We conclude our tour of Dallas' interior offensive line prospects with a Conference USA double-dip - a pair of guards who figure to hear their names called somewhere in the fifth or sixth round. The first of these gentlemen is SMU's Josh LeRibeus, a rather peculiar two-year starter. He started nine games as a junior in 2009, then was declared academically ineligible for the 2010 season before returning in 2011 to start all 12 games at left guard. Although he's certainly not an elite athlete, LeRibeus plays with good technique. As might be expected for a fifth-round type, he is a scrappy effort player who will fight to sustain his blocks downfield, plays with a good motor and can be effective when pulling (although he struggles to hit targets on the second level).
The other candidate is Memphis' Ronald Leary who, unlike his SMU counterpart, has been rising on NFL draft boards of late. One reason for this is his strong measureables: at the Combine, Leary ran the 40-yard dash in 5.36 seconds, bench pressing 225 pounds 30 times and posting a 29-inch vertical leap, an 8-8 broad jump and scored very respectable short shuttle (4.91) and three-cone drill (7.87) scores (his Combine workout can be found here). Leary started the last three seasons at tackle for the Mustangs, collecting 44 career starts, and helping to pave the way for running backs Curtis Steele and Greg Ray.
Leary is a technically proficient player with strong hands. Once engaged, he generates movement in the running game. Moreover, Leary is extremely competitive; on tape, he can be seen routinely sustaining blocks several yards downfield, and trying to get in one last hit before the whistle. That said, he'll have to kick inside, to guard, in the NFL, because his feet appear to be cased in cement, which will make it impossible for him to mirror NFL pass rushers. Luckily, the 6'3", 314 pound Leary is built perfectly for an NFL guard.
LeRibeus boast identical size (6'3", 312) and similar traits. As you can see in his Combine workout (here), LeRibeus has a decent first step, but will need to polish up his footwork to succeed at the NFL level. Scouts argue that he "almost always finds a way to block his man"--a phrase that reminds me too much of oafish former Cowboy Sam Young. Superscout Wes Bunting of the National Football Post says, in his evaluation of the SMU guard that, while he's "a tough kid," he "isn't real quick off the snap and struggles reaching defenders trying to shoot off his frame. [LeRibeus] Doesn't play with great leverage, can be overwhelmed on contact and lacks the fluidity/foot quickness to slide his feet through contact." Moreover, he "doesn't have a ton of natural snap/power into contact" and "Struggles to initially set, drop his pad level and anchor through contact." Not surprisingly, Bunting thinks he isn't a draftable prospect.
Wonder what other scouting types think of LeRibeus and Leary? Pick their brains after the jump...LeRibeus:
Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki): 23rd-rated OG; not in top 150 overall
Positives: Functional run blocker—gets in the way and works to position and sustain. Good weight room strength and 20-yard short shuttle time (4.67 seconds). Tough competitor.
Negatives: Stiff, try-hard, limited athlete. Is tightly wound. Plodder. Has a dumpy-looking physique. Appears stiff in space. Struggles to adjust to movement in pass protection. Had use is inconsistent—shows little pop or power in his hands. Not explosive.
Summary: Tough, competitive, try-hard, bump-and-steer blocker with potential to be tried as a center. Emerged with a solid senior season and has a chance to develop.
ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton): 23rd-rated OG; not in top 100 players
Pass Protection: Aggressive pass blocker that drives legs and makes it difficult for defenders to get their hands up once locked on. Waist bender that doesn't sink well but is big and strong enough to hold ground working against most bull rushers. On the other hand, takes too many false steps and not agile enough to recover when oversets. Limited athlete that has problems shuffling feet and staying in front of defenders. Arms are on the shorter side (32 5/8) and lunges too much. Doesn't keep elbows in and hand placement is inconsistent.
Run Blocking: While pad level isn't great, relatively low center of gravity and gets into adequate initial position more times than not. Drives legs but doesn't generate enough push. Doesn't roll hips on contact. Doesn't lock out and struggles to sustain. Leans into defenders and slides off too many blocks. Doesn't appear to have the balance or lateral mobility to succeed in a zone heavy scheme. Has some problems adjusting to moving targets but does a better than expected job of getting around the corner when asked to pull.
