Georgia Tech’s offense gets the lion’s share of publicity, both for the option attack’s uniqueness in major college football and for its occasional production of NFL receivers despite the lack of consistent opportunities it provides for players like Demaryius Thomas and Stephen Hill. But don’t count out Yellow Jackets defenders like Cross in making an impact at the next level; his versatility and athleticism make him a potential inside or outside contributor on the defensive line, depending upon what playing weight his new teams thinks he’ll be most effective.
Considered one of the top defensive end prospects in the country coming out of Flowery Branch, Georgia (13 sacks as a senior), Cross got on the field for 13 games, starting two, as a true freshman (10 tackles, 2.5 for loss). He started every game in both his sophomore (41 tackles, 6.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks, four pass break-ups) and junior (32 tackles, one for loss, four pass break-ups) seasons.
Good combination of size, length, and athleticism allows him to line up at any spot on the front. Holds the line against single blocks and stands his ground against doubles. Solid one-gap run defender inside, keeping his eyes in the backfield and working through block to latch onto the ballcarrier. Flashes spin move outside to get free, and will destroy tight ends with power one-on-one. Uses a shimmy or arm-over move inside to win the gap against leaning guards. Gets his hands into passing lane when unable to reach the quarterback. Strong upper-body and good length make it tough for ballcarriers to run through tackles once he’s latched on. Plays with attitude through the whistle, doesn’t back down from challenges.
Might be a three/five –technique ‘tweener for some teams, lacking pure size as an interior presence and explosion as an edge pass rusher. Needs to pop off blocks more consistently using his long arms and a strong punch. Won’t make many plays outside the box with average closing speed. Doesn’t break down reguarly to make tackles, can be easily eluded in the backfield or in space by pro-caliber
Statistically, Cross isn’t the most impressive of defensive line prospects (32 tackles, one for loss, in 2011). But he plays all across the line for the Yellow Jackets, does have the initial quickness and overall physical tools to succeed at the next level as a reserve 3-4 defensive end or 4-3 tackle, depending on how much weight his new team will ask him to carry to be most effective in their system.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.