So far, we’ve identified quality players at receiver, linebacker, and along the offensive line for the Cowboys in this draft. We’ve gone back to the tape and weighed the pros and cons, mixing our scouting reports with experts like Lance Zierlein of NFL.com and Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com. Now, we make our way to defensive tackle where the Cowboys truly need a 1-tech but also some 3-tech depth wouldn’t be all that bad either.
We know that the Cowboys value defensive tackles this year as they have met with quite a few already. However, we also know that the Cowboys prefer defensive tackles that are quick off the snap and give at least some push as a rusher. With that said, they’re looking for guys that don’t give up the house against the run. Here’s a chart of the candidates of interest, keep in mind their speed and agility testing numbers as those can be important to Rod Marinelli.
|Name||School||Tackles||TFL's||Sacks||Fumbles||40 time||3-Cone||20 YD Shuttle||Proj. Round||Pos. Ranking||Pro Comp.|
|Vita Vea (6'4, 347 lbs)||Washington||100||15||9.5||2||5.10||DNP||DNP||1||1||Haloti Ngata|
|Da'Ron Payne (6'2, 311 lbs)||Alabama||102||5||3||1||4.90||7.58||4.48||1||2||Ndamukong Suh|
|Taven Bryan (6'5, 291 lbs)||Florida||27||4.5||1.5||2||4.98||7.12||4.48||1||3||Fletcher Cox|
|Maurice Hurst (6'1, 292 lbs)||Michigan||130||32.5||12.5||2||4.99||7.71||4.59||1-2||4||Maliek Collins|
|Harrison Phillips (6'3, 307 lbs)||Stanford||158||28.5||16||2||5.21||7.28||4.5||2||5||Broderick Bunlkey|
|Nathan Shepherd (6'4, 314 lbs)||Fort Hayes State||168||27||10||2||5.09||7.5||4.53||2||6||Akiem Hicks|
|Da'Shawn Hand (6'4, 297 lbs)||Alabama||64||13.5||8||1||4.83||7.98||4.62||3||7||Paul Spicer|
|Deadrin Senat (6'0, 314 lbs)||South Florida||179||23.5||7||2||5.16||7.77||4.79||3||8||Javon Hargrave|
|Trenton Thompson (6'3, 288 lbs)||Georgia||94||13||5||0||5.06||7.68||4.56||3||9||Adolphus Washington|
|Derrick Nnadi (6'1, 317 lbs)||Florida State||165||17||8||2||5.33||8.15||5.02||3-4||10||Art Donovan|
|Tim Settle (6'3, 329 lbs)||Virginia Tech||53||19.5||4||0||5.37||7.95||5.83||3-4||11||Vince Wilfork|
|Poona Ford (6'0, 306 lbs)||Texas||136||20.5||4||3||5.15||7.76||4.75||6||19||Grady Jarrett|
|Mason Gentry (6'5, 300 lbs)||SMU||107||8||0.5||0||5.14||7.5||DNP||FA||--||N/A|
Vita Vea, Washington
|NFL size and thickness, powerful upper body||Can lose footing at times|
|Intimidating presence at point of attack||Gets too far out and compromises footwork|
|Extreme power, pummels guards||Needs to improve pad level consistency|
|Good hip rotations and flexibility||Lacks the feel for double teams|
|Two-gap defender||Teams may view him as a two-down player|
|Great quickness and explosivity||Initial get-off is average|
|Violent player, plays with tenacity|
Cowboys fit: Vea is an early favorite of most Cowboys fans as there just aren’t a lot of guys as disruptive as he is, moving at the size that he does. Vea is certainly more of a 1-tech tackle but he does have pass rush ability. However, he needs to improve his consistency and must stay motivated. There are early concerns that Vea is only a two-down player and though the Cowboys are all about rotation, it’ll be hard to convince Marinelli to spend that high of a pick to get him.
Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
|Built like a wall with great musculature||Needs a little more twitch off the ball|
|Impressive power and strength||Can improve change of directions|
|Elite run stuffer||Plays too square at times|
|Excellent technician||Relies on first move to work, needs development|
|Has to be schemed for, impressive athleticism|
|Fluid mover that shows improvements each year|
|One of the most respected leaders of Saban era|
Cowboys fit: Payne is one of those guys that blew up in the playoffs this past college season and simply must be schemed for, which says a lot. He’s extremely disruptive and has the technique part down pat plus he’s an elite run stopper and quality leader. The issue with Payne is that we’ve seen so little of what he can be that you have to project a little bit with this type of player. The Cowboys may want someone with more than just five tackles for loss and three sacks, especially at 19, where you have to take Payne.
