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Dallas Cowboys Potential Draft Pick in 2011: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple

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Jonathan Bales

I’ve already graded the Cowboys’ defensive linemen in 2010.  In that post, you’ll notice the highest grade given to a defensive end was a ‘C’ handed out to Stephen Bowen.  That’s pretty sad.  The Cowboys desperately need a defensive end who can rush the passer, even if it means moving Jay Ratliff to the position.

Scouting Report

Muhammad Wilkerson is a player I’ve had a chance to watch in person a few times.  I’ll tell you right now. . .he’s one of my favorite players in this draft.

At 6’4”, 305 pounds, Wilkerson has cat-like quickness and agility.  He’s an incredible athlete for his size, resembling a linebacker in the open-field.  He’s quite stout at the point-of-attack, rarely getting pushed back.  Check out his game against Penn State below. . .

Early in that game, Wilkerson struggled to get off of blocks.  You can see that in a few of the initial plays, as he sometimes has a tendency to remain blocked if his initial move doesn’t work.  He generally attacks first with a finesse move–quite unusual for a man of his size–and it is often a swim move.  Sometimes, Wilkerson’s technique can suffer because he relies heavily on his snap anticipation and burst (which are both remarkable).

Still, Wilkerson became pretty dominant by the end of that Penn State game.  At the 2:09 mark above, you can see what makes Wilkerson so special.  He explodes off of the ball, displays a Dwight Freeney-like spin move, and gets to the quarterback in the blink of an eye.

Wilkerson also displays a good understanding of defensive concepts and diagnoses plays well.   At the 2:07 mark in the video above, you can see Wilkerson rush upfield shortly before turning to run laterally, sniffing out a screen at about the same time I can recognize it on film.  Not bad.

In a 3-4 defense like that of the ‘Boys, Wilkerson will play as a 5-technique defensive end.  He has the size necessary to be the run-stopping end the Cowboys need with the uncertain futures of both Marcus Spears and Igor Olshansky.  Wilkerson can also play as a 3-technique defensive tackle in nickel situations.  He has the versatility to excel at both spots.

Projection

Wilkerson is a sleeper to get selected in the first-round.  You don’t easily find his combination of size and athleticism.  More likely, however, you’ll see him get selected somewhere in the second round.  I think that represents great value and I would have no problem with Dallas using their early second-rounder on him.

The question, however, will be if the Cowboys prioritize securing a true nose tackle (and moving Jay Ratliff to defensive end) over adding depth at end.  I personally believe they should go that route, but a starting defensive line of Stephen Bowen/Jay Ratliff/Muhammad Wilkerson offers much upside as well.

Other Potential Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011

Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara

Cal DT/DE Cameron Jordan

UNC DE/OLB Robert Quinn

Ohio State DT/DE Cameron Heyward

Colorado OT Nate Solder

Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi

Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn

USC OT Tyron Smith

Miami CB Brandon Harris

LSU CB Patrick Peterson

UCLA FS Rahim Moore

Baylor NT Phil Taylor

Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

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18 Responses to Dallas Cowboys Potential Draft Pick in 2011: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple

  1. john coleman says:

    Where is everybody at? I went to youtube and NFP a couple of hours ago, after reading this post.

    Seems like Wilkerson is a good prospect from what I saw on tape. He does seem to possess excellent athleticism and I doubt he has reached his ceiling. He also looks to have the build to easily add 10-200 lbs of muscle. He doesn’t look to be overly muscled and an NFL strength and conditioning guy could really help him. Just my opinion of course.

    In going to youtube, I also looked at Corey Liuget. He seems to be very similar to Wilkerson. Both seem to anchor well at the line of scrimmage.

    Both would be good prospects. Also after the first couple of DE/DT prospects these guys look as good as anybody.

    NFP- The guys on this site seem to have a much varied opinion from the consensus of multiple other sites. They have like 4 or 5 FBs in their top 100. I find that extremely odd as IMO FB is a dinosaur position in the league. However if they are right it will allow some really good players to fall in our lap. I for one wouldn’t expect over one FB to drafted in the top 100, if that. I do appreciate their stance on Amukamara and personnally believe they are right.

