With the 116th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys bolstered their pass rush by drafting Kansas Defensive End Dorance Armstrong. Adding the productive rusher with their first of two picks in the round, using the 137th pick on Tight End Dalton Schultz, the Cowboys will go into camp this summer with legitimate competition for spots in Rod Marinelli's DL rotation.
With 10 sacks in 2016 for the Jayhawks, Armstrong certainly put up numbers worthy of a spot in the NFL, although the Cowboys will now have to figure out why the 6035 (6′ 3 5/8″) rusher only got to the quarterback 1.5 times last year.
Defensive End Dorance Armstrong: Strengths
It's often said that the later rounds of the NFL Draft are about drafting prospects for their traits. As a fourth round pick, Dorance Armstrong is the perfect blend of production, NFL-ready size, and plenty of workable rush traits.
Armstrong is explosive with his first step, forcing offensive tackles off balance. From here, Armstrong will often rely on his speed and violent hands to run the arc and get to the quarterback. At his best, Armstrong will not give his blockers a large surface area to attack, playing with more than enough upper body strength to win with power too.
Armstrong is comfortable transitioning between rush moves, showing off counters and long-arm techniques that were successful for him when he gets to the level of the QB. Doing so is rarely a problem for a player with the lean build of Armstrong, who can flip his hips and snap the corner.
As a run defender, Armstrong plays with a patented Rod Marinelli motor. Armstrong excels at scraping down the line to chase the football, delivering plenty of big hits in the hole. Stacking up a red zone run against Texas Tech before stripping the ball away and creating a turnover, Armstrong was always looking to make a play for a Kansas defense that lacked talent around him.
Defensive End Dorance Armstrong: Weaknesses
As mentioned, Armstrong's production dipped following a stellar 2016 campaign. This inconsistency was part of Armstrong's game due to some recurring weaknesses on his tape.
Dorance Armstrong is an upright player that will struggle to get his pad level where it needs to be on every snap. When the 257 pound defensive end doesn't jump the snap to begin running around his man, his lower body work can be underwhelming. This takes away a lot of Armstrong's effectiveness in his long arms, as blockers can recover against a rusher that lacks fluidity when changing directions.
When Armstrong creates first contact with a blocker, he needs to be quicker in disengaging to complete the rush. The Cowboys will love the punch this rookie DE can play with, but against the likes of La'el Collins and Tyron Smith in training camp he'll need to put all of his traits together on a much more consistent basis.
It didn't feel like Armstrong had a true plan for every snap he played in college, which every great pass rusher has. There is more than enough to like about Armstrong developing this cerebral trait, but it remains part of his projection as opposed to a given strength.
As of right now, the Cowboys first pick of the fourth round is a rusher that will flash in a variety of ways – none often enough than the other to box him in as a specific type of defender. Instead, the Cowboys will need to quickly figure out which strengths of Armstrong carry to the next level, and put him in position to use them often.
Defensive End Dorance Armstrong: Summary
Physically, Dorance Armstrong resembles current Cowboys sack artist DeMarcus Lawrence well. Also testing as a better athlete in several areas, Armstrong is likely another left defensive end for Dallas to add into their rotation.
— Sean Martin ✭ (@SeanMartinNFL) May 4, 2018
With Taco Charlton also settling into this rotational LDE role behind Lawrence, simply making this football team may not be easy for Armstrong. A player that plenty of other teams would love to have given his upside though, I believe Armstrong does enough in his first offseason to warrant the Cowboys investment.
Armstrong is certainly a project, but one that is worthwhile for Rod Marinelli and the Cowboys, as he possesses pass rush traits that simply can't be taught at this stage – pairing them with above average strength and a high motor to earn his spot in the NFL.