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2016 NFL Draft: A look at prospect Jonathan Bullard

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The Arizona Cardinals have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, but could they still find an upgrade? Jonathan Bullard could be that upgrade... eventually

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s always interesting during mock draft season to see what the "experts" think the Arizona Cardinals will be doing on draft day. For every Mike Mayock who is tuned in to the NFL and knows some info, there are 99 other guys who are just winging it, like me. D.J. Humphries wasn’t even on most Cards fans' radars last season. One reason is because he was an offensive tackle and another is because he was a "late riser" who wasn’t going to be able to produce in Year 1 for most teams. Mayock mocked him to AZ, fans mocked Mayock then.

The key with Mayocks mock is simple, he waits until he has ALL the information he can possibly gather, then makes the most educated guesses possible.

Yet, here we are in December, with the Cardinals a Super Bowl favorite and no idea who is actually declaring for the draft, mocking Jonathan Bullard to the Arizona Cardinals.

Putting an athletic, young defensive end across from an aging but still productive Calais Campbell, with two already aged, but still highly productive defensive ends in Frostee Rucker and Cory Redding in front of him seems like an interesting, if not questionable pick. Yet, the Arizona Cardinals are in an unfamiliar spot where they don’t need their first round picks to be immediate producers anymore.

That thought means that a pick, like Bullard, would be a good one, if the player is what the Cards need at the position:

Jonathan Bullard, DT
University of Florida
6-3 283lbs

Bullard was an interesting watch in his games. He’s not a tall prospect at only 6-3, but that hasn’t seemed to negatively impacted his play. Here are what some people I spoke with had to say.

I like Bullard's disruption from both inside and on the edge. He's quicker than guards, smoother and stronger than most tackles. I see him getting too caught up in just his individual battle at times, but that can be coached to some extent. He's an odd size at 6'3" and 285. That's not long enough to play a 7-8-9 tech in NFL, and pretty light to play inside. Arm length isn't optimal either. But he consistently beat up future NFL blockers for Florida and how he wins absolutely translates to the next level

The idea of size is something that many people stumble on too often, but it is something that is a concern when you talk about interior defensive players. I don’t think Bullard's length is an issue, so we disagree there, but he does seem to win with his short area burst, his ability to get into his defender then disengage. He’s an athletic defender and a disruptor, but also flashes strength to jolt and punish blockers. His balance and change of direction though, that’s what I think can make Bullard a special player.

If Bullard was a more complete/consistent as a pass rusher, then the Aaron Donald comps would be fitting. His first step is unreal. When you combine his quickness off the ball and how he transitions that into power Bullard is a handful to deal with. The reason why I say he can be more complete is because he relies on his bullrush a little too much. At the next level he isn't going to be able to out muscle every NFL OL he faces. I keep track of "wins" which is just how it sounds, and in the 4 games I watched Bullard "won" 26 times and only 6 of those "wins" came on non bullrushes. If Bullard can develop literally any other move, like a quick arm over, or a rip through, he's going to take his game to another level.

Bullard played left defensive end, played in the A-gap over either center's shoulder, and was serviceable in both spots. Bullard did most of his damage lined up as a 3 technique where he would be lined up over the outside shoulder of the guard and he would overwhelm them with either his quickness or power. If you put Bullard in a 1-gap scheme he has star potential, even without being fully developed as a pass rusher. He was that good this last year against the run. He's just a smart football player. If the guard in front of him pulls, Bullard knows to replace the guard without getting too far up field. When it's a run his way Bullard showed that he could consistently make first contact, fully extend and lock OL out, then shed them to make the tackle.

I also like how he locates the ball carrier.

Because Bullard does have the versatility to play all over the line of scrimmage and be successful I wouldn't argue anyone who wanted to take him in the first round. His lack of pass rush moves and lateral range are fair to question. I understand that he is undersized at 283 pounds but if you didn't know that and just watched him play you'd have no problem with his size. He plays that strong. If you don't want to take someone who is polished as a pass rusher that high, that's also fair. But you can't undersell a dominant run defender with this type of athleticism. It happened with Vikings rookie Danielle Hunter last year, so hopefully the NFL doesn't make the same mistake

I’ll usually shoot for three opinions on a guy, but my buddy got wordy on this one, but he also hammered home the point on Bullard that I think many will miss over the next several months. He’s a potential star, but his floor is a solid defensive end with the ability to line up anywhere along a 3 or 4 man front and be effective. His versatility should push him up boards, but the fact that he wins in so many ways is what the selling point of Bullard really is.

You’re talking about a defensive lineman whose functional strength and short area burst are both pluses, while his minus is his overall build -- not that he is small, just that his size is not "ideal". He does look like he can add some weight if needed, but even without it, he looks like a starting 3/5t who can win consistently against the run with pass rush upside. That should make him an intriguing fit in Arizona immediately.