AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Quarterback Barrett Trotter #14 of the Auburn Tigers throws a pass while under pressure from defensive lineman Fletcher Cox #94 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the first quarter on September 10, 2011 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
Before the massive cuts on Friday, the Colts were already a team in desperate need. Now? They're really desperate. One of the greatest needs in the draft is a lane-clogging nose tackle that will be the anchor of Chuck Pagano's 3-4 scheme. Dontari Poe was my favorite, but after a very strong Combine, Poe won't be around long enough for the Colts to get lucky.
But, all hope isn't lost. Another extremely versatile defensive tackle could be available at #34. His name?
Fletcher Cox of Mississippi State.
Cox is one of those freak athletes who can be valuable in a variety of schemes (big-time 3T with 5T talent). Cox is a true junior who spent three years as a starter. It's safe to say that he made an immediate impact, appearing in 12 games (started 4) as a true freshmen. Viewed as one of the best defensive linemen in the SEC, Cox posted 6.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks in his sophomore effort. He then followed it up with First-Team All-SEC accolades from the AP and Second-Team honors from coaches in 2011.
This is a guy that has a huge frame which could comfortably add more weight. He doesn't possess prototypical width down low for an interior linemen, but he's extremely quick off the ball and can make splash plays on the inside. Cox's strength in his upper body and excellent use of his hands allows him to get into the backfield as quick as any prospect in the draft. He's a very good tackler and is very fluid in his movement. His athleticism is undeniable and absolutely speaks to his exceptional versatility. Viewed as a run stopper first and pass rusher second, Cox is very efficient when one-on-one and can handle the double-team (dwarfed at times). Cox is very good at using his hands to slide off blockers and latch onto the ball carrier.
Cox does tend to get high off the ball, allowing linemen to get under his pads and knock him back. This is probably Cox's biggest weakness, but can certainly be refined through coaching. This also inhibits his ability as an outside pass rusher. He is fairly raw and can sometimes take himself out of plays due to bad technique. Works best in space and his natural athleticism makes him an automatic favorite when he stays low.
Being a true junior, Cox is young and underdeveloped. However, with his athleticism and freakish ability as a big man, further coaching in the NFL will only be a compliment to his already strong skills. It's hard to see Cox escaping the first round with such immense upside. He's a incredibly quick (4.79 40), strong, agile tackle that can serve as an immediate contributor at the next level. IF he's there at #34, I would grab him. In two years, this is a guy that could be the anchor of your defense up front. Too much talent to pass up, in my opinion.
I think his best spot might be as a 34 five technique who is able to penetrate and make plays off the ball. He's raw and needs to learn to play with his pad level lower. However, as a potential five technique he's a guy who has the skill set to earn a starting role.
Big, smart, athletically gifted, ascending talent with terrific movement skills, disruptive ability and versatility to play different schemes and techniques. Has shown steady improvement and has big upside as a three-technique with three-down utility.