We have previously covered the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end position in this 10 part series. Today, we will dive head first into what I think is one of the more difficult positions to scout, offensive lineman.
This is the last of the offensive positions and instead of breaking down each position along the offensive line I decided to give more of a broad observation of what I look for when analyzing offensive lineman.
Like I previously stated when discussing the tight end position, the scheme that a particular team uses is extremely important when scouting the offensive line position.
Does the team use a zone blocking scheme or a man blocking scheme?
A zone blocking scheme like the Dallas Cowboys use relies on more athletic offensive lineman that can play in space. These types of linemen are usually smaller and use their quickness and athletic ability to secure their blocks.
A man blocking scheme relies more on bigger linemen that tend to use their strength and power when making their blocks. These types of players usually aren't quite as athletic and the majority of their blocks are determined pre-snap, whereas in the zone blocking scheme the linemen have to use their vision to know which player to block.
Determining whether an offensive lineman prospect is best suited in playing a man or zone blocking scheme will go a long ways in deciding how they fit in with the team.
When studying offensive lineman and trying to figure out their athletic ability, I like to start from the ground up.
An offensive lineman needs to have really good "feet". They need to be able to get out of their stance quickly in order to engage a player in the running game or slide their feet to cut off a defender in the passing game.
It doesn't really matter to me if the prospect is a center, guard, or tackle because if an offensive lineman can't move their feet they are going to be a liability at the NFL level. An offensive tackle has to be able to use his kick slide to cut off a pass rusher and a guard/center has to have smooth footwork when pulling to make a block.
Athletic ability may be a little more important for offensive lineman in a zone blocking scheme, but I believe that having smooth footwork is something that cannot really be taught. It's either something you have or you don't.
One of the traits I look for in an offensive lineman is where they are at on their technique, because at the NFL level they are not going to be able to get away with just having good athletic ability like they did in college.
Technique is something that can be coached up and learned at the NFL level, but properly identify whether or not an offensive lineman is already technically sound can determine how early and often they can play at the next level.
Offensive lineman are asked to make several different types of blocks in the NFL so they have to be able to use their athleticism and proper technique in order to become a fundamentally sound NFL player.
Athletic ability and technique are the two traits I really look for when analyzing an offensive lineman's run blocking prowess.
I want to see him engage with his assigned defender and move him out of the running lane. I look to see if his hands are inside the shoulder pads of the defender and if he was dropping his weight and driving his feet.
I also look to see if he is firing out of his stance once the ball is snapped and playing with an intensity and aggressiveness. Leverage is a term that is often used in the running game and I like to analyze if a lineman is maintaining his leverage when engaging with a defender or getting washed down out of the play.
Like run blocking, an offensive lineman's athletic ability and technique need to be up to par, otherwise your quarterback is going to be running for his life in the NFL.
Protecting the quarterback is the number one priority when pass blocking and one of the reasons the Dallas Cowboys invested so highly in their offensive line.
I like to analyze if a lineman knows where his QB is at during the play and whether or not he can adjust if the quarterback has to scramble to buy time. I like to see a lineman playing with patients and a readiness to be able to adjust to exotic blitzes.
One of the most important things I look for when pass blocking is whether or not a lineman is using his hands. When pass blocking lineman have to be able to use their hands because they are catching defenders instead of firing out and trying to impose their will.
Lastly, I like to see how quickly an offensive lineman can get in his set, with his eyes up searching for the defender. This is an area where the battle can be won or lost in the blink of an eye.
A lot of people look at the bench press numbers that offensive lineman put up at the NFL Scouting Combine and use that as a reference to how strong a player is, but I think those numbers are somewhat inaccurate when judging a prospects strength.
Personally, I think strength for an offensive lineman starts in their base because that will ultimately determine whether or not they can hold up against a defender trying to overpower them with a bullrush.
I like to see a player anchor down in the passing game and hold their ground when a defender is trying to overpower him.
In the NFL, offensive lineman are not going to be going up against very many 225 pound defensive lineman, so that's why I'd don't like to use the bench press as a measuring stick to determining a player strength.
