We've been talking about defensive linemen in this draft for months, we've read all the scouting reports and checked out the mock drafts. But here's an interesting take on some players the Cowboys may be interested in for their first round pick. Anonymous opinions from people who actually influence picks made in the NFL. NJ.com assembled a scout for a NFC team, an executive in personnel from an AFC team and a scouting director from a NFC team who have all been a part of Super Bowl winners. They then asked them about some defensive line prospects for the first round. One general thing a scout mentioned was that this draft is not a good one for defensive linemen.
Kony Ealy, Missouri, 6-4, 273, 4.92
"He's got good size. He's big, fast, strong. There's a lot to work with there. Could he be a 3-4 linebacker? Yeah, he could, but I think he's a 4-3 end. He's a late first-round pick for sure.''
"He didn't do that well at the Combines,'' the AFC executive said. "But that's OK. He's a natural end. He's going to be OK.''
"I like him,'' the scout said. "He's not Sheldon Richardson (the Jets' first-round pick in 2013 out of Missouri). But he's a good player.'
Aaron Donald, Pitt, 6-0, 288, 4.68
"I don't know about this guy,'' the personnel man said. "You look at him, and he's too small. But then you watch him and all he does is produce. I'm torn on him.''
"Good player,'' the AFC executive said. "You have to be able to live with his size, but he's very productive.''
"He's a real good pass rusher,'' the scout said. "He doesn't kill you in the run game, but you don't want him out there all the time.''
Tim Jernigan, Florida State, 6-2, 298, 5.0
"He can do a lot of things,'' the AFC executive said. "He's very strong. He's a first-rounder.''
"I think he's a little short,'' the personnel man said. "He'll go first round, but probably late.''
"He tapped out in the championship game,'' the scout said. "On that last Auburn drive, you couldn't find him.'
They evaluated a few other guys so head on over and check it out if so inclined.
Along the same lines, but not anonymously, Pat Kirwan talks about defensive players in this draft. Rabblerousr touched on this in his post from this morning, but I wanted to add a little more from Kirwan. He went back and looked at the defensive tackles for the draft and ranked his top six. Aaron Donald leads the list and he had nothing but praise for him. Next was Timmy Jernigan.
2. Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State: Earlier this year I had concerns about his stamina and the ability to play well for an entire game. Some of those concerns are gone after watching him against Clemson and Nevada. Jernigan plays with leverage, has a burst off the block, and is quick enough to line up over the center and hop over a down block by the guard and play the 'B' gap. He has upper body strength to torque and throw a blocker. His short legs give him natural leverage to penetrate.
Surprisingly, his number three guy is Will Sutton.
3. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State: Sutton is lighter now as he was in 2012 when he had 12 sacks from the inside. He has first-step quicks and the bulk to hold up against any co-op blocks. Watching the Notre Dame and Texas Tech games you can see the leverage, push and power he can generate. I like him more than the next three candidates.
His number four guy is Ra'Shede Hageman.
4. Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota: Hageman went to the Senior Bowl to prove he could play with a high motor all game long and was fairly successful demonstrating that, but questions were still there about him. I watched him against Nebraska and he was a rotational player who was not on the field the whole time like so many of the other candidates. When he took his turns he was effective and had two sacks when Nebraska's center and guards were simply overpowered. He has a surprisingly good stance and get off for a 6-foot-6 guy and may be considered a 5 technique end for some 3-4 teams. In spurts he's pretty good, but in order to go high in this draft a coach is going to have to be convinced he can do it all the time.