Cowboys Potential Draft Picks: Eric Norwood, LB, South Carolina
We have discussed at length the Cowboys’ need to add depth to the inside linebacker position. Though outside linebacker is often seen as much less of a need, Dallas is somewhat thin behind starters Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.
Second-year players Brandon Williams and Victor Butler are the backups, meaning if either starter goes down due to injury, the Cowboys could be in a bit of trouble. Thus, although not many experts are projecting the Cowboys to target an outside linebacker in the draft (at least not early), it is still a possibility.
This lack of experience, combined with the need for a young playmaker at inside linebacker, makes any player that is versatile enough to play both positions extremely valuable to Dallas. LB Eric Norwood of South Carolina may just be that player.
Norwood is 6’1”, 252 pounds, meaning he has good size to play inside in a 3-4. Despite this, his exceptional pass rush skills have most projecting him solely as an outside linebacker. We do not totally agree with this assessment. Norwood would be somewhat undersized at OLB, meaning teams would target him in the run game. Because of this, he would likely only be a pass rush specialist if a team pigeonholes him as solely an outside linebacker.
Instead, we believe Norwood is capable of playing both inside and outside. He is fairly explosive at his size, registering a 4.67 forty and 36.5 inch vertical leap at the Combine. Playing him at inside linebacker on running downs, particularly short-yardage situations, might allow him to use his ability to pursue the ball-carrier more so than if he was outside.
His incredible pass rushing abilities could be utilized by moving him to outside linebacker in passing situations. In terms of solely rushing the quarterback, we would actually rate Norwood as a top three prospect in this draft.
Norwood is also durable, having never missed a game in his entire college career. This sort of consistency is also matched in his on-field play. Norwood is a sure tackler and is a rather safe pick for where he will be selected.
His biggest weakness is in coverage. He is very instinctual when rushing the quarterback, but sometimes seems lost in coverage. Thus, Norwood would be primarily an edge rusher in the Cowboys’ scheme, as the team would want to hide this weakness as much as possible.
Overall, we see Norwood as a guy who could become the primary backup to Ware and Spencer, perhaps spelling them in passing situations, with the ability to play inside in a pinch or during short-yardage situations. His versatility is what will appeal to Dallas, and Wade Phillips can never have enough talented rush linebackers.
Norwood is projected to go around the third round, but we honestly have no idea why he could get selected this low. It is probable that teams see him as a player with no exceptional qualities and limited upside. His perceived lack of outstanding traits will give whichever team selects him excellent value.
He reminds us of Tashard Choice in that his numbers aren’t eye-popping, but he is a leader who is solid in just about every aspect of the game. We have a feeling Norwood could rise to as high as the second round, but if he is available for the Cowboys in the third, it would be awfully tough to pass on a player with his versatility and pass rushing capabilities.