I can't tell you at this point where the Dallas Cowboys will actually make their first selection in the 2013 NFL draft later this month. But after that first selection, I can say that a defensive end from Florida State named Cornellius Carradine is a must-have for Dallas should it find itself in position to get him.
Again, I'm not necessarily saying that the Cowboys should take Carradine at the scheduled 18th selection—but I wouldn't be at all disappointed if they did.
What is not well-known is the following:
What position will Spencer play in defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin's 4-3 scheme?
Is Spencer actually a protected commodity intended to add draft picks via trade?
I know that the Dallas organization has more than hinted that Spencer will move to defensive end from outside linebacker. But even though I'm not a native of Missouri, let's just pretend that I'm from the "show-me state."
Much attention has been focused on Seminoles' defensive end Bjoern Werner, a fine prospect that could be among the top 10-to-15 players chosen in the draft.
But I'm not ever sure Werner was the best pass-rushing prospect on his own team in 2012.
''Tank'' Carradine had an impressive campaign in 2012 that might have only happened due to good fortune—or bad luck if referring to teammate Brandon Jenkins.
With both Werner and Jenkins ahead of him on the depth chart to begin last season, Carradine's opportunity to make his impact came right away. In the first game of the year, Jenkins was lost for the season with a foot injury and Carradine capitalized.
In 11 games, Carradine amassed 11 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss, numbers that would have easily placed him in the upper portion of the first-round of the draft.
But then Carradine suffered a torn ACL against Florida in November which has obviously removed him from first-round consideration.
Or has it?
SportsDayDFW.com special contributor Jonathan Bales presents a rock-solid argument for Carradine as a future Dallas defensive end. Carradine's production aside, Bales offers the fact that his injury should not be of much concern to the Cowboys or any other team in the NFL.
Repairing a torn ACL is far from the career-threatening injury that it used to be. Dallas linebacker Sean Lee suffered the same injury while at Penn State and he suffers no lingering effects well into his career as a pro.
The same thing happened to Lee's counterpart Bruce Carter while at North Carolina.
Dallas essentially acquired two first-round caliber linebackers, in back-to-back drafts mind you, because they slid out of the first round only due to injury concerns.
In other words, patience can sometimes pay off, and the same is true of having a full understanding of a player's injury history with respect to what that injury is and what it is not.
You think the Washington Redskins are ready to pull the plug on quarterback Robert Griffin III following his ACL injury late last season? In fact, RGIII not only had his ACL repaired in January but also his LCL.
As of now his recovery is reported to be well ahead of schedule.
There's no reason Carradine should not be seen in a similar light, especially where Dallas is concerned.
Beyond his injury and current rehab, which kept the senior out of the Senior Bowl and scouting combine last month, experience could be another question mark. Carradine attended two years of junior college before landing at Florida State and still had to wait to forge his future in Tallahassee.
The reality is that the Cowboys really need to cover their behinds at defensive end, especially when considering the significant switch to Kiffin's traditional 4-3 front, similar to what Carradine played with the Seminoles.
Carradine stands 6'4'' and weighs just over 270 pounds.
By comparison, projected top five selection Ezekiel ''Ziggy'' Ansah stands 6'5'' and weighs about the same. Ansah totalled just 4.5 sacks last season and had a total of 10 tackles the two previous seasons.
Not a whole lot of experience there, I'd say.
If you're going to play DeMarcus Ware at defensive end, presumably on the right side, then a complementary end should probably bring a little more bulk, especially for run support.
DallasCowboys.com lists Ware at 6'4'' and 254.
Spencer is listed at 6'3'' and 250 pounds.
Carradine is the perfect build for a 4-3 defensive end and he's likely to fall some later this month. If improving the pass-rush is truly a desire of the Cowboys, then some insurance for this goal would be wise.
You can't have enough pass-rushers in the NFL and if there is one available then you have to give this some strong consideration. It's not like passing on a franchise quarterback when you already have one in place.
Spencer may work out at left end for the first time in his career.
In this case, Carradine could possibly slip inside to defensive tackle on obvious passing situations.
But getting to the quarterback after stopping the run is the primary ingredient for any successful defense in football, regardless of scheme or level of competition.
Carradine will help that dynamic, not if, but when he is healthy.
Confidence is something that can sometimes be measured in the way a person talks. Carradine recently told Don Banks of SI.com exactly how the teams that pass on him are going to feel sooner than later:
They're definitely going to regret it.When I get drafted, I have to prove to that team that I'm going to be the guy who can be all he can be, and not one of those guys who's never the same again after the injury.
With his rehab going ahead of schedule, Carradine may or may not be ready to contribute early next fall. But neither was Lee or Carter once they suited up in Dallas as rookies. Spencer could be to Carradine what Bradie James and Keith Brooking were to Lee and Carter.
Either way, by 2014 the Cowboys will know for sure who's rushing the passer opposite Ware.
Giving Spencer a long-term contract without ever having seen him play a down on the defensive line is just stupid—especially for a defender who has only reached double-digits in sacks one time in his career.
Drafting Carradine, if the opportunity is there, is absolutely not stupid and this had better be a very smart draft for the Cowboys.
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