He relies heavily on his natural ability to make splash plays and has a major upside.
He can snap his hips into the offensive line to get a blow-back effect and is equally as fluid to dip and rip his hips around would-be tacklers and get into the backfield.
Cox has very active hands that he uses efficiently to keep blockers off him. He is a serious athlete at the position who would immediately bolster the front of any defense and would work well in a rotation to be a fresh, impact player on passing downs.
As such, NFL teams are suddenly on the lookout for defensive linemen tall and athletic enough to provide some pressure from the outside, but strong enough to hold up in the middle. In Cox, a still-growing three-year starter out of the SEC, teams see a player capable of starring in both roles.
A highly-touted high school prospect who turned down the likes of LSU, Alabama and Auburn, Cox was an immediate standout for the Bulldogs, appearing in all 12 games as a true freshman and starting four games on his way toward earning Freshman all-conference accolades from the league coaches.
Cox matched the 29 tackles he posted in 2009 a year later, but showed improvement in making big plays, posting 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and two blocked kicks after posting 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack and one blocked kick as a freshman.
Though suspended for the season opening game of his junior season, the talented defensive lineman emerged as one of the SEC's best in 2011, earning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors four times as well as Second-Team All-SEC accolades from coaches and First-Team All-SEC honors from the Associated Press.
Capable of lining up inside as a defensive tackle or outside as a strong-side defensive end, Cox has the size, strength and athleticism to fit in any NFL defense. Considering his youth and upside, don't be surprised if a team is forced to invest a first-round pick to acquire his services.
Pass Rush: Good quickness off the snap. Attacks gaps, getting skinny to slip past interior linemen when lining up as a defensive tackle. Enough speed to challenge the shoulders of strong-side tackles when lining up as a defensive end.
Does not possess the explosiveness and flexibility to turn the corner efficiently, however, limiting his pass rush potential on the outside. Developing pass rush technique, including a swim move, but does not use this often enough.
Relies almost exclusively on his bull rush. Generates an explosive pop to knock his opponent back onto his heels. Possesses the lateral agility to take advantage of the unbalanced offensive lineman to run around him and collapse the pocket.
Run Defense: Good size and power, though Cox struggles with leverage, at times. Can be blown off the ball when double-teamed as he currently lacks prototypical width and thickness in his lower body for an interior defender.
Cox does appear to have the frame to add an additional 10-15 pounds. Good upper-body strength and quick hands to disengage from the one-on-one block. Penetrates gaps and locates the football quickly.
Slides off of blocks to latch onto ballcarriers as they attempt to run by. Alert defender who recognizes the trap block and possesses enough quickness to beat his opponent to the spot. Lacks the sustained speed to chase down ballcarriers, but puts good effort into his lateral pursuit.
Explosion: Varies his burst off the snap, but does not possess true explosiveness in his get-off. Among his best assets, however, is his strong upper body. Attacks blockers with an explosive pop, which allows him to disengage quickly.
Strength: Naturally strong man who is still learning to use his power to his advantage. Good to very good upper-body strength and leg drive to push his opponent deep into the pocket. Good strength as a drag-down tackler, as well. Does negate his own strength, on occasion, due to a high pad level.
Tackling: High effort player who locates the football and pursues laterally and downfield. An effective drag-down tackler due to his upper-body strength. Surprisingly light on his feet showing an ability to adjust to elusive ballcarriers in close quarters. Closes quickly and wraps up well, but isn't an explosive hitter likely to knock the ball free. Has forced just two fumbles in three seasons of action.
Intangibles: Naturally large man with plenty of room for additional growth. Appears to be just scratching the surface of his physical potential, though he has three years of starting experience in the SEC. Blocked four kicks from 2009-11. Was suspended for the 2011 season-opener (Memphis), along with four other Bulldogs, for an undisclosed violation of team rules."
Has the first step to cross the face of defenders consistently and threaten gaps off the ball inside. Is at his best stopping plays before they start by knifing his way into the backfield and fighting his way through contact.
However, gets too upright off the ball allowing defenders to get under his frame and seal him from the action on trap blocks with too much ease. Isn't overly instinctive as well when asked to find the football and takes himself out of his fair share of plays. Also, needs to do a better job getting off the snap count on time.
Has experience both as a three and five technique. When asked to play the perimeter run game does a much better job extending his arms into contact and has the body control to simply fend off blocks and shed through the play. The more space he's in the better off he is because he can use his athleticism to shed.
However, inside he tends to get washed up in the action too often vs. the run game. More of a one-gap guy in the pass game. Can cross the face of defenders inside and use his length to keep himself clean. However, he gets upright off the ball, which takes away from his power/balance when trying to fight through contact or slip laterally.
Isn't a real sudden pass rusher despite his athleticism. Can side step blocks when stunting from the outside, but through contact his balance/quickness is taken away from him because of pad level.
Also, his power on his bull rush is negated because he stands upright into contact, looking to simply lower his head at the point and doesn't keep his legs under him.
Impression: I think his best spot might be as a 34 five technique who is able to penetrate and make plays off the ball. He's raw and needs to learn to play with his pad level lower. However, as a potential five technique he's a guy who has the skill set to earn a starting role."
Gets some push on the bull rush and can beat linemen with good inside moves, gets good pop on his hand punch, natural power and length and very good upper body strength...
Extends his arms and uses his hands well to disengage in one-on-one situations, violent player who can knock linemen off balance, establishes leverage and can penetrate the line of scrimmage...
Plays with good balance, seldom on the ground, solid lateral mobility and does a reasonably good job redirecting, can beat running backs to the spot on wide running plays... Good vision, locates the football, slips blocks very well, does a solid job in the stack and shed game; is more of a drag-down tackler than a wrap-up and drive through tackler...
Plays with a lot of physicality and energy and has a mean streak, hustles to make plays in pursuit... Has used his long arms to block five field goals in his career, including two in each of the past two seasons... Very intriguing combination of size, athleticism and power and it wouldn't be a surprise if Cox goes off the board late in the first round...
A three-year starter for Mississippi State with the versatility to play inside in a 4-3 or defensive end in a 3-4, best fit would be as a 5-technique in a 3-man front... Has a lot of upside and is just scratching the surface of his potential.
Negatives -- A bit of an inconsistent get-off, can be a step late at times... Not a natural pass rusher from the outside, lacks the flexibility to dip his shoulder around the corner and can't consistently threaten the edge...
Slightly undersized to play inside at the next level, would need to add 10 pounds to be considered full time on the interior, but has the frame to add some additional weight...
Doesn't always get off blocks when engaged, needs to improve functional strength and play with better leverage to take on double teams in the NFL, high pad level can negate his strength, can be washed out of plays when he gets too upright, loses strength and becomes a non-factor versus the run...
Was suspended, along with four others, for the 2011 season opener vs. Memphis for an undisclosed violation of team rules."