Assuming the mock draft by Ryle comes to fruition and all the defensive lineman with first round grades have been taken the Cowboys will be in a difficult situation. How do they proceed in the draft? Do they draft a reach or another position without such a great need?
Many people are advocating trade up, trade back, draft a free safety, anything but a tight end or take anything you can get at defensive line. I think OCC brought up an interesting point last week on playmaking linebackers. I have a new option, sort of out of the box so to speak, moving Bruce Carter to blindside defensive end and draft Ryan Shazier to play weak side outside linebacker.
Marinelli’s defense is predicated on "fast twitch" guys. He values explosiveness over power. Bruce Carter is an explosive athlete. He has athletic gifts unlike most players on the Cowboy’s roster. Most of the public complaints on Carter this past season were his lapses in coverage. As a defensive end, coverage is not an issue and as a rushman, your primary job is to get to the quarterback.
Carter does not have the ideal height, statistically defensive ends 6'4" and over produce better and he would likely have to add 10 to 15 pounds of muscle to his frame, but with his first step and speed, he could be a nightmare for opposing tackles. This would also allow for the Cowboys to employ some creative Dick Lebeau type zone blitzing schemes where Carter falls back and Shazier blitz the hole. Assuming Ware will be released due to salary cap issues; Carter could be the piece to replace Ware and create that edge pressure.
Shazier would fill the linebacker role vacated by Carter. Some great film on him here – (Ryan Shazier v. Wisconsin). He is a smaller player at 225 lbs, but with a pro contract leading to better meals, a pro weight room and off season training, he could likely add without losing his gift of speed and explosiveness. He has strong instincts; which is a big issue for Carter.
Shazier is the type of player that "makes things happen", another calling card of the Marinelli defense is turnovers, flowing the ball and even more turnovers. I was most impressed with OCC’s post on Shazier (Finding Playmaking Linebackers). It clearly shows Shazier is the cream of the draft crop in linebacker playmakers. Van Noy makes a lot of flashy plays but it is important to note, Shazier makes almost as many flashy plays but also makes more than double the number of tackles.
Whatever the Cowboys do this offseason will be predicated on developing more explosiveness. It seems the Cowboys are following a plan, bringing in players who fit the physical attributes of the defense, rather than the dreaded best player available. To continue facilitating a deep roster, players who are brought in will be quick first step with fast straight line speed.
Remember size matters less when 3 or 4 players are converging on the ball carrier every play.