'Boys Pluck Versatile Walden

Few fans watching the draft have heard of Middle Tennessee's Erik Walden, but his coaches — and opposing coaches — certainly know all about him.

Walden is the first small-school selection for Dallas this year, but that doesn't mean he should be dismissed as a non-prospect. Walden (6-2, 237, 4.75) played both defensive line positions for the Blue Raiders, as well as outside linebacker, and while his measurables don't jump off the page, his effectiveness is beyond question.

Walden was named first-team all-Sun Belt Conference as a junior after posting career highs with 48 tackles and 11.5 sacks (10th in the nation), and followed that season with another strong year, registering 46 tackles, 8.5 sacks and an interception.

He's a high-motor pass rusher from the down position at defensive end or when coming off the edge as a stand-up linebacker. He dropped to the sixth round for three reasons: he plays a little more upright than many coaches would like, he doesn't have ideal quickness to be an every-down player, and he played against weak competition.

Nonetheless, he was productive, and that is something the Dallas scouts can't ignore. ESPN is saying Walden is a defensive end, but at his size, the Cowboys surely see him as a backup linebacker and special teams candidate.

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