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Dallas Cowboys Potential Draft Pick: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC | The DC Times

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Dallas Cowboys Potential Draft Pick: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC

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Jonathan Bales

Thus far this offseason, I have produced scouting reports on Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara and Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan.  Today I will take a look at another player the Cowboys will look at in the first round–UNC defensive end Robert Quinn.

I’m analyzing defensive players initially because I have almost completed my 2010 Player Grades for all defensive positions.  To know where to go in the future, the Cowboys must properly assess their current roster.  As far as Quinn is concerned, the team’s thoughts on their current outside linebacker group will dictate the value they place on securing Quinn, who would move to that position in the 3-4 defense.

In my opinion, the squad’s outside linebacker group isn’t nearly as poor as everyone makes it out to be.  Everyone knows DeMarcus Ware is a beast and one of the top defensive players in the entire NFL, but most people are very down on Anthony Spencer.  Spencer wasn’t outstanding this season, but I still provided him with a ‘B’ in my 2010 Outside Linebacker Grades.  He actually tallied 11 more tackles than Ware.

Further, I gave second-year man Victor Butler a ‘B+’ overall grade.  I’m extremely high on Butler, particularly since he dramatically improved his run defense.  He’s now a complete player (his .118 pressures/rush beat out Ware) and I think he’s ready to challenge Spencer for a starting job.

Thus, I don’t think the Cowboys need to prioritize the outside linebacker spot early in the draft.  Others may disagree, however, and if Jerry Jones is one of those people, the organization will take a hard look at Quinn with the ninth overall selection.

Scouting Report

At 6’4”, 270 pounds, there are thoughts that Quinn will need to bulk up to remain at defensive end in a 4-3 defense.  In a 3-4, however, he has prototypical size.  To go with that size, Quinn possesses elite athleticism.  Some have compared him to Julius Peppers, and while I don’t think he’s on that level, there’s no doubt that Quinn has the size/speed combo to be on the Raiders’ radar.

Quinn excels as a pass-rusher, utilizing an incredible rip move and overall great hand placement to reach the passer.  I haven’t seen much of a spin move or bull rush, but that could due to the fact that his edge rush was so effective that he didn’t really need to use anything else.

Quinn’s “get off” seems to be average–he doesn’t anticipate the snap like a DeMarcus Ware (but who does?).  He has great speed when he gets going, but I don’t think his quickness is jaw-dropping.  I think his short shuttle time could surprise some people (in a bad way).

Quinn also seems to use poor leverage at times against the run, which is surprising for someone who uses his body so effectively as a pass-rusher.  However, Quinn always seems to be in the right place at the right time.  He plays very under control and doesn’t over-pursue the football, so plays like counters and bootlegs won’t trick him.


Quinn figures to go anywhere from No. 3 overall to the Bills to somewhere in the early teens, although it’s unlikely he’ll drop that far.  I personally think he’ll get scooped up by a 3-4 team, which could limit potential suitors.  It isn’t like he doesn’t have the skill set to play in any scheme, however.

The Cowboys won’t be able to trade down and still nab Quinn, so they’d have to grab him with the No. 9 selection.  As I stated above, however, the team has more pressing needs than outside linebacker, and unless they deem Quinn a can’t-miss edge rusher, they should pass.

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21 Responses to Dallas Cowboys Potential Draft Pick: Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC

  1. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    I would agree – he seems more like a OLB than DE to me (for a 3-4 scheme).

    Excellent game selection (NC vs. BC). It was nice to see him beat Costanzo early on then see how he did later throughout the game (I’d say it was about even w/ Constanzo winning a few solo and via double w/ the guard). Quinn did have one good pressure up the middle on what appeared to be a stunt.

    If he’s the best player on the board at 9 and none of the trade down offers look appealing, I wouldn’t be unhappy w/ this pick.

  2. Rick says:

    I wouldn’t mind taking him at 9 and doing a draft day trade with Houston, giving them Anthony Spencer.

  3. Vince_Grey says:

    We have too many other needs in other areas to take this guy. OLB isn’t a position we really must upgrade right now. The only way I would take him was if he was the second coming of Ware II or LT.

    >>>>>>I wouldn’t mind taking him at 9 and doing a draft day trade with Houston, giving them Anthony Spencer.<<<<

    LOL! I guess you would! While were at it, let's trade Barber/Choice to the Skin's for their first, and Kitna to Arizona for theirs!

    Rick, are you seriously saying that you think the Texans would give up their first round pick for Spencer? Gimmie a break. I always laugh when I see people wanting to trade our players for ridiculously high picks, like other teams are that stupid.

    Spencer's no All Pro, or even a Pro Bowler. NO WAY any team offers their 1st round pick. Maybe a low #2… MAYBE.

  4. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    @VG – I think Rick was referring to off-loading Spencer to the Texans (for whatever pick…5th rd even) for use in their soon to be new 3-4 as Wade might like to have him. We pick in front of the Texans and they might be targeting Quinn. Not trying to speak for Rick but I’m HOPING that’s what he meant.

