Wes Bunting Picks the Cowboys’ Groceries: Mid-Round O-Line Prospects

In this week’s chat with the National Football Post’s Wes Bunting, we look at two very different but intriguing guard prospects and reconsider the draft up top with Dallas now projected in the 10 – 16 pick range.

Cowboys Nation:  Let’s start with some guys you’ve discussed as possible down-the-rounds options.  You tweeted last week about an offensive tackle for Baylor who you said impressed you, but who would probably need to move inside to guard.  Tell us first who he is, and why you like him so much.

Wes Bunting:  Danny Watkins is the most unique prospect in the entire draft.  He’s from Canada.  He’s a former hockey player and rugby player.  He started playing football three years ago at the junior college level.  He’s 26 years old right now.  Baylor saw him and loved him.  He’s been their left tackle the last two years.  I’m doing a knockoff of the awards show tonight and he’s my most improved player.  On pure college tape alone, he might be the best offensive tackle in college ball.

Now he’s a bit short armed and he’s only about 6’3” and a half so he’s gonna have to move inside to guard, but he’s laterally gifted and he can bend.  He’s got some snap in the run game.  He’s just a really impressive kid and I joke that if he were two inches taller and three years younger he’d be a first round pick.  He’d give you a few years of good ball.  He can come in early in his career and play for you.

CN:  Where do you project him then, being an older prospect?

WB:  It seems there’s always one older prospect who goes in the 3rd round so I’ll say he’s in the 3rd to 4th round range.  He’s one of the best offensive linemen I’ve seen all year.

CN:  Compare him to a guy like Villanova’s Benny Ijalana, who is also a college tackle who you project inside.  Career arc wise, they’re quite opposite.  Ijalana is rather green, but has a lot of upside, whereas Watkins seems a lot more of a ready-made, whose ceiling probably won’t be quite as high.  As possible guard prospects for a team like Dallas, where would you project each?

WB:  I’d say Ijalana probably goes in the 2nd round cause he gives you more down the line.  Watkins as you said is more of an immediate prospect but not the same upside.  Ijalana is 6’4”, he’s a long-armed kid, but he’s raw.  He’s matured a bit technically, he’s keeping his base down and he’s got good lateral movement but he still needs a lot of work on his game.  He reminds me a lot of Vladimir Ducasse from UMass from last year.

Watkins on the other hand, I could see him coming into your camp and you pencil him in at left guard and he can start from day one.  I think he could be that kind of player.  Once you get him adjusted in a couple of years, Watkins will be 28 and you’ll probably get three or four top years from him.  He’s a one-contract guy in my opinion.

CN:  A lot of linemen play deeper into their 30s.  Are you saying you see 31 as the end of his peak years?

WB:  I’d say 26 to 31 are his best years.  You can get good offensive linemen to play into their 30s, however.  He’s a tough, Canadian corn-fed kid.  He can play for a while

CN:  We’ve spent a lot of time looking at players who the Cowboys could draft in the 1st and the 2nd.  I’m looking today for guys who can be productive out of the 3rd and 4th rounds.  Dallas has found themselves a bit.  They’re in the 8th slot now and I’m projecting them in the 10-16 range now because they have a couple of softer games on their schedule.  Does Watkins fit the profile of a guy who could be available in that range in the 3rd round, around pick 75 or so, and who would be a good value?

WB:  Yeah.  I think he goes in the top 100.  I think the 2nd round picks you want guys who can play for you right away cause he get him at a premium and that’s a big high for you.  I think the Marcus Cannons and the Ijalanas are in that range because of the upside they bring you.

Watkins, in the 3rd round range is where the talent starts to level off, so he could be a find for you there because he’s probably capable of playing more quickly than other 3rd rounders.

CN:  You tweeted about another offensive lineman who impressed you, David Mims.  You mentioned him briefly a few weeks ago but you seem to have a deeper read on him now.  Tell us about Mr. Mims.

WB:  Yes, David Mims from Virginia Union.  He’s a manchild.  He’s 6’8”, 340 lbs.  He probably needs to cut down his weight a little bit.  When you look at these small school kids the one thing you want to see is, “does the kid have the ability to dominate?”  And when I put on his nasty, grainy film, I see a guy who produces what we call ”wow” blocks.  Because every time you see this guy he’s like Michael Oher in The Blind Side.  He’s throwing blocks that make you say, ”is this for real?”

