The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

2012 NFL Draft Rankings: Top 15 Guards and Centers

Jonathan Bales

I really need to get moving with my rankings this year.  I’ve spent so much time analyzing prospects in detail that I haven’t been able to come as far as I’d like scouting every position, and I’ve posted only 2012 Cornerback Rankings and Defensive Tackle Rankings thus far.  Both of those lists had some surprises, and there are a couple here as well.  I hope to have an overall board out within about a week.

Notes

  • The round listed after each prospect’s name is the grade I have provided him, NOT where I think he will get selected.  I view players with two rounds listed as on the border of each.
  • Players with the *** designation are higher than consensus rankings, while those with ^^^ after their names are lower than the consensus.

1. David DeCastro, G, Stanford (First Round)

2. Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia (First/Second Round)

3. Ben Jones, C, Georgia (Second Round)

4. Brandon Brooks, G, Miami (OH) (Second Round) ***

5. Brandon Washington, G, Miami (Second Round) ***

6. Kelechi Osemele, G, Iowa State (Second Round)

7. Amini Silatolu, G, Midwestern State (Second/Third Round) ^^^

8. Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin (Second/Third Round) ^^^

9. Jeff Allen, G, Illinois (Third Round)

10. Philip Blake, C, Baylor (Third Round)

11. Lucas Nix, G, Pitt (Third Round)

12. Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin (Third/Fourth Round) ^^^

13. Michael Brewster, C, Ohio State (Third/Fourth Round)

14. Tony Bergstrom, G, Utah (Fourth Round)

15. David Molk, C, Michigan (Fourth/Fifth Round) ^^^

A few thoughts. . .

  • I’ve professed my love for David DeCastro before, but I really think he’s the best guard prospect in years.  I think he’s well worth of a top 10 selection, even at an “inferior” position.
  • I think Ben Jones is the class’s premiere center. . .by a lot.  That means I’m very low on Peter Konz.  There are rumors the Cowboys might target Konz in a trade down, but I really hope that is false.
  • If the Cowboys pass on DeCastro in the first round (which seems likely), I think they should consider “the Brandons” later in the draft.  If either Brandon Brooks or Washington drops to the third round, they’d be a steal.

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By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Potential 2012 Draft Pick: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State

Jonathan Bales

I absolutely love Jerel Worthy, ranking him No. 3 in my 2012 Defensive Tackle Rankings.  After watching him in even greater detail, there’s a good chance I’m going to move him to No. 2, ahead of Devon Still.  I doubt there’s another board in the world which has Brandon Thompon and Jerel Worthy as the top two defensive tackles (so I am probably wildly off).  Nonetheless, that is what I see.  I urge you to compare my scouting reports and watch tape on all of the defensive tackles I have assessed this off-season, listed below.

Michael Brockers, DT/DE, L.S.U.

Devon Still, DT/DE, Penn State

Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

Fletcher Cox, DT/DE, Mississippi State

Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

Alameda Ta’amu, DT, Washington

Now, head over to the Times to compare those players to today’s feature, Jerel Worthy.  Here’s a preview of that post:

Jerel Worthy has the best snap anticipation of any defensive lineman I have reviewed this year.  He times the snap count and uses his quickness to get into the backfield faster than any tackle in this class.  I’m really not sure how he does it on such a consistent basis.  As you might expect, Worthy jumps offside more than average, but so do some of the top pass-rushers in the N.F.L.

To see examples of Worthy’s quickness, watch him get off the line at the 36-second and 2:50 marks against Georgia below, as well as at the 51-second clip in the second video against Ohio State.  Perhaps the king of all such plays comes at the 2:07 mark against Ohio State, when Worthy jumps the snap, knifes his way into the backfield and tackles the quarterback before he can hand off.  I watched five full games of Worthy’s, and I saw multiple plays like this in each of them.  He’s a play-making defensive tackle who is going to be a terror as an inside pass-rusher at the next level.

