Some of you have been talking about Ohio State DT/DE Cameron Heyward lately, so I figured I’d take a look at him and provide my assessment.
Heyward has experience in a variety of defensive fronts, but he would play defensive end in the Cowboys’ 3-4 alignment.
I’ve already graded the Cowboys’ defensive linemen in 2010. In that post, you’ll notice the highest grade given to a defensive end was a "C" handed out to Stephen Bowen. That’s pretty sad. The Cowboys desperately need a defensive end who can rush the passer, even if it means moving Jay Ratliff to the position.
At 6’5”, 288 pounds, Heyward has the size to hold up at defensive end for Dallas. He has a good frame which appears he could add some additional bulk as well. To go with that size, Heyward has a tremendous motor. I watched five or so games of his and never saw him quit on a play, which is quite impressive for a big man.
Heyward has very good strength and uses it well at times. In the clip below, he dominates Oregon by using a bull rush for the majority of the game. Still, he shows he’s also nimble enough to get off blocks, retain his balance and make a play on the ball-carrier.
Heyward’s pass-rushing technique leaves something to be desired. He relies too much on athleticism and strength, and if that isn’t working he becomes ineffective. He doesn’t have secondary moves to use.
In a league where he’ll get neutralized a lot, that could be a problem. The clip below shows Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi (one of the best offensive tackles in the country) dominating Heyward. He appears to be a completely different player from the one who played Oregon.
Heyward’s athleticism and strength alone weren’t enough to beat a player like Carimi, and Heyward showed he has no counter. Also notice how far Heyward lines up off of the ball (in both clips). That’s something that can easily be corrected, but I’m not sure why it was happening and what effect it had on his pass-rush.
Overall, I’m not sold on Heyward.
He certainly has great natural ability, but will he hold up week after week when facing offensive tackles who are just as athletic and strong as him? I’m not sure.
Heyward will almost certainly be a first-rounder, but it appears likely that he’ll go toward the latter portion of the round. With players like Nick Fairley, Marcell Dareus, Cameron Jordan and J.J. Watt all ahead of him, the Cowboys will be able to trade down and still secure Heyward if he’s the player they covet. That would allow the team to acquire other impact players, but at the cost of forgoing the selection of a true game-changer.
Other Potential Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011