While there is always going to be mystery when it comes to the NFL Draft, over the years the Dallas Cowboys have done their fans a bit of a favor and "tipped their hands,'' so to speak. Not only have they (not once, or twice, but three times!) somehow via social media given us a look at their draft boards after that year’s draft was completed, but in their actions they’ve also alerted us to some key tells about their actions.
In our must-read post from a few off-season’s ago, ”6 Draft Tendencies and Tells,” we listed the following:
5. Dallas uses the ... visits very wisely, and will most often select players throughout the draft that visit team headquarters through the 30 National invites of Dallas Day visits.
This is by no means an end-all be-all list. Jaylon Smith, Maliek Collins, and Charles Tapper didn’t make official visits to Valley Ranch in 2016. But in total, 11 of their draft picks in the last three years have made visits to the team headquarters. In that vein, we’ll be bringing you in-depth looks at the draft candidates that Dallas schedules for visits, so that you can be better informed about the small sample size many of the next group of Cowboys will likely come from.
Name: Malik McDowell
Position: Defensive Line
School: Michigan State
Weight: 295 lbs
Intangibles/Honors: 2016 – Second Team All-American (CBS, Sports Illustrated),First Team All B1G Ten (Associated Press, Phil Steele). 2015 – First Team All B1G Ten (ESPN), Second Team All-B1G Ten (Coaches, AP), CampusInsiders.com All Sophomore Team, Michigan State Outstanding Underclass Lineman Award (Defense) winner. 2014- Freshman All-American (FWAA), Big Ten All Freshman Team (ESPN, BTN.com (Coaches, AP). Sociology Major.
pSparq Score: 110.4 Z-Score: 0.0 NFL Percentile: 48.1
pSparq is an approximation of the “Sparq Score” metric invented by NIKE (with the help of former USC and current Seattle Seahawks Head Coach, Pete Carroll), designed as a way to standardize athletic testing of High School athletes and interpret their athleticism with a sport specific formula. For more on pSparq,(and the man behind the math Zach Whitman) check out 3sigmaathlete.com.
Measurables vs others at his position:
Note: This spider graph courtesy of Mockdraftable.com provides a visual representation of a players’ measurable traits, and combine results. The filled in area of the chart, as well as the number in the light grey circle represents the percentile among the players peers by position. A score of 85 here represents that out of every 100 players at his position, the player has a better result in that test than 85 of those 100.
Games Studied: Notre Dame, Wisconsin, BYU
McDowell played all over the defensive line in the Spartans’ even front defense. His primary assignment was as either an A gap or B gap rusher. He has the ability to be a disruptive force as a penetrator, and has the power to get into the gap and work through a blocker to get into the backfield. Doesn’t have an explosive get off, but it seems to be more of a technique issue in his stance and start than an athleticism issue. He plays out of a three and four point stance and often looks like he has all his weight on his front leg. He regularly lifts his back foot off the ground before replacing it and taking off up field. On some passing situations McDowell would play on the edge as a true rush end, and was able to create chaos in the backfield using a speed rush and a two-hand swipe move to keep the tackles hands off of him.
As an A Gap or B Gap defender in the run game, he was often asked to scoop across the face of a blocker to the adjacent gap. This opened up lanes for penetration from linebackers and other second level defenders, but often limited his ability to penetrate himself. When he did have the opportunity to play straight down hill, his stance and start issue from his pass rush reps continued. When he did get a good get off, he was able to be extremely disruptive.
McDowell is the type of player who when he is “on” he is one of the most talented players in the class. He has the ability to be a disruptive force from anywhere on the defensive front. His size and athleticism profile suggests he would a left defensive end or three technique under tackle for the Cowboys. The questions come when he isn’t “on”. Effort and locker room chemistry questions flew around McDowell at Michigan State, and his career in the NFL will depend the team who picks him being able to create an environment of consistent motivation. McDowell is the type of player who could take a tumble on draft day because of things that don’t show up on tape, but could absolutely impact his performance as a pro. Of course, it only takes one team to decide that they have the culture it takes to get the best out of a player like McDowell and make the pick.