitely need to work something off my bull rush," he said. "That’s definitely something me, Coach Baker and Big Cat have been working on. Hopefully, I can do that in this first game."
The Cowboys list him at 6-4 and 282 pounds, but the media guide lists him at 285. Crawford recently said that he is up to 290, but regardless of what his real weight is, he is in fantastic shape. His size makes him what Mike Mayock calls, "the prototypical five technique". Crawford really was an under the radar type of player before the draft, a real "sleeper", but there were plenty of scouts and people around the NFL who thought that he was going to be a steal.
I don't want to list all of the quotes, but check out this article to read about some NFL people praising Tyrone Crawford before and after the draft. I honestly just found this article recently, which is probably due to the fact that it is from Canada, but man did it make me feel good to read all of those people talking highly about our rookie defensive end.
I believe the entire Dallas Cowboys organization did a great job by selecting Crawford, but let's give a hat tip to the scouting department. Crawford is looking like a steal, and the Cowboys may have discovered a future stud at defensive end. Tyrone Crawford is no Jason Pierre-Paul, but they are somewhat similar. Both took a different type of journey to get into the NFL. JPP didn't blow up the combine, and Crawford actually did better than JPP in some drills.
In time Crawford could become a force on the Dallas defensive line, but it may be sooner than what we originally thought.