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BTB NFL Draft Mailbag: Falling Defensive Ends?

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Last week, we announced a new feature here at Blogging the Boys: a mailbag wherein our members can send in draft related questions and Drafttek's Longball--as well as our lead writers, on occasion--will answer them in as much detail as he (or we) can muster. We'll be running this feature up until the draft, so be sure to send your questions in to BTBmailbag@gmail.com--making sure to include your username--so you can see your query answered in big, shiny pixels.

For this edition, Longball addresses questions about two of the elite defensive ends who seem to be dropping down boards of late: Robert Quinn and De'Quan Bowers. A month ago, Bowers was the number one prospect on many pundits' boards and many of them were assigning him to Carolina with the first pick, reasoning that he would make an excellent replacement for the recently-departed Julius Peppers; now, he's hovering at the bottom of the top ten. Quinn has tumbled since the Combine, where he performed more poorly than expected, both in the forty (4.7) and the agility drills (a pedestrian 34 inch vertical and ponderous 7.13 in the three-cone drill). In addition, both have questions beyond baseline talent: Quinn missed the 2010 season due to a suspension and has a benign brain tumor; Bowers is still recovering from post-season knee surgery.

So, what might all this mean for the Cowboys? Relax and take a dip in the soothing waters of Longball's vast draft knowledge after the jump...

Max Jacoby: It seems like both Robert Quinn and Da'Quan Bowers are sliding down in the Top 10. In case they get to number 9, how do they fit into the Cowboys 3-4 scheme?

MacarthurTexas: there are some indications that possibly Bowers and Quinn could be there at 9. While pass rusher may not look like a huge need on the surface, Spencer has been very mediocre and you don’t get in the top 10 very often to get impact players. And guys that are big time pass rushers are impact players. I think if one of those guys are there, you take them. Thoughts?

Long Ball: Robert Quinn (6’4", 265) would fit as an OLB34 in the Cowboys’ scheme; however, he would be a "conversion project", as he was strictly a pass-rusher in North Carolina’s scheme, both with his hand in the dirt and from a stand-up position.  He would have to be "coached up" as DeMarcus Ware was on pass coverage responsibilities, in the flat, short and intermediate zones.  His athleticism seems to indicate that he would be an impact player, but not a complete OLB34 for a year (or two).  Now, the follow-up questions are:  1) Do you want to give Rob Ryan a chance to work with Anthony Spencer (a former 1st round choice that has some experience)?  And if not, 2) Could Spencer possibly play ILB and be groomed to replace Bradie James?

Da’Quan Bowers (6’3", 280) is the top-rated DE...for the 4-3 alignment!  I also have him graded as a DE34, but just in the top ten in that category, and I don’t see him at OLB34.  You would want to play him on the weak side of the alignment, but that defeats your purpose as that’s the side Ware plays.  I would think you would want your 2 pressure players coming from opposite sides of the formation – and I don’t think you move an All-Pro to the strong side to accommodate a rookie.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s an outstanding player but I don’t believe he fits the Cowboys’ needs as much as some of the other prospects.

Rabblerousr: I love draft talk so much that I just had to chime in! I agree completely with Longball on this one: I think Quinn could play 3-4 OLB, and could play the strongside where Spencer currently takes up residence. It wouldn't surprise me to see him high up on Dallas' board...and for them to seek a trade rather than draft him should he be the best player available when it comes time for them to pick. It also wouldn't surprise me to see Bowers on their board--but as a second rounder. I'd have to ask: is Bowers better as a 34DE than the Cameron Heywards and Christian Ballards of the world? I think I'd place him in their midst: not as strong or as much ballast against the run; better pass rush.

That said, the Giants have made hay of late by drafting multiple DEs, and moving them all around the formation to get them on the field and to exploit matchups (Matthias Kiwanuka as an OLB and aligning Justin Tuck inside on passing downs in order to exploit mismatches against opposing OGs come to mind). I wouldn't mind seeing what kind of crazy formations and personnel groupings Rob Ryan's mad scientist brain might be able to devise if he had Ware, Ratliff, Spencer and Quinn/ Bowers to work with.