First Look: Cowboys Add Demarcus Lawrence To The Defensive End Position

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys moved up in the draft as expected, and grabbed themselves their Demarcus Ware replacement.

Well that didn't take very long.

The Dallas Cowboys were sitting back at pick number 47 with a huge hole to fill; finding a replacement for future Pro Bowler and Dallas living legend DeMarcus Ware. As soon as the Houston Texans pick was announced, the first of the second round, the smiles and celebrations started in the Cowboys War Room. Why were they so ecstatic? They had worked out a way to grab defensive end Demarcus Lawrence from Boise State.

It took the Cowboys their 47th and 78th pick to move up to the Washington Redskins' 34th pick. The Jimmy Johnson trade value chart says the Cowboys lost 70 points (630 to 560) in the move; the equivalent of a mid-fourth round selection. Vice-President Stephen Jones admitted in the press conference the team overpaid.

As we referenced earlier, the Cowboys have been working the trade routes since yesterday, working a way to move up and grab the player they had targeted as the second best right defensive end in the draft. That they were targeting Lawrence was the worst-kept secret of the draft. That they moved all the way up and sacrificed a third raised more than a few eyebrows.

So why Lawrence? What makes him worth the value of two different players in an extremely deep draft to the Cowboys front office? The Cowboys view Lawrence as the last remaining player that could get them double-digit sacks on a regular basis. His skill-set is based around his extreme lateral quickness and his dynamic first step and pursuit skills. His hand usage is a big plus, and he looks extremely natural dipping around the corner to pursue the quarterback. He will be able to get around athletic left tackles and will be able to chase down the play before it has a chance to escape the backfield.

Lawrence is also extremely powerful, despite having the frame one would expect more in a 3-4 outside linebacker; although that hybrid role is becoming more and more blurred as the NFL evolves into a passing league. Rod Marinelli clearly sees the clay to mold a very special pass rusher out of the 6'3", 250 lb specimen that totaled 20 sacks over his 23 career starts at Boise State. That frame appears more than capable of adding additional weight without sacrificing speed and athleticism once he gets into an NFL strength and conditioning program. That might eventually earn him some time at the second three-technique spot.

During the lead-up to the draft, Joey Ickes and I pow-wowed on several draft candidates. When discussing who in the NFL Lawrence most compared to, the name both of us settled on was the Cowboys' own Anthony Spencer. His measurables read almost exactly like Spencer's do, but on the field he seems to finish at a better clip than the Cowboys 2007 first rounder. Here's Joey's summary of what Lawrence's value was.

Conclusion/Cowboys Projection:

Overall, Demarcus Lawrence is a very good player with a ton of pass rush upside. He looks much bigger than his 6'3" 251 lb measured size on the field, and is a broad shouldered, but long player. Although he surely has some things to clean up technique wise, I love his pass rush upside as a RDE in this scheme. I think Lawrence is a fringe first round guy, who could end up going anywhere from 25 to 50 depending on the direction that teams take. I would not be surprised to see him as an option should the Cowboys either trade back in the 1st, or as a trade up target early in the 2nd should they miss out on an edge player at 16.

In the press conference, Jerry Jones mentioned that Lawrence was the last player they thought would be able to command double teams; which is obviously a crucial component for a team that doesn't like to send it's linebackers in rush packages frequently. For the Cowboys he "potentially had an elite aspect to his talent ."

"He's a right end candidate for us; there's only a handful of right end players in this draft. .. He's got a quick get off, he can bend, show that he can get to the quarterback and make plays... The way to get better on defense is to improve our front seven." - Jason Garrett

Lawrence does come with warts, however. He was suspended three times during his collegiate career for violation of team rules. He also has shown a difficulty with disengaging from blockers when they get "into his body" with their hand placement. That's something he will have to work diligently on in order to maximize his talents on the field.

