Stanford Prospects

I wrote a post like this 2 years ago evaluating some of the lesser known Stanford players in addition to the well-known player that the Cowboys liked in DeCastro. As a Stanford fan and Cowboys fan, I would love to see the Cowboys draft some of my favorite college players. There is a plethora of talent from Stanford that is eligible and entering this year's NFL Draft.

OG - David Yankey (6'5, 313 lbs) - 1st-2nd round pick

David Yankey is a similar prospect to DeCastro though less highly regarded at this stage in the process. However, I personally like Yankey better because of his flexibility. In 2012, Yankey started at LT (also playing some LG) for the Cardinal and won the Morris Trophy for Best OL in the Pac-12 (an award our Tron won in 2010). Yankey moved to LT that season from G to replace the departed Jonathan Martin, as Stanford did not have an adequate LT replacement to allow Yankey to remain at LG. That season, Yankey was a consensus All-American. However, this season Yankey moved back to his ideal spot as a LG since Stanford had highly rated LT Andrus Peat (only a true Sophomore this year but a future top 10 pick). Yankey finished this season as an unanimous All-American selection. That's two years, two All-American selections at two different positions. On top of that, Stanford runs a Pro-Style offense with one of the most complicated blocking systems in College Football and Yankey was able to succeed at two positions and sometimes at both positions in the same game (something he did often in 2012). While he is not the strongest or most athletic prospect, he has phenomenal technique and is one of the best pulling guards I have ever watched. His technique allowed him over the last 2 years to win battles on the inside against strong and large defensive tackles like Louis Nix while also stopping fast pass rushers like Anthony Barr and Dion Jordan (when he was a LT). While the Cowboys may not be looking at a G in the 1st round, I think Yankey would be an excellent prospect to continue the youth trend and replace Bernardeau as the starting RG or give Leary some more time to season and have Yankey move in as the LG. In addition, he would be invaluable as a backup T in case Tron ever got hurt as he would immediately be the second best LT on the roster if drafted. I doubt the Cowboys draft Yankey at 16/17 so the way he would be picked is either via a trade down to the lower part of the 1st round or if he fell because of the undervaluing of Guards in the draft.

DE - Trent Murphy (6'6 260 lb) - 1st round pick

Murphy is the player listed in this article that I believe has the best chance of being drafted by the Cowboys. If Demarcus Ware is cut in the offseason for cap reasons, Murphy could be a Day 1 Starter at DE. If not, he could possibly start on the other side opposite Ware, tho I believe he is a more natural fit at Ware's position. Some people question his ability to play DE in a 4-3 though he is larger than both Ware and Spencer. Also even if he is considered slightly small conventional as a 4-3 end, he is an extremely tough physical player who wrestled steers for fun (i'm not kidding about this). Murphy is a relentless pass rusher, leading the NCAA in both sacks and sack yardage, and extremely solid in run defense as well. However, the most impressive thing about his game to me is his ability to bat balls at the line of scrimmage (or sometimes intercept them, he has 2 career pick-6s). His ability is like that of JJ Watt and I know that seems like extremely high praise or even unrealistic but if you watch tape on him, he has an uncanny ability to knock down the ball. Murphy would be at great pick at 16/17 and would fill a need for the Cowboys.

ILB - Shayne Skov (6'3 245 lb) - 2nd-3rd round pick

Unlikely to be picked by the Cowboys as Skov is truly best in a 3-4 scheme as an ILB and may not fit well at all in a 4-3. However, he does have a knack for perfectly timing blitzes and running through the line of scrimmage before anyone can notice. In the Pac-12 title game, he dove over the line and stopped the QB before he could move forward on a goal line stand (think Ahmad Brooks in the 49ers-Panthers game but it was perfectly timed and worked). In 2011, Skov looked like a first round pick then suffered a knee injury. 2012 was a rebounding year for him as he had not gained his full explosion back and looked slow. This year he was back to 100% and has some of the best instincts I have seen as an ILB. I think he will be a great addition to a team that runs a 3-4 and I hope that he is not drafted by the Eagles or Redskins.

FS - Ed Reynolds (6'2 206 lb) - 2nd-4th round pick

Reynolds would be an interesting fit for the Cowboys as he is a pure FS and a centerfielder, something that the Cowboys are truly missing at the Safety position as Church and Wilcox are more SS types. This year may be considered a down year for Reynolds and may cause his draft stock to drop more toward the 3rd or 4th round when he looked like a potential early 2nd round pick going into the season. In 2012, Reynolds had 6 interceptions for 301 yards (1 yard from breaking the NCAA record for return yards on interceptions in a season). This year, other teams did not throw as much in his direction because of his outstanding 2012 season. He is adequate in run support, it is certainly not his strongest suit, even though he was 3rd on the team with tackles. Reynolds is a playmaking instinctual safety and would be a very good complement to the SS types that the Cowboys currently have.

