While the Cowboys drafted DeVonte Holloman in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, they actually had another linebacker rated higher on their board: Arizona State’s Brandon Magee. Dallas opted for Holloman because they figured Magee had a chance to go undrafted, and they were right. The ‘Boys liked Magee enough to give him $70,000 guaranteed—more money than any seventh-round pick from 2012 received.
So why did Magee go undrafted? Well, at 5-11, 223 pounds, he’s the size of a safety. Magee is much like Holloman in that no 3-4 team would give him consideration. Magee also tested relatively poorly with a 4.68 40-yard dash, 9-6 broad jump, and 4.68 short shuttle. In comparison, Holloman’s short shuttle was 4.26. Another reason Magee went undrafted is that he suffered an Achilles tear in 2011, missing the entire season.
I watched all of Magee’s snaps against Oregon and he definitely has trouble holding up at the point. He can’t get off of blocks and once a lineman is on him, it’s over. Further, Magee doesn’t have the quickness to get around blockers with speed. He’s an aggressive player who flies downhill to make plays, and he appears to read plays well. I like that he’s an instinctual player, but he has limitations as an athlete.
Magee played primarily middle linebacker at Arizona State, but he’ll have to play the Will in the NFL. That’s a positive for him because he’s at his best when he can chase down ball-carriers from behind. When Oregon ran right at Magee, they had success, but the linebacker made some plays when he wasn’t at the point.
What I Like
I like what the Cowboys are doing in trying to get smaller. By all accounts, it seems as though they’re going to field an extremely undersized defense—perhaps the lightest in the NFL. That could work out in their favor if they can force offenses to run the ball too much. In most cases, a defense should want an offense to run the ball on first-and-10, second-and-five, and in similar situations.
What I Don’t Like
Magee is so small that there almost seems to be no point in using him at linebacker over a safety. There are a few safeties in the league taller and heavier than Magee, so why not just play one of them as an outside linebacker in situations when Magee would be on the field? The reason is that Magee isn’t particularly explosive for his size. A lineup with Matt Johnson and J.J. Wilcox at safety and Barry Church at linebacker would probably be superior to one with an undersized linebacker who lacks safety-like coverage skills.
Re-Grade: Seventh Round
Should Magee have gotten drafted? It’s close, but I’m not certain why the Cowboys paid him so much money as a free agent.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.