Dallas Cowboys Potential 2012 Draft Pick: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
I created a stir a couple days ago by arguing that Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw is just a second or even third-round talent. I really don’t care that no other expert (<— Did I just refer to myself as an expert?) rates him that poorly and that he’s projected to go in the top half of the first round. . .I simply don’t see an elite pass-rusher. With the No. 14 overall pick and the Cowboys’ current needs, the team better get an elite edge rusher if they look to the outside linebacker spot with their first selection.
Is South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram that player? I spent the morning watching the majority of his 2010 and 2011 games, and I came away impressed. Here’s why Ingram is a superior prospect to Upshaw. . .
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Melvin Ingram is an athlete. At 276 pounds, he moves like a tight end. He was on South Carolina’s hands team, which should tell you all you need to know. The video below doesn’t show his pass rush repertoire much, but you can see his freakish athleticism.
When I posted my scouting report on Upshaw, some readers commented that my qualms with his height were unwarranted. Lamar Woodley and Elvis Dumervil are shorter players who have thrived at the next level despite smaller frames, and Upshaw may very well be one of those players. My issue with Upshaw is not simply that he is short and has only 31″ arms, but that he’s short and hasn’t turned in impressive film (in my view). I actually think shorter, slower, less-physically-impressive prospects who can simply play football often provide the most value, as their shortcomings (HA!) cause them to drop further than they should. Short arms are a red flag, but if a pass rusher can thrive despite a lack of length, his low draft spot can be a blessing for whoever selects him.
The biggest evidence that I don’t downgrade players simply because of a single measurement is today’s feature. At 6’2” with 31″ arms, Ingram has pretty much the same frame as Upshaw. What I saw from Ingram on film, though, is an explosive player with versatility and the ability to dominate in all aspects of the game.
For evidence of Ingram’s explosiveness, check out the 1:07 mark below. He doesn’t record the sack, but he covers a ton of ground and gets to the quarterback from the defensive tackle position. At the 1:55 mark, he shows his quickness, setting up the offensive tackle and reaching the passer in a hurry. Ingram isn’t all about finesse, though, and actually uses a bull rush quite often. At the 2:25 mark, you can see just how powerful he can be. From an interior position, he wards off two blockers, splitting them for the sack.
That strength gives Ingram the ability to be a dominant run defender. He uses his hands extremely well, disengaging from blockers to tackle the ball-carrier. He maintains leverage in tight spaces, thriving against the run whether he is in the interior or outside. The last play below shows his strength and ability to work in tight areas.
My biggest issue with Ingram right now is getting off of the ball. In almost every clip, you can see he is late off of the snap. Don’t confuse this for a lack of explosiveness, though. Once Ingram starts moving, he covers a ton of ground in a hurry. I expect his 10-yard split and short shuttle to be outstanding. To me, getting off of the snap (in terms of reacting to it) can be taught, but the quickness of the actual first step cannot. Ingram has the requisite quickness, but he needs to improve his reaction time. If he can do that, watch out.
Some people might have concerns with Ingram’s size, projecting him as a 4-3 defensive end without 3-4 versatility. I don’t see that. Ingram is on the heavy side for a 3-4 backer, but that means the Cowboys wouldn’t lose anything in terms of run defense if he takes over for Anthony Spencer. . .and I can assure you Ingram will help out the defense as a pass-rusher far more than Spencer.
Ingram figures to go in that “gray area” after Dallas’ No. 14 selection but before their second-round pick. He could very well rise before draft day, as he figures to post some impressive numbers. Still, a lot of teams will worry about his height and arm length. His most likely draft spot is in the late teens or early 20s.