RB - Tyler Gaffney (6'1 226 lb) 5th-7th round pick

The most impressive thing about Tyler Gaffney is that he rarely ever loses yards (during the season Stanford had something like 7 total negative rushing plays all season). He constantly churns his legs and rarely goes down on first contact. He is also really good at pass protection. If drafted he might actually be the best pass protecting RB on the Cowboys. Gaffney will be a late round pick because he does not have runaway speed and may not time will in the 40 or the cone drills. Though the Cowboys do not need a RB as Murray, Randle and Dunbar will be on the team, Gaffney could replace Tanner as the 4th RB and would be a good short yardage back and backup who could play all 3 downs if needed.

DE - Ben Gardner (6'4 277 lb) 4th-6th round pick

Gardner might have been a higher pick had he not torn his pectoral this year. Gardner might not be a great fit for the Cowboys 4-3 scheme. Gardner has been playing DE in Stanford's 3-4 scheme. He might be too small to play DT in the 4-3 scheme as he does not seem to be able to bulk up much more. If drafted by the Cowboys, he might fit as a 4-3 DE playing in Selvie's spot as a strong side DE who can be stout against the run. Gardner's strength has been stopping the run and occasionally pass rushing. It is truly hard for me to evaluate Gardner as a 4-3 DE because I haven't seen him play the position though he is about Tyrone Crawford's size and the Cowboys have high hopes for him in the 4-3 scheme. However saying that, Gardner is an RKG and an extremely hard working guy. Interestingly enough despite not being able to play he was in full uniform at the Rose Bowl on the sideline. He is a fiery hardworker and though the transition may take time he might be worth a late flier in the 5th or 6th round (I know the Cowboys don't currently have a 6th rounder).

DE/DT - Josh Mauro (6'6 282 lb) 4th-6th round pick

I believe that Josh Mauro might be the best value pick out of all the Stanford players. Mauro played DE in Stanford's 3-4 scheme but did not start games until this year when Henry Anderson or Ben Gardner were out with injuries. In addition to playing DE in the 3-4, he shifted inside to play DT when Stanford was in sub-packages playing the Dime or Nickel with 4 down lineman and even played some NT in the Stanford 3-4. Mauro is extremely consistent against both the pass and run and was a great player for Stanford. He was referred to by David Shaw as a proverbial "bull in a china shop". Since Mauro had such limited starting time at Stanford and was mostly a backup for his career, he might be slipping somewhat under the radar. He is currently participating in the East/West Shrine Game and was noted by some scouts today as standing out in 1v1 drills. I believe that Mauro would fit best as a 3 technique DT in the Cowboys 4-3 scheme. With the Cowboys likely to not resign Jason Hatcher due to money, I believe that Mauro would be a good replacement for him, though one who may not be able to start Day 1. One of Mauro's best attributes is his quickness off the line which is something that is extremely important for the 3 tech in this scheme. Because of this Mauro would be an ideal inside rusher on 3rd downs to start his career while developing into a full time DT. Finally, some people may believe that Mauro needs to gain weight to play the 3 tech. While, I do not necessarily agree, looking at him, he has the frame to support some more weight and could easily push his weight into the 290s.

RT - Cameron Fleming (6'6 318 lb) 4th-6th round pick

Cameron Fleming was a 3 year starter at RT for a Stanford OL that has been one of the best in the NCAA during his time in college. Fleming was a very solid college starter, though I have questions about his ability to replicate his production in the NFL. My biggest concern is that he struggles against speedy pass rushers because he is somewhat slow. Fleming is a very good run blocker and is extremely strong, though because of his lack of quickness, he sometimes has trouble making blocks at the 2nd level. In my mind, I do not believe Fleming will be a starting caliber RT in the NFL. HIs best use would be as an extra lineman in short yardage run formations, but I would not draft a player for that position. With all of this said, I do believe he could possibly be a starting caliber OG if he was willing to move over to that position. While 6'6 is historically a little tall for guards, it is something that is happening with more frequency. If Fleming was willing to learn the guard position, he could have value as a backup who could play both OG and RT. As an Aeronautics and Aerospace Engineering major, I do not doubt that Fleming is smart enough to learn 2 positions.

FB/TE - Ryan Hewitt (6'4 245 lb) - 6th round pick-UDFA

Hewitt is another one of my favorite value players. He has played FB for almost his whole career at Stanford but has the hands, route running ability, size, and blocking strength to be a FB/TE/H-back in the NFL. If anyone remembers the Jon Gruden QB Camp with Andrew Luck and Spider 2-Y Banana, all of those FB passes were to Hewitt. Hewitt would be effective in the Cowboys scheme as he could replace Clutts as the FB and also be a good 4th TE. I think he is already a better blocker than Escobar and Hanna and think he could be used in the same way that Houston has used Garrett Graham and James Casey.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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