Recently over at ESPN, Mel Kiper posted a list of athletic freaks in the upcoming draft who also back it up with game tape. The players were broken down by offense and defense, but since the Cowboys pre-draft scenarios seem to skew heavily to the defensive side, I thought we might take a look at a few who could make sense for Dallas.
Two Small-School Late Round Defenders With Upside
Today, we'll look at a couple of small school defenders with athletic upside: Northwest Missouri State CB Brandon Dixon and Shepherd OLB/DE Howard Jones.
And wouldn't you know it, the first freak is a guy we are already very familiar with.
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh - Talk about a workout confirming the tape. After leading the nation in tackles for loss, Donald ran 4.68 at 285 pounds and threw in 35 reps for good measure. That 4.68 is faster than a couple of wide receivers who will get drafted before Day 3. And again: at 285 pounds! What's crazy about Donald is that he's really good technically, using his hands and leverage to shed blockers, along with his elite quickness at that size.
Sadly, almost everyone believes that Donald is now moving out of the Cowboys range at #16, the only hope is a trade up. CBS Sports' Rob Rang just moved Donald up to #7 on his big board. I guess we can always hope for the QBs to go early, pushing Donald down, but it seems unlikely he will get to Dallas.
Next up is a guy who long ago, think February or so, was mocked to the Cowboys in many drafts. His stock has slid a bit since then.
Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota - Hageman can run sub-5.0 at 310 pounds, has a huge 34-plus-inch wingspan and a 6-6 frame and can jump 35.5 inches straight up. The former high school tight end also banged out 32 reps. He's a work in progress as a football player, but his athlete credentials could keep him in Round 1.
Now we get to a guy our own rabblerousr alerted you to just yesterday.
Howard Jones, OLB/DE, Shepherd - Let's get a sleeper in here. Jones battered tackles at the D-II level, and piled up 71.0 TFL and 34.5 sacks. His explosiveness is the reason why, as he ran a 4.60 40-yard dash and posted a 40.5-inch vertical. While strength is a question (21 reps), Jones has a long wingspan with 34 1/8-inch arms. He's a little bit in that Bruce Irvin mold: "It's third down. See the QB, get the QB." But he could be a find in the middle rounds for a team looking for an explosive situational rusher.
Our own KD talked up the next player in our recent draft roundtable on the BTB podcast.
Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana - When he makes the read, Tripp comes flying out of his stance downhill to make plays at the line of scrimmage. And it's great when the workouts match the tape. His change-of-direction explosiveness is real, as the only players who were faster than him in the 20-yard shuttle are wide receivers, and one safety who beat him by a hundredth of a second. Tripp is explosive, and his 4.67 40 and 37.5-inch vertical at 234 pounds aren't too bad.
Finally, a guy I've been enamored with for a while, someone who could be a real terror as a Will linebacker.
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State - He's the total package as far as athletes go. He was timed at a hometown discount 4.36 at his pro day, but is easily a sub-4.5 runner, and he also had a crazy-good 42-inch vertical and 130-inch broad jump in Indy. Good thing for Shazier -- he looks fast in pads, too. If I'm drafting, Shazier's a first-round lock.
Rang has Shazier at #15 on his big board, a little higher than a lot of people have him, but not really that much of a reach at #16 in my opinion.
So do you guys like anyone here besides Donald? Who else in the draft is an athletic freak that you like?