Round 2, Pick 58
Gerald Willis III
At 6’2” 280 lbs, Gerald Willis III fits one role and one role alone on the Dallas Cowboys: The 3-technique defensive tackle. Luckily for Dallas, that’s the only D-line position they’re expected to be interested in on Day 2 of the Draft.
As explained in the related article above, the 3-tech DT (or under tackle) is the key component in this Rod Marinelli defensive line. This one-gap penetrator is meant to explode off the ball and make plays in the backfield. Willis is that guy.
For a man this size, Gerald Willis is abnormally quick and nimble. Big guys aren’t supposed to move like him and still be that strong. His different scouting reports also note his aggressive pursuit to the ball. He chases passers and ball carriers alike and shouldn’t be seen as just a pass-rusher.
With that said, he’s clearly not a run-stuffer and should be seen more as a splash play kind of talent (4 sacks and an impressive 18 tackles for loss) in 2018.
Willis’ consistency is an issue as is his technique (likely to be related). While he’s only 6’2”, he still loses leverage wars from time to time. Scouts are saying he explodes “up” rather than explodes “out”. But since the ability to explode is the rare trait, and technique can be taught, this an extremely workable problem to have. Especially if you have a guy like Rod Marinelli.
Willis has some off-the-field red-flags that prompted him to transfer from Florida to Miami and then sit out the 2017 season on a leave of absence. But Willis stayed out of trouble in his 2018 season and he played like one of the best under tackles in the country.
If not for the depth of the class and his off-the-field issues, Willis is a clear first round player. Interviews will be huge as to whether or not the Dallas Cowboys consider him here (I didn’t find any record of drug use for what it’s worth), but he has a chance to be an even better pro player than he was in college and Rod Marinelli could do this kid wonders.
Note: The temptation is there to draft the recently injured Jeffery Simmons here. But since it’s wild speculation to have his new value end up here, I’m resisting the urge. Simmons is someone the Dallas Cowboys should be interested in and someone we’ll be addressing in come days, weeks, months.