Position: Defensive Tackle
College: Penn State
Height/weight: 6’4”, 322 lbs.
The Cowboys made another attempt to revamp the defensive line by re-signing defensive end Anthony Spencer with the hopes that he can return to old form as an impactful pass rusher. Defensive tackle, however, is still a position of need. Cowboys Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Stephen Jones recently told 105.3 the Fan that a defensive tackle must be able to play the three-technique to merit a first-round selection.
“There’s a lot of defensive linemen that merit first round picks,” Jones said in the radio interview. “If a player’s ceiling may be a one-technique, then it may be hard for him to make our first round.”
A popular speculation is that Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan will be available and will be Dallas’s no. 16 pick in the May 8 draft. The Cowboys have to evaluate whether he is capable of being a three-technique for that to become a reality, Jones said.
In this “Draft Focus,” we’ll take a look at a player more likely to fill a one-technique role and be available after the first round, Penn State’s DaQuan Jones.
DaQuan Jones was a two-year starter for the Nittany Lions, but earned his way onto the field in his freshman season and played nine games, according to his Penn State Athletics bio page. He played eight more games in his sophomore season before earning the starting job. Jones compiled 11.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in his senior season, earning All-Conference honors.
A quality that behooves Jones as a defensive tackle is the fact that he is a behemoth -- one of the rare cases in American sports where his team bio actually says he is smaller than he really is (Penn State listed him at 6-foot-3, 318 lbs, but he measured 6-foot-4, 322 lbs. at the combine). His immense size sacrifices some quickness, but what he lacks in speed (5.34 40-yard dash was 56th among DTs at the combine) he makes up for in brute strength in attacking blocks.
Why he’s a good fit for the Cowboys
With his lack of speed, Jones is likely to fit the mold of a player whose “ceiling” is a one-technique defensive tackle (meaning he would line up on the inside shoulder of the offensive guard and attack blocks straight on rather than manning two gaps. Read more on defensive line prototypes here). He does, however, show some lateral quickness, as he recorded a 7.73 second cone drill at the combine, ranking fifth amongst defensive tackles.
Dallas signed Terrell McClain as a possibility to accompany Henry Melton as the starting defensive tackles in Rod Marinelli’s 4-3 scheme. McClain and Nick Hayden would be Jones’s competition as a one-technique lineman. Should the ‘Boys want to initiate a three-man competition for snaps in that role, a player like Jones could be their guy in the early-middle rounds.
Jones is rarely pushed backward on blocks. Watch him here against Michigan in 2013 as he is able to push straight through blockers.
How far will he fall?
Jones is ranked the 63rd overall prospect in the draft by CBS Sports. If players were picked in order of their ranking - which they won’t, but it’s one way to project value - that would land him two picks away from the end of the second round. The Cowboys have the 47th and 78th selections, as well as the 119th and 154th, though it’s likely Jones doesn’t fall that far.
Jones is rated the no. 8 defensive tackle by Mel Kiper, and no. 7 at his position by CBS Sports.
The Joneses in charge may not view DaQuan as a high enough value to take at 47, if they do see him as a one-technique lineman, and he may be off the board by the 78th selection. But with a deep and unpredictable draft, there will certainly be players that fall beyond where they’re expected to be picked.
Will Jones be one of them?
DaQuan Jones is a big, strong defensive tackle that would add toughness and size to a defensive line that ranked near the bottom of the league in rushing yards allowed and sacks. If the Cowboys select Jones - or any other one-technique tackle - that player will be in a battle for playing time with a slew of other tackles not named Henry Melton.
But for Dallas, a surplus of capable lineman would be a fantastic problem to have.