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NFL Draft: Scouting The Defensive Tackles

By Jeff Cavanaugh | 105.3 The Fan
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Timmy Jernigan of the Florida State Seminoles is Cavanaugh's top choice at DT  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Timmy Jernigan of the Florida State Seminoles is Cavanaugh’s top choice at DT (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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DALLAS (105.3 THE FAN) – I’ve been fortunate enough for the last couple of weeks to watch film with Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com, and figured I’d write down what I’ve seen so far in terms of some of the guys the Cowboys might be looking at on the defensive front.

The guys I’ve gone through are all listed as DT on CBSSports.com, and you can see the full list here. DT is too general of a term because a lot of these guys will end up playing different positions. I haven’t necessarily sorted them by the spot they’ll play, I just have them listed in the order that I like them if I had to turn in the draft card. Louis Nix doesn’t count because I don’t think he’s going to play in a 4-3, and that’s the Cowboys base defense.

Louis Nix – ND – 6’2 – 345

Only watched one game on young Mr. Nix because it doesn’t take long to see that this big boy is a 3-4 nose tackle. Cowboys don’t the run the 3-4, so I’ll get back to him later. Boom.

Tim Jernigan – FSU – 6’2 – 298

The more I watched him, the more I like him. Jernigan is a human tank. When he’s really busting it, he can toss offensive linemen around like rag dolls. Good hand fighter at the line, has the ability to swat and toss guys with one arm on the pass rush. He’s hard to move in the run game even with a double team. He was lined up at the nose and TRIPLE teamed on a play against Florida and held his ground while the linebackers behind him made the play.

The BCS Championship game where he was under the weather threw me off some at first. He subbed out a lot, and he didn’t look like he was giving great effort all the time. The more tape you watch, the less you see that problem. He does offer a level of frustration because when he gets pissed off, he can dominate an offensive line; but even when he’s not busting it, he’s a very good player. It’s an interesting watch. I don’t think it’s accurate to say he doesn’t give effort at times, but there are times where he kind of turns it up a gear and is a monster.

He feels like a 1 technique DT if he’s a Cowboy. Need to see more of Tyrone Crawford before making that my official stance though. I think he could play the 3 technique if you needed him to, and he’ll beat the guard he lines up over a lot, but he’s not a quickness guy — he’s a power guy.

Aaron Donald – Pitt – 6’1 – 288

I started off with Donald as my guy with the least question marks early on watching him. After watching entirely too many times, the gap from Jernigan to him widened for me. He’s a solid all around player. I think he’s a 3 technique DT if he’s a Cowboy, and he gets into the backfield a lot. He has pretty decent quickness, he plays with good leverage, and control blockers pretty well in the run game. In the Florida State game I thought the LG #70 blocked him pretty well.

No individual trait jumps off the screen at me. He penetrates into the backfield a lot, but he’s not overly powerful like Jernigan, and he’s not super quick like Dominique Easley. Motor on him is great.

Dominique Easley – FLA – 6’2 – 285

I’m in love with this guy. First the downside: He didn’t play a lot of games last year because he blew out a knee. He’s had ACL surgery on both of his knees. Medical report on him from the combine will be the most important thing.

As for the player, he’s got the best get-off of any interior lineman I’ve seen in this class and it’s not close. He’ll play the 3 technique and he gets in the backfield with regularity. Guys can’t move quick enough to stay in front of him, and his motor never stops. He’s the most active guy of the bunch, never stops moving, never stops driving his feet. The Cowboys want their 3 technique guy to line up over the guard, penetrate the backfield and play the run on the way to the pass. He’s phenomenal at getting back there.

Don’t think he can play the 1 technique because he’s just not physically strong enough. He has a really good first punch and with his quickness and get-off, he’ll get good extension on a blocker, but he’s not strong enough to consistently drive them back. Think teams will be able to run the ball at him.

RaShede Hageman – Minn – 6-6 – 318

This guy is the hardest that I’ve evaluated so far. I’m pretty sure he’s a 3-4 DE. If you really wanted him to, he could play the 1 technique. He shows flashes of greatness and shows extended periods of lackluster play. He’s a big strong guy, but after the initial pop he delivers to offensive lineman, he can’t seem to continue that push, they get anchored in and his rush gets stopped too often. Against Northwestern he batted down 3 passes, an interception on the one play he dropped as a spy and one play where he pancakes the guard to get a teammate the sack. That’s the flash. Against Michigan state he had a bat down, dumptrucked the center and made a play in the backfield, then went back to getting stonewalled on his pass rush. Tough guy to figure — the inconsistency is worrisome.

Stephon Tuitt – ND – 6-6 – 312

I think he’s a 3-4 DE. Against USC, he played the run pretty well, showed some power and ability to shed blocks. Against Stanford he looked terrible. He’s a tall guy that doesn’t seem to play with great leverage a lot of the time. Stands up at the snap, plays too high and can’t create leverage against guys that way.

The only guy on this list that I would take at the spot the Cowboys are drafting in the first round off of this list is Tim Jernigan. If he’s not available, there are a number of other guys at different positions I like for that pick. Who are they? A super secret list I’ll get to as I finish up more position groups. Actually it’s not a super secret, names are Kony Ealy (DE Mizzou), Calvin Pryor (FS Louisville), Zack Martin (OT Notre Dame) and Anthony Barr (LB UCLA). I’m not done watching those guys though, so you just be patient.

Jeff Cavanaugh can be heard weekdays, 10a-3p on The G-Bag Nation. He can be argued with on Twitter @JC1053.

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