I think the strength starts with their foundation and then works itself up.
The offensive lineman position to me is the most difficult to scout and that's why they are usually drafted so highly.
Athletic ability and technique are the two most important traits I look for when analyzing the offensive line position, but you always have to keep in mind the type of scheme that the player will fit best in once they are drafted into the NFL.
The Dallas Cowboys are pretty much set along the offensive line, but they still need quality depth at nearly every position. That is why I really like Joe Thuney out of NC State. He has played every position along the offensive line and that would be a huge benefit for the Cowboys.
Have the Dallas Cowboys Overcome Their 2nd-Round Curse?
You may not be aware or maybe you've simply forgotten, but the Dallas Cowboys have struggled drafting players in the 2nd-round who can come in and contribute. Typically players drafted this highly are not only immediate contributors as a rookie, but are cornerstone players for years to come. That hasn't been the case for the Cowboys.
I don't know where you stand, but I was beginning to think the Dallas Cowboys were cursed with their 2nd-round draft picks. I know this was an area where they would gamble on players for some reason or another, but unfortunately it never really paid off. Hopefully, things are changing for the better.
Let's take a look back at past drafts to see what I'm talking about.
Past 2nd-Round Draft Picks Dating Back to 2006:
2018 Connor Williams
2017 Chidobe Awuzie
2016 Jaylon Smith
2015 Randy Gregory
2014 DeMarcus Lawrence
2013 Gavin Escobar
2012 (no selection) used to trade for Morris Claiborne
2011 Bruce Carter
2010 Sean Lee
2009 (no selection) traded out of 2nd-round
2008 Martellus Bennett
2007 (no selection) used to trade back into 1st for Anthony Spencer
2006 Anthony Fasano
You may be wondering why I decided to start all the way back in 2006. Well, I believe that's when the 2nd-round draft picks curse started for the Dallas Cowboys.
Anthony Fasano ended up having a solid career in the NFL, but he never lived up to his draft status as a former 2nd-round draft pick. The same can be said for Martellus Bennett, Gavin Escobar, and Bruce Carter. Shed a tear for them if you want, but I'd put them in the "bust" category.
The sad truth is, Sean Lee is the only 2nd-round draft pick on this list to ever see a second contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Although, I guess you can include DeMarcus Lawrence since he will be playing under the franchise tag in 2018. But, that's still not a very good hit percentage in the 2nd-round for more than a decade. Luckily, it looks as if things are changing.
DeMarcus Lawrence might end up being another "hit" for the Cowboys. It may have taken him four years to reach his potential, but there's no denying how dominant he was last season. If he can maintain that dominance this season, he could be looking at a big payday from the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys took a risk on the next two players they drafted after D-Law. They knew Randy Gregory had his off the field issues, but were willing to take a chance on his talent in the 2nd-round. That has yet to pay off, but Gregory has a chance to rebound now that it looks as if he has his life back in order.
The Cowboys took another risk in the following draft when they drafted Jaylon Smith. No one knew if he would ever be able to play again after the devastating knee injury he sustained in his final collegiate game, but it's looking as if he could make a full recovery and return to his pre-injury form. Year 3 will be big for him, but he could end up being an absolute steal.
Fortunately, the Cowboys 2017 and 2018 2nd-round draft picks (Chidobe Awuzie and Connor Williams) look to be cornerstone players for years to come. That's what you're looking for in players drafted this highly.
I say all of this because it's really looking like the Dallas Cowboys have finally broken their 2nd-round curse. Maybe it's a change in draft philosophy or maybe it's because Will McClay's voice carries more weight in the draft room, but it's definitely good news for the future of the franchise. Hopefully it continues.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys 2nd-round curse has ended?
Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?
The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.
But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.
Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.
Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.
First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.
On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.
What about the rest of the class?
Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.
After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.
How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?
One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.
Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.
But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.
Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.
Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.
Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.
One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.
In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.
Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?
Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.
The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.
Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.
Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.
For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.
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