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2022 Cowboys scouting report: Texas A&M iDL DeMarvin Leal

Could Dallas look to beef up their interior with a hometown hero?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 27 Texas A&M at LSU Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

More scouting reports for the Dallas Cowboys 2022 NFL Draft. Today a look at and interior lineman on defense, DeMarvin Leal.

Name: DeMarvin Leal
Position: iDL
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 283 pounds

DeMarvin Leal Career Stats, courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Combine Results: 5.00 40-yard dash, 27.5” vertical jump, 106” broad jump, 4.49 short shuttle

When Jimbo Fisher left Florida State for Texas A&M, massive recruiting success was expected to follow. It did, and his first full recruiting class was especially buoyed by 5-star defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal who ranked second in the nation at his position. Now, after three years playing for the Aggies, the Converse, Texas native is ready for the NFL, and the Dallas Cowboys are interested in keeping him close to home:

As for his actual college career, Leal suffered somewhat from the kind of hype that comes with being such a highly-rated recruit. He immediately became a key piece of the Aggies defense as a true freshman, and the coaches utilized his versatility by playing him in literally every spot along the defensive line. Leal’s role as a chess piece for Texas A&M continued throughout his three seasons there.

Heading into the 2021 season, he was considered an early frontrunner to claim the spot as the top interior defensive lineman in this year’s class, and potentially even be the top defensive prospect overall. Neither of those happened, although Leal did have a career year. His 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss both led the team, and his 58 total tackles were tied for fourth on the team. There was no question that Leal was a star for the Aggies, but he never seemed to fully reach his gaudy potential.

Burst: When Leal aligned more inside and played like a traditional defensive tackle, he showcased some really good burst. He gets off the line of scrimmage with ease and gets right into his rush plan. There’s a noticeable dropoff in his explosion when lined up further out wide, one of many reasons why Leal is best suited to play iDL only in the NFL.

Footwork: Leal is extremely precise with his footwork, which is a big reason why he was able to thrive in so many roles for the Aggies. He has great change of direction skills, which is largely due to his footwork. He’s able to move in ways that players his size rarely do because of it, which helps maximize his value as a full-time interior pass rusher.

Hand Technique: It was a shame that Leal didn’t participate in the bench press at the combine; based on how he plays, Leal may have come close to breaking some records. He displays tons of power when he locks up with opposing offensive linemen, and Leal uses that power with active hands to really overwhelm linemen, especially on the interior.

Pass Rush Moves: Leal has great understanding of different pass rush moves, how to use them, and most importantly, when to use them. This can be seen through Leal’s wide array of usage at Texas A&M, as he used different pass rush moves for different pass rush paths based on where he was rushing from.

Lateral Agility: Only one interior defensive lineman ran a faster short shuttle than Leal at the combine, which speaks to his lateral agility. A combination of precise footwork and general athleticism, this allows Leal to fluidly move in any direction on the line of scrimmage, and is especially useful in run defense (more on that in a moment).

Athleticism: Leal’s 40 time was tied for sixth-fastest among his position group at the combine, but his 10-yard split was even better. That was evident of the type of athleticism Leal possesses, especially when it comes to his short-area athleticism that will come in handy with a more defined role. He moves as well as you need to at his size.

Run Defense: Leal’s versatility may have obscured his ceiling as a pass rusher, but it in no way left questions about his run defense. Put simply, Leal is an elite run stopper. A lot of this comes from his footwork and lateral agility, which allows him to move towards the ball with ease and get to the ball-carrier. More than that, Leal’s sheer strength and active hands make him a viable run defender in both one-gap and two-gap assignments.

Processing: The fact that Leal played in so many different positions and had the impact he did speaks to his football IQ. He had a thorough knowledge of the defense and it showed. Leal does a great job of stacking his pass rush moves on top of each other, and he has great vision into the backfield on running downs.

Intangibles: Leal is your stereotypical hustle guy who embodies the “play until the whistle” mentality. There have been times where he’ll turn and chase 20 or 30 yards down the field to make a tackle on a play that’s gotten away from him. His ability to play right away as a true freshman speaks to Leal’s physical readiness and willingness to charge into anything. Leal’s combination of size, athleticism, and pure hustle is a rarity to find on the interior.

Leal’s stock seems to have been hurt by his versatility in college. He had plenty of highlight moments from a wide variety of spots, but he never became the kind of consistent difference maker many expected him to be. Given Leal’s physical and technical skills, it seems likely that this was due to him being overextended positionally.

At the next level, Leal projects to an interior-only role, ideally as a penetration 3-technique although he could hold up as a 1-technique in certain schemes. It’s hard to tell for sure because of how much he switched positions, but Leal does look like someone who could become an elite interior pass rusher if he can find one role and stick to it. That requires a lot of projection and the right fit, but Leal’s run stopping skills should translate anywhere, giving him a comfortably high floor as a rookie.

He’s expected to be a second-round pick, although it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see a team - possibly even the Cowboys - target him in the end of the first round.

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