(Editor’s Note: The staff of DallasCowboys.com is currently previewing the depth chart at each position on the Cowboys’ roster. The biggest remaining variable in determining that depth chart is the NFL Draft, which begins April 30. This series will identify five potential draft picks who could affect the depth chart at each position. Today, we conclude with defensive tackles.)
IRVING, Texas – Up until the Cowboys actually use their draft picks next week, the central story around the franchise will be the 10-game suspension of Greg Hardy.
The NFL’s disciplinary action against Hardy raises a need for pass rushers along the defensive line. The obvious point of emphasis is defensive end, but the Cowboys’ 4-3 scheme is also one that generates plenty of push from the defensive tackle spot – specifically the 3-technique.
Three-technique defensive tackles line up between an offense’s guard and tackle, and they are primarily concerned with disrupting the pocket and rushing the quarterback. Tyrone Crawford proved himself particularly adept at the position after switching from defensive end last fall.
Here’s a look at five prospects the Cowboys could draft into the rotation this week:
1. Carl Davis, Iowa – At 6-4, 321 pounds, Davis is absolutely massive, but he has the versatility to play as both a 1-technique and 3-technique. He only managed 3.5 combined sacks in his last two seasons with the Hawkeyes, but he showed his ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage with nine tackles for loss in 2014. There’s bound to be some conversation about where exactly Davis should go, but he could be an option at No. 27 overall – or particularly if the Cowboys trade back.
2. Eddie Goldman, Florida State – Much like his Seminole teammate Mario Edwards Jr., there aren’t many people who can agree on exactly where Goldman should go. He’s another massive prospect at 6-4, 336 pounds, although he’s projected more as a 1-technique tackle. It’s unlikely the Cowboys would select him 27th, but he could fit in a trade-back scenario – or if he falls down the draft board.
3. Michael Bennett, Ohio State – As a 28-game starter for the Buckeyes, Bennett has first-round name recognition, but he just might be available when Dallas picks at No. 60. He’s a proven veteran, and he notched 58 tackles, seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss during Ohio State’s championship season.
4. Xavier Cooper, Washington State – He isn’t as physically gifted as the three guys above him, but Cooper has proven his ability with 23 tackles for loss in two seasons with the Cougars. He also projects better as a 3-technique, pass-rushing tackle, which again is what Dallas is after. It’s anybody’s guess how the Cowboys address their draft board in the early rounds, but Cooper could be there at No. 91 overall.
5. Rakeem Nunez-Roches, Southern Mississippi – If you’re looking for a sleeper pick at the position, Nunez-Roches might be the one. The Southern Miss junior notched 58 tackles, seven tackles for loss and three sacks last year before declaring for the draft early. He isn’t generating much buzz at 6-2, 307 pounds, with modest combine numbers, but he has shown an ability to rush the quarterback, having recorded seven quarterback hurries in addition to his three sacks. This isn’t a Day 1 starter, but Nunez-Roches could be a rotational guy, and the Cowboys could potentially add him as late as the fifth round.