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-- Drafttek.com ranked #36 Overall, #5 at the position

-- Greg Gabriel, National Football Post: #46 Overall, #5 at the position (OLB)

Strong Points -
Very productive, pass rush, defense run, use hands, competitive and aggressive, has very good instincts, showed at Combine that he could drop into coverage.
Weak Points -
Size to play defensive end in the NFL, does not have much experience in coverage, questionable hands.

He is best as a pass rusher, as he is quick off the ball and uses his hands well to get by his opponent. He has the explosiveness through his hips to gain ground as a bull rusher. He also has the flexibility to lower his shoulder and get under his opponent when speed rushing. With his quick feet and hand use he is good with counter moves.
At the Combine, he did linebacker drill and showed the back pedal, turn and burst needed to play in coverage. His plant and drive in transition was also good. What lacked was his hands, as he struggled to catch the ball.
Overall, Lawrence will be valued the highest by the 3-4 teams. He can be an every down player as he can play the run, rush the passer and drop into coverage when needed. There are some 1 gap 4-3 schemes that will also value him as a right end because of his pass rush talents. I can see Lawrence drafted as high as the second round in May's NFL Draft.

-- CBSSports.com ranked #32 overall, #3 at the position

-- DraftInsider.Net ranked #56 overall, #5 at the position (OLB)

-- OptimumScouting.com ranked #63 overall, #6 at the position (OLB)

-- DraftCountdown ranked #28 overall, #3 at the position

-- Scout.com ranked #62 overall, #7 at the position

-- Josh Norris ranked #57 overall, #9 at the position

Where He Wins: Has very good length and flashes hand use. On-field movement skills are much better than tested times. Flashes some bend as well to turn the corner. Powerful finisher. Quick moves to beat extended tackles inside.

Where He Fits: Could see him down in an even front or standing up next to a three man line.

Draft Projection: Depends on if suspension checks out. First-round is possible.

-- NFLDraftScout.com profile (Rob Rang):

STRENGTHS: Possesses broad shoulders, long arms and a lanky frame, overall, which appears capable of adding another 10 pounds of muscle. Highly versatile defender asked to play a variety of roles with the Broncos.

Shows good (not great) initial quickness off the snap to penetrate off the edge or between gaps. Quick, active hands. Varied pass rush technique, including an over-arm swim, rip, club and even an occasional spin move.

Surprisingly strong at the point of attack. Plays with good leverage and anchors well, slipping off blocks effectively to make tackles near the line of scrimmage. Good effort laterally and downfield in pursuit.

Rarely asked to drop into coverage but appears to possess the quickness, fluidity and awareness to potentially convert to outside linebacker.

WEAKNESSES: While quick, does not appear to have the preferred straight-line speed for linebacker and does not possess the bulk normally associated with defensive linemen, making him a potential 'tweener in the eyes of some teams. Struggles to break free once blockers grab hold of his chest plate.

Only average balance. Too often gets tripped up and knocked to the ground. Moved around a lot in Boise's scheme, presenting him with advantageous matchups.

COMPARES TO: Jason Babin, Jacksonville Jaguars - Like Babin, Lawrence projects nicely as a LEO defensive end due to his burst, length, tenacity and surprising strength. Impressive collegiate production is mitigated by the level of competition faced, as well as size limitations.

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'13 Demarcus Lawrence vs Nevada

'13 Demarcus Lawrence vs

Note: This spider graph provides a visual representation of a players’ measurable traits, and combine results. The filled in area of the chart, as well as the number in the light grey circle represents the percentile among the player's peers by position. A score of 85 here represents that out of every 100 players at his position, the player has a better result in that test than 85 of those 100.

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Personally, I had Lawrence as my 19th rated player for the Cowboys; the first player ranked with a second round grade after 18 first rounders. He was right smack in the middle of a swarm with Timmy Jernigan, Rashede Hageman, Will Sutton, Allen Robinson and a few others. If Lawrence turns into what Dallas thinks he is, then it doesn't matter much what the trade was. However, with so many players rated similarly, plus the fact that they gave up a top-80 pick to snare him and lost the value of a mid-fourth rounder; I cannot get behind this trade in the throes of the offseason. Maybe training camp will change that opinion.

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