The DC Times

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

By Jonathan Bales

2014 Senior Bowl Scouting Guide: 5 Players to Watch

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I broke down five players to watch at the Senior Bowl through the lens of the Cowboys. Here are two of those players:

Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt

It’s no secret that the Cowboys desperately need to upgrade the interior of their defensive line. Nick Hayden isn’t a starting-quality defensive tackle and Jason Hatcher will probably leave via free agency. Tyrone Crawford will be back next year and I think it makes sense for Dallas to try him inside so that they can add an interior pass-rushing threat, but the Cowboys will still be very thin at the position.

Pitt’s Aaron Donald is a defensive tackle who is going to interest pretty much every team that needs a defensive tackle because he was so unbelievably productive in college. Over the past three seasons, Donald has totaled 180 tackles, 63 tackles for loss and 27.5 sacks. Those are jaw-dropping numbers for a defensive tackle.

Donald appears to be playing well in Senior Bowl practices, too. Bleacher Report‘s Michael Schottey has taken notice:

The top defensive lineman of the day was Aaron Donald (DL Pittsburgh), who can probably play either 3-Tech in a 4-3 defense or 5-Tech in a 3-4 defense at the next level. At times, he was unstoppable against both single- and double-teams. The only player in Mobile, Ala., who may have a quicker first step is the South’s Will Sutton (DT Arizona State).

So what’s not to like? Well, Donald is 6’1″ and 288 pounds with 31 3/4-inch arms. Without much bulk or great length, Donald’s game is based entirely on speed. If NFL interior linemen are able to combat his first step, how will he respond?

I’m really conflicted on Donald because the two traits I value most for pass-rushers are arm length and college production. He’s horrible in one area and sensational in the other. Projected as a borderline first-round pick by CBS Sports, I see Donald as a high-risk/high-reward prospect who makes sense for Dallas if he were to fall into the second round. In my opinion, his size makes him too much of a risk for the first.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

“The last thing the Cowboys need is another wide receiver.” That was me imitating what you just said to yourself. But you’re wrong.

Outside of quarterback, I think wide receiver is rapidly becoming one of the most important positions in football. One reason is that they score points, and teams need to score points to win. Duh. Big, physical receivers can not only move the ball up the field, but they remain relevant in the red zone, helping teams convert offensive efficiency into wins.

Anyone here know a team that has historically racked up a lot of yards, but not a lot of points? Yeah, me too.

Second, there are still some terrible inefficiencies in the way NFL teams draft wide receivers. They care more about speed and less about size than they should. When you see a player like Tavon Austin get drafted in the top 10, you know there are problems. Austin sure is fun to watch, but St. Louis is going to have trouble scoring unless the NFL decides to award points for running sideways across the field.

There are three things I care about in regards to wide receiver success: age, size (namely red-zone relevance) and college stats. Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews passes all three tests with flying colors. He’s 21 years old, checked in at 6’3″ at the Senior Bowl and posted at least 94 catches, 1,300 yards and seven touchdowns in each of the past two seasons.

You might argue that Austin also had awesome college stats, but Matthews’ are more impressive. Here’s why. As the guys at rotoViz will tell you, we should analyze receiver stats in terms of market share: the percentage of their team’s overall passing stats for which each player was responsible. Because West Virginia was so effective on offense as a whole, Austin’s market-share numbers weren’t as outstanding as Matthews’ market share stats.

Matthews has had some drops in practices, according to Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com, but he’s also reportedly playing better than any wide receiver there.

Check out the other three prospects right here.

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One Response to 2014 Senior Bowl Scouting Guide: 5 Players to Watch

  1. Raz says:

    How long were Warren Sapp’s arms? They were about the same height and weight.

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