by rabblerousr on Apr 18, 2012 8:30 AM CDT in Dallas Cowboys 2012 Draft
Our look at the "big three" first round DT-DEs continues with a long look at Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox who, to my mind, is the safest--and may well be the best--of the three. Indeed, in the race to be the first big defensive lineman off the board, Cox seems to have taken a commanding lead; many draft boards now have him firmly entrenched in the top ten, some as ranking him as high as sixth overall.
Cox's rise makes great sense when you study him more closely. For a man his size (6'4" 298), Cox boast impressive athleticism. This was on display at the Combine, where he ran a 4.79 forty, bench-pressed 225 pounds 30 times,and registered strong short shuttle (4.53) and 3-cone (a Combine-best 7.07) scores. On the field, this ability translates into superb initial quickness, lateral range and speed, which he uses to penetrate as well as to make plays outside the box. He's an exceptional interior pass rusher who uses his long, 34.5-inch arms and foot quickness get off blocks and attach the quarterback. At the same time, he has the strength to anchor against the run, and can shed blocks and make plays between the tackles.
Here he is in action against the best the nation had to offer in 2011: SEC rivals Alabama and South Carolina. Thanks to his performance in games like these, Cox was named first-team All-SEC as a third-year junior. As this suggests, he is still raw; Cox relies too heavily on his natural ability to make plays. Still, he is more polished than the other "big three" defensive tackles. And, he is not only the most NFL-ready, but has considerable upside--his room for growth is comparable to that of the less-refined Brockers and Poe. And he's probably more likely to realize that upside due to his work ethic; Cox is a terrific practice player, and translates that into games, where he works from opening kickoff until final whistle, setting the pace for teammates and wearing down opponents.