Taven Bryan, Florida
|Super loose lower body, gifted athlete||Is a little narrow in the hip area|
|Plays with agility of a speed rusher, can make self skinny||Below average power needs improvement|
|Upfield burst is second to none||Can find himself on the ground occasionally|
|Absolute relentless disruption with lateral quickness||Body type looks out of place for interior|
|Battery never dies, makes tackles all over the field||Needs more mass|
|Great bend around the edge and explosive||Production obviously hindered by lack of instincts|
|Extremely tough and motivated worker||Must learn to keep head up and vision forward|
Cowboys fit: Yes, Bryan is absolutely explosive and you get the feel that this guy is going places in the NFL. Being mentioned in the same company as Fletcher Cox is high praise for this kid. He’s got top-notch athleticism and attacks the gaps with aggression. Bryan also rushes the passer with a purpose and a relentless motor. We mention Payne as a projection but Bryan is an even bigger one with very little production and a clear lack of instincts. He’s going to be a raw talent and maybe that’s something Marinelli doesn’t mind. Still, can you convince head coach Jason Garrett that he can afford to wait on a guy?
Maurice Hurst, Michigan
|Disruptive from the snap with great quickness||A little smaller than desired|
|Keeps his body low as he destroys the backfield||Has to close the gap on stronger blockers|
|Too quick for blockers to trap||Relies on forward lean needs improved upper body strength|
|Great motor and movement as a pass rusher||Slow to shed his blocks|
|Has hands like a boxer||Needs improvement in pass rush technique|
|Quick to punch then disengage||Heart condition has him off some boards|
|Makes plays where he has no business being|
Cowboys fit: Hurst is a 3-tech prospect with elite production and a solid pass rush resume. He’s consistently disruptive at the point of attack and bought a residence in the backfield seeing as he’s there most of the time. Hurst has that amazing punch with obvious work on his hand placement being key to his success. If we’re honest, Hurst could be the top-rated defensive tackle but there is always a snag.
Hurst’s status dropped after a heart condition was found, though he’s been cleared, some teams have him completely off their boards, which is concerning. If not for that, it’s likely that Hurst could have been the pick at 19, if he was there. At this point, if they feel good about him, he’s a trade up option in the second because you can forget him lasting until 50, some team will bite.
Harrison Phillips, Stanford
|Very nice and thick frame||Built like an offensive lineman|
|Makes plays despite only decent athleticism||More active than athletic|
|Production was unquestioned||Needs to improve planning on his rushes|
|Former state wrestling champion, great power||Must improve change of direction on sinks and shift|
|Quality edge setter||Needs hand technique refinement|
|Super active, disruptive, and determined|
|Wins so much with just the basic moves|
Cowboys fit: Nobody helped themselves more in this draft process than Harrison Phillips did. He showed out at the Senior Bowl, leading the sack department there, and he tested well, too. Coaches love hearing that their defensive tackle prospect was a former wrestling champion, it takes extreme discipline to accomplish such a task. Phillips anchors and stays active despite only limited athleticism. If he’s the target in the second round, he’s going to play at the one because his pass rush skills need a plan of action. Phillips needs some minor refinements but has the wherewithal to do so.
Nathan Shepherd, Fort Hays State
|Very self aware athlete, looks the part||Very raw and dominated lesser competition|
|Diagnoses and improves on weaknesses, no habits||Could need two years to get to NFL level|
|Good lateral quickness and flexible hips||Needs to develop awareness of blocking patterns|
|Athletic ability + traits = moldable/ coachable player||Trys to fight everything with force lacking technique|
|Good pursuit athleticism||Needs to play with more edge|
|Strong and powerful hands||Can get tied up and glued to his blocks at times|
|Solid rushing ability from all over the line|
Cowboys fit: Shepherd is another one of those guys you want coming off the bus first for your team. He’s built very well with distinguishable musculature and has absolutely devastating power in his hands. Shepherd was very productive and dominant showing great flexibility and lateral quickness to rush from anywhere on the field. He was a grown man in a room full of boys but now we need to see him up against other grown men. Though he’s very teachable, he has a lot of technique things that must improve and again, how long will it take to do that?
Third - Fourth Round
Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama
|Pro-ready build and frame for the position||Production wasn't all that impressive, slow to get noticed|
|Has scheme flexible traits to play inside and out||Needs to dominate at times when he just coasts|
|Long arms allow him to extend and keep blockers off||Struggles to extend when blockers get a hold of him|
|Good change of direction and quickness||Slow to shed his blocks|
|Great short area burst||Sidelined three seasons with MCL injury|
|Core strength outstanding|
|Impressive lateral quickness and range|
Cowboys fit: Well, Hand is going to be considered by many teams as an edge rusher or end in a 3-4 scheme, he has that versatility and is the fastest guy on this list. He possesses great length, burst, change of direction, lateral quickness, and that core strength is stunning. Unlike some guys in this exercise, Hand is about as pro-ready as they get but his production level was questionable because he spent three seasons sidelined at various times with MCL injuries.
