The Dallas Cowboys drafted Boilermaker Ryan Russell as the 27th pick in the fifth round of the NFL draft on Saturday and was the 163rd player taken overall. Russell was previously expected to go later in the draft, in rounds 6 or 7, but had an outstanding combine back in February. I said in my column after his performance at the combine that I thought he had improved his stock significantly and would go in the fifth round and that was proven to be correct today.
At 6'4", 269 lbs, Russell has the body of an NFL defensive end. He has long arms and a quick first step that NFL scouts love. The problem is that those physical attributes haven't been backed up by statistics on the field.
Russell started all four of his years in West Lafayette. After promising freshman and sophomore years saw him tally five sacks, he was only able to take down the quarterback five more times total during his junior and senior years. He finished last season with 6.5 tackles for a loss as well as one forced fumble. His four-year totals at Purdue include 149 tackles, 25 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. Those numbers aren't going to turn a lot of heads, but that's not why Dallas drafted him. They picked Ryan based on his potential.
NFL scouts are saying that they love his speed, power, and size. They also say that he is raw, lacks toughness, and has bad technique with poor awareness. Are these things that can be corrected at the next level? Will Russell finally reach his true potential with the Cowboys? Time will tell, but we wish Ryan luck in his journey and hope he finds success with this next step.