Awareness: Work in the film room shows up on the field and appears to know opponent's tendencies. Picks up most line stunts and slants in addition to blitzes but can over commit coming out of stance and vulnerable to delayed pressure. Locates assignment more times than not. However, a bit mechanical when climbing up to the second level and can do a better job of improvising when defensive front shifts at the snap of the ball.
Toughness: Good upper body strength (benched 225 29 times at the combine) and flashes a strong punch. Lower body strength appears just average on film. Flashes a mean streak and doesn't back down in phone booth but doesn't have the nasty disposition or killer instinct that teams covet in their interior offensive linemen.
Intangibles: Missed too many classes and became academically ineligible in 2010. Spent the season on the scout team.
Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki): 12th -rated OG; not in top 150 overall
Positives: Big and physical. Outstanding arm length. Good anchor strength. Can generate some movement in the run game. Surprising recovery speed and finishing power. Flashes some nastiness and will drive defenders into the ground. Has a passion for the game. Outstanding work ethic.
Negatives: Has very small hands. Average athlete with heavy legs. Tends to catch a lot and can do a better job of using his hands to strike. Is late to reach linebackers and initiate contact on the move. Weight has fluctuated in the past and pushed 350 pounds upon his arrival.
Summary: Thick-bodied, three-year starting college left tackle who projects best to guard in a man-blocking scheme in the pros. Has eventual starter potential.
Overview: Leary is a big offensive lineman who was a three-year starter for Memphis and a stalwart at the end of his career. Although he played outside at tackle throughout his collegiate career, he projects as an NFL guard, where his height (just over 6-foot-3) won't be as much of a hindrance to him. He performed well in the run game and will always have the frame to compete against interior defensive linemen. He could be selected in the later rounds out of team need, but he is more likely to get a shot as an undrafted free agent.
Weaknesses: Leary is a classic heavy, laboring mover. He could benefit from a move inside, as he could struggle in getting into an effective pass set in the NFL. He is slow off the ball and rarely shows much explosion into his man. Although he didn't show it much at Memphis, he had difficulties maneuvering around trash at his legs and getting free to the second level to block linebackers. There aren't necessarily technical hitches in Leary's play, but his heavy, slow feet inhibit his ability to move and be effective on the line.
Strengths: Leary is reliable to keep his man sustained in pass protection. He is a heavy-legged mover, however, and he relies on reactionary movements and upper body strength to recover from a shallow pass set. He uses his hands well in both pass protection and run blocking, and he keeps a strong grip and generates movement once engaged. He uses his frame well and keeps himself in an uncompromising position at all times. Although not a "pretty" blocker, Leary is extremely competitive and was routinely seen working downfield at the end of plays to keep his blocks going and get extra hits. His competitiveness will be the driving trait that keeps him on an NFL roster.
After my review of Illinois OL Jeff Allen, I noted that Dallas extended a national invitation to every interior offensive lineman who might conceivably be selected in the second round. To my mind, that's an awfully clear indication that they're looking guard or center at pick # 45. What happens, however, if one of their first round targets falls into the second round, as Sean Lee and Bruce Carter have done the past two years? Coming away from the first two rounds with, say, Fletcher Cox and Courtney Upshaw would certainly salve any wound caused by missing out on a much-coveted second-round guard. But what would the Cowboys do to address the interior OL positions? They have to develop a contingency plan--and I think these two C-USA products reflect just such a contingency.
Of the two, Leary appears to be the more draftable candidate, by a substantial margin. In addition to the Cowboys, he has scheduled visits with Carolina, St. Louis, Jacksonville, Chicago, and the New York Jets. LeRibeus, on the other hand, seems to have spent the same time sitting at home, watching reruns. Although both may be drafted, I'll put the former Tiger on my "little board" a full two rounds earlier than the former Mustang--let's say Leary in the fifth and LeRibeus in the seventh.
Next up: Oklahoma WR Ryan Broyles