Dallas Cowboys Potential 2012 Draft Pick: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
I started off this year’s Potential Draft Picks Series by analyzing Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw, and many of you might have been surprised to learn I see a borderline second-round talent. The Cowboys have so many holes on defense, though, that they might value Upshaw’s versatility.
If the organization decides to upgrade the offense, the interior line has to be the top priority. I personally think the Cowboys should move Doug Free to guard and/or sign Carl Nicks. Those ideas have both drawn sharp criticism and praise, with a lot of you remarking that you would love to see Dallas draft the feature of this article.
Let me be clear that David DeCastro has been the only guard I have studied in detail this offseason. I spent a few hours watching as many games of his as I could, though, and I feel I have a very strong grasp on his abilities. Here is why I believe DeCastro is the top guard prospect of the last five years. . .
I will admit I had no idea DeCastro was so dominant. I must have watched 500 plays of his, and I cannot find a major weakness. DeCastro is 6’5”, 310 pounds with a frame that can add size. Although he doesn’t have elite strength, he still anchors well and uses superb leverage and hand placement to ward off defenders. Most draftniks claim he is better as a run blocker than in pass protection, but I think he is equally stout in both phases of the game.
As a run blocker, DeCastro can do it all. He fires off the ball well and can drive defenders back, yet he still has the agility and quickness to get to the second level. He can pull, blocking well on counters and tosses. When he is in the open field, his head is on a swivel in an effort to lay someone out (as at the 3:50 and 7:06 marks in the first video below). Thus, DeCastro is versatile as a run blocker in that he can play with power or finesse. That’s a rare trait.
In pass protection, DeCastro uses great footwork and hand placement. He always maintains a solid base and mirrors defenders well. If he struggles with something at the next level, it will be mammoth tackles (think the nose in a 3-4). DeCastro plays intelligently, handling stunts and twists with ease and using defenders’ momentum against them. He always, always plays to the whistle (3:15 mark above).
DeCastro is not an extraordinary athlete, but it really doesn’t matter. He’s agile enough to succeed in space, and his mechanics are out of this world. He rarely gets beat, but he finds a way to recover when it happens. He played right guard at Stanford, but he will be an All-Pro-type player wherever he lines up.
DeCastro figures to go near the middle of the first round. I’ve long discussed why offensive guards are extremely undervalued in the draft, as they are vital to the success of an offense (as you saw in Dallas this season), but the premiere players at the position rarely go in the first half of the first round. Since the “Moneyball” era of valuing players has crept into the NFL, guards have consistently offered the most bang for the buck. If Dallas feels Free will regain form with a switch back to right tackle, DeCastro should be their top target.