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.