    Either way, that’s too risky to me. We KNOW what we have in Spencer and he just might be better next year w/ a more forceful DC. I wouldn’t trade him and pick up this guy w/ the HOPES that he’s better w/ a pick as high as this. Butler might end up being better than both . . .

  5. Rick says:

    @ Vince- When did I say they’d get Houston’s first rounder in return? Never? Yeah that’s what I thought.

    I didn’t specify what pick they’d get in return because I’m not exactly sure what Spencer fields. Given that he’s never had double digit sacks and he’s entering the last year of his contract, he probably won’t get more than a 4th and definitely not more than a 3rd. Still, you could use that pick to get depth along the OL, DL or in the secondary. I dunno about you, but I’d rather have Deunta Williams or Deandre McDaniel than Danny McCray or Barry Church. I’d also rather have Quinn than Spencer. Two upgrades for the price of one!

  6. Tyrone–Thanks for noticing the game selection. Costanzo is supposedly about the best this class has to offer at OT. I wouldn’t be totally unhappy with the selection of Quinn, but there are definitely some players I’d prefer over him simply because of needs.

    Rick–If that works out I’d be for it, but I can’t see Dallas getting proper value for Spencer. Remember, I’m not THAT down on him, so it would be tough for me to give him up for anything less than a first-rounder, which obviously won’t happen. I think Vince’s idea of a team offering a second (maybe) is more realistic, and I personally wouldn’t part with him for that. What pick would you need to feel comfortable dealing Spencer?

    Tyrone–I think so (concerning Butler). He’s got the skill set and the drive. I’m happy the Cowboys brought in a DC with no loyalty to any of the players. He’ll start Butler if he deserves it. At worst, he’ll receive far more than the 150 or so snaps he got the past two years.

  7. Rick says:

    Spencer is in the last year of his contract. If they can get a second or a third for him, I’d be all over it. I have a hard time seeing him in Dallas in 2012, unless he has double digit sacks next year… and, in that case, you have to wonder if he was only going hard because it was his contract year.

    The Cowboys have gotten suckered into overpaying players after nice seasons in their contract years far too many times (Flozell, Barber, Ken Hamlin… that’s off the top of my head). I hope it won’t happen again with Spencer.

    In conclusion, Spencer is not the problem on this defense… but I think he has trade value. No one else really does, unless they want to be stupid and trade Ware/Ratliff.

  8. john coleman says:

    I did notice one thing in the clip. Quinn didn’t deliver the big hit and had a couple of opportunities. He also doesn’t look number nine good. He seems small for a DE as well. However he does seem to have good recognition and instincts. As others have said, I wouldn’t be totally upset.

    Watching Castonzo, I am somewhat underwhelmed. All of the tape I have seen on him is similar. With his rating you would expect a little more dominance. Looks like a RT to me and doesn;’t seem to be the mauler you would want. I think he will struggle at the next level.

    Both players lack the standout factor based on this tape and wouldn’t be my first selection at #9. I’m not sure I would grade Castonzo in the 1st rd.

  9. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    As far as Spencer goes, I think we all have the wrong impression of what a LEFT outside LB is. He’s the guy on the side facing the QB that is usually seen when rushing for the sack (as compared to Ware who’s on the backside and often gets the sack because the QB doesn’t evade).

    Because of that fact right there, LOLB sacks are probably half of what can be produced by a good ROLB. Ware had 15.5 sacks this year, so 7 or 8 would be what I’d expect from Spencer if he was as good at rushing the passer. Since that didn’t happen, he’s clearly not as good.

    But, as Jonathan pointed out, Spencer was asked to drop into coverage about twice as much as Ware was. Therefore, he had less opportunity to get sacks/pressures/knockdowns/hurries. Additionally, Spencer was taken out so that Butler could replace him on obvious passing downs. Add in the fact that Spencer had more tackles than any other OLB and I’d say he isn’t that bad. He isn’t D Ware, of course, but then again, noboby is. If Ware stays on the path he’s on, he’s an obvoius Hall of Famer. It’s unfair to think that everyone on the team should play at a HOF level.

    IMO, Spencer is a fairly solid 26th pick overall. He did take a step back from last year, but he’s still young at 27 and is only in his 4th season (one of which was plagued w/ injury). Trade him for a 2nd or 3rd for what MIGHT be a better prospect; not a good idea. This article is about a DE position more than it is about an OLB position.

  10. I completely agree with Ty here. A 3rd or even a 2nd isn’t worth it for Spencer. With that sort of pick, you’re hoping for a guy that MIGHT come in and do what Spencer is already doing. Sometimes we get so overwhelmed with upside that we forget you need productive players to win.

  11. Vince_Grey says:

    >>>>When did I say they’d get Houston’s first rounder in return? Never?<<<<

    Absolutely true, but since you didn't specify, that's the direction I thought you were heading. My apologies for reading something into it that wasn't there.

    In any case I agree with the others that the guy is more valuable, and has more potential to be a better player, than anyone you'd likely get with a 3rd or 4th round pick, and probably even a 2nd. And, as you said, he's in the last year of his deal, so any team trading for him might only get one year. How many teams are going to part with a valuable draft pick for that?