For the Cowboys, Worthy’s fit is speculative.  While most consider the prospect a better fit as a three-technique, I believe he can play the five.  He will be a top 15 player on my board.  A player with such talent, athleticism, upside and versatility can be molded into a five-technique.  Plus, at 310 pounds, he could play some nose tackle.  He’s not your prototypical space-eating nose, but hey, neither is Jay Ratliff.  The two could rotate along the defensive line.  Worthy could get selected in the back of the first round, but if he falls into the second, he should absolutely be a consideration for Dallas.

Previous Scouting Reports

Michael Brockers, DT/DE, L.S.U.

Devon Still, DT/DE, Penn State

Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

David DeCastro, G, Stanford

Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida/North Alabama

Mark Barron, SS, Alabama

Morris Claiborne, CB, L.S.U.

Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois

Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia

Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia

Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia

Nick Perry, DE/OLB, U.S.C.

Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

Fletcher Cox, DT/DE, Mississippi State

Alameda Ta’amu, DT, Washington

Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Potential 2012 Draft Pick: Fletcher Cox, DT/DE, Mississippi State

Jonathan Bales

In my first mock draft of the season, I had the Cowboys selecting Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.  The pick wasn’t necessarily one I would make (as evidenced by my 2012 Defensive Tackle Rankings), but rather one I think is likely for Dallas.  Today, I posted a scouting report on Cox at the NY Times.  Click here for the full report.

At 6-4, 295 pounds, Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has the frame to play in both a 4-3 and a 3-4 scheme.  He also has the experience, and the skills, to play in both looks.  Many are saying that Cox is the prototypical 3-4 defensive end and will thrive there in the N.F.L., but it depends on which team selects him.  Cox succeeds by shooting gaps and getting into the backfield, so he needs to be placed in a defense that allows him to freelance as opposed to eating up blocks.  For 3-4 defenses, that’s called a one-gap scheme.  That’s not to say Cox couldn’t succeed in a two-gap scheme but rather that he’s best suited for the former.

Cox is stout against the run because of his strength.  He is rarely blown back when he fires off the ball, often creating plays for teammates by generating penetration.  You can see a good example of this at the 3-minute-45-second mark against Wake Forest in the first video.

Another thing Cox does well is use his strength, getting blockers to lunge toward him in an effort to stand their ground, then side-stepping them to make tackles.  You can see that at the 3:54 mark in the Wake Forest video.

I think Cox is a borderline first-round talent with great upside, but too raw of a skill set to warrant consideration in the top half of the first round.  What I love about Cox is his motor and football IQ, and he certainly seems like a “Jason Garrett-type.”  For my money, though, I’d much prefer a player like Jerel Worthy or Josh Chapman in the second round.

Previous Scouting Reports

Michael Brockers, DT/DE, L.S.U.

Devon Still, DT/DE, Penn State

Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

David DeCastro, G, Stanford

Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida/North Alabama

Mark Barron, SS, Alabama

Morris Claiborne, CB, L.S.U.

Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois

Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia

Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia

Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia

Nick Perry, DE/OLB, U.S.C.

Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

By Jonathan Bales

2012 NFL Mock Draft: Version 1.0

Jonathan Bales

I did a mock draft for USA Today which is on stands now in their 2012 Draft Preview magazine, but my first “real” mock draft is published at the New York Times today.  Click the link to check it out, and feel free to leave comments regarding my somewhat surprising selection for Dallas.

A couple of notes:

  • Click on a player’s name to read my scouting report and watch his film.
  • The second name under each team refers to a different potential draft pick for that squad, based on who is left in this particular mock draft.

2012 N.F.L. Mock Draft

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

  • Is RGIII a possibility here?  I actually think he’s superior to Luck.

Other: None

2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

  • Could you imagine being a Redskins fan and becoming upset if Luck falls to this spot?

Other: None

3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC

  • Kalil is the top tackle prospect I have watched in years.  He’s going to be an All-Pro in the N.F.L.

