While a healthy Leighton Vander Esch seems locked in as the Dallas Cowboys starting middle man, it is not yet clear what the rest of the linebacker depth chart will ultimately look like. Yes, incumbent starter Jaylon Smith is set to return and hybrid player Keanu Neal has joined he mix, but who will play where and the assurance of playing time is more up in the air than many observers may think. As such, there may be a movement in the Cowboys front office to secure a premier player at the position at some point early in the 2021 draft. This draft contains an extremely talented and deep linebacker group with value coming throughout the course of the weekend.
Notre Dame star Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is not the traditional linebacker and like Isaiah Simmons last year, that could end up being a turn-off for teams looking to take a linebacker early. Owusu-Koramoah is widely considered to be a mid-to-late first-round talent and should be selected as such, but if the Cowboys were to trade down from No. 10 he may become an intriguing option for an organization that continues to value the position more than many other teams in the league.
Measurables (Pro Day Verified)
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
Height: 6-foot-1 Weight: 221 pounds Hand Size: 8 7/8 Inches Arm Length: 33 Inches Wingspan: 78 1/8 Inches Pro Day Measurements via Alex Katson of Draft Rite
Via Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb on Twitter). RAS or Relative Athletic Score measures a player’s athleticism in reference to other players’ combine results.
Virginia (2019), Stanford (2019), Syracuse (2020) Alabama (2020) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuAMt1j-4hk Clemson (2020) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT5uDgzSBno Florida State (2020) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsnd0S60dQM
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Rangy linebacker, can easily get sideline to sideline and has the quickness to change directions with ease. Menace as a blitzer, comes in like a missile and understands how to free himself to get to the quarterback. Closing speed is fantastic, loves to come downhill with speed and make the big hit. Good in coverage, can stick with slot receivers on shorter routes and looks very good against tight ends. Most comfortable dropping into zone coverage, really has good awareness of what is around him and frequently makes excellent plays. Really good hip mobility for a linebacker, can turn and run well and flips his hips with ease. Superb athlete. Showed good ball skills when working in the slot, able to make plays to bat balls away. Extremely versatile, can play in any number of alignments (best fit may be at WILL or nickel).
Needs to improve as a run defender, doesn’t always take the best angles to the ball or will overrun the ball carrier, can get washed out of the play due to lack of strength to defeat blocks. On the very small side, not the traditional linebacker and usage may have to get creative at times. Processing speed can be slow at times, which leads to him being behind the play, which mainly hurts him the run game. Tackling needs to be more consistent, can make the big hit at times but needs to wrap up, a couple of ugly missed tackles here and there.
Range: 8.5/10 Coverage Ability: 8.5/10 Run Defense: 4.5/10 Tackling: 6/10 Pass-Rush: 3.5/5 Instincts: 6.5/10 Pursuit/Closing Speed: 8/10 Frame: 1/5 Versatility: 5/5 Consistency: 4.5/5 Grade: 7.000/10 (2nd Round Value)
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Owusu-Koramoah was not only one of the most dynamic linebackers in the country this past season but one of the most dynamic players regardless of position. Owusu-Koramoah showed off his excellent coverage and blitzing skills that made him an absolute joy to watch all year. He will come into the league with some questions though. Despite his excellent speed and quickness, Owusu-Koramoah is much smaller than the traditional linebacker and may not fit what every team wants. He will need to show that he can become a better run defender and more consistent tackler. Owusu-Koramoah may end up hearing his name called on Day One due to his high upside.
Fit with the Cowboys
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Due to the odd profile of Owusu-Koramoah, it is extremely hard to peg down where exactly he would play. He would likely split time between safety and linebacker as well as playing over the slot or following tight ends. Owusu-Koramoah is useful for the team if they are looking for someone to be a matchup-neutralizer. He can lock up tight ends in man and some of the issues can be minimized at first by keeping him in a role where his primary responsibility is coverage. Owusu-Koramoah’s sweet spot is the teens and into the early twenties at this point. It is possible that a team falls in love with his versatility and sees a particular role he can thrive in but there have been no strong connections thus far. If the Cowboys end up trading down he is a solid target. There would be no reason to pick him if one of the top corners is on the board but again, the team could be high on his versatility in private. There is considerable risk with the Notre Dame star but also a high upside that could help him outplay his draft position.
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