Every year, the Cowboys brass has an opportunity to bring in a total of 60 players for interviews at Valley Ranch--they are allowed to invite 30 "at large" players as well as 30 local products to "Dallas day," which features guys who attended either high school or college in the area. For those of us interested in which guys might end up wearing the star in 2011 and beyond, these are important lists; every year, Dallas drafts multiple players who have shown up on these rosters. Looking at them, therefore, can give us insight into the positions the Cowboys are targeting--and in which rounds, generally speaking, they will be targeting them.
Because this info is so valuable, local outlets disseminate the various names as soon as visits become known. Yesterday, O.C.C. authored a post wherein he collected all the names that have leaked out thus far--and this list is certain to grow over the next couple of weeks. Between now and the draft, I will be writing a series of posts on the players in whom the Cowboys have expressed interest, with the idea that a high percentage of the incoming rookies will come from these lists. Since this is the case, we should get to know these guys, right?
Instead of starting off with a much-hyped local player such as Von Miller or Prince Amukamara, I thought we should begin our little voyage with a small-school guy with a big-time game: Lehigh offensive lineman Will Rackley. Rackley has been climbing the charts recently, in no small part because its clear that he has piqued NFL teams' interest. In addition to Dallas, he has interviews scheduled with Browns, Jags, Jets, Patriots, Dolphins, Lions and Ravens; in addition his pro day was attended by several offensive line coaches from the Giants, Browns, Jets, Vikings, 49ers, Bengals and Seahawks. Clearly, the kid is going to accrue some serious frequent flier miles in April.
What do scouting types think of Rackley? Take a looksee after the jump...
National Football Post (Wes Bunting) 3rd-rated OG; 65th overall:
Exhibits above-average bend for the position and has the ability to sit into his stance/base and anchor on contact. Displays strong hands once he locks on and can be a real Velcro player in the pass game. However, needs to do a better job extending his arms into contact and maximizing his reach. Too often fails to initially dictate to blocks and works more as a "catcher." Needs to continue to improve his pop as a puncher. Has the ability to create leverage for himself off the snap in the run game as an in-line guy — which is impressive playing against shorter I-AA defensive linemen — and drive his legs through contact and finish blocks. Is a good athlete who can reach blocks inside, but isn't as coordinated when asked to stick on slide down blocks. Showcases a bit of a mean streak as an in-line run blocker. Does a nice job pumping his legs through plays, sticking to blocks and finishing through the whistle. Has the ability to flat out dominate once he gets his hands on you in the run game, and at times the tape is very good. However, when asked to seal on scoop blocks, he definitely has the body control to get around his target initially off the snap. But, doesn't seem to possess the same type of killer/finishing instinct. Will let go of his lineman too quickly and allow him to work in pursuit from the backside.
Doesn't consistently get off the snap count on time. Gets into ruts where he is consistently the last offensive lineman moving off the snap. Possesses the athleticism to still reach pass rushers on the edge at the I-AA level, but won't be able to get away with it in the pros. Needs to do a better job recognizing stunts and blitz pick-up assignments. At times is slow to react and will give up some penetration/outside pressure because of it. Smooth and graceful on his kick-slide, isn't overly rangy, but has enough athleticism to reach edge. Is at his best when he gets his hands on you and can slide his feet laterally and mirror through contact. Displays natural anchor strength, but at times will let his pad level rise a bit; can get away with that at 1-AA level, not the pros.
Impression: A natural athlete with good range and overall coordination and bend in the run game. Would like to see him finish more consistently, but has the ability to make a roster, develop and fight for a starting role inside with some time.
The Sporting News (Russ Lande) 9th-rated OG; overall unknown (not in top 100):
Strengths: Has good size and strong hands. Is an above-average athlete with solid initial quickness from his stance. Maintains excellent hand placement inside the frame of the defender with a vice grip to control his man. Shows ability to power slide with good balance in pass protection. Is durable.
Weaknesses: Has not face much elite competition. Is content to just gain position and lock on, rather than use his functional strength to gain movement off the line of scrimmage as a run blocker. Struggles to adjust and sustain blocks on short pulls and on the second level. Lacks the lateral recovery ability to play on the edge in pass protection.
Bottom line: Rackley played left tackle in college but projects as an NFL guard. He has a thick, wide build but below-average arm length. His size and athleticism merits fifth-round consideration, but he'll have to go to a team in search of a backup with some developmental ability.
Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki) 4th-rated OG; 66th overall:
Positives: Plays heavy-handed with good upper-body strength and physicality. Strong run blocker. Locks up with defenders in pass protection and holds his ground. Plays with leverage and torques defenders. Keeps working for position and finishes. Really separated himself at the East-West Shrine Game and showed he could match up against better competition and shine. Responds to a challenge and rises to the occasion. Outstanding work ethic. Has considerable upside.
Negatives: Arms lack great length. Tends to rely on upper body strength too much. Lacks lower-body strength and explosion. Recorded a 23 1/2 inch vertical jump, the lowest of the offensive linemen at the Combine. Is not used to pull and trap much. Does not possess ideal recovery speed and can improve his technique in pass pro--has ben able to get away with his natural talent against Patriot League competition. Can be caught off guard by the blitz and may need some time to adjust to NFL pressure packages.
Summary: Stood out more than any other lineman at the East-West Shrine week, showing his toughness and competitiveness and answering questions about being a big fish in a small pond. Should be able to start readily in the NFL but is most naturally suited for the inside in the pros.
Draftek (Longball) 14th-rated OG (he has some OTs also tabbed as OGs); overall grade unknown:
Rackley played LOT at Lehigh, starting all 13 games – he gets set in his position quickly and holds up well against bull (power) rushes and has a fairly decent punch that jolts FCS defenders (small note here, he tends to pump his arms instead of extending them with good hand placement; as a result, opponents will get into his body). He does not slide his feet well and looked clumsy on the mirror drill at the Combine. He’s too upright – now, I know that may sound strange for a 6’3” tackle, but he needs to get better knee bend, on the balls of his feet more. His recognition of blitz pick-up responsibilities is slow (and if it’s slow at the FCS level, think what the NFL disguises will do to him). While he does a good job of controlling the defender once he gets his hands on him, he struggles at the second level and does not break down well on the move.
If I’m investing a 3rd to 4th round pick, I’m going with John Moffitt, Clint Boling, Darius Morris or DeMarcus Love ahead of Rackley.
It looks like there's a fairly wide variance in how scouting types see Rackley. Bunting and Nawrocki have remarkably similar (low second, high third round) grades on him; Lande and Longball, on the other hand, seem to think much less highly of his game. I must admit that, given the level of NFL interest, the league probably agrees with Bunting and Nawrocki. For the purposes of Dallas mock drafts, therefore, I'm going to slot him as an option at pick #71, the Cowboys choice in the third round.
Next up: Abilene Christian wideout Edmond Gates