DeCastro a low-risk, high reward choice

Published Apr. 2, 2012 10:25 a.m. ET

The following is the 4th in a series of draft profiles for potential 1st and 2nd round picks for the Dallas Cowboys. These profiles are put together with the specific needs of the Cowboys in mind, and is an attempt to examine their resumes and game tape to get an idea of who might fit in best with Dallas come draft day.

David DeCastro Stanford Guard 6-foot-5, 316 lbs.
40 time: 5.34, Bench Press: 34
January 11, 1990 (22)

One thing you would like to avoid if at all possible with your 1st Round pick is the dreaded question of risk. Is this pick risky? Are we taking a player that could possibly be a gigantic bust? Limiting risk is something desirable when it will require a large signing bonus to get this guy into camp. You can seldom avoid risk altogether, but once in a while a player comes along that you might see as a player who is a relatively sure thing.

But, if he is that sure thing, then he is going to be off the board in the Top 5 picks of the draft. Unless, he plays a position that you traditionally do not take in the top dozen or so picks.

Enter David DeCastro. A guard who can play center and looks like a high-reward, little-risk specimen at a position you do not take in the 1st half of the first round. With the Cowboys picking #14, I thought we should try to prove that. So I did.

I looked at the last 10 drafts (going back to 2002) and the first 14 picks of each draft. Of the 140 picks taken over the last 10 years, we can find trends all over the place. Twenty QBs, 19 tackles, 19 defensive ends, 19 defensive tackles, 16 wide receivers, 13 cornerbacks, and 13 linebackers. Of those positions taken on a more seldom basis, there were 11 running backs, seven safeties, and three tight ends. But, how many guards were taken in the top 14 of the last 10 drafts? 0. How many centers have been taken in the top 14 of the last 10 drafts? 0. The NFL has told us a loud and clear message: You do not take guards and centers this high in the draft. The last time it happened was 1997 when New Orleans snagged Colorado's Chris Naeole at #10. And his career that will not be long-remembered may have something to do with this trend. It generally isn't worth it.

But, now back to the player, Stanford's DeCastro. When you pop in some tape of his, it is difficult not to get excited. He seems as rock solid as you will find as a draft prospect. He is tough, he is assignment-sound, and he is never guilty of a bust, it seems. They ask him to do plenty, because Stanford loves to get a pulling guard out in front of their running plays (as do the Cowboys) and his ability -- despite a plodding 40 time -- to get in front of the play and plow out a nice path is most impressive.

At the point of attack, he seldom is pushed back and seems to either win or tie his blocks play after play. That is important because there are very few draft prospects where you have to really search to find no loses on his tape. I am not saying he was never beaten, but he is very seldom beaten. His pass protection is quite good and his run blocking can be great. He is solid and strong and seems to routinely be aware of any deception that the defense might be employing. He can certainly call out blitzes and decode schemes from the guard or center position.

And that is another thing; at his pro day, he was convincing in his ability to be your center as well. If you have that sort of guard-center-guard flexibility and he could seemingly project to elite at any of the 3 spots, there is your no-risk, high-reward, Steve Hutchinson type player. And that is why you don't mind Dallas thinking about it at #14.

The undoing of the Cowboys the last few years has been their offensive line play. It has improved and they are continuing to turn over the unit, building around the elite talent of Tyron Smith. But, if you were to take DeCastro and plug him in between Doug Free and Smith and now you have 3 above-average players on an offensive line, you have what it takes to have a unit that can hold their own against the onslaught of the New York Giants.

Last week, Jerry Jones spoke about the Cowboys' free agent signings and discussed his two additions at guard as if the Cowboys no longer had needs at those spots. His optimistic appraisal of two guys with low regard around the league as if they were Art Shell and Gene Upshaw no doubt elicited snickers from all corners of the league. Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau may turn out to be serviceable, but Cincinnati and Carolina did not resist losing either of them this spring which should speak some volumes. We should not rule out gamesmanship from Jones -- not wanting to show his cards to the press and his competition, as perhaps he has a plan to select another interior player in the first few rounds.

And if that is DeCastro, they will be getting a very strong and smart player who they can rest easy about, knowing he can handle the tough interior battles that the NFL routinely present. And he should be a sure-thing, running the middle of the line for years to come.

Here is some YouTube cut-ups for your perusal:

Vs Notre Dame

Some of the games I studied (USC, Oregon, Oklahoma State) were not available online, but this Notre Dame game shows DeCastro in a number of situations where he demonstrates his strength at the point of attack -- unable to be bull rushed -- and his ability to get out in front of pulling plays and screens. Impressive agility and the ability to stay on his feet which is a lost art amongst Cowboys interior players.


Against the Bruins, the Cardinal certainly went with G Power a majority of the evening. And at the point of those repetitive pulling guard opportunities was big #52. He missed a time or two on his man, but when he locks on to a man in the gap, it is over. You can see linebackers seeing what is coming at them and bracing for the collision. He looks awesome in space.

The Case For Taking David DeCastro at #14: On a team that was bullied down the stretch by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Giants, there shouldn't be a real dispute if the Cowboys said they wanted to add another 22 year old stud to protect their QB and help their offense find its identity. If the Cowboys never started an undersized lineman again in front of Romo who could not block his man, I doubt he would complain. DeCastro looks like money in the bank and the kind of guy who can handle making line calls and winning his battle. His mean streak is also present and he will be willing to protect his guys who cannot defend themselves. If you want a dominant player at a position of need, I think this is your guy.

The Case Against Taking David DeCastro at 14: The Case against DeCastro has to be the following: 1) You need defensive line help worse. Living and Bernadeau may not be all-world, but they should at least be upgrades from what was there last season. 2) You don't take guards with a premium pick. The league has made that clear, and frankly, how many games do guards decide? 3) It is a rather deep guard class, and you may not find a DeCastro in the 3rd round, but you can find a starting NFL guard there. With those three strong reasons to look elsewhere, you can understand if the Cowboys look at him with great admiration and take somebody else, hoping that he is then selected by someone not in the NFC East. Because if the Eagles then grab him at #15, you will not enjoy seeing him for the next decade.