Deadrin Senat, South Florida
|Initial commitment to FSU||Lack of length could hinder him some|
|Squatty frame packed with muscle||Needs to stay out of traffic|
|Sturdiness/ balance, real hard to move this man||Struggles with the wash blocks|
|Keeps his hips under himself consistently||Need to see more disruption at the snap|
|Fast-twitch hands with startling punch||Not a terribly effective pass rusher|
|Doesn't waste motion, good two-gap ability|
|Motor is outstanding, keeps coming with multiple levels|
Cowboys fit: Production is not an issue with one of my favorite 1-tech prospects in this class. Senat doesn’t have the length that teams desire but he’s built out his body for the NFL and has defined musculature. What he does better than any other prospect is consistently keep his hips under him and pad level correct. It allows him to keep his balance which makes him almost immovable for guards in the run game.
He’s got multiple gears in his motor with quick-twitch ability. We hear that the Cowboys like him quite a bit but he doesn’t offer up much as a pass rusher. Still, as I’ve said about him multiple times, there’s nothing wrong with getting a guy like Senat to do the heavy-lifting against the run.
Trenton Thompson, Georgia
|Keeps himself low out of his stance||Played hurt for most of his collegiate career|
|Uses good leverage at attack point||Played in only 35% of the snaps|
|Good 3-tech with lower body power and torque||Steep injury history|
|Keeps a wide and sturdy base||Gets trapped behind blocks on lateral runs|
|Big, athletic, rangy, and disruptive||Struggles to keep pads squared up|
|Held his own against top guards and tackles||Flashes but doesn't consistently impose his will on people|
|Great hustle, excellent toughness, relentless motor|
Cowboys fit: He’s the quintessential 3-tech prospect with good agility, the desired motor, and great hustle to his game. Thompson was impressive when he went up against top Notre Dame linemen prospects such as Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey, winning his fair share of the battles. He’s rangy, athletic, and disruptive but he’s got an extensive injury history that needs evaluation. The good news is that he was known to play through lots of stuff but the bad news is that he only played a limited number of the snaps. It’s admirable to play hurt for the majority of your career but it limited his effectiveness.
Derrick Nnadi, Florida State
|Robust build, big backside||Slightly undersized for NFL though he has mass|
|Keeps low center of gravity at all times||Can get outmuscled against wide lineman|
|Outstanding play strength, weight room kid||Must win early to stay ahead|
|Great snap quickness, attacks the two-gaps||Room to improve quickness and diagnosing skills|
|Great vision, eyes peeled for ball carrier||Can lose ground against double teams at times|
|Lateral agility is solid, plays with good leverage||Pass rush loses momentum if guards give him the stiff punch|
|Very productive, hard to find bad tape|
Cowboys fit: Nnadi is one of those guys that makes it hard to find his flaws because he’s super strong, athletic, had outstanding production, and has above average lateral quickness. Though he’s built like a brick house, he is still somewhat undersized by NFL standards. It shows when he takes on wider linemen that can bully him a little bit. There is a lot of room to grow with this prospect but Dallas may want their 1-tech to do a better job at handling double teams, Nnadi will have to improve those balance issues.
Tim Settle, Virginia Tech
|Challenged to improve conditioning and didn’t disappoint||Wears a little too much jiggle in the midsection|
|Thick and broad, rare agility for his size||Needs to stay motivated in conditioning|
|Built low to the ground and plays with infectious energy||Frenetic play style takes him off balance|
|Explodes off the ball and can be destructive to opponent||Over extends with little experience (23 games)|
|Power in his upper body, plays with great pursuit||Inconsistent hand usage and needs improvement on technique|
|Early winner, good pad level, penetrates the two gap|
|Legitimate pocket destroyer|
Cowboys fit: Here’s another favorite that we’ve mocked to the Cowboys once or twice. Settle was the catalyst for an impressive Hokie defense with his innate ability to crush pockets on quarterbacks. Settle’s energy level during games ignited the defense to keep attacking, he’s described as an infectious personality. For guy with his thick frame, he stays low showing rare agility and explosion. Though he made noticeable improvements to his conditioning, there is still concerns that he holds excess weight and could revert back. The Cowboys have one of the most serious conditioning programs in the league, he’ll have to keep motivated.
Poona Ford, Texas
|Good thickness and low center of gravity||Much shorter than teams really prefer|
|Nice bend and flexible hips||Needs hand placement improvement|
|Squatty frame with impressive arm length||Struggles to pry himself off blocks at times|
|Decent lateral quickness can challenge reach blocks||Loses track of the football getting caught behind|
|Sustained effort to make plays outside his area||Pays too much attention to blocker instead of play development|
|Good upper body power and movement||He must win with his power or he'll simply lose a lot|
|Extremely disruptive and productive player|
Cowboys fit: Another pet cat around these parts who has some versatility to play both tackle spots. Ford was extremely productive at a major program despite him not having the desired body length. It’s because he’s got length in one key area, his arms. Ford has decent traits such as good lateral quickness, agility, flexibility, and great power. He still has a lot of room to grow but would be a solid late-round addition to the Cowboys defense.