The 2016 NFL draft is rapidly approaching, therefore it was time to post my 2016 Dallas Cowboys Big Board. This series consists of the top 5 prospects at each position I feel are a good fit for the Cowboys.
Keep in mind that these are not necessarily the players I have graded as the top prospects at their position for the entire draft. When compiling this 2016 Dallas Cowboys Big Board, I listed the ones I believe are the best scheme fits for the Cowboys defense. This post covers the Mike Linebackers.
I designed this 2016 Dallas Cowboys Big Board based on the immediate needs. I am subsequently listing the positions based on the order of need I’m not discounting the best player available draft formula in any way because the Cowboys have enough needs that they shouldn’t be forced to reach in any of the 6 rounds.
#3 Mike Linebackers
Mike Linebacker could very well be the most important position on defense. The MLB is not only the signal caller and/or QB of the defense, but plays a crucial role against the run. The position entails a lot more than just athletic ability. A MLB needs to have outstanding read/react skills, above average instincts, excellent snap anticipation, and the ability to shed blocks, get through traffic, and hold up at the point of attack. He needs to be a good tackler and also have the ability to rush the passer. Over all functional strength is imperative.
Rolando McClain is one hot urine away from a lengthy suspension and only signed through the 2016 season. In looking at the Cowboys depth chart, I don’t see the future quarterback of the defense. Anthony Hitchens is a good backup, but doesn’t bring the awe-factor I look for. As a former MLB myself, I have a pretty good idea as to what’s expected from the position. Namely being able to break down, wrap up, and stop a big back in his tracks at the goal line or on 3rd and short. Stopping a 245 lb back with a full head of steam is no easy task. It takes a great deal of core strength. When selecting a MLB I looked for the best combination of the coveted skills.
1: Scooby Wright. Wright won the Bednarik, Nagurski and Lombardi awards: all are given to the best defensive player in the nation. He amassed 164 tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks in a single season. You can’t ignore that type of production. How anyone that considers themselves a credible draft analyst could overlook the tape and that type of production is beyond me. Scooby Wright doesn’t play football in gym shorts folks. How does the kid who was unanimously voted the best defensive player in the nation end up with a mid round grade based on his 40 time?
Granted, there were questions about his injury in 2015, but Wright returned for the Bowl game and single handedly destroyed the offense; despite being out of football shape. It is no easy task diagnosing the play vs a triple option offense. He did a masterful job and if you watch the tape, more times than not, he knew where the play was going before the snap. You can’t coach those types of instincts folks. He finished the game with 15 tackles, 2 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. That type of production should put to bed any questions as to whether or not he returned to his 2014 form. Unlike Myles Jack, we have some tape following his injury. Versatility alone makes Scooby the best option at LB in this class. He can play the Mike, or you can line him up as an edge rusher in the Nickle ( he has proven to be very effective in that role). He can play either ILB spot or the Sam in a 3-4 front as well. We have Scooby listed as a top 10 prospect in the entire draft. I don’t care what he did at the combine in gym shorts. His tape is amazing. I firmly believe he is the best MLB in this class and could also be a very dominant edge rusher. The kid is a tackle machine and his technique is almost flawless. There is not a player in this entire draft that is better at diagnosing the play. That is the most important aspect of the position. I have no reservations about putting this kid at the top of my 2016 Dallas Cowboys Big Board.
2: Reggie Ragland. Ragland is a phenomenal athlete, but seems to disappear in big games. When I watched an undersized full back push him in to the endzone like he wasn’t even there, it completely turned me off to the player. He doesn’t have the instincts I look for and lacks the ideal core strength for the position. He has the tools to become a great football player, but he is nowhere near as NFL ready as Scooby Wright, nor can he match his snap anticipation, instincts and diagnostic skills. Nor is he as effective getting to the QB.
3: William Ratelle. Ratelle is considered short for the position (5′ 10″), but is the definition of a football player. He was on my list for our “The Guys No One Is Talking About” series. but was another kid I didn’t get around to posting a report on. Despite his short stocky frame, he has excellent speed for the position (4.54 40). Ratelle has an outstanding motor and incredible upper body strength (36 reps). He is a bull to put it lightly. His power at the point goes unmatched. Ratelle brings some nasty to the game and attacks crossing routes with a vengeance. He can take on guards at the second level and has the necessary twitch to match up with RB’s. Looking at his frame could be deceiving: he is explosive and put up a 36″ vertical leap. My only concern with him is his lack of overall length may cause problems at the next level. Ratelle is a former FB and could be used in that role for goal line and short yardage situations. He is a smart, instinctive player, a solid tackler, and a natural leader. I had to find a spot for this kid on my 2016 Dallas Cowboys Big Board.
4: Joshua Perry. Perry has gone under the radar being in the shadow of other media hyped players from a very talented Ohio State roster. He is a natural leader and diagnoses well. He plays with good range and is a solid tackler. Perry has excellent length for the position, but needs to improve his technique: he struggles to get off blocks at times. He has plenty of power at the point and only allowed 2 broken tackles, but his height is a disadvantage when trying to break down and tackle in space. He needs to learn to play lower. Perry received honors for his leadership and character, being named an all-state AFCA All-Good Works Team member, as well as a finalist for the Lott IMPACT, Senior CLASS Award, and the Wuerffel Trophy.
5: Nick Vigil. Vigil has good height and length for the position, but I would like to see him put on about 10 lbs of muscle. The Vigil brothers were trouble for Mountain West foes in 2013 and 2014, with Nick and his older brother Zach terrorizing offenses with their toughness and heady play. Zach left for the NFL after the 2014 season, and had a good rookie season for Miami despite going undrafted. Instead of waiting for two years to reunite with his sibling at the next level, Nick decided four years at USU was enough, opting to enter the 2016 NFL Draft. He certainly ended his career with the Aggies on a high note, garnering first team All-Mountain West honors with 144 tackles (ranking sixth in the FBS), 13.5 of which were for losses (three sacks). Conference coaches voted him first team as a sophomore, as well, because he made 123 tackles, 16.5 for loss and seven sacks. He also played five games at running back (41-152, three TD rushing), starting one there to make him the only player in the country that year starting on both sides of the ball. Even as a redshirt freshman, Vigil got on the field regularly, starting four of 14 games played and making 55 tackles, 8.5 for loss, and 5.5 sacks, with seven of those tackles and 1.5 of those sacks coming against Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl. (NFL Combine Bio.)
Unfortunately, the draft is tonight and I won’t be able to complete my 2016 Dallas Cowboys Big Board series for the defensive needs in time, however, I will continue the series. My next post will cover the defensive tackle position.