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Cowboys Draft '10, Part Ten: Right Tackle May Be the Right Early Option

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"Fine size.  A big man who uses his size to muscle and engulf defenders.  Shows decent feet for one so large and has limited area quickness.  More quick than fast.  Has improved tremendously the past two seasons.  Very aggressive.  Does not anyone push him around... Can't run a good 40.  Poor stance.  Lacks technique.  Rarely bends his knees much.  Isn't an explosive run blocker.  Has not faced top competition.  Did very little pass blocking in a run-oriented offense.  Somewhat limited athletically..."

Would you spend a first-day pick on a lineman with this profile?  (I'm sticking to the old nomenclature of referring to 1st through 3rd rounders as first-day picks, even though the new TV formats have messed this up.  It makes more sense to me from a value perspective.)

The guy has his good qualities.  He also seems to have some major qualifiers to his game.  Is he worth a 2nd or a 3rd?  Be decisive.

The Cowboys though he was worth it. They used a '91 third rounder on this kid from a small school in Ohio.  The pick turned out well for them.

The kids name was Erik Williams.   His '91 PFT Draft Preview review, which you just read, didn't measure up to his eventual game.

His profile offers some caveats to the draft-book method of analysis all of us have to use.  We can watch some of these guys from time to time or even week-to-week if a prospect plays for a big school in our TV region.  But we're mostly at the mercy of these thumbnail profiles.  And believe me when I say that no position is missed on more often by the draft book folks than offensive line.  (By missed, I mean their projections bear the least fidelity to actual draft day picks.  Guys rated very high drop and guys rated low often are taken in early rounds.)

That's puzzling because I've seen lots of personnel people say that O-line is one of the easiest areas to scout.  The high hit rate on OTs -- it's the highest of any offensive position -- bears this out.  So why is it so difficult for the non-pros to get it right? 

I don't know.  I do think, reading the profiles, that getting a quality RT from this year's group will be an easier task, at least in the early rounds, than finding a left tackle.  Dallas looks upon RT as more of a power position than LT.  They want their prospects to have many of the same qualities as the tackle guarding the blind side.  He has to be agile enough to cut off edge rushers, but the team is willing to sacrifice a little bit of speed for power.  They expect their RTs to excel in the run game. 

This means that when you look at prospects, read for those who get labeled as being "heavy handed" or having "good pop on the punchout."  Line play is the land of the sumos these days.  Since offensive linemen were allowed to extend their arms, guys with longer arms and strong punchouts have become highly valued, up and down the line.  Winning man-to-man battles depends on a lineman's ability to get his hands into his opponents' chest before the other guy can do the same to him.  What''s more, that punch has to have some heft to it.  It has to generate movement.  I remember Bill Parcells getting over one of his linemen one morning in Oxnard over an ineffective drive block.  "Are you gonna put lip stick all over the guy?"  he yelled. 

You want pile drivers, not cosmetologists, on the right side. 

So, who goes there?  When you run through the prospects, you'll see a lot of guys who played left tackle in college but who lack the quickness to play "on the island."  If they are smart, tough and can move the guy in front of them, they may still have value, but as 2nd or 3rd round prospects.

And that's no crime.  The Cowboys could use their first on another player who can make the quick transition and use a 2nd or 3rd here, if the board broke their way.  That was their plan in '04 with Jacob Rogers.  Dallas took him in the late 2nd and projected Rogers to play immediately on the right side.  His frequent injuries short-circuited that plan but this is precisely the type of prospect I think you should be looking for as you sift through the profiles.

Dallas doesn't have an immediate need on the right side.  Marc Colombo should be healthy to start the season and Doug Free spelled him effectively.  As I wrote yesterday, Robert Brewster got his initial reps as a pro at right tackle.  However, if the team believes Free's future is on the left side, and that Brewster's immediate project is to challenge Kyle Kosier for the left guard spot, then Pat McQuistan is the next in line behind Colombo.  He's been on the team for four years now and looks like a career backup, at least for this team.

So, who qualifies?  I'd put the RT prospects in tiers.  In the highest one, I'd put Oklahoma's Trent Williams.  He had an awful '09, after being hyped by the Oklahoma coaches as a better prospect than Phil Loadholt, who played LT in '08, and dropped a bit because he struggled with top speed rushers like Brian Orakpo.  Minnesota took Loadholt late in the 2nd round, moved him to the right side and got solid rookie play from him.   Williams, who played much better as a RT in '08, probably will follow the same pro trajectory.  I don't know if Dallas would use a late 1st on him, but he would definitely get consideration in the 2nd. 

There's also a question of where he's rated.  Some mockers put him in the top 20 and say he and Bruce Campbell will round out the top group of OTs.  Others put him in the 2nd and even the 3rd round. Dallas?  Who knows.

The next tier has a prospect like U. Mass' Vladimir Ducasse.  He looks like a more polished Erik WIlliams type but still has a lot of rough edges to his game.  He also is projected to the left side by some people.  If he can play there, his stock will likely pull him into the early 2nd.  I doubt Dallas would take him at 27 because he's far from a ready-made, but he would temp if he were on the board in the late 2nd. 

Beyond that, poppers like Kyle Calloway and Mike Tepper look like middle round guys, based on their ability to get push at the point of attack.

That's just a short list to get you started.  Add your upper and mid-level touts in the thread.

Tonight:  OT bust factors;  Tomorrow:  Mock 2.0