    None? Yeah, that's what I thought.


  12. Derek says:

    First of all, your projection of Quinn as a 3-4 defensive end is way off. He will be a 3-4 outside linebacker, he has virtually the same height and weight numbers as Demarcus Ware.

    Second, he is the perfect size to be a 4-3 defensive end. 4-3 defensive ends run anywhere from 265-280, examples: Jared Allen, 270; Dwight Freeney, 268. I’m tired of everyone pitching these radical ideas for defensive ends when they don’t even know the roles of d-ends in the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. They’re not the same roles. Any professional scout or player personnel specialist on any NFL team would agree with me

    3-4 Outside Linebacker = 4-3 Defensive End.
    3-4 Defenive End = 4-3 Defensive Tackle

  13. Derek–I never said Quinn is a 3-4 DE. I meant he has “prototypical size” to be a 3-4 rush LB. Further, while you’re right about the roles of 3-4 and 4-3 DEs being radically different, your assessment of 3-4 OLB equating to 4-3 DEs and 3-4 DEs equating to 4-3 DTs is totally off. That simply isn’t the case and, while some guys can make the transition from one to the other, to say they are basically the same is just wrong.

  14. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Ok, I figured there’d be some ambiguity about 3-4 vs 4-3 defensive ends this year given Dallas’ needs. Here’s what I know (never been an NFL or college coach but do have some coaching under my belt).

    The objective of the 3-4 is to utilize heavier defensive linemen (as athletic guys in the 270-290 range are hard to come by) who might not be as fast and athletic but are stronger and can move/push O linemen where they want them to go. Strength and size are key elements here. Therefore, the 3-4 DEs are primarily space eaters. They are typically shorter then 4-3DEs and weigh more due to their responsibilty.

    The scheme of the 3-4 defense requires each def lineman to have 2 (two) gaps of responsibility. As the NT has the A gap (the space between the center and guards on EACH side), 3-4 DEs have B and C gap (the space between the guards and tackles AND the space on the outside of the tackles) responsibility. Both the DEs and the NT normally line up “head on” (which is called a technique) with their opposite counterpart and look into the backfield while engaged w/ the O lineman once the play starts to see which gap the RB is heading for or to see if the QB is dropping back to pass. This is called READ responsibility. Some players are better than others at accomplishing this as often the D lineman has split seconds to decide which gap to fill.

    The responsibility of 4-3 DEs is much simpler. It is to rush around the edges for both run defense and pash rush (al la Jared Allen and Mario Williams). They are typically 270-290 range and are usually a fairly athletic guy (fast w/ long arms). In the scheme of things they almost always line up outside of the tackle and aren’t responsible for any gap at all. They do more of an outside contain/pash rush and, therefore, must be taught READ responsibility to be a good D lineman in a 3-4 scheme. The objective of the 4-3 is to collapse the pocket w/ the 4 D linemen and allow the LBs to make plays. The New York Giants employ this strategy well.

    Now, that’s an extremely simplified explanation as there are many other reads going on during the game (both by D linemen and LBs) that make responsibilty more complex. But, base defensive alignment is usually pretty generic (especially in a Rob Ryan 3-4) but is still based on deception and technique more than pocket collapsing.

    There are times that 4-3 DEs can transition to 3-4 OLBs but not always as the responsibilities are different. Although OLBs usually rush the passer, sometimes they have pass coverage (usually the flats) responsibility. And, every once in a while, depending on the type of zone blitz called, an OLB may have to match up w/ RBs in man coverage (when the RB outlets to their side). Therefore, 3-4 OLBs are generally a little lighter than 4-3 DEs; weight isn’t as important as an ability to run quickly and cover and undestand their assignment on any given play. Robert Quinn, although he’s 270, looks like an athletic 4-3 DE who could probably make the transition to 3-4 OLB (like Ware did).

    Keep in mind, this happens less often than you’d think. This is why most college programs utilize the 4-3 more than the 3-4 – because it’s difficult to find personnel w/ the size and athleticsm needed, plus it’s much easier to teach. The programs that can afford to run a 3-4 effectively are the bigger programs like Alabama, Notre Dame, UCLA, etc.

    Just remember, a 3-4 OLB is a linebacker, not a down lineman. It’s a different mentality and style of play. Not all good OLBs are taller and heavier (Clay Matthews is 6-3, 255); its the style of play is most important.

  15. Tyrone–Well said…awesome post. I think the majority of the people who come here are very knowledgeable about not only the ‘Boys but football in general, but that’s a tremendous comment for everyone.

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  20. Rob M says:

    Maybe it was just the BC game in the clip, but I noticed that Quinn got mauled pretty bad on a couple running plays :/
    Definitely a beast as a pass-rusher though, even if you need to consider he’ll probably have to take a year or two to transition into playing standing up, especially considering how he’s a player who likes the rip as a pass-rush move, which requires leverage you tend to lose a bit of coming from a two-point stance.

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