For the next month, 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 tight end and 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.
Today’s Prospect - (Reported pre-draft visitor)
#55 - Jeremiah Ledbetter - Defensive Lineman - Arkansas - 6-3, 280
Games Watched: Texas A&M, Auburn, Missouri (2015)
Pros: Brings position flexibility, spent most of his time in 2015 at defensive end, while in 2016 he played defensive tackle over the first eight games and then moved outside to end for the final four. Good burst off the snap but he doesn’t maintain quickness throughout the play to consistently beat linemen. Very good motor, hustles and rarely gives up on plays. Good awareness to get his hands in passing lanes once his pass-rush is negated. Looks light on his feet with good movement skills for his size. Very long arms (34+ inches). Tested extremely well at the Combine with the fastest 40 (4.84) and best vertical (32.5) among defensive tackles. Flashes power and good pop in his hands to jolt offensive linemen at times but you don’t see it consistently.
Cons: Consistently rooted out of his gap and hooked in the run game, plays with very poor leverage (too high). Lacks the bulk to play on the interior in early down/base packages in the NFL. Doesn’t hold up at all against double teams and doesn’t shed blocks well. Gets “pinballed” often in the run game. Pass-rush technique and hand usage is very unrefined and almost non-existent. Lacks high-level production, although he did lead his team in TFL and sacks in 2016. Pass-rush momentum is often stopped cold once engaged with offensive linemen heads up, he lacks the quickness and power to make a second move to disengage and continue to the quarterback. Must add bulk, strength, and significantly improve his technique in the run and pass game if he is to stick in the league.
Conclusion: Every year the Cowboys bring in a handful of prospects for their 30 allotted pre-draft visits who are potential late-round picks or priority UDFA’s (Rodney Coe, Deon King, Mark Nzeocha, Ken Bishop, Davon Coleman, etc.), and that seems to be the case here with Ledbetter. There are things to like about him, namely his position flexibility, hustle, and impressive athletic testing at the Combine, but the fact of the matter is that Ledbetter is way too weak against the run to play on the interior full-time and he lacks any type of distinguishable pass-rush traits.
He looks like a project with some potential as a 3-technique tackle who could shift outside at times that Rod Marinelli could mold and insert into the rotation in a year or two, perhaps in a role similar to what Jack Crawford has played over the past few seasons, but he must add weight and develop some kind of consistent pass-rush technique first. With all that said, if the Cowboys spend anything more than a 6th- or 7th-round pick on him I would be very disappointed, and there’s a distinct possibility that he ends up undrafted. I’d be very surprised if he could make the 53-man roster as a rookie.
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 in-depth look at this year’s prospects.