The Dallas Cowboys selected Ryan Russell, a defensive end from Purdue with pick number 163 in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft.
Dallas is serious about upgrading their defense as they take their fourth defensive player out of five picks. They also add another defensive end in an effort to upgrade their play along the front line, something that hurt them last year.
STRENGTHS Looks the part. Long-armed with angular body. Takes wide, quick steps and can be difficult for tackles to handle when stunting. Quick feet with long steps to close on quarterback quickly in "T/E" twists. Flexible upper body. Very good change of direction to harass boot-action pass plays. Flashes a quick first step. Has adequate power at the point of attack. Still very raw with traits to potentially mold.
WEAKNESSES Plays with a narrow base and loses balance. Has traits to get into linemen first, but doesn't bring anything in his hands to jar them. Raw pass rusher. Doesn't seem to have a plan and loses interest when stymied. Completely dominated by Wisconsin right tackle Rob Havenstein. Evaluators have expressed concern about competitive toughness. Content to stay blocked and doesn't fight to improve position. Out of position to finish tackles and misses more than he should.
DRAFT PROJECTION Round 6 or 7
NFL COMPARISON Cornelius Washington
BOTTOM LINE Russell will frustrate NFL teams because he has many of the physical traits they covet, but he doesn't do enough with them. With just 8.5 sacks over the last three years, his production won't interest most teams, but his potential might.
STRENGTHS: Prototypical NFL measureables for the position with ideal size, strength and speed...physical hands and adequate length to work off blocks with balance to continue his path to the pocket...smooth body type to sink and redirect while in pursuit...stays low off the snap, using leverage and hustle.
Disciplined vs. the run when he locates, playing contain...effort isn't a question, working through the whistle...active on stunts, rushing from different angles...strong upper body to wrap and finish tackles, playing with a consistent temperament...experienced in multiple fronts and is well-versed with various front-seven responsibilities...four-year starter (47 career starts).
WEAKNESSES: Allows his pads to rise and plays too upright off the snap...not a twitchy athlete and doesn't play with burst of change of direction skills...runs around the pocket and too often can't figure out how to penetrate the backfield - struggles to control his momentum on the move and needs to improve his movement discipline.
Not overly fluid when asked to drop and slow-footed reacting to the action...will crash inside and be washed out of plays, abandoning his responsibilities on the edges...playmaking instincts have improved, but still not where they need to be for a four-year starter...appeared constantly dinged up with numerous nagging lower body injuries to his knee and ankles...unimpressive production, averaging with only 25.0 tackles for loss and 10.0 sacks over 47 career starts...streaky off-the-field effort and had a tough time with the coaching change after the 2012 season, which affected his attitude, according to several within the program.
In Our View: When scouting Purdue's past defensive line prospects like Kawaan Short, Ryan Kerrian and Bruce Gaston, it was Russell who often grabbed the attention of scouts with his NFL size and promise. But he struggled to develop his talents the last few seasons, especially the last two years under the new coaching staff that implemented a 3-4 base scheme, which had Russell lining up all over the front-seven in a hybrid role. He is well-rounded, but also doesn't stand out in any area with the lackluster film to match. Although he looks the part, Russell is not the sum of his parts and lacks any type of "wow" factor - projected late rounder and back-up defensive end with a low NFL ceiling.
Cowboys draft picks for the 2015 draft:
Round 1, Pick 27 (27) -- Byron Jones CB
Round 2, Pick 28 (60) -- Randy Gregory DE
Round 3, Pick 27 (91) -- Chaz Greeen OT
Round 4, Pick 28 (127) -- Damien Wilson LB
Round 5, Pick 27 (163) -- Ryan Russell DE
Round 7, Pick 19 (236) (from Chargers) --
Round 7, Pick 26 (243) (from Ravens) --
Cowboys team needs in the draft:
CB - The situation with Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne makes this a priority.
RB - DeMarco Murray's departure opens up a spot for a rookie to compete with Darren McFadden and others.
DL - The Cowboys could certainly use help along the defensive line. A pass-rusher and an active one-tech are possibilities. LB - The Cowboys have Rolando McClain and Sean Lee, but injuries for Lee and injuries and off-the-field issues for McClain make things thin.
WR - Dallas could use a speedy wide reciever, especially one who can return kicks.
T/G - Depth along the line, especially at swing tackle.