Jordan Willis’ name is one that has picked up steam in relation to the Dallas Cowboys and the 2017 NFL Draft as of late. Solely based on the position he plays, a productive defensive end prospect out of Kansas State, this is not at all surprising. Talks of the Cowboys needed improvements in this draft at pass rusher have only succumbed slightly to the same talks about their secondary since the start of free agency.
Will Jordan Willis be the prospect that Dallas pulls the trigger on in the first round – by far their safest spot to grab the consensus first or second round DE – and would his traits justify the pick?
Let’s find out.
Jordan Willis plays with a constant motor that allows him to make plays off the edge even when offensive tackles get a good set against him.
If you stopped reading this quote from my full scouting report on DE Jordan Willis at Slant Sports at “constant motor”, you aren’t unlike many in Cowboys Nation that are tired of seeing defensive line guru Rod Marinelli get little to work with along his actual line.
While part of this is the recently-extended Defensive Coordinator’s own doing in trusting his ability to mold every high motor pass rusher, it’s also just the beginning for an impressive player like Jordan Willis.
Not dominant in any one area as a true pass rusher, Willis has an outstanding feel for how to use his body in positioning but also his 33.5″ arms to disrupt passes…
Willis may not “wow” with any one trait as a pass rusher, but his flash plays are a thing of beauty, and are often a result of his hustle combined with the technical skill to set up blockers up the field and power back to the football.
Likely a left defensive end in the Cowboys’ scheme, Willis tested much better than expected at the NFL Combine athletically, leaving no doubt that he can hold the point of attack as a left end in addition to using his active hands to get into the backfield.
When Willis is able to get a good first step up the field, his hand work is at its best as a rusher.
As mentioned, there has already been a lot of talk about Jordan Willis’ fit as “the guy” to fix the Cowboys pass rush – much of it somewhat pessimistic due to his lack of bend and consistency.
However, I see Willis as a prospect with a higher floor than most late first-round defensive ends, with the ceiling to be just who Dallas needs. Pad level is rarely an issue for Jordan Willis, and when he is able to capture the edge with some initial quickness he shines as a nicely polished rusher that can both extend and snap or pin and drive into the backfield.
On a consistent basis, it is certainly fair to say that Jordan Willis’ lack of strength on initial contact with offensive tackles is a bit concerning, as is his bend in not getting steered behind the pocket.
An incredibly aware player, Willis is always looking for ways to fight back to the football and put his stamp on a play. In run defense, Willis will hold the point of attack by extending against his blocker while being able to fluidly turn and chase as well.
Ideally used in the Dallas Cowboys’ patented pass rushing rotation to start his career anyway, Jordan Willis can quickly overcome some of these issues by benefiting from situational snaps as both a base LDE or Nickel RDE.
With more than enough flash plays at both spots, the Cowboys can feel comfortable with a player like Willis in using the traits that made him successful against top collegiate competition at the NFL level. Additionally, they already know Willis meets their measurement thresholds – perhaps better than any defensive end in this draft.
Jordan Willis’ 4.53 second 40-yard dash time is a full quarter-second faster than the Cowboys’ “prototype” defensive end based on past draft history – even exceeding their apex for this Combine drill by over a half second at 4.59.
If watching Jordan Willis run 40 yards in a straight line doesn’t sell you on his fit with the silver and blue, he also matches Dallas’ apex of 125″ in the broad jump with a 1.58 ten-yard split.
Finish your evaluation of Jordan Willis both at the Combine and on film with the fact that his three-cone drill was the best out of any EDGE prospect in Indianapolis by a full 0.6 seconds (a critical measurement that shows a player’s change of direction and burst ability), and it’s not hard to imagine that the pass rusher we’ve been waiting for is within Kansas State’s Jordan Willis.
Going back to my complete scouting report for Willis, he earned a second-round grade on my live 2017 NFL Draft Board. While there are an abnormal amount of first-round talents in the 2017 Draft, the Cowboys will still likely be staring down a board left with second-round players on the clock with the 28th overall pick.
If this is indeed the case, get ready for Jordan Willis’ phone to ring.