The Dallas Cowboys continued to do their due diligence on this impressive interior defensive line class earlier this week, having Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne in as a pre-draft visitor. Payne is one of the most intriguing defensive tackle prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft class, and could very well find himself being taken in the first round later this month.
At 6’2″ 311 pounds, Payne certainly looks the part of an interior defensive linemen at the next level. The Alabama standout tested decently well during the NFL Combine, hitting each of the previously established thresholds the Cowboys typically draft by.
Building the Cowboys iDL board the way I built the WR board. Here’s how some popular DL stack up to former Cowboys picks since 2011.
The chart above shows how some of the popular defensive linemen in this draft class stack up to former Cowboys picks since 2011. “Green” means the player passes the average threshold established by previous picks at his position, while “Red” means they are below-average. As you can see, Da’Ron Payne is above average at each athletic threshold, and possesses ideal height and weight by the Cowboys’ standards.
On the field, Payne is an impressively strong run stuffer with above-average awareness and the ability to get off blocks and beat double teams. At his best he is an adequate pass rusher who can be disruptive to any offense.
The problems with Payne all center around his inconsistencies. If all of his tape looked like the College Football Playoff games, Payne would be a no-brainer first round pick. Too often during the regular season, however, Payne disappeared on tape of stretches. Plus, he didn’t make the tackle for loss impact you’d for out of a first round pick.
When you consider how well Da’Ron Payne fits the Cowboys “type” of defensive tackle, and the fact that he is being evaluated as a pre-draft visitor, the Cowboys interest in Payne becomes rather clear. I would not be surprised whatsoever if the Cowboys drafted Payne this year, and he may even be in consideration with their first round selection.
I wouldn’t exactly jump for joy if he was the team’s first round pick, but I would certainly understand the logic behind it.