Dallas shows interest in massive DT

Sometimes a pre-draft meeting with a player can be nothing more than a smokescreen. Without question, that's not the case here.

Ricky Jean-Francois There's no doubt the Dallas Cowboys are pleased with their starting nose tackle from a year ago.

A former seventh-round draft pick, former Auburn standout Jay Ratliff has quietly blossomed to be one of the defensive linemen in the NFC. In fact, he was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2008, recording 51 total tackles and 7.5 sacks on the year.

At the same time, it's clear he needs help.

Tank Johnson, last year's backup is a free agent and won't be back in 2009 and after him, there's truly no proven commodity to spell Ratliff this coming season.


Ricky Jean-Francois/Getty Images

That help will come from the 2009 draft, where a handful of tackles with first-round or second round talent will be available.

One of those prospects is LSU's Ricky Jean-Francois, who met with Cowboys scouts twice at the NFL Combine last month, according to sources.

The former SEC standout also met with the Redskins and Ravens within his first 24 hours in Indianapolis.

"Jean-Francois is an explosive interior lineman who can dominate the opposition," notes Scout.com NFL Draft Expert Chris Steuber. "He displays a tremendous first step and great balance and plays with leverage.

"He has great strength and draws double teams inside. He uses his hands very well, splits the gap and creates havoc in the backfield. He makes plays down the line of scrimmage and never gives up on a play. Durability is a concern."

The highlight of his three-year career in Baton Rouge, La. came in 2007 when he was named Defensive MVP of the BCS National Championship Game.

He only made six starts in 2008 due to a groin injury he suffered against Mississippi State, but he still managed to record 20 tackles, 3.0 tackles for losses and a pair of sacks.

There are also some off-the-field issues, as he sat out all but two games of 2007 season due to violating a team rule.

Still, the Cowboys need help at tackle entering the 2009 season, and Jean-Francois is certainly on their board as an early to mid-round pick up. While not the ideal tackle in the 3-4 scheme at just under 300 pounds, he'll add weight at the NFL level and could grow into exactly what the Cowboys are looking for.

Scout.com currently ranks the underclassman as the No. 7 defensive tackle available in this year's draft.

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