First Look: Cowboys Grab Stanford's Ben Gardner To Join The Rushmen

Otto Greule Jr

On Day 3 the Cowboys needed to add to their defensive line, and they got things started here.

The Cowboys continued to work on their defensive line problem in the 2014 NFL Draft, with the selection of Stanford DE Ben Gardner. One of the keys for Rod Marinelli's vision of the Dallas defense is position versatility, so a Stanford defensive lineman fits perfectly. The Cardinal defense is multiple; as such, Gardner has experience playing both 1- and 2-gap schemes and from positions up and down the line. He will most likely get penciled in as a left defensive end, the strongside. He's a different type of tweener; not the normal 34 OLB or 43 DE but 43 DE or 34 defensive end.

Gardner's 2013 season was cut short by a torn pectoral muscle, and that might have factored into why he was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. It was the event's loss, because they might have had an outstanding performance to make the rounds. During his Pro Day, Gardner posted very impressive numbers. Measuring in at 6'4" and 262 lbs (down from his playing weight of 277) , Gardner turned in a vertical jump of 39.5" and a broad jump of 10'2"; numbers that would have ranked him second and fifth respectively. That kind of athleticism is intriguing for a coach like Marinelli as the explosion represents the ability to fire off the ball and get a leverage and position advantage on offensive linemen.

He also posted insane 3-cone and short shuttle numbers of 6.98 and 4.24. For reference purposes, Cowboys second round pick Demarcus Lawrence posted a 7.46 and 4.31 in each.

As a pass rusher, Gardner has shown some ability to use his arm length to control the blocker and an ability to change direction. He compiled 17 sacks over the course of his career as a three-year starter. His money won't be made in the league as a pass rusher, though. At least not initially. Gardner is a two-down player who will be removed for someone with more functional speed. He is more of the dirty work guy that allows others to make the big play. His production ratio of 1.55 does lead one to believe that he won't be a liability in the rush game.

In the run game, however, Gardner is capable of disengaging from linemen with great quickness. This allows him to control them and then pursue the ball carrier, which is why he has promise as a strongside 1-gap DE.

Many may have discounted Gardner for a few reasons. Most notably, he was the third best DE on his team, on a defense that figured to have several draftable players. His athleticism during a game doesn't appear as impressive as it did in his Pro Day, though again, he did have plus collegiate production.

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