Other: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

4. Cleveland Browns: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

  • There is a good chance the Browns try to move out of this spot, but Claiborne, Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon and perhaps even Riley Reiff are all options if they stick around.

Other: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

5. Tampa Bay Bucs: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

  • This is a crucial pick for Richardson, because if he falls past No. 5, he could drop a bit.  Actually, I think there’s an outside chance Richardson doesn’t get selected in the first 12 picks.

Other: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

  • I really debated putting offensive tackle Riley Reiff here, in which case Jacksonville might select Blackmon at No. 7.

Other: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

  • Could Jacksonville surprise everyone and select quarterback Ryan Tannehill?

Other: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

  • If Miami doesn’t select Tannehill, he will still probably be picked in this range by a team that moves up.

Other: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

9. Carolina Panthers: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

  • I don’t think Poe should go anywhere near this high, but some team will fall in love with his athleticism.

Other: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC

10. Buffalo Bills: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC

  • The Bills could pair Coples with Mario Williams for one of the league’s top pass rush duos of the next decade.

Other: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

11. Kansas City Chiefs: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

  • After thinking about team needs and Ingram’s skills, I think this is the lowest he could possibly fall.

Other: David DeCastro, G, Stanford

12. Seattle Seahawks: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

  • Kuechly’s surprising combine performance proved he’s the real deal.  Athleticism and incredible production.

Other: David DeCastro, G, Stanford

13. Arizona Cardinals: David DeCastro, G, Stanford

  • The Cardinals need help in a lot of places, the offensive line being perhaps the most pressing.

Other: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Click here to see the rest of my mock draft, including the Cowboys’ No. 14 overall selection.

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By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Potential 2012 Draft Pick: Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

Jonathan Bales

Last year, we saw the surprising selections of inside linebacker Bruce Carter and running back DeMarco Murray in the middle rounds.  Could a similar thing be on the horizon in 2012?  With Jason Garrett’s emphasis on taking the best player available, it’s certainly possible.

One of the need positions which is being ignored by most is tight end.  With the cornerback and interior line positions shored up just a bit, however, you might start to hear more about the potential for the ‘Boys to select a tight end.  Here’s why:

  • Martellus Bennett was more valuable than you think.  No, he didn’t progress as a receiver as we hoped, but he was perhaps the top blocker on the team the past two years.  Yes, the entire team.
  • Jason Witten will soon turn 30.  He’s still got a few years, but Garrett’s offense thrives on the strategic implementation of a dominant tight end who has receiving/blocking versatility.
  • What do we really know about John Phillips?  One great preseason game isn’t going to cut it.

Perhaps no tight end prospect fits into what the Cowboys need, both now and in the future, as Clemson’s Dwayne Allen.  I posted a scouting report on Dwayne Allen today at the Times.  Click the link to check it out.

Clemson tight end Dwayne Allen is a very versatile player, capable of playing both a traditional in-line position and as a move player, whether it be in the slot, out wide or as an H-Back.  Allen looks natural in all spots, particularly in a stand-up position in the slot.

Allen looks comfortable running routes and as a pass-catcher.  You can see him go get the ball at the 2:00 mark in the second video against Auburn.  Allen has countless plays resembling this one; he really does a nice job of attacking the football.

In the first video, you can see Allen’s fluidity as a route-runner at multiple spots, including at the 49-second mark.  He excels at getting off the line more as a receiver than in a traditional tight end spot, where his inability to maintain leverage at times results in trouble getting off the press.  That’s something he can work on, though, and I think Allen will excel whether he’s lined up in a three-point stance or not.

I love Allen as a complete tight end, and he will be rated right near Coby Fleener in my overall rankings.  While I don’t see the selection of Allen as probable by any means, it wouldn’t shock me in the least.  I think he’d immediately step in as the No. 2 tight end, and with his versatility, the No. 1 tight end a few years down the road.

