Fletcher on Top at DT

Tommy and I will be putting up initial rankings on Scout’s Notebook very soon and I wanted to address a prospect I feel very strongly about in Fletcher Cox. Keep in mind, what we do is scout players from what we see on film – not collect information and form rankings from there. Our rankings are not projections of where they will end up in the draft. That is what the Top 100 and mock drafts are for.

Fletcher Cox will be my top rated defensive tackle for the 2012 NFL Draft. While I appreciate the talent of LSU’s Michael Brockers and Memphis’s Dontari Poe, if I were running a franchise I could not take them with my job on the line over Cox. Let’s talk about why.

Cox is a player that I believe could start in the NFL as a nose tackle, under tackle in a 4-3 and also play 3-4 defensive end. On top of that, he is athletic enough to move to the outside and play end in a 4-3 and be effective not only against the run, but as a pass rusher. In other words, he can do anything you want.

Brockers has been very good against the run against SEC competition. Cox was dominant against SEC competition as a junior. Dontari Poe was dominated at times against Conference USA competition.

All three are young, however the majority of people only talk about the upside of Brockers and Poe. That is probably because Cox is a much better player right now, but he’s also still a junior. Fletcher still plays a bit high and is going to become a much better player in the NFL with coaching. The difference between he and Poe is that he’s already throwing around SEC offensive linemen – and is giving up 48 pounds on the big guy – and to give you a ridiculous run-on sentence … he’s not supposed to be a two-gapper which Poe is. (Hey, it’s a blog.)

My selfish hope as an Eagle’s fan is that NFL scouts won’t see or feel the same way I do. Unfortunately, I did speak to a source recently that told me teams have him as high as 7th on their boards. That tells me Fletcher won’t be around at pick 15.

I am not saying that Brockers and Poe aren’t of value in the Top 15, they are. I’m simply saying that if I wanted the best player out there at the position it would be Fletcher Cox. The more I’ve watched him the more I’ve realized that he is clearly the best position player available.

Here is my scouting report on him:

DT Fletcher Cox – Mississippi State – 6-foot-4, 298 pounds

Passes the eye test right off the bat. Tall, muscular frame with long arms. Very good burst off the snap and has a variety of moves to get into the backfield from his defensive tackle position, but makes most of his money on a bull rush, rip or swim. Cox isn’t just quick, but he’s powerful as well. He commanded double teams at Mississippi State and did a good job getting skinny to penetrate and disrupt the play in the backfield.

His athleticism sets him apart from many at his position in the draft as it’s all about what he can do once he penetrates. Cox doesn’t have to stop and start to change directions. He has good hips and can change directions with ease to get to the quarterback or ball carrier and really looks natural in pursuit. He also played left defensive end regularly, so he understands how to level off and collapse the pocket from the outside. Just does a tremendous job of jamming himself between linemen regularly and stopping the play before it starts. One knock on Fletcher is that he does tend to pop a bit high out of his stance, but that can be corrected at the next level.

When playing outside at defensive end, he sets the edge well against the run and extends his arms. Again, very nice job in pursuit from the five-tech and shows a nice blend of power and athleticism. Cox was actually a track athlete in high school and it shows, even at 298 pounds. He simply looks very comfortable in space and is light on his feet.

Cox is just an extremely adaptable player that will appeal to many teams because he is scheme versatile. Played defensive tackle and left defensive end for the Bulldogs and was very effective at both. Could project as a 4-3 nose or under tackle or a five-tech in a 3-4. Think he could be as high as a Top 10 pick.

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