2017 NFL Draft: 5 Late Round Pass Rushing Gems for the Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys hope to find some defensive end help early in the 2017 NFL Draft, but they should also look at these late rounders as well
After throwing a couple of band-aids at their shoddy defensive end position, the Dallas Cowboys hope that the 2017 NFL Draft helps them find the star pass rusher they need. Most expert mock drafts have them selecting a defensive end with their first round pick, and after watching them struggle to create pressure in their lone playoff game, that seems like the smart way to go.
It shouldn’t be the only player they get to help bring pressure though. Dallas didn’t have any one player who stood out at the defensive end position. Their best guys happened to be Tyrone Crawford and David Irving, who both flashed at times playing left end. The problem is both are considered three-technique defensive tackles by trade.
In order to find anyone capable at all they had to move guys around to fill in for their ineffective ends. Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence was a letdown to say the least and free agent Benson Mayowa was better than expected, but is best served as a rotational guy. Behind those two, the team has a lot of unknowns, including 2016 fourth-round pick Charles Tapper, who missed his rookie season because of a back injury. That’s without even mentioning the perpetually suspended Randy Gregory.
Dallas cannot go into 2017 without throwing some numbers at the position. The best way to do that is by looking at some guys who may be available in the later portions of the draft to add to a player taken with a premium pick. Here are five guys who could provide depth, but also have some upside in regards to getting after the quarterback.
1. Collin Bevins, DE — Northwest Missouri State
While the Cowboys often shy away from small-school kids, there is a defensive end from Northwest Missouri State who fits the bill of one of their “rush-men” along the defensive line. That would be Collin Bevins, who is heralded for his motor and effort.
Career Tackles: 168
Career Sacks: 34
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2015 was his most productive season as the junior had 15.5 sacks and 26.5 tackles for a loss for the Bearcats. He followed that up with 15.5 tackles for a loss and another eight sacks in his senior season. While he is a physical specimen and an accomplished defensive end, Bevins will most likely be a late round pick, most likely in the final round or even an undrafted free agent.
The fact is, the level of talent he played against wasn’t the best and that means he can be overwhelmed against NFL talent. However, in the waves of defensive linemen, Bevins could bring some production to Dallas. He is a project player for sure, but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute from the get go.
Of course, the feeling from the current Dallas brass is it’s better to take the players who performed in front of larger crowds and against elite college talent. However, once they get into the seventh round it wouldn’t be shocking to see them look for some upside and take a swing on a lesser known player.
2. Tashawn Bower, DE — LSU
We go from small school to the big time. After looking at Collin Bevins and his stats for Northwest Missouri State, we head to the Bayou and check out LSU defensive end Tashawn Bower. His stats were modest, but his ceiling is high and he has experience against the best in the nation playing in the talented SEC.
Weight: 253 pounds
Career Tackles: 60
Career Sacks: 5.5
He isn’t a polished product by any means, but because of that he will be sitting there pretty late, possible in the seventh. Dallas like LSU players, as they have gone there frequently especially when looking for defensive players. One thing they would love about Bower is his length, which was highlighted in his NFL.com draft profile, per Lance Zierlein:
Developmental prospect with intriguing size and length. Bower’s physical and athletic traits could make him a target for both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses, but he will need to prove he can find the quarterback more consistently if he wants to earn reps in the league. Bower was stuck behind a talented defensive front, but he flashes often enough to believe that he could develop into a better pro than college player.
Don’t expect Bower to burst onto the scene as a starter, but he has the tools to develop into a legitimate NFL player. He could be quite a find for Dallas if they could un-tap his potential.
3. Steven Taylor, OLB — Houston
While not necessarily a defensive end, there’s no rule that says all edge rushing has to come from that position. Recently, owner Jerry Jones said that second year linebacker Jaylon Smith could help as a pass rusher, and Houston’s Steven Taylor is another linebacker who could provide pressure.
Weight: 225 pounds
Career Tackles: 331
Career Sacks: 26.5
Taylor was a four-year starter and tackling machine for the Houston Cougars, but isn’t getting much love for his prospects at the next level. The reason for that is he is undersized to be a linebacker and his best attribute, rushing the passer, won’t be much of a fit either with him being just 225 pounds.
What he can do, though, is provide an option for a team that wants a situational edge rusher. Taylor may not be an every down defender, but he could help Dallas on third downs as a guy who gets after the quarterback either as undersized end or a blitzing linebacker. He could also help Dallas in another huge area of need. Taylor has four career interceptions and seven forced fumbles, showing a knack for game-changing turnovers, something Dallas just never did in 2016.
If Dallas is interested, they need to do their homework. Taylor was suspended at one point during the 2016 season and, while head coach Tom Herman said he didn’t think it would be a continuing issue, he also didn’t elaborate on why Taylor was benched. He doesn’t seem like a red-flag guy in terms of character, but it would still be wise to see what the UH coach had to say.
4. Ejuan Price, DE/OLB — Pittsburgh
Ejuan Price was a nightmare for opposing offenses in 2016 as the Pittsburgh defender recorded 13 sacks and 23 tackles for a loss in his senior season. He played inside linebacker early in his career for the Panthers, but also spent time at outside linebacker and defensive end.
Weight: 255 pounds
Career Tackles: 143
Career Sacks: 29.5
He projects as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but would still fit in Dallas as a defensive end despite being just 6-0 tall. He’s quick around the edge and has enough strength to make it at the next level. An anonymous director of scouting from the NFC had this to say, via NFL.com:
“He’s a little ball of dynamite. He’s got some physical limitations, which will keep him from getting picked early, but I see an NFL rusher. He’s strong and twitchy and can finish when he gets the tackle beat.”
Price’s size may work to the Cowboys advantage. While other teams may pass on him, the Boys could snatch him up later in the draft. While he may not last until their sixth-round pick, they could look at him with their fourth-round selection. They currently don’t own a fifth-rounder, so it probably means that the fourth would be the round for Dallas to pounce if they like Price. If they were able to acquire a fifth rounder somehow, that would probably feel like a much better place to grab the Pitt pass rusher.
No. 5 Darius English, DE/OLB — South Carolina
With a long and thin frame, South Carolina defensive end/outside linebacker Darius English lacks the power and build to be a three-down player. What he’s missing in power, he makes up for in in speed and athleticism. He also has the ability to get his long arms in the way of a quarterbacks throwing lanes.
Weight: 245 pounds
Career Tackles: 134
Career Sacks: 15
Again Dallas has to get a premium rusher, but unless Demarcus Lawrence regains his 2015 form, there’s no reason to think there won’t be a lot of shuffling yet again for the defensive line. Even if he does regain his form, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli likes to bring his rushers in waves, and the athletic English gives him one more guy to employ in his never ending pursuit of opposing quarterbacks.
English played against legitimate NFL talent in the SEC for the Gamecocks and enjoyed his best season in 2016. The redshirt senior had 60 tackles with nine sacks and two forced fumbles on the year. He looks to be a later round pick and could be had by Dallas with either their sixth-round pick or one of their two in the seventh.