The best move of the offseason so far for the Dallas Cowboys is retaining defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who had a big impact on last year’s draft class. Four of the eight defensive players drafted by the Cowboys played their part in a complete turnaround, none more than linebacker Micah Parsons.
Not only did Quinn help make Parsons an All-Pro as a rookie, but free agent addition Jayron Kearse played well in a hybrid role at the position. In the last year of his rookie contract, the Cowboys even saw Leighton Vander Esch play well in the final stretch of the season.
On the surface, this would make the slew of mock drafts with Dallas drafting a linebacker 24th overall a bit confusing. Only when considering the possible cap casualty release of DeMarcus Lawrence, and the pending free agent status of Keanu Neal, Vander Esch, Kearse, and the inexperience of backups Francis Bernard and Luke Gifford, does the Cowboys double-dipping in consecutive years begin to make sense.
The Cowboys could try to justify moving on from Lawrence if they plan on using Parsons almost exclusively in a pass rush role. This would leave a void of athleticism and speed at linebacker, one that Utah’s Devin Lloyd could fill.
Utah LB Devin Lloyd: Strengths
Lloyd led the Pac-12 in sacks this season as a senior, also coming away with four interceptions. He is as complete of a pass rusher from the LB spot as any in this class. Lloyd uses his quick hands and lower body bend to turn the corner, and rarely allows blockers to get into his frame.
Devin Lloyd has rockets in his cleets. pic.twitter.com/Z3JR3wYSBB— Sean Martin ✭ (@SeanMartinNFL) February 8, 2022
Against both the pass and run, Lloyd consistently presents a small blocking surface area and isn’t afraid to attack blockers head on. With above average strength in his upper body, Lloyd can play bigger than his frame suggests when filling the hole and has ideal range.
Lloyd’s speed coming downhill may remind Cowboys fans of Parsons at times like when he jumped a short pass from the MIKE LB spot against Oregon for a pick-six in the Pac-12 Championship. Lloyd flips his hips well in man coverage and can cover ground quickly. With modern NFL offenses designed to create misdirection and influence second-level defenders, Lloyd is the type of athlete all teams are looking for at linebacker.
Utah LB Devin Lloyd: Weaknesses
Lloyd can struggle to break down in space, playing with a wide base and allowing ball carriers to get upfield on him at times. A naturally aggressive player, Lloyd does overrun plays at times, and struggled against speed option plays ran his direction.
Lloyd rarely takes false steps, but his processing speed can be a tick late, forcing him to make up ground. While his playing speed is good, he lacks the finishing burst to show off true sideline-to-sideline range.
Utah LB Devin Lloyd: Summary
Lloyd is the type of player that Dan Quinn would love to get his hands on, and one that can help the Cowboys defense stay on the right path. Not only do the Cowboys face free agent decisions at LB, but their secondary outside of Trevon Diggs could look very different.
The mix of Lloyd’s coverage and pass rush ability are areas all teams covet, and the Cowboys are no exception. The Wild Card loss to the 49ers will hang over this team’s head all offseason, with Lloyd being the type of player that could have made a difference against their physical run game.
This is a linebacker with first/second-round talent, that the Cowboys will have to feel good enough about at 24th overall if they want a shot at him. Creating roster needs in free agency that have to be addressed in the draft isn’t how this team usually operates, making it more likely the Cowboys would have to be wiped out at other positions on the draft board for Lloyd to move up in consideration.