To describe the Cowboys defensive tackle situation, the word “patchwork” might come to mind. But so does “effective” as defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has utilized his veteran depth well to get quality production from his interior defenders on the line of scrimmage.
Despite being hit by various injuries at the position, Dallas has held up on the interior, but depth is needed and could be a position the Cowboys address via the NFL Draft. Marinelli loves to rotate as many linemen as possible to keep players fresh and adding big bodies in the middle who can stop the run and get after the passer are at a premium in today’s NFL.
Below are five defensive end prospects at the college level worth keeping an eye on:
DT Malcom Brown, junior, Texas (6-4, 320)
For the first time since 1937, the Longhorns were shut out of the NFL Draft this past May, but Texas should be well represented in the 2015 NFL Draft, led by Brown, who has first round potential. The First Team All-American has lined up everywhere up front for the UT defense and projects similar in the NFL, showing the versatility to play inside at the one or three technique defensive tackle spots or even outside on the edges. Brown is still developing his punch and pass rush moves, but has an excellent combination of quickness, range and power, controlling his momentum well to break down and use his hands effectively. His well-rounded skill-set will be appealing to all 32 NFL teams, including the Cowboys who could benefit with him at either tackle spot.
DT Eddie Goldman, junior, Florida State (6-3, 320)
Another junior with first round aspirations, Goldman lined up at defensive end last year as a sophomore before moving inside to his more natural defensive tackle position in 2014, leading the Seminoles in sacks (4.0). He has physical, forceful hands at the point of attack to keep blockers from dictating his path, extending his arms off the snap to meet bodies and be disruptive at the line of scrimmage. Goldman also has the quickness off the snap to cross the face of blockers, attack gaps and penetrate the backfield. He hurt his foot in the ACC Championship Game, but is expected to be healthy for the Rose Bowl where he’ll face another future NFL player, Oregon’s Hroniss Grasu, who is also returning from injury. A better prospect than his former teammate and 2014 second round pick Timmy Jernigan, Goldman is a one-technique prospect for the Cowboys to consider in the first round.
DT Michael Bennett, senior, Ohio State (6-2, 288)
After a slow start to the 2014 season, Bennett turned up the heat when Ohio State needed him the most, performing at a high level against top competition late in the season. In the first eight games, he managed just 16 tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack, but in the final five games, Bennett totaled 20 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and five sacks, including a performance in the Big Ten Championship Game that reminded everyone why he was considered a top-50 prospect entering the season. He isn’t a power player and won’t overwhelm blockers, but wins with his initial quickness and controlled footwork to live on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Bennett is a three technique defensive tackle the Cowboys might consider in the second round range.
DT Carl Davis, redshirt senior, Iowa (6-5, 315)
Although his production has been mediocre (nine tackles for loss, two sacks in 2014), Davis’ impact can’t be fully judged by the stat sheet. Usually lining up as the Hawkeyes’ one-technique tackle, he anchors well at the point of attack with excellent base strength, taking on double-teams with his strong upper body to stack and shed. Davis isn’t a rangy player, but the key to his effectiveness is leverage. He can be stood up when he allows his shoulders to rise off the snap, but he’s tough to stop when he stays low off the ball with proper pad level. Davis is a violent player and enjoys contact, making him a natural fit as a one-technique tackle in the NFL.
DT Grady Jarrett, senior, Clemson (6-1, 295)
Just like the little teapot in the classic rhyme, Jarrett is short and stout. Except the full description of the Clemson penetrating tackle includes a few more descriptive adjectives, such as explosive, aggressive and mean. Jarrett doesn’t look all that intimidating, but he uses his shorter stature to get under the pads of blockers and win the leverage game with his low pad level. He has a fluid lower body with lateral quickness to get around blockers with burst in any direction and flexible ankles to take sharp angles while collecting himself to break down on the move. Although some will overlook his NFL potential because of the lack of size, Jarrett possesses a number of translatable skills to be a disruptive three technique that could be available in the third round.
Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) is the Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, a property of The Sports Xchange distributed in partnership with CBSSports.com.