Draft season is my favorite time of the year for a countless amount of reasons. Well before the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, draft scouts everywhere have been grinding college football film to rank the prospects available in this 2018 NFL Draft class. Each year, this pool of talent has the chance to define the future of the league and its franchises - from perennial losers to proud organizations looking to sustain success.
The Dallas Cowboys are currently somewhere in the middle of these two points, a 9-7 team with a real chance to take significant strides towards contending in the NFC East with a great draft.
As our staff here at Inside The Star continues to profile the draft prospects that we feel would constitute a "great draft", I also want to begin looking at weekly mock drafts to measure where other members of the media are on the Cowboys' needs.
Fully into offseason mode now, here are a few possibilities for the Cowboys with the 19th overall pick.
Bleacher Report: Maurice Hurst, DT - Michigan
The Dallas Cowboys drafting another defensive lineman out of Michigan is a hypothetical pick that won't be going away anytime soon. Staff Writer Kevin Brady already scouted how Hurst would fit the Dallas Cowboys for us here.
In Matt Miller's own words from this mock draft, here is how he describes Maurice Hurst:
"Hurst is fantastic at generating pressure from the middle of the defensive line with his quickness and leverage."
I have yet to come around on Maurice Hurst as the dominant DT prospect that most see him as right now. Currