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Cowboys 2021 Draft: Prospects for the LEO position to back up Randy Gregory

The Cowboys need to find another LEO for Dan Quinn’s defense.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a lot of focus centered around who the Dallas Cowboys are going to be taking with the 10th pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. They also have needs at every level of the defense in an effort to shore up the shortcomings that were very obvious last season on that side of the ball. With Dan Quinn now calling the shots on defense, the Cowboys are sure to be a little better just based on switching back to a simpler defense, one they are mostly used to.

But they still have an issue that needs to be taken care of and it looks like they will most likely be doing that in the draft, and that’s finding more depth for the LEO position in Quinn’s defense. As the roster currently stands, Randy Gregory looks like the logical player to fill that role, but if he goes down or has another incident that could cause him to be suspended, then the Cowboys need reinforcements. Quinn’s defense relies on having a player at the LEO position whose main purpose is to harass the quarterback using speed and agility to get pressure. He also has C-gap run responsibility, but he’s mainly there to disrupt the quarterback from a wide angle alignment. DeMarcus Lawrence could also play this position, but seems to more naturally fit as the strong side defensive end.

The Cowboys do have an assortment of defensive ends on the roster but if you take a look at Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, Terrell Basham, and Bradlee Anae, none seem to exactly fit the mold of what Quinn has looked for in the past. Because of Lawrence’s immense talent, he could play anywhere, but for the LEO you are looking for a quick, athletic space player. Gregory’s skill-set seems ideal, and new arrival Basham has a chance of getting some reps there.

But if we are looking for an example of what Quinn is looking for, we can take a look back at one of the last players he drafted to play the LEO position, Vic Beasley back in 2015. Coming into the NFL Beasley was 6’3 and 235lbs which is pretty small for an edge rusher but with his ability to beat offensive tackles using speed, power, and agility turn the corner and attack the quarterback it made him the perfect candidate for the LEO position in Quinn’s defense. He’s also quick to read and attack ball-carriers if they tried to bounce plays to the outside against him.

The smaller hybrid players who aren’t quite a defensive end and not quite a linebacker are ideally suited, and if we use the Beasley model we can try to find some players in the draft after the first round because of the more pressing need at cornerback at the moment. Rounds three through seven though are where we could see the Cowboys take a chance on one of these players.

Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Quincy Roche - Miami

Height: 6’3

Weight: 245lbs

Career Stat Line: 182 Tackles, 54 Tackles for loss, 30.5 Sacks, and 8 Forced fumbles

Draft Day Projection: 3rd-4th Round according to Dane Brugler’s Draft Guide

Roche started his college career at Temple where he was one of the most talented players on defense racking up 26 sacks in three seasons and earning the AAC Defensive Player of the Year before deciding to transfer to Miami his senior year. Roche possesses a quick first step and is able to use his burst to get around offensive tackles. His speed also gives him the ability to set up tackles and allow him to beat them inside as well. He’s also strong against the run and which would come in handy with teams attacking him over DeMarcus Lawrence.

The reason he’s projected in the third to fourth round is due mainly to his size. Teams could shy away from him because they are worried that he won’t be able to hold up in the running game at the next level. But that’s okay because if he’s drafted by the Cowboys his primary role will be to get the quarterback.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Charles Snowden - Virginia

Height: 6’7

Weight: 240lbs

Career Stat Line: 191 Tackles, 30.5 Tackles for loss, 15 Sacks, 15 Passes defended, 3 Forced fumbles

Draft Day Projection: 3rd-4th Round according to Dane Brugler’s Draft Guide

During his time at Virginia, Snowden was a force in the running game using his length to shed blockers and make plays earning him Second Team All-ACC in 2020. He has the potential to become a quality pass rusher who can use his length, athleticism and flexibility to get past offensive tackles and make plays in the passing game seeing as how he has a knack for getting into the opposing teams backfield. He also has the ability to drop in coverage in space but shouldn’t be asked to cover anyone alone.

But once again his size is the issue for teams. They worry that his large frame won’t be able to hold the added weight NFL teams would like for him to put on and still keep his athleticism and bend to get past linemen, but again the Cowboys are looking for able bodied pass rushers so as long as they believe he can do that they will be fine taking him.

Georgia Tech v Duke Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Chris Rumph II - Duke

Height: 6’3

Weight: 235lbs

Career Stat Line: 124 Tackles, 33 Tackles for loss, 17.5 Sacks, 5 Passes defended, 2 Forced fumbles

Draft Day Projection: 4th-5th Round according to Dane Brugler’s Draft Guide

Rumph II, the smallest of this group, maybe the best suited for the LEO position in Quinn’s defense. Rumph II is another Second Team All-ACC player that led his team in sacks and tackles for loss by using his quick first step and speed to get around blockers. He’s a very technical pass rusher who knows how to use his hands to to disengage from blockers and get to ball-carriers and quarterbacks.

I’m pretty sure you get the reason why he’s going to fall in this draft, his size. But he would be a sneaky pick in the later rounds giving the Cowboys a speedy pass rush option with the ability to play linebacker and cover in space as well if needed.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 07 Penn State at Northwestern Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Shaka Toney - Penn State

Height: 6’3

Weight: 242lbs

Career Stat Line: 111 Tackles, 28.5 Tackles for loss, 20 Sacks, 4 Passes defended, 4 Forced fumbles

Draft Day Projection: 6th-7th Round according to Dane Brugler’s Draft Guide

The final player on this list had a very productive career at Penn State leading to his final season where he was First Team All-Big Ten and leading his team in sacks. Toney is another player that uses his quick first step and quickness to beat offensive linemen and also has the ability to drop back into coverage and get the job done. His athleticism and potential gives him a good chance of being drafted later in the draft.

At the next level Toney will need to work on his strength so he can hold up against the run but in the meantime he can be used on passing downs for the Cowboys.

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