This is the first installment of a month-long series on the Cowboys targets in the 2012 draft. Due to the strong historical correlation between the various National and Dallas Day invitees in recent years, I will focus on those players, as well as players who have been linked to the Cowboys at positions where the Dallas braintrust is clearly looking at multiple players. We'll begin on the offensive line, hit the offensive skill positions and then, as the draft draws nearer, move to the guys most likely to be drafted: the defensive players, at all three levels.
Today, we'll see what the top scouts have to say about Wisconsin's Peter Konz. The Badgers' center in an impressive physical specimen, coming in at 6'5" and 314, which is big (and tall) for an NFL center. After his 2011 season, Konz was a Rimington Trophy finalist, was named first-team All-American by multiple organizations, as well as All-Big Ten and, perhaps most importantly for Jason Garrett's "RKG" search, Academic All-Big Ten. Perhaps more impressive is that Konz was a three-year starter for one of the most hailed (and highly awarded) offensive lines in the nation - a group that has produced the likes of Joe Thomas, Gabe Carimi, John Moffett, Kevin Zeitler and, of course, the Cowboys Bill Nagy, in recent years. In earning the starting nod three years running, Konz has already survived the fiercest of competitions.
What Konz has not managed to do over his illustrious collegiate career is to make it through a full season. Injuries have been a major issue for Konz. In 2009, he suffered blood clots in both lungs; a sprained ankle sidelined him in 2010, and a painful dislocated ankle forced him to miss 2011 season's final three contests and prevented him from running and doing position drills at either the Combine or at Wisconsin's March 7 pro day (he did execute an OC-worst 18 bench press reps at the Combine). However, more than a dozen teams were in attendance last week when he and interior linesman Keitler and Josh Oglesby were put through their paces. Konz improved his bench to 23 reps and showed quickness and agility during the drills.
What does this bode for Konz' draft prospects? See what leading scouts say after the jump...
National Football Post (Wes Bunting): top-rated OC; 16th overall
What I like:
- Possesses a strong, well put together frame with natural girth through his lower half, despite his height.
- Showcases natural bend when asked to sit into his stance. Keep his knees bent, base down and looks natural keeping his pad level low into his stance.
- A smart kid who helps make all the line calls and exhibits impressive awareness working in tandem with his guards in the pass game.
- Keeps his head on a swivel, locates blitzing linebackers and is quick to adjust.
- Showcases natural change of direction skills and foot quickness when asked to re-direct and mirror.
- Drops pad level quickly and even if he does give up initial leverage works his hands well and has the ability to re-set his hands and anchor on contact.
- Showcases the natural power in his lower half, length and hand placement to gain leverage and anchor out vs. bigger tackles once he gains leverage.
- Is heavy handed and sticks well once engaged.
- Snaps and steps quickly in the run game.
- Doesn't waste much motion extending his arms and getting his hands into contact at the point of attack vs. the run.
- Generates a good snap through the hips into contact when blocking down on defenders off his frame.
- Showcases the power to consistently wash out defensive linemen on contact off his frame.
- Understands angles and is quick to get around blocks inside, create leverage with his hands and seal.
- Even when overwhelmed on contact in the run game, is quick footed and able to get his body around and seal defenders from the play.
- Showcases good short area quickness when asked to chip, get out into the second level and reach a target.
- Possesses a toughness about his game, likes to finish and will play till the whistle.
- Is a tough kid who is willing to play through pain.
What I don't like…
- Despite his ability to bend, is a taller center who will allow defenders to get under his pad level at times off the snap.
- Isn't the most consistent of punchers in pass protection, would like to see more of a snap into contact.
- Can be rocked backward at times initially in pass protection and put on skates, doesn't quickly recover when trying to re-set his feet and anchor.
- Will get overextended at times into contact initially when trying to get physical in pass protection.
- Lacks elite power off the snap and at times can give up leverage and be worked into the backfield vs. the run.
- Looks a bit limited on the move. Is asked to pull and get around the edge, but lacks ideal range in the open field.
- Tends to pop upright a bit through contact as an in-line blocker when trying to finish and will lose balance and fall off blocks though the play.
Impression: For a taller center showcases impressive flexibility, as he typically gains leverage on contact and uses his length to gain proper hand placement. Has some limitations because of his height and will allow defenders to get under him at times.
However, for the most part is able to quickly re-set his hands, sink his hips and keep the inside of the pocket clean in pass protection.
Showcases an good snap through the hips in the run game, is routinely able to create a push inside and drive opposing nose tackles away from the play and/or seal. Looks like a "plus" run blocker in the NFL in more of an angle scheme.