Also, my first mock draft is on stands now in USA Today’s 2012 Draft Preview magazine.  I completed it a few months ago, so it is basically total crap.  Go buy it anyway!  Seriously, a whole lot of stuff better than my own.  Plus, I have another article on the best and worst team drafts since 2000, and the ‘Boys made the cut.  Not in a good way.

My second mock draft will be posted sometime this weekend at the Times, and I like it a whole lot more.  You’ll be a bit surprised to see my selection for Dallas.

Previous Scouting Reports

Michael Brockers, DT/DE, LSU

Devon Still, DT/DE, Penn State

Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

David DeCastro, G, Stanford

Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

Quinton Coples, DE, UNC

Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida/North Alabama

Mark Barron, SS, Alabama

Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois

Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia

Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia

Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia

Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC

Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Potential 2012 Draft Pick: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

Jonathan Bales

From my Peter Konz scouting report up at the Times today:

At 6-5, Peter Konz is tall for an interior lineman.  I actually think this can and does hurt his game. It is more difficult for him to maintain a solid base and keep leverage on defenders.  You can see Konz lose leverage frequently in pass protection, such as at the 2:09 mark below.  Konz is often caught in a similar position, getting off-balance and overextending.  Whether it is due to his height or not, Konz allows defenders to get underneath his pads.

Konz also has trouble recognizing blitzes, as you can see at multiple points below.  Analysts rave about Konz’s intelligence, but he hasn’t impressed me with his blitz pickup. Because Konz isn’t a natural athlete, he needs to use a high football IQ to gain an advantage against quicker, more explosive defenders.

Konz is far superior in the running game.  He looks more natural as a run blocker, exploding off the ball and using opponents’ leverage against them, such as at the 4:33 clip. He excels in getting to the second level, clearing a path for the ball-carrier even if he doesn’t obtain a pancake block.

If Konz falls to the Cowboys’ second-round selection, he’s going to be enticing.  I don’t personally think he’s worth that kind of draft pick, but an upgrade over Phil Costa is necessary.  Costa was perhaps the worst starter on the team in 2011.

Previous Scouting Reports

Michael Brockers, DT/DE, LSU

Devon Still, DT/DE, Penn State

Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

David DeCastro, G, Stanford

Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

Quinton Coples, DE, UNC

Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida/North Alabama

Mark Barron, SS, Alabama

Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois

Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia

Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia

Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia

Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC

By Jonathan Bales

Safety Plan: Assessing Markelle Martin and Brandon Taylor

Justin Shoemaker

Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State

Pros

  • Rarely misses tackles in box
  • Knows right time to make a “highlight hit” versus safe tackle or going for pick
  • Decent range
  • Takes good angles against run
  • Can press due to long frame (6’1”)
  • Always in position, high football IQ

Cons

  • Not great tackler in space; in position, but can play out of control instead of breaking down
  • Range can improve dramatically if he works on mechanics, which are sub-par right now
  • Poor turn-and-run
  • A lot of upside, but also a low floor

Brandon Taylor, S, LSU

Pros

  • Fast safety, running in the 4.4s
  • Fits much better as a FS than a SS, but he’s versatile enough to play both
  • Willingness to jump routes; instinctual
  • Great man coverage for safety; can press with long frame and has ability to close on routes
  • Can play slot well

Cons

  • Solid tackler at times, but inconsistent with angles to ball-carrier
  • Can jump routes prematurely
  • Despite coverage ability, range in deep half only average; he’s not Ed Reed, he’s more of a cornerback type
  • Perhaps straight-line player who could struggle sideline-to-sideline

By Jonathan Bales

Using 40-Yard Dash to Predict Cornerback Performance in NFL

Jonathan Bales

The 40-yard dash can often make or break a player’s draft stock, but is the relationship between timed long speed and perceived value warranted?  Although I think 40-yard dash times are largely overrated, I’ve often commented on the importance of the measurable for cornerbacks.  Cornerbacks need to allow receivers to reach their hip, “sitting” on underneath routes and utilizing superior speed to catch up should the receiver run vertically.  For this reason, I believe long speed is more important for cornerbacks than any other position in football.

