Prospect focus: Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox

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Going back to the start of the 2011 season I had heard rumblings that Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox could be entering the draft as a junior. The rumors turned out to be true as Cox is one of over 50 underclassmen in this draft.

Cox is a third-year junior and played just about every defensive line position this past season. He put up good numbers as he totaled 56 total tackles and 5 sacks. He has been a starter the past two seasons and got in every game as a backup in his true freshman year.

Coming out of high school, Cox was rated as a 4-star recruit and was offered by most of the top Southeast powers such as Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi. What was interesting was he was listed as a 240-pound defensive end with sub 4.5 speed. I don’t know if that was really the case but scouts now estimate his size at 6-4 and 300 with 4.85 speed. We will learn his true measurables within the next few days when he works out at the Combine.

As a player, Cox has a lot to offer. Besides having excellent size and speed for the position, he is a very good athlete who has balance and quick change of direction. He gets off the ball quickly and flashes a very good first step. He can get tall, but with his power he can consistently get a push. At this time he is best as a run stopper. He can be a little slow getting off of blocks but he has good instincts and finds the ball. He plays hard every snap and shows very good hustle when chasing the ball. His pursuit angles are very good. He wins most one on one’s and handles double team blocks well.

He doesn’t have a lot of production as a pass rusher, with only 5 sacks this year, but he gets his share of pressures and hits. What he lacks as a pass rusher is top hand use to get rid of blockers quickly. This also affects his ability to make counter moves. Once clear of the block he shows a good closing burst to the quarterback.

Overall, Cox is still a work in progress. He is a young player, being a true junior. While he needs to stay low on a consistent basis and develop his hand use and moves, he has all the natural physical tools to excel once he learns. You can’t teach or coach what he has naturally and that gives him the edge over many players. He will go in the first round and play early in his career. Because of his physical traits he is not limited to scheme. He can play as a 5-technique in a 3-man front, can play defensive tackle in a 4-man front and even left end in some 4-3 schemes. His position versatility will give him an advantage over some other players when it comes time to pick.

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