Cowboys Potential Draft Picks: Mike Neal, DT/DE, Purdue
In our initial Mock Draft, we had the Cowboys selecting Penn State DT/DE Jared Odrick. Odrick was a defensive tackle in college but would move to defensive end in the Cowboys’ 3-4 scheme. We got a lot of flack for the pick, as people are anticipating the selection of either an offensive tackle or a safety.
With so many restricted free agents at the position (Spears, Hatcher, and Bowen), defensive end could become a big concern by 2011, or perhaps even this year. Marcus Dixon has a good shot of making the team this season, but it is tough to project the performance of practice squad players.
If Dallas does pass on defensive end in round one, expect them to address the position in the middle of the draft. Mike Neal of Purdue could be an option at that time.
Neal has helped his stock tremendously lately by displaying that he can play as either a 4-3 defensive tackle or a 3-4 defensive end. He showed great athleticism and production at the Senior Bowl, consistently using quickness to beat offensive linemen off the ball. Some scouts thought he was the most impressive defensive lineman all week.
Neal should test fairly well at the NFL Combine this weekend. At 6’4”, 302 pounds, he has adequate size for a 3-4 DE. The majority of the weight is “good” weight, meaning he is very muscular. He may even have a frame capable of gaining ten more pounds, should a team want him to do that.
At his size, the sub-five second forty-yard dash that he is expected to run would be excellent. Thus, Neal is a good size/speed combination (meaning he will probably go to Oakland).
There are questions about Neal’s motor. He sometimes takes plays off, although this did not seem to be a problem at the Senior Bowl. He also doesn’t have incredible strength or size for a defensive tackle, but these may not be problems if he makes the switch to 3-4 defensive end.
Neal’s versatility, athleticism, and Senior Bowl performance have raised his stock. Originally a mid-to-late round prospect, Neal could go as high as the late second round, particularly if he runs a 4.8 this weekend. With that speed at over 300 pounds, at least one team would take a risk in round two.
If 4-3 teams view him as undersized in their scheme, though, he may drop a bit. Should he get to the back of round three, there is a great possibility that the Cowboys draft him. In fact, this may be a perfect scenario for Dallas as they would acquire a defensive end who is better than a third round talent, while also filling two other needs with the prior selections.