FRISCO, Texas – I’m not in Indianapolis anymore, but I had my eyes glued to the TV for these final two days of NFL Combine workouts.
How could I not, when the last two days featured the Cowboys’ two biggest needs – defensive end and cornerback? The pass rushers worked out on Sunday afternoon, and the defensive backs lit up the field on Monday. Both sets of workouts confirmed what we already knew: this draft is loaded with talent the Cowboys should be able to find at both spots.
Here are some of my main impressions from these last two days of work at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy: Read
- Two head scratchers for me from this defensive line group were Tennessee’s Derek Barnett and Michigan’s Taco Charlton, and how poorly they ran. I didn’t expect either of them to be in the 4.90 range and that’s exactly what happened — Barnett was 4.88 and Charlton was 4.92. The saving grace for both players was that their 3 Cone Drill was outstanding. Barnett ranked the third-highest of the group at 6.96 and Charlton was 7.17. I currently have Barnett and Charlton both on my board as left defensive ends, with Barnett having the edge as a pass rusher that could make that transition to the right side if needed in the scheme.
- There were some questions from scouts about Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis and his ability to bend. I didn’t see that issue at all, and when he went 6.85 on the 3 Cone Drill – it just confirmed what I had seen on tape. Willis mainly played on the left side for the Wildcats, but in the Senior Bowl he was worked on both sides. At 6-4, 255 he will surprise you with his strength to hold the point. I currently have him in the third round, but after his workout he will likely be pushed into the second.
- You’ve heard me talk about Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham a bunch on The Draft Show. I just wanted to share my scouting notes on him: “Outstanding playing speed for a tall player. He can really cover some ground when he runs. He plays with a burst and shows range. This is a very good reactionary athlete. Plays with lateral quickness. Can really change direction. Works through the trash to the get to the ball. Does a nice job of getting rid of the blocker. Uses his hands well. Gets in a position to finish. Has some snap in his hands. Finds the ball. Aggressive player. Can get outside to make the tackle. Plays with range. Handles the low block well. Keeps his balance. Can play in coverage. Speed allows him to keep up in route. Difficult to get away from. Makes plays at all levels. Don’t see him coming off the field on the next level.” I would play him at outside linebacker and currently have him ahead of Alabama’s Reuben Foster, who I also have on the outside.
- I am just as confused as scouts as where to play Michigan’ Jabrill Peppers. If you play him on defense, I would line him up at safety — but I am not sure how much I would trust him to cover or tackle with any consistency. There are snaps on tape where you clearly see him freelance as a player without scheme or technique. What I do know is if you put the ball in his hands, he can be special. If I had to play him in his best position – I’d move him to running back. His height, weight and speed are comparable to Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette, who are the top two backs in this draft. There is good tape of him running out of the Wildcat formation and having nice success.
- History doesn’t smile on the tall safety unless your name is Kam Chancellor, Steve Atwater or Joey Browner. With that being said, Connecticut standout Obi Melifonwu has some freakish traits. It doesn’t take him long to get going for having such long legs and it is surprised how well he can redirect being so tall. I really do like his toughness, as well. As good as his workout was, I’d still take a converted Desmond King, from Iowa and Washington’s Budda Baker over him. All three play with toughness, but tape shows the playing-making ability of King and Baker slightly more than that of Melifonwu.
- For me, if there is a cornerback in this draft where his tape matches the way that he works out – it’s UCLA’s Fabien Moreau. I currently have him in the first round and here are my notes on him before the Combine: “He’s a hard guy to run away from due to his outstanding playing speed and quickness. Can accelerate in a hurry. Has catchup speed and recovery. Plays with an extended burst, especially when he has to carry a receiver across the field. Hips and change of direction are good. Doesn’t play with any stiffness or tightness. Good body control and balance. Stays in position during the route. Shows lower body flex and bend. Quick to turn and go. Matches up very well with size and speed. Rare to see him out of position. He has the key and diagnose to make plays on the ball. Nice zone discipline. Will read the quarterback, then react. Very good football intelligence. Will step up to tackle. Will throw his shoulder into ball carrier but doesn’t always wrap up. Play maker. Will high point ball. Knows how to play the ball with his off hand.”