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Cowboys 2015 Draft Targets: Iowa DT Carl Davis

Because there has been such a high correlation in recent years between the top collegians invited to Valley Ranch for pre-draft visits and who the Cowboys end up drafting, it's important to know as much as possible about these players. As a service to you, BTB offers a series of detailed scouting reports on these players, compiled from the work of top draft analysts. Today, we look at Iowa DT Carl Davis

Matthew Holst/Getty Images

After a redshirt year in in 2010, Carl Davis saw limited action in 2011, as he battled knee injuries, appearing in only six games. He was a back-up defensive tackle in 2012, recording 14 tackles (1.5 for loss). In 2013, Davis moved to the top of the depth chart, starting all thirteen of the Iowa Hawkeyes' games, and finishing with 42 tackles (4 TFLs) and 1.5 sacks, earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors. As a senior the following season, he again started all thirteen games, recording 36 tackles (9 for loss) and two sacks, again taking home Second Team All-Big Ten laurels.

In college, Davis took the majority of his snaps at the one-technique, but the Cowboys coaches reportedly see his quickness and envision him as a three-technique. Indeed, he could probably play either DT position; Davis has surprisingly good initial quickness, but also possesses the brute power to hold up against double-teams. That's provided that he uses leverage to his advantage; when he keeps his pads low, Davis is difficult to deal with. Too often, however, he stands up or gets too high at the snap, and is far less effective as a result.

Davis has the height, weight and length of a first-rounder, but his draft value will be lowered by a his low sack productivity and seeming lack of desire. If Davis can get his overall production to match his talent and traits, scouts believe, he'll have a long NFL career.


Want to scout like a boss? Let's start by looking at his measurables:

Height Weight Arms Hands 40yd 10yd Bench Vert Broad 3Cone 20ss SPARQ (%)
6' 5" 320 34⅝" 11" 5.07 1.73 -NA- 33" 103" 7.91 4.47 115.8 (63.0)

And here they are in the form of a spider graph, courtesy of the folks at

And over at Draft Breakdown, they have for of Davis' games for your perusal. From 2013, watch him against conference rivals Michigan and Ohio State; from 2014, you can see Davis help try to stop to of this year's top runners: Indiana and Tevin Coleman and Nebraska and Ameer Abdullah.


Let's see what our esteemed panel of scouts has to say about Davis:

Gary Horton ( 6th-ranked DT; 49th overall:

Versus the Run: Capable of playing 3-technique DT or 1-technique NT in a 4-3 front, as well as 5-technique DE in a 3-4. Tall, long frame with excellent weight distribution. Quick off the ball, light on his feet (for 320 pounds) and has good lower- and upper-body strength. Is tough to move off the ball with one man, and can take his game to another level with improved technique. He's capable of effectively shooting hands inside and controlling blockers, but needs to be more consistent with hand use. Fails to shoot hands inside too often, which gives OL an easy target to attack and also prevents him from keeping his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage.

Pass Rush Skills: Frequently disruptive as a pass-rusher, especially in 2014. But career production (3.5 sacks) does not match skill set. Has upside in this area, which was never more evident than during Senior Bowl week. Can push pocket and drive interior offensive linemen back into the QB when he keeps his pads down. Changes directions well for size and can slip guards with double moves. Flashes a quick spin move to get off of blocks. Has good closing burst to the QB when he gets a direct line. Also shows good awareness in reading the QB's movements and getting his long arms up in passing windows in time to disrupt. But the bottom line is that he has not been a consistent finisher in this area throughout his career. He wears down too easily at times, and then his pads start to rise. He also needs to give a steadier effort in pursuit.

Quickness (hands/feet): Quick first step. Good balance and quickness to get down line. Good upper-body power. Flashes a violent club move and has heavy hands when used properly.

Toughness/Motor:  Motor runs hot and cold. Plays hard the majority of snaps but still not consistent enough. Will fight through double teams most of the time. Seems on tape to lack a killer instinct.

Intangibles: Well-liked by teammates and coaches. No off-field issues. Improved work ethic during time at Iowa. There are still those in scouting community that question his true passion for game and ability to self-motivate. Son of Ovella Davis. Mom is a pastor. Leisure studies major.

Nolan Nawrocki (NFL Draft 2015 Preview) 6th-ranked DT; 49th overall:

Strengths: Has very long arms, a huge frame and is extremely well built with well-distributed mass - looks every bit the part. Tied for the biggest hands (11 inches) of any player at the combine and also finished among the top performers in the vertical jump (33 inches), 10-yard split (1.70 seconds) and the short shuttle (4.47 seconds). Versatile and has lined up as a three-technique and nose tackle in the Hawkeye's 40 front and is capable of kicking outside in a 30 front. Good strength to stack the corner and anchor. Has a 400-power clean and exceptional power in his body (though he does not often use it).