    I also watched some tape on DeAndre McDaniel on youtube. If the rest of his tape matches what I saw mark it down, he will be a Cowboy. I know Dallas had scouts at two Clemson games if not more. I thought they were looking at Jenkins or Hairston. Now I think they were looking at McDaniel and possibly as a FS. They could also be entertaining retaining and moving Sensabaugh to FS. Which would allow McDaniel to be our starting SS. Let me go ahead and put Kenny Tate on the radar for 2012. I was hoping he would come out this year. Also these two moves would allow Ball back as the 4th CB and Akwasi a season to develop in a backup role.

    Great posts JB and great comments from the gang on almost everything recently.

  2. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    I’ll be honest – his work vs Temple is almost negligble. I liken it to watching a HS varsity DE rushing against a junior high OT – just no comparison (and even then, he isn’t dominant).

    The Penn State work is worthy of consideration as it is representative of the NFL (in the NFL, everyone is better than college) and it seems as if this guy can play at times. I understand that regardless of how dominant any player seems to be, they will NEVER dominate every single play they’re in, but will be present or make a difference in a majority of the plays.

    This guys seems to dominate a little but make a difference a fair amount of time. Hence, he’s a 3rd to 5th round selection and a good one for Dallas.

    Love to see him compete vs. the other veterans/draft picks Dallas ends up with.

  3. willis says:

    I actually think the defensive end category is fairly well represented in this draft. It seems to me that there are quite a few defensive ends in the first round and that it makes sense to trade back(for whatever we can get as JB pointed out in a recent post) and acquire one there. That being said I think we need a prototypical 3-4 Dt and have a man crush on Phil Taylor. I spent last night thinking how awesome it would be to get both him and J.J. Watt in the first round by combining our picks. Let that simmer for a little bit…. yeah It would be freaking awesome!

    Then release Colombo and pick up Willie Colon from the steelers which would take our biggest need on offense and turn it into our biggest strength.

    I love the draft!

  4. JC–Haven’t studied Liuget yet but I will soon. Mayock loves him. And NFP’s FB rankings shock me. FBs are on the field for, at most, 30 or so snaps a game.

    I don’t think Sensy would fair well at FS, however. He doesn’t have that sort of range and he’s a bit stiff in the hips. He wouldn’t be able to play Cover 1 very well, IMO…he does better near the LOS. I gave him a high grade, but I think he overachieved in 2010 and will regress a bit this season.

    Tyrone–I like Wilkerson a lot more than you. I think a lot of NFL teams are going to agree, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him go in the back of the first round. There’s no way he falls to the third.

    Willis–Watt/Taylor would be pretty sick, but it might be tough to pull off considering how much Taylor could rise.

  5. john coleman says:

    TJ- I can agree that agaimst Temple is one thing, but Penn St is pretty good competition. Stefan Wisniewski is one of the top rated centers and he plays for Penn St. So their talent is solid. The thing that impressed me was that Wilkerson looked pretty mobile. As I said earlier he could easily add 10-20 not 200 and get stronger overall.

    I would rate Liuget a little higher, but he also needs to add strength. Then again remember Strahan was a thin looking guy. Liuget seems to have a solid lower body.

    willis- I’m not very high on Watt at all. I saw a little of his bowl game and he looked incredibly stiff to me. He looked like he was running on wooden legs.

    As fans we all need to keep in mind that these young men for the most part haven’t had NFL level coaches. Exceptions are kids like Dareus. Look at what the USC talent was with Pete Carroll there. Look at how June Jones offenses look against college Ds.

    The question becomes how much upside or room for improvement is left for say a Dareus. Consider a Wilkerson or Liuget and what ceiling is left to attain. Then couple all that with an overall underwhelming draft class. IMO the bust factor is much greater in taking a high pick. I still say that there are only a half dozen true 1st rd locks.

    There 25 guys who fall in the late 1st(25th-32nd) and the early 2nd(33rd-40th). That’s why I want out of the #9 pick. A perfect scenario would be to drop to say 16th and pick up a 2nd. Then possibly dropping again to say 25th and gain another 2nd or 3rd. Then pray that Brandon Harris is somehow still there. Come back in the second and get DT(Phil Taylor) and DE( Heyward, Ballard, Wilkerson, or Liuget). Also as I said earlier don’t be surprised by a pick for DeAndre McDaniel in the 2nd.

  6. JC–I’m excited to watch Liuget. Perhaps I will check him out tonight or tomorrow. I am also not as high on Watt as most. I haven’t done a feature on him yet, but I have watched him plenty. And you hit the nail on the head with your trade scenarios. . .I am just as pumped (maybe more) for the 2nd round of this draft as the 1st.

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