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.
#4 - Malik McDowell - Defensive Lineman - Michigan St. - 6-6, 295
Games Watched: Wisconsin, Indiana, Notre Dame, BYU
Pros: Impressive size and length with long arms and a frame that looks like it could handle more weight without sacrificing athleticism. Extremely nimble, athletic, and light on his feet relative to his size, also shows good change of direction and bend (again, for his size). Excels on stunts and twists that allow him to use his blend of athleticism/size on the move. Good first step and burst for a nearly 300 lb man. Flashes a swim and spin move at times but overall his pass-rush technique is unrefined as he mainly relies on pure strength and athleticism, he especially loves to bull-rush. Does an excellent job of reading running plays where he “works through the trash” while engaged with linemen, scrapes down the line of scrimmage, then disengages to make the play. Has the strength to easily stack and shed linemen. Flashes top-10 ability at times. Good motor, pursues plays with hustle down the line of scrimmage. Very powerful hands that jolt offensive linemen back. Effective using his athleticism to shoot gaps. Lined up primarily inside across from guards or the center, although he did line up outside and even stood up at times.
Cons: Overall, a very inconsistent and raw prospect. He has a tendency to play too high and with poor leverage against the run in particular, also loses his balance far too often. As such, he is rooted out of his gap against the run way more than you’d like to see for someone his size. Technique is very raw as he usually only relies on his natural strength and athleticism, refined pass-rush technique is almost non-existent outside of a bull-rush. Lack of production is startling given his physical gifts, there is no excuse for a player of his caliber to have only 1.5 sacks in a season as a junior in college. Isn’t an ideal fit at either defensive end or tackle in a 4-3.
Conclusion: The potential of this player is enticing, and his ability to shoot gaps on the interior is very intriguing, but his style of play and physical profile seems redundant with 4-3 tweeners already on the roster like Tyrone Crawford and David Irving who are too big to consistently capture the edge at defensive end but not necessarily big enough to hold up full-time on the interior either. I have no doubt that the Cowboys could find a role for him in the rotation, as they have for Irving and Crawford, but I don’t see the point in investing a first-round pick in a “rich man’s version” of current players who aren’t ideal fits. Who wants to spend a first-round pick on a player that we have to debate what exactly his position is 10 minutes after the selection?
The raw talent is clear here but I do not think his potential would be maximized in Dallas, and in many ways it would be fitting a square peg in a round hole. His athleticism could fit at the 3-technique but his ideal position seems to be as a 3-4 defensive end. Clear first-round talent physically, but the questionable scheme fit combined with his inconsistency and lack of technique would make me look elsewhere at 28.
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.