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By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State

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Jonathan Bales

Thus far this offseason, I’ve detailed quite a few defensive tackle prospects.  Only one of those players, however, is a “true” nose tackle (Baylor’s Phil Taylor).  Taylor is a space-eating monster with insane agility for his size, and I have him ranked No. 6 overall on my 2011 Big Board.

Many people consider today’s feature, Oregon State’s Stephen Paea, to be a nose tackle as well.  Despite his size and strength, however, I see Paea as a three-technique.  That’s not to say he couldn’t play the nose. . .just that I don’t see Dallas having significant interest in him.

Scouting Report

At 315 pounds, Stephen Paea seems like a natural fit as a nose tackle.  The truth is, however, he’s best-suited as a three-technique in a 4-3 defense.  Despite his size and incredible strength (as evidenced by his record 49 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine), Paea is extremely athletic.  In the video below, he absolutely dismantles Oregon by shooting gaps and causing havoc in the backfield.

I really see Paea as a one-gap player–a bigger Jay Ratliff.  Personally, I prefer penetrating one-gappers to space-eating nose tackles, but Rob Ryan seems to prefer a two-gap player.  If that is what he wants from his nose tackle, Paea probably isn’t his guy.  Sure, Paea can hold ground and allow others to make plays, but that isn’t what he does best.  Forcing Paea to be a two-gap player would be like never allowing Randy Moss to go deep–sure, he may still be a good wide receiver, but you aren’t maximizing his potential.

The one major concern with Paea is his height.  At just 6’1”, does he have the length to fend off interior linemen who will be far stronger than those he faced at the college level?  I think his quickness will allow him to excel, but again, only if he’s allowed to freelance a bit.  His lack of ideal length could become an issue as a two-gap nose tackle.  He has the strength to anchor, but why waste his quickness?

In my opinion, Paea would be an upgrade against the run at nose tackle for the Cowboys.  That isn’t to say that Jay Ratliff is poor, but Paea certainly possesses superior strength to Ratliff.  Further, Paea’s ability to penetrate in the passing game is comparable to Ratliff’s.  If the Cowboys do take a chance on Paea and move Ratliff to defensive end, I think it would be an upgrade of two positions.

Projection

Paea figures to be a second-round pick.  As I said above, I believe he will fit in well as a three-technique, but he could play the nose if he’s utilized correctly.  I prefer one-gap nose tackles who can get after the quarterback (much like Ratliff), and Paea’s athleticism and ability to penetrate fit the bill.  Actually, I recently moved Paea up my board after watching more tape of him.

I would certainly consider Paea with the 40th pick if I was Dallas, but I don’t think the ‘Boys will see him as a legitimate option.  As of now, I believe Rob Ryan when he says Ratliff will remain at nose tackle.  Thus, Paea-supporters need not get their hopes up that he’ll land in Dallas.

Other Potential Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011

Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Cameron Jordan, DT/DE, Cal

Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC

Cameron Heyward, DT/DE, Ohio State

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Tyron Smith, OT, USC

Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple

Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois

Martez Wilson, ILB/OLB, Illinois

Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon

Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois

Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Brandon Burton, CB, Utah

Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn

Jaiquawn Jarrett, FS, Temple

Ben Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova

Drake Nevis, DT/DE, LSU

Dontay Moch, DE/OLB, Nevada

Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona

 

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8 Responses to Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State

  1. Greg Kemp says:

    There can be a lot more to height than just the feet and inch mark at the tip of your head. Many times (but not always) there are longer arms, higher hip position, broader shoulders, a wider stance, greater reach and different leverage. So as strong and explosive as Paea is, he seems almost too compact and kinetic; almost what a WLB would resemble. He seemed to move well in space but in the trenches of the OL and DL in the NFL, he would have much less room to work and his opposition would have much more starting mass than him (followed by equal strength and better technique).
    Forecast what he would look like across from Gurode and Davis. I imagine that locking Paea up and engulfing him at the line would be a regular practice.
    His DL physics are very limited IMO despite his strength and motor. Reminds me of the paradox of former Cowboy LB, Keith Adams: the limits of the chassis negate the value and production of the great motor.

  2. willis says:

    I think he would be a good value in the second round, but agree he probably isn’t what the cowboys need.

    I have seen a lot of Mock drafts with P. Peterson falling to 7. Since he is rumored to be #1 on the cowboys draft board, I was wondering what it would take for us to move up two spots in the first round on draft day? That last win might end up costing us big, IMO, the value is in the first 8 players, then there is a decline.

  3. Greg–Well said…I think some of those concerns are alleviated in viewing Paea as a three-technique and not a NT. Either way, I don’t think he’s a great fit in Dallas.

  4. Willis–The chart says that move would cost a mid-3rd. We don’t have that, obviously, so perhaps the Cowboys would trade something like their 1st and 3rd for San Fran’s 1st and 5th or so.

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