The Dallas Cowboys addressed a position of need on Friday night, selecting DE Tyrone Crawford from Boise State in the third round. I can already sense that this is going to be another classic case of fans and the media being divided over this pick, especially with not many people even knowing who Crawford was until his name was called. As a college football fan who watched more Boise State games than I'd like to admit, this was one of the few picks that have actually made me pump my fist in celebration.
I understand why fans are a bit confused and upset with the pick, especially considering the nature and wording of some of a few of the scouting reports out there. Crawford was just a one-year starter and was a transfer from junior college before his junior season and played in a conference where he didn't face the best OTs that the NCAA has to offer. There's been some talk that he's a "project" and the concern is that he'll take more than a few years to start to actually produce on the field for the Cowboys. With the Cowboys needing productive players now, fans want someone who can have an impact sooner than later.
As someone who watched nearly all of Crawford's games last season and watched his performances at the scouting combine and East-West game, I can't help but be pleased and excited about what the potential of Crawford means for the Cowboys.
After the jump, my specific thoughts on Crawford.
The first thing you notice when watching Tyrone Crawford play is his "motor." This is a term used a lot these days in football, especially with linemen, but in this case it fits perfectly. Crawford is a relentless force on the line and uses aggression and strength to be incredibly disruptive along the line of scrimmage. He's known for his aggression and a "mean streak" he flashes during games; this is a lineman that loves to get upfield and create all sorts of trouble of the offense.
He's a defensive end that can get upfield in a hurry and he does so with varying techniques; he can work inside and outside and excels at getting interior penetration. He's also a linemen that will pursue exceptionally well against the run and is able to cover sideline to sideline with relative ease for a defensive lineman.
He's not your prototypical plug along the line for the running game, but he's more than capable of playing stout against the run. He tracks runners well along the line and is able to hold his edge as well, although his best attribute was penetrating and taking down the runner from behind or in the backfield.
There's a lot of talk about his "rawness" and how he might be a project for a few years for the Cowboys. It is true that he's not the most polished defensive linemen out there and generally uses his strength and athleticism to make plays instead of technique and the use of his hands. Because of this some think he won't be an impact player for a few more years.
While you'd like a player that has more experience with technique, the raw power and aggression that Crawford plays with cannot be taught. Technique can be taught and coached and most scouts agreed that with the right coaching Crawford has the potential to become a truly special player. The ceiling for this kid is incredibly high; he is known for his high character and his incredible work ethic, certainly traits the Dallas Cowboys need in their locker room.
It's important to remember the scheme that the Cowboys employ on defense under Rob Ryan. He loves versatile linemen that he can move up and down the line and rotate through and while the success of this scheme last season was very inconsistent, Ryan also needs the right players to make this work. Crawford is a five-technique who will play best on the weakside but can also play inside when the Cowboys switch to the 4-2-5 scheme that Ryan loves so much. His ability to disrupt inside is invaluable.
The Cowboys already have a good number of linemen that are stout against the run yet lack pass rushing skills and aggression. These are the skills that Crawford brings to this line and even as a rookie, he is more than capable of stepping in and making an immediate impact in pass rush situations. Don't let the pass-rush talk fool you, he's very good against the run as well - Crawford impressed coaches at the East-West game with his ability to play every down.
Crawford, because of his size and his athleticism, is an extremely versatile lineman that fits into this scheme perfectly. He's a great fit on the weak side and while he may not be starting game one, he's more than capable of stepping in and performing well in a rotation. He'll likely be used in primarily pass-rush situations to start he season but there's no reason he can't become a three-down player for the Cowboys on the offensive line. I think it's a strong possibility he could take over as starter midway through this season and if not, will still be productive under the rotation that Ryan loves to use.
The other thing to consider here is that Crawford is a player that is most notable for his work ethic and character. He's an extremely well-respected player and was leader of a very good BSU defense last season. He's a guy that coaches love to work with because of his willingness to learn and improve. Because of this, Crawford's ceiling is incredibly high.
He may be a raw player but his aggression and ability to get upfield is a quality the Dallas Cowboys are missing right now with the defensive ends. There's been discussion about his size and being listed at 275, I can understand that. Yet he's a very strong player and has tremendous reach with his long arms and is able to easily hold his ground when he works low. He weighed in at 285 pounds for the East-West game and played outstanding, noted as one of the more impressive defensive players at the game. The Cowboys think he can add ten or so more pounds and with the Cowboys new offseason plan in place, it's certainly a possibility.
Tyrone Crawford is a guy that brings great value to the third round pick. His ceiling is astronomical and while he needs work, he's more than capable of making an impact this season.