I spent yesterday charting cornerback 40-yard dash times from 2001-2010.  Only cornerbacks who ran at the Combine were considered, as I wanted to obtain as close to standardization as possible.  I excluded rookies from this past season to eliminate some of the variance in career value which could result from a small sample size of games.

But how do we go about measuring individual value?  There are a number of ways to determine a player’s worth, none of which are without their weaknesses.  I chose Pro Football Reference’s weighted career approximate value.  You can head there for the details of the AV formula, but games played, games started, sacks, interceptions, touchdowns and All Pro honors are all part of the equation.  To balance peak production versus raw totals, weighted AV counts 100% of a player’s top season, 95% of his second-best season, and so on.

Below, you can see a comparison between weighted career AV and Combine 40-yard dash times.  All times courtesy of NFLCombineResults.com.

As expected, there is a pretty strong correlation between 40-yard dash time and AV-per-season.  The most noteworthy points of the graph come at the areas marked with stars, where there appears to be a fairly significant drop in NFL production.  These declines come at the 4.40 and 4.55 marks.

Thus, it appears there are baseline speeds at which NFL players will experience much greater success if surpassed.  The numbers seem to coincide with common sense, too.  Sub-4.40 players possess elite speed which has exponential value.  In all practical terms, the .05-second gap between a 4.34 and 4.39 is not nearly as important as that between 4.39 and 4.44.  There are a multitude of players who run mid-4.4s, but few in the mid-4.3s.  If a cornerback’s 4.35 speed is enough to shut down a receiver, does a jump to 4.30 speed matter?  Of course more speed is always a good thing, but long speed variances in certain ranges appear to be more valuable than others, at least at the cornerback position.

The drop at the 4.56+ range may not look dramatic, but the decrease in AV percentage is pretty substantial.  As a reference point, career AV drops about the same percentage at that point as at sub-4.40 to 4.40-4.41.  Here are a few other interesting notes:

  • The weighted career AV-per-season for players who ran 4.36 to 4.39 is 2.40, compared to 2.04 for sub-4.35 cornerbacks.  Thus, 4.39 speed seems to be elite and a jump to the low 4.3s may not be extremely valuable.
  • The weighted career AV-per-season for cornerbacks in the 4.4 to 4.5 range is 1.37, just a bit less than the 1.50 for cornerbacks in the 4.40 to 4.45 range.  The drop from 4.49 to the low 4.4s is likely comparable to that from 4.39 to the low 4.3s.
  • Of the 52 cornerbacks who have run a sub-4.4 from 2001 to 2010, 20 (38.5%) have a career weighted AV-per-season of 2.5 or more.  The mean is 2.24.
  • Of the 72 cornerbacks who have run 4.55 or greater from 2001 to 2010, just five (6.9%) have a career weighted AV-per-season of 2.5 or more.  The mean is 0.58.  Notable exceptions include Anthony Henry, Renaldo Hill and Terrence McGee.

Of course, using AV as a barometer for NFL success is by no means a flawless practice.  The largest weakness with the method is that higher picks, who naturally see more playing time earlier in their careers, tend to be faster.  The average draft round for cornerbacks who ran under 4.40 is 3.12.  That number jumps to 4.94 for those who ran above 4.55.

To compensate for this, I plotted the AV of cornerbacks based on the round in which they were drafted.  Note that I charted cornerbacks by how they ranked in their draft class in terms of their 40-yard dash as opposed to their actual time.  This is to compensate for overall speed improvement over the last decade.  In 2001, for example, the fastest time was 4.44 and only four cornerbacks checked in below 4.50.  In 2010, four corners registered times under 4.44 (the fastest being 4.32) and 15 were under 4.50.