Weaknesses: Minimal career sack production. Does not play to his measurables and runs like his feet hurt - is not quick to turn them over and stays tied up on twists, loops and stunts when he is schemed to come free. Very inconsistent pad level - tends to stand straight up out of his stance and negate his leverage. Does not consistently finish. Plays with too much finesse. Only a two-year starter. Did not show as well during team periods in practice at the Senior Bowl as he did in one-on-one's. Scouts question how much he loves football, and if his best will only come out in a contract year.

Future: Big, strong, quick, versatile defensive lineman capable of manning the post in a 30-front or disrupting the inside in a 40-front. Exceptional showing during Senior Bowl one-on-one's moved his name into the first-round discussion, yet performance during the fall left some scouts exiting Iowa stamping free-agent grades on the career underachiever. Can be as good as he wants to be, but immense talent needs to be tempered with disappointing motor, intensity and desire and comes with a "buyer beware" label.

Draft projection: First-round pick.

Scout's take: "I stuck him in the third round with the underachiever tag. The Senior Bowl showed what he could do when he is motivated. Based on the tape work, I couldn't push him up. He reminded me of the (university of) Minnesota kid (Falcons 37th overall pick Ra'Shede Hegeman) last year."

Lance Zierlein ( 4th-ranked DT; 34th overall:

Strengths: Powerful player. Grows roots against double teams and holds his ground. Noticeable improvement with hands from 2013 to 2014. Shows ability to win with hands and remain disengaged. Fires off the ball with leverage. Strong punch off the snap with power to get arm extension and shed. Uses effective club move as a pass rusher. Has a spin move he'll use to disengage from contact. Naturally transitions from move to move. Good football IQ with a plan of attack.

Weaknesses: Plays heavy-legged. Has smaller "radius of impact" than scouts are looking for in a high draft pick. Lacked production as pass rusher over last two seasons. Pursuit can be lazy and uninspired. As he fatigues, play quality falls way off. Rarely wins immediately. An "eventual" player rather than sudden.

Draft Projection: Round 2

NFL Comparison: C.J. Mosley (Lions)

Dane Brugler (NFL Draft Guide) 6th-ranked DT:

Strengths: Proportionate build with consistent body thickness and long arms...natural knee bender with good flexibility and body control for the position...quick to engage off the snap and push the eater and anchors well with excellent base strength, handling double-teams - not an easy player to move...strong upper body with heavy hands and powerful arms to rip, stack and shed, using hand placement to latch-and-toss...holds his ground and won't allow himself to be swallowed up by multiple blockers...moves well laterally to cross the face of blockers and adjust his momentum to the action in the backfield...displays backfield vision when squared to the ball to track and anticipate, plugging holes and controlling the interior of the line...enjoys contact and plays like a bull...improved snap anticipation to knife through the line of scrimmage...takes well to coaching and hasn't yet reached his football ceiling.

Weaknesses: Naturally tall and allows his pads to rise easily at initial contact...plays too high and leverage will always be an issue for him...short-area player with limited range and heavy feet...bad habit of lunging and placing all his momentum on his toes, causing him to fall off blocks...plays stiff when changing directions and struggles to consistently break down and control his momentum in tight spaces...aggressively takes on blockers, but too often turns his back to the line of scrimmage and gets caught up in the crowd, losing sight of the ball...needs to improve his ability as a multitasker, handling blocks while reading the ball...lack of secondary moves exposed when he faces stout blockers that can match his power...tends to wear down late in games and was part of a heavy rotation in college - flashes an inconsistent mean streak...minor durability concerns, missing half of the 2011 season due to knee issues that required off-season surgery...below average sack and backfield production.


Our panel sees Davis being selected in the first half of the second round, in the 34-49 range. Brugler, who doesn't give overall rankings, sees Davis as a solid second rounder as well. Looking at this, I'm more than happy to slot Davis in round two on my "little board." Simple, right?

If the Cowboys do in fact select Davis in round two, it will be, as Dane Brugler, channeling Bill Parcells, told us on a recent podcast, due to the "planet theory"--i.e., the idea that there are only so many men Davis' size who also have his strength and quickness. While I can certainly appreciate this, I'll struggle with the pick, for two related reasons. First, I think there will be better, more impactful, and lower-risk players available at the 60th pick. Second, the later rounds are packed with a bevy of defensive tackles who, I believe, are better fits for the Cowboys scheme.


Next up: Missouri Oklahoma WR Dorial Green-Beckham

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