Drafttek (Long Ball): top-rated OC; 22nd overall
Hard to fault a 3-year starter from the OL factory in Madison . . . Konz can also play OG, but in this weak center class he will be snapping the ball. The comparison to Mangold may be a stretch (and maybe even motivate him) but Peter has the potential to be a top center in the NFL, as he has a solidly-built frame with good muscle definition.
In pass blocking, Konz starts with a naturally wide base off the snap (providing steady balance in his stance). His technique is solid, as he sinks his hips and maintains leverage with a consistent pad level. His upper body strength is evident as he gets his hands into opponents with excellent placement, and his strong hands allow him to sustain blocks for an extended period of time. Konz is unusually tall for the center position and will get too high at times.
Peter is a physical run blocker with raw power and strength at the point of attack, attaining a good initial push off the snap. He understands blocking angles and positions his body well, walling off defenders to seal run lanes. Although he does not possess a quick-twitch, Konz sets up quickly, plays with good leverage and moves well in space with his head up, always looking for someone to block. Tough and aggressive, this center is a natural leader of an offensive line . . . if he overcomes questions about his durability, would be an excellent 1st round investment.
Compares to (Current NFL Player): Nick Mangold (maybe)
Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki): top-rated OC; 26th overall
Positives: Excellent size and good arm length. Runs his feet on contact and can wheel his hips in the hole and seal running lanes. Anticipates angles and is alert to stunts and games. Is quick up to the second level and moves efficiently for his size. Active hands. Can match size on size and anchor in pass protection—does not give much ground. Is well-versed in a pro-style offense. Smart and competitive, experienced three-year starter.
Negatives: Average foot athlete and lateral agility. Does not use his hands with authority or strike with violence. Does not arrive on the second level with intent nor does he consistently create good linebacker fits. Average downfield speed and coordination in space. Can be inverted when he loses leverage battles. Bench-pressed 225 pounds only 18 times at the Combine, raising questions about his weight-room work habits. Durability requires evaluation.
Summary: An excellent-sized, big-bodies pivot, Konz plays a finesse game and could stand to improve his strength levels and learn how to better use his hands. However, he possesses the sheer mass to match up against power and could contribute readily in the pros.
ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton): top-rated OC; 31st overall
Pass Protection: Finds ways to get the job done but a limited athlete that benefitted from mobile quarterback and run/play action heavy attack. Average initial quickness and has problems preventing penetration working against quicker defensive tackles. Not agile enough to recover when oversets or stay in front when the defender redirects. Flashes above average upper body strength on film but initial punch is average at best. Not an effective hand fighter at this point. Bit of a waist bender but plays with a wide base and holds ground against bull rushers.
Run Blocking: Gets into adequate initial position and walls off defenders long enough for backs to locate seam. While plays too high and doesn't roll hips into blocks, drives legs and flashes the ability to move defenders off the ball once in position. Doesn't have the lateral quickness to seal front side one-techniques when asked to zone block and doesn't get any help from guard. However, makes up for it with smarts and effort. Works to get helmet on play side when does get help and washes defenders down the line of scrimmage when he can't get around the defender. While has problems adjusting to moving targets and looks stiff in space, takes adequate angles to second level blocks and flashes the ability to cut off backside linebackers. Makes up for average range with smooth pivot and can get around the corner when asked to pull.
Awareness: Identifies middle linebacker before every snap. Keeps head on a swivel in pass protection. Picks up line stunts and blitzes. Keeps head up and locates linebackers when asked to combo block up to the second level. Identifies second level assignments.
Toughness: Has battled though medical issues to start 30 games in three years. Finishes blocks and flashes killer instinct but more of a relentless wall-off positional blocker than a mauler. Could be more aggressive in pass protection and space.
Intangibles: Named Wisconsin's offensive scout team player of the week prior to 2008 Fresno State game. Wrote a letter to Badger fans thanking them and explaining his decision to declare for the draft.
These scouts are very consistent in rating Konz, both at the highest-rated center and as a late first-round prospect, ranging from 16th to 31st overall. Given that this fits neatly between the Cowboys' first and second-round selections, at # 14 and # 45, respectively, I assume that their interest in his means one of three possibilities: 1) they have him rated highly enough to warrant the fourteenth pick; 2) they believe that, with his injury history, Konz may well drop to the 45th pick; 3) he's a good candidate should they receive a trade-down offer.
I think that the former Badger's injury history would make him too risky a pick at #14. On the other hand, while Konz's litany of injuries should give teams pause, they probably won't be significant enough for him to drop into the Cowboys' second-round range; as many as 15 teams attended last week's workout, and three teams with picks in the final third of the first round have shown particular interest in Konz: Tennessee and Cincinnati the 20th and 21st spots and Baltimore, with the 29th pick. So, I'll place him as a first round target, should Dallas trade down into the 18-25 range.
Next up: Georgia OG-OT Cordy Glenn