You can see above that, for the first two rounds, faster is better.  The correlation between speed and AV is strongest here, with 12 first-round cornerbacks with a career AV-per-season of 2+ running a sub-4.40, and only two running 4.50 or greater.  One of those two cornerbacks is Malcolm Jenkins, whose success in the NFL has come at safety.  The other is Joe Haden, whose sample size of games isn’t staggering.

Also note that this first-round relationship between speed and success is not due to the highest picks in the round being fastest.  Of the seven cornerbacks selected in the top 10 from 2001 to 2010, the average 40-yard dash time is 4.43.  That number actually drops to 4.41 for cornerbacks selected between 11th and 32nd overall.

The same positive correlation between speed and NFL success runs into the second round.  Of the second-round cornerbacks who have registered a career AV-per-season of 2+, seven ran under 4.40 and only three above 4.50, despite there being 11 total second-round cornerbacks under 4.40 and nine above 4.50.

Interestingly, the relationship we see between first and second-round cornerbacks’ timed Combine speed and their career value seems to flip once we reach the third and fourth rounds.  There, slower cornerbacks have historically outperformed faster ones.  As you can see below, this relationship extends to every round thereafter.

Since 2001, only two cornerbacks selected in rounds 3-7 have run a sub-4.40 and registered a career AV-per-season above 2.0.  Compare that to 12 who have run 4.50+ and found the same amount of success.  Considering the rate at which each category of cornerbacks is drafted in that range, we’d expect the number of “successful” mid-to-late round cornerbacks with elite speed to be about triple the current number.

But how could slower cornerbacks play better than faster ones?  My guess is that, in the middle and late rounds when teams are seeking to maximize upside, they gamble on fast cornerbacks, knowing the correlation between speed and success at the position is a strong one.

The targeting of cornerbacks with elite speed might come at the expense of those with moderate speed who are simply superior football players.  Players like Ellis Hobbs (third round, 4.45) and Asante Samuel (fourth round, 4.49) drop in favor of faster cornerbacks in the mold of Stanley Wilson (4.36), Marcus McCauley (4.39), Joseph Jefferson (4.39), Karl Paymah (4.35), Jonathan Wade (4.35), Scott Starks (4.35). . .and the list goes on.

Of course, no NFL team is going to (or should) bypass a faster player for a slower one based on that fact alone.  But perhaps an emphasis on moderately-fast cornerbacks who can play football and aren’t simply track stars might be a good start.  Here are a few other general rules for cornerback drafting:

1. In the early rounds when all prospects are pretty much immediate starters, emphasize speed.

There is no doubt that NFL cornerbacks with elite speed (sub-4.40) outperform those with moderate speed, and it is rare that a “slow” cornerback finds a lot of success in the big leagues.  The career AV-per-season for cornerbacks who run 4.55+ is 0.59.  Players like Joe Haden are few and far between, but Jonathan Joseph, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Chris Houston-esque players are prevalent.  At a time when you can have a great football player and one with elite speed, don’t bypass either trait.

2. In the later rounds, find football players with high upside, not athletes who run fast and happen to play football.

There’s no doubt faster is better for cornerbacks, but don’t overlook a potentially great football player who runs a 4.45 for a sprinter who clocks in at 4.35.

3. Know the “tipping points.”

4.32 is outstanding, but it isn’t significantly more valuable than 4.38.  4.38, on the other hand, has a lot more potential value than 4.44.

4.  Don’t draft cornerbacks who run over 4.55.

There are always exceptions, but very few players can overcome being “slow” at cornerback.  Blazing speed is valuable and good speed is adequate, but being in the bottom 30% of your draft class in 40 times is basically a death sentence for corners.

5. Undrafted cornerbacks almost never pan out (even more so than other positions).

While you can find undrafted gems in the NFL, doing so at the cornerback position is almost impossible.  Of the 70 undrafted cornerbacks who went to the Combine from 2001 to 2010, 57 registered a career AV-per-season of zero.  Only one (Jabari Greer) checked in above 1.25.

