[In this NFL Draft series, we will spotlight several positions of interest for the Dallas Cowboys. Scouring the landscape of draft gurus, we will put together mini scouting reports and weigh the pros and cons of many available prospects to find the right fit for the Dallas Cowboys come April 2020.]
The Cowboys saw their offensive line bounce back in a big way in 2019. After giving up nearly 60 sacks in 2018, Dak Prescott was only brought down 23 times this past season. Part of that success was the return of Travis Frederick after missing the 2018 season.
The Cowboys are fortunate to have one of the best lines in football anchored by Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, and La’el Collins. Even Connor Williams played much better after struggling in his rookie season. The starting five are under contract for the near future and they will also finally get to see Connor McGovern take the field in 2020.
Offensive line is not necessarily a huge need for Dallas but think about what happens when you take one of their best four out, it’s not pretty. In the NFL, good offensive line depth is coveted by many but so hard to attain. Joe Looney and Xavier Su’a-Filo have been solid backups for several seasons but are both free agents this offseason. With a whole new coaching staff in place, these two might not be as valued as they once were.
The Cowboys may have to replace their backup center and guard. We all know the cheapest way to do that is through the draft so let’s look at the interior linemen in this class.
|INTERIOR OL||SCHOOL||POS.||CBS RANK||PROJ. RD||HT||WT||STARTS|
|LLOYD CUSHENBERRY III||LSU||C/OG||55||2-3||6'3||312||28|
|NETANE MUTI||FRESNO STATE||OG||64||2-3||6'3||307||16|
Now, let’s take a detailed look at six prospects that might be on the Cowboys’ radar come late April.
LLOYD CUSHENBERRY III, LSU
2019 Second Team All-American, 2019 Joe Moore Award Winner, 2019 LSU MVP
Cushenberry would be a great addition to an already very athletic Cowboys line. He has the versatility to play both center and guard though his best fit might be guard to start. He just doesn’t have the communication experience that the NFL wants from the center position. Cushenberry is a bit raw but still has enough traits that you can be comfortable letting him start. With a little refinement and strength added, he’ll be a quality starter in the NFL.
|LLOYD CUSHENBERRY III|
|JR-LSU||6'3 312 LBS||PROJ. RD: 2-3|
|Shows good athleticism at center, great temperament, tough, striker in run block, good awareness, great combo blocker, initial quickness great, solid anchor, versatile & agile to play OG||Still raw, needs technique refinement, no experience as lead communicator, needs strength to improve in lower body, struggles with balance, needs to align feet & shoulders, pad-level issues|
CESAR RUIZ, MICHIGAN
2019 Second Team All-BIG-10
Cesar Ruiz is a great prospect for a team looking to add a center. He’s very intelligent and knows how to make up for any limitations with solid overall technique. The amount of power he plays with is incredible and he keeps balanced with good pad level. Cesar Ruiz will need to shed a few bad pounds he’s put on but he’s still surprisingly athletic regardless.
|JR-MICHIGAN||6'4 319 LBS||PROJ. RD: 2-3|
|Very athletic, extremely powerful, thick lower body build, strength good throughout his frame, does nice job of staying square, surprisingly good quickness, jarring punch & pop, excellent body control||Needs to lose bad weight, must learn patience in pass pro, feet are inconsistent, timing issues & communication errors handling stunts|
ROBERT HUNT, LOUISIANA
2018 Second Team All Sun-Belt
Robert Hunt would be a good fit for those run-heavy offenses because he can really do some damage at the second-level. He uses leverage and extension well to grip and toss defenders aside. He’s a mauler at the point of attack and though he lacks fluidity and flexibility, he is one powerful finisher.
|SR-LOUISIANA||6'5 336 LBS||PROJ. RD: 3|
|Well-seasoned, great second-level blocker, heavy anchor, nice power, excellent at point of attack blocking, good length, quick extension to sustain blocks, nasty mauler mentality||Hips are tight, not very fluid, hand placement is messy, pad level needs improvement, not great protecting on perimeter, balance issues, not flexible as desired|
NICK HARRIS, WASHINGTON
2019 First Team All-PAC-12, 2019 Second Team All-American
For a guy who lacks size, Nick Harris is pretty effective all around. He wins with his athleticism, refined technique, and great communication skills. He’s not the most powerful guy and has to watch his pad-level but he’s very quick and agile in second-level blocking assignments. Harris has a balanced skill set that will allow teams to overlook the size limitations.
|SR-WASH||6'1 293 LBS||PROJ. RD: 3|
|Despite size limitations, he's super athletic, body positioning & technique are refined, handles multiple responsibilities, good communicator, sufficient run blocker, excellent quickness, great lateral agility, versatile||Undersized, lacks true overall power, issues with heavy nose tackles, susceptible to bull rush, pad-level is messy, short arms, needs to improve vertical push in run game|
BEN BREDESON, MICHIGAN
2019 Second Team All-American, Second Team All-BIG-10, Hugh H. Rader Memorial Award
Bredeson is tough as they come and once he’s latched on to a guy, they are finished. He has great length and size, he’s even held up well when asked to play tackle. Bredeson is not going to impress much in terms of athleticism but he’s so strong and powerful that it doesn’t cause him too many problems. He’s put a lot of effort into his technique and still has room to grow.
|SR-MICHIGAN||6'5 316 LBS||PROJ. RD: 4-5|
|Good anchor ability, solid pass blocker, good inline power, creates lanes consistently in run, excellent strength & aggressiveness, finishes rushers, menacing hand technique, can play OT in pinch||Not explosive, not very athletic, struggles with quick rush slants inside, lateral agility is missing, pad level problems, needs to work on position techniques at second-level, struggles to engage defenders downfield|
DAMIEN LEWIS, LSU
2019 First-Team All-American , 2019 Second-Team All-SEC, 2019 Joe Moore Award
Damien Lewis is a big man and he does a great job at making himself immovable. Lewis is not going to be a very mobile guy, he just doesn’t have that fluidity in his makeup. However, his strength, power, and use of leverage will help him succeed anywhere he lands.
|SR-LSU||6'2 329 LBS||PROJ. RD: 4-5|
|Takes up space as blocker, good lateral techniques, very good at keeping balance, hard to move, leverage is his game, super powerful at point of attack, great effort player, strong as they come||Not a fluid mover, has good grip but hand placement is a problem, often late & wide, anchor needs refinement, only adequate length|