Over the next few months, we’ll be looking at prospects in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft from a decidedly Cowboys point of view. Taking the Cowboys current personnel, draft position, scheme, and needs into consideration; defensive line, linebacker, defensive backs, as well as complementary offensive pieces at wide receiver, tight end, and perhaps right tackle, we hope to profile the majority of the potential prospects that could realistically end up as Cowboys within the first two rounds. Once the “official visits” start to leak we’ll add prospects that are possibilities in the later rounds.
#44 DeMarcus Walker - Defensive End/Tackle - Florida St. - 6-4, 280
Games Watched: Clemson, Michigan, Mississippi, Florida, Louisville
Pros: Perhaps the best interior pass-rusher I’ve seen coming out since Aaron Donald in 2014. Extremely explosive off the snap with a devastating swim move when lined up on the interior. Guards and centers in college simply could not handle his quickness and suddenness in pass protection. Good closing speed and very difficult to stop once he gets a step and gains momentum towards the quarterback. Very effective on twists, slants, and stunts. Good instincts as far as recognizing screens and good timing as far as getting his hands into passing lanes for deflections. Excellent change of direction, quick first step, and highly athletic for a defensive tackle, especially when asked to shoot gaps in a penetrating scheme. Refined hand usage as a pass-rusher. Played defensive end in three- and four-man lines, and shifted inside on passing downs. Ultra productive with an astounding 16 sacks as a senior. Absolutely took over games at times against high-level competition (Michigan and Mississippi).
Cons: Really struggles against the run when he is facing offensive linemen heads up and when not using his speed/quickness to shoot gaps. Doesn’t play with great power, even when lined up outside as an end. Limited length with a short/compact frame, I’ll be very curious to see his measurements at the Combine. If his initial quickness is neutralized he really struggles to get off blocks due to his lack of size, length, and power. Not athletic, quick-twitch or explosive when playing on the edge, also lacks natural bend. Can he play with the same quickness/explosiveness at 290-295 compared to 275-280 if he were asked to play defensive tackle (3-technique) full-time?
Conclusion: My main concern with Walker is that he doesn’t look like he has the physical traits necessary to consistently win on the edge as a defensive end against NFL offensive tackles, but at just about 280 lbs can he hold up in the run game as an every down defensive tackle?
This is a problem for the Cowboys when the same questions can be asked about players like Tyrone Crawford, David Irving, and Jack Crawford. Lately it seems the Cowboys have excelled at finding jumbo defensive ends who aren’t quite full-time tackles but aren’t quite explosive enough to play defensive end full-time either.
The clear question here is what about Aaron Donald?
He was only 285 at the Combine in 2014 and is one of the best defensive tackles in the league.
While that is true, Donald was barely even 6-1, while Walker is listed at 6-4. Normally height is an advantage when evaluating a prospect, but in this case it’s a disadvantage as Donald has a lower center of gravity and a stouter frame as his 285 or so pounds is packed into a body that is about three inches shorter. This is why I’ll be so curious to see how Walker measures at the Combine, especially because I suspect that he may have been playing at less than his listed weight of 280.
You also have to factor in that Donald ran a sub-4.7 at the Combine, which is an ungodly number for a 285 lb defensive tackle, and quite important to consider since Donald’s quickness and speed are two key components to what makes him so special. I’d be surprised if Walker could replicate something similar to that number.
Considering his struggles in the run game he looks like a bit of a one-trick pony right now as a penetrating, one gap, interior pass-rusher at the next level, but it’s really one heck of a trick. I’m not sure that he is a complete enough player to warrant the 28th overall pick in the draft, but I can tell you that I would be thankful to have him on my side rushing the passer when it’s 3rd and 7 late in the 4th quarter on the road in Philadelphia, New York, or Washington come December.
We’ll see what happens at the Combine, but I’m comfortable saying at the very least that Walker should be a strong consideration if the Cowboys were to trade down into the 40 or so range, and he certainly would have to be one of the top players available if he made it to their pick in the second round.
I do not have access to coach’s film or anything of that nature, I just watch plenty of football (television broadcast version) and go off what I see out of a prospect. I started this odd fascination of mine in 2011 when I sent my breakdown and links to videos of Tyron Smith at USC to the excellent Cowboys blogger Bob Sturm (April 28, 2011 - Even More Tyron Smith Tape). Since then I’ve continued watching prospects closely, but I’ve never taken the initiative to actually formally write my thoughts until I became a writer for BTB. I hope that I can provide an interesting, and accurate perspective on prospects from a Cowboys-centric point of view.
Special thanks to DraftBreakdown for posting the videos that help provide a more an in-depth look at this year’s prospects