He’s playing at the Division II level.  There’s no real weight program there.  There’s no real coaching there, but he’s got the ability to dominate.  He’s flexible.  He’s got the ability to bend.  He’s long armed and is a good enough athlete.  He reminds me of J’Marcus Webb, who’s the starting right tackle for the Bears right now.  (Webb attended West Texas A&M.)  You can get this guy as a late round flyer.  I think he’ll run about 5.3 in the 40.  He’s a physically gifted kid.

CN:  What’s his best pro position in your opinion?

WB:  Right tackle.

CN:  He’s not really in the class of Jared Veldheer, from Hillsborough, whom the Raiders drafted in the 3rd round and who’s now their starting left tackle.

WB:  No.  Veldheer was a little more polished, but we’ll see.  I really like Mims on tape.  I liked Veldheer.  I referred him to his agent based on his size.  Where Veldheer made his money was in the Texas vs. the Nation Bowl where he went up against high level competition.

Mims got an invite to the HBCU Bowl, it’s the black Senior Bowl, for all the smaller black colleges.  If he plays well there I know there are people interested in getting him into the Texas vs. the Nation Bowl.  If he can get an invite and play well there that would separate him.

I don’t think he goes 3rd round, but I think he could work up into the 4th-5th range.  In the worst case scenario he’s a late round pick.

CN:  When is the HBCU Bowl?

WB: I think the practices start next week, Monday through Friday.

CN:  Do you know anybody who will be there?

WB:  No.  I know someone who went there last year but he told me there just are not enough big prospects this year to get excited.  I’ll get work next week.  I’ll find somebody.  Mims is the guy I really care about, who I think can make it into the pros.

CN: When are the other games scheduled?  Texas-vs.-the-Nation, East West Shrine game and the Senior Bowl?

WB:  Texas is the first week of February, the Senior Bowl is the last week of January, and the East-West is the week before.

CN:  Will you be attending any of these games?

WB:  I’ll be at all three.

CN:  Excellent.  We’ll follow your reports.

WB:  I can do a chat those weeks, and give you updates on whatever you need.

CN:  Fantastic!  Let’s  walk back to the 10-15 range.  Some of the site readers are wringing their hands because the team is sliding up, or sliding down the board, depending on how you want to look at it.  I’ve pretty much written off a top-5 pick at this point, barring some catastrophe like a second quarterback injury.

Looking for quality in the 10-15 range if we’re still considering the offensive tackle, defensive end, cornerback pools, who stands out there?  Let’s say the 10-16 range.

WB:   You start with Cam Jordan.  Marcell Dareus could be there.  Offensive tackle, maybe Tyron Smith is there if he comes out.  Derek Sherrod will be in that area.  A lot of people have been high on Nate Solder from Colorado.  I’m not as big on him as most.  There’s also Anthony Castonzo from B.C.  At least one of them will go in the first round, maybe both.

At corner, maybe Amukamara slides, but I doubt it.  Patrick Peterson will be long gone.  Maybe Jimmy Smith from Colorado.

CN:  Let’s stay with the two senior tackles, Sherrod and Solder.  You mentioned Sherrod earlier as a mid-1st prospect you liked, but we have not talked much about Solder, and I see his name very high on other lists.  Give us some more detail about Solder and tells us why you separate these two tackles in your ratings?

WB:  I’ll start with Solder.  He started as a tight end.  He put on some weight. He’s maturing and improving from a technical standpoint on his kick-slide.  When he’s asked to be a technician, to stay in his stance and stay compact he lacks great range.  However, when he’s asked to be an athlete he can reach people when he gets up running.  He struggled a lot early in the year against California reaching people on the edge.  He’s done a lot better in recent weeks.

One thing I will say on his behalf is I’ve been surprised how good of a run blocker he is.  For a tall guy (6’8”) he can sink his hips, snap off the ball, get his arms out and create a bit of a punch on contact.

Sherrod on the other hand is just a more balanced, more technically clean OT.  He’s got good range.  He can redirect well.  He can extend those long arms and I think he’s the best senior tackle prospect in the draft.  I don’t think he’s in the same class as a Russell Okung, but you can win with him in the NFL.

CN:  Do both of these guys project to left tackle?

WB:  Sherrod definitely does.  I think Solder gives you a little more versatility.  You can play him on either.  You can start him on the left and if he’s not doing it you can move him to the right.

CN:  Finally, do you have any updates on your on-line draft board?

WB:  We had a meeting this past week and the bosses want it up by the end of the year.  I’ve been sending reports over and we should have it up before the end of the year.

Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Senior Analyst SportsTalkLine at Sports Talk Line
Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ TheBoys.com in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for SportsTalkLine.com
Rafael Vela

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21 Responses

  1. I’ve been watching Villanova’s Benny Ijalana today, and I can see why Wes likes him. He’s consistently driving his man off the ball on running plays and has had a few impressive pancake blocks. He makes some big running lanes. Granted, Villanova is playing Appalachain St. and he did give up a sack, but if he slips to the top of the 3rd round I would be all for taking him and putting him at Guard.

  2. Cameron Jordan would def be a sleeper pick, that guy is a beast
    so if we miss out on Dareus too I think we should just take BPA, either Sherrod Smith or Jordan
    man Cam Jordan would be a beast here

    1. Is Dareus a legitimate difference maker or just a dude who would give you a solid starter? While the D-line would benefit greatly from another guy as disruptive as Ratliff the O-line MUST be revitalized. You can plug in another old heavy piece of machinery like Olshansky again and still be able to get by on defense, less so trusting Colombo to man one of the tackle spots on the other side of the ball.

        1. It would be interesting to compare these DEs to Marcus Spears’ tape coming out of LSU. I’ve liked Spears more than most with the Cowboys, but I’d certainly expect a heck of a lot more from a first round pick. What do these guys have that Spears didn’t?

          1. thats why I dont want Dareus, he reminds me of Spears, he never makes splashes or big plays, he is just solid
            now Cam Jordan is a BEAST that can clog the run and generate a pass rush
            I really think he could make our DL good again

          2. That’s a great point. I mean, Spears had 6 to 8 sacks his last college season too. We certainly thought he’d do better than he has from a pass rush standpoint in the NFL. Dareus has like what 3 or 4 sacks this year?? Just seems to me that if we want a 3-4 DE who could rush the passer better than what we have then Fairley is the only real choice

          3. Watch Jordan. He’s not as big a monster as Fairley this year, but he’s got a complete game too. I would not cry if he were available when Dallas picked.

          4. Raf im telling you in the range where we will be picking I think Cameron Jordan should be the pick. He is a beast and already plays in a 3-4. Remember how they loved Alualu last year and the picture of our draft board had him really high? Well Jordan is better so he better be high on our board. I think the range where we will be picking its gonna come down to Derrek Sherrod or Cameron Jordan, as much as we need OL I know but Jordan is toooo good to pass on. We can draft OL the next 2 rounds.

  3. so what range will we be picking in now? Marcel Dareus still a possibility?
    if not Sherrod or Tyron Smith should be our pick

  4. I’m all on board with picking a solidifier like Watkins in the 3rd. Better bidness to pick a stable seemingly NFL-ready product than some athletic marvel ILB project with the football intellect of a brick wall.

    With the team playing itself out of the Peterson/Amukamara/Fairley sweepstakes, I wouldn’t mind a haul of T/S/G in the first three rounds. So I guess I’m wondering what kind of DL prospect flying under the radar are there to be had fourth round and beyond?

      1. Raf, what does Wes, and you too, think of Wisniewski from Penn St.?? He’s a center/guard prospect and could fill the bill. Is he projected around 3rd or 4th round?? We let his uncle get away from us but I have no idea if he’s in the same class or not.

        1. Wisniewski will go much higher. He’s the top rated C in the class and likely goes in the 2nd.

          Wes talks about him in our center chat. Go up top to the “NFL Draft” link in the band under the flag. I think its in the story with Alex Linnenkohl’s photo — the C from Oregon State.

          1. Thanks. I would hate to take an O-lineman in the 2nd because that’s where the good safeties usually go but I guess you can never tell. I wonder if someone like Carimi would fall to the 2nd??

  5. I saw where Jake Kirkpatrick (Center at TCU: 6′ 3″, 305), just won the award for best center in college football. He is projected to be drafted around round 4-5. Several other centers are ranked above him in the draft, but Jake still won the Rimington Award. How does Kirkpatrick project to the NFL?

  6. The hockey player, rugby player, now Baylor Tackle Danny Watkins is intriguing. Anyone who played those cardio sports can surely move. If he could be ok in year 1 and pretty good after that I’d be all about it. Baylor, especially with Robert Griffin the 3rd playing, has a very athletic offense. Not any big road graders with no athleticism

    1. I think it’s interesting that Bunting would say that Watkins could probably be a productive starter right away. If you can draft a guy in the 3rd that would give that kind of production that’s a goldmine.

      1. yeah. You can’t underrate being more full grown. I’m no football player but I was much stronger at 26 than at 22.

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