Thus far this offseason, I have analyzed tape of five defensive tackle prospects: Cameron Jordan (Cal), Cameron Heyward (Ohio State), Phil Taylor (Baylor), Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple) and Corey Liuget (Illinois). I’ve also taken a look at Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn to determine who the Dallas Cowboys should take in the 2011 NFL Draft.
As of now, I would rate those six players as follows:
Cameron Jordan, Muhammad Wilkerson, Adrian Clayborn
Cameron Heyward, Corey Liuget
I see Taylor as a potential monster inside. It is worth noting that he is the only player who would remain at defensive tackle (nose tackle) in the Cowboys' 3-4 scheme. The five other prospects are all potential defensive ends.
Today’s featured player, Drake Nevis of LSU, is another college defensive tackle who would transition to defensive end in Dallas. With new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan claiming Jay Ratliff will remain at nose tackle, Nevis and the other defensive end prospects will be high on the Cowboys’ radar.
Nevis is extremely quick off of the football. I can’t stress that enough.
He has the quickest first step of any defensive tackle prospect I’ve watched this year, by far. His quickness is what makes him so effective.
At 6’2”, 285 pounds, Nevis is “small” for a defensive tackle (or even a five-technique defensive end), so he doesn’t often overpower linemen. His bull rush is only average.
Still, Nevis doesn’t get blown off the ball. He utilizes that quickness and superior leverage to make plays in the backfield. He’s in the backfield as much as any defensive tackle in this draft.
If there’s a knock on Nevis’ style, it’s that he gets into the backfield by shooting gaps, sometimes taking himself out of plays.
Will Nevis’ game be a good fit in Rob Ryan’s scheme?
Maybe not, as Ryan runs a “two-gap” 3-4 defense, meaning defensive ends (the position Nevis would play) need to be able to hold their ground. I personally will take a “disruptor” over a “ground-holder” all day, but Ryan might not see it that way.
Most scouts tend to view Nevis as a 4-3 defensive tackle because of his penetrating style of play. I think he’s capable of playing as a five-technique defensive end as well.
I may be in the minority, but I think Nevis’ major weaknesses can be fixed (and in a hurry). He’s an athlete who simply makes plays.
I’ll take a “small,” quick player over a load like Igor Olshansky every day of the week.
I’d place Nevis firmly in the second tier of my defensive tackle/defensive end rankings above. He’s a player who isn’t receiving much hype but, in my opinion, is superior to Heyward and Liuget, and almost equal to Clayborn and Wilkerson.
Because Nevis might be viewed as a player capable of playing only as a three-technique, he could drop a bit in the draft. It’s always good to be scheme-diverse, and while I think Nevis can be just that, others obviously disagree.
As of now, Nevis is sitting somewhere in the second round. Because of his athleticism, it’s unlikely he’ll drop out of that area.
Is he an option for Dallas there? I’d still prefer a player like Wilkerson (just a bit), but I wouldn’t be very disappointed with Nevis.
Other Potential Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011