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Cowboys Draft Prospects: Stevan Ridley

For this edition of our series on players who have been invited to Valley Ranch for workouts, we'll focus our attention on LSU running back Stevan Ridley, who declared for the draft after a breakout junior season. Before 2010, he had amassed a total of 272 career yards; as a junior, he rushed for 1,419 yards and a whopping 18 touchdowns, earning first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors (which ain't no joke).

Ridley was a Steady Eddie in 2010, scoring at least one rushing TD in 10 of LSU's 13 games, including a career-best three in a win over Ole Miss, and  eight in LSU's last four games. He also seems like a high character guy; at LSU, he was known as a team leader who was voted permanent offensive team captain.

Ridley's game seems to be all about power: He is compactly and sturdily built (he comes in at 5-foot-11, 230) with middling speed and quickness--at his pro day he ran a 4.7 forty and finished the three-cone drill in 6.78 seconds. If you'd like to see more of him, video of his combine workout can be found here.

Although I couldn't find evidence of any team other than the Cowboys inviting him to their facility for a visit, his pro day was attended by all 32 teams with Mike Tomlin, Sean Payton and Arizona Cardinals GM Rod Graves among the attendees.  

What about Ridley's game prompted these guys to venture to the Bayou? Find out in some scintillating scouting reports after the jump...

National Football Post (Wes Bunting) 20th rated RB; 218 0verall

A thicker, well-put-together back with a strong-looking lower half and good overall bulk for the position. Possesses a good first step when asked to press the line of scrimmage, runs with good forward lean inside and keeps his pad level down through contact. Is more of a downhill back who is at his best pressing the line quickly and getting into the second level. Runs hard and has some natural strength in his lower half when asked to push the pile and break tackles inside. However, exhibits only average lateral ability inside. Displays very average one-cut ability when asked to set up blocks or make a man miss. But, consistently allows his pad level to rise, exposes some of his frame and loses his balance quickly. Isn't the kind of fluid/shifty back who can make a man miss and quickly collect himself and get back up to speed quickly. He's consistently forced to gear down when trying to change directions and isn't a guy who is real gifted in tight/open quarters. Will get caught dancing at times trying to decipher information and needs a hole in front of him to be successful.

Displays slightly above-average patience when asked to set up blocks inside. However, doesn't have a great feel in tight quarters and isn't a guy who can consistently make defenders miss and create on his own. Needs the play to be blocked off correctly in order for him to be effective and because of that looks more like a reserve only. Has an average first step and can get up to speed quickly initially. However, has one gear to his game and isn't going to outpace many NFL defenders at the second level.

Wasn't asked to play on obvious passing situations. Isn't a real natural receiver out of the backfield and didn't seem real comfortable in blitz pick up either.

Impression: A very average downhill back who runs hard and low and has some natural power to his game. However, he isn't a guy who can consistently create on his own and lacks great feel inside picking his way through tight quarters. A reserve guy only.

The Sporting News (Russ Lande) 17th-rated RB; overall unknown (not in top 99)

Strengths: Has good size and arm length. Is a good athlete with nice lower-body flexibility, body control and balance. Is patient enough to follow his blockers through the hole. Runs with a powerful stride. Has proven to be a durable player. Could be a special teams player.

Weaknesses: Has average speed and little explosiveness as a runner. Lacks the burst, acceleration and quickness to bounce outside and turn the corner. Does not play on third downs, which makes his hands and pass protection abilities questionable. Shared time in college and didn't get must experience.

Bottom line: Ridley shared time at running back with four other players and did not play on third downs in college. While he has a nice build for the position, Ridley will be drafted in the fifth round and likely become a career coverage play for special teams.

ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton) 16th-rated RB; overall unknown (not in top 130)

Competitiveness: Runs hard.  Keeps legs churning at end or runs.  Good job with ball security.  Switches ball to outside arm when turning left corner and nearing sideline.  Lost two fumbles in 2010 opener (UNC) and did not lose another fumble that season (260 total touches) his only as a fulltime starter.  Has experience covering kicks and can contribute in that area in the NFL.

Vision/Patience: Appears to have better than average vision as a runner.  Senses cutback lane well.  Does a very good job of reading his lead blocker.  Does not do much dancing or hesitating.  He's at his best in Power-O scheme when he gets working downhill quickly and can make one cut and go.

Agility/Acceleration: Good initial burst to and through the hole. Shows some burst when turning the corner. Has a better second-gear than expected for a back his size. Shows quick feet and does a great job of navigating through small creases. But he does have some tightness in his hips. A bit of an upright runner. Struggles to make sudden moves in the hole (Can't plant-and-accelerate like Arian Foster). Does not make many defenders miss in confined area.

Power/Balance: Is a big, strong back.  Runs a bit high and takes some shots to his body.  But he also has surprising balance for his running style.  He bounces off of a lot of attempted arm tacklers.   He keeps his knees high and legs churning.  The more momentum he gets the harder he is to bring down.

Passing Game: Only had 11 receptions in final season at LSU and 17 during his career, so pass catching experience is limited.  In limited views, he attacks the ball with his hands and appears to be reliable when facing the QB.  Takes a bit too long getting upfield after catch.  Not a big-play threat as a pass catcher. Is willing in pass pro and flashes a mean streak.  Technique needs work but he has willingness, size and strength to excel in this area.

: Waited his turn to play and responded when fulltime job became his.  Has experience on special teams and is a team player.  Some concerns about mental capacity.  Ridley was initially declared ineligible to play in the 2011 Cotton Bowl but was reinstated by the NCAA following LSU's appeal.

After reviewing the scouting reports on Bilal Powell, I observed that, given his running style, he seemed to be a candidate to replace Marion Barber. Ridley's game provides further evidence that the Cowboys are looking for a Barber-type runner, a guy who can complement Felix Jones. If they do draft one of these guys, I can't help but think somebody new will be wearing # 24.

According to the National Football Post, Ridley was assigned a third-round grade by the NFL's Advisory Committee. Judging from these scout's evaluations, I'd say that's a bit high for a guy who looks like he'll get what's blocked but seldom more.  It's almost Friday, and I'm feeling generous, so I'll place him in the sixth round, at pick # 176.

Next up: Two scoops! RBs Phil Tanner (Middle Tennessee) and DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma)

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