As a comparison, there have been 25 cornerbacks drafted since 2001 who have tallied a career AV-per-season of 4+.  11 of those have run sub-4.40 40-yard dashes, and only four have checked in above 4.50.  Two of those four (Antrel Rolle and Malcolm Jenkins) moved to safety to do it.

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By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Potential 2012 Draft Pick: Nick Perry, DE/OLB, USC

Jonathan Bales

My latest scouting report is up at the Times, and it is on USC defensive end Nick Perry.  A preview is pasted below, and you can view the entire thing by clicking the link above.

U.S.C. defensive end Nick Perry is a bit small at 6-3, 250 pounds.  Despite playing with his hand in the dirt in college, Perry will most likely find his way as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the N.F.L.  Still, his primary strength will probably always be rushing the passer.

I watched tape of Perry before checking his statistics or combine results, and what I saw coincided with how Perry measured.  He’s an explosive player who is outstanding when moving forward. He fires off the ball and can get upfield in a hurry, and this is represented in his 4.64 40-yard dash time and 38.5-inch vertical leap.  These numbers are sensational for a player his size.

Perry’s speed rush is one of the best in the class, as he uses his explosiveness to quickly gain leverage on slower tackles.  You can see this at the 38-second mark below, when Perry flies off the ball, dips his shoulder and turns the corner.  He’s very good at making his body “small” to limit a target for the blocker.

I don’t see any team garnering particularly great value on Perry, particularly because he’s slated to go near the back part of the first round.  That’s too early for what very well could be a pass rush specialist.  Perry could be an option in the second round, but with Anthony Spencer receiving the franchise tag, I think you’ll see the ‘Boys head in a different direction.

Previous Scouting Reports

Michael Brockers, DT/DE, LSU

Devon Still, DT/DE, Penn State

Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama

David DeCastro, G, Stanford

Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

Quinton Coples, DE, UNC

Janoris Jenkins, CB, Florida/North Alabama

Mark Barron, SS, Alabama

Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Whitney Mercilus, DE/OLB, Illinois

Cordy Glenn, G, Georgia

Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia

Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia

By Jonathan Bales

Why the Cowboys Need to Sign LB Dan Connor

Jonathan Bales

About a month ago, I posted an article called “Free agent CB Brandon Carr should be tops on Cowboys’ wish list.”  I later compared him to Cortland Finnegan, arguing why I prefer Carr.  To say I’m excited about the addition is an understatement.

Another player I desperately want, and one with whom the Cowboys are speaking, is former Panthers linebacker Dan Connor.  Connor is on the small side at 230 pounds, and that’s particularly true for a 3-4 backer.  With the increased importance on overall defensive quickness, though, I think Connor would be a tremendous addition to Rob Ryan’s defense.

I spent some time analyzing 2011 linebacker tackle rates.  Of the 50 linebackers who played at least 25% of their team’s snaps in 2011, only one (Donald Butler of San Diego) had a greater tackle rate than Dan Connor. Only 14 linebackers made a tackle on more than 10% of the snaps they played.  Connor checked in at 11.74%.  As a comparison, Sean Lee made a tackle on 9.33% of his snaps, Bradie James brought down the ball-carrier on 8.45% of snaps, and Keith Brooking came in at 8.31%.

By the way, there’s a pretty strong correlation between tackle rate and “consensus” linebacker ratings.  Among the league’s leaders in tackle rate are D’Qwell Jackson, NaVorro Bowman, London Fletcher and Derrick Johnson.

Of course, Connor’s lackluster defensive teammates may have contributed to his total a bit, and 62.1% of Connor’s snaps came against the run.  Still, I think he’s a play-making linebacker who can overcome his size to become a nice complement to Sean Lee inside.  He’s an automatic upgrade over James and Brooking, and could provide much-needed competition to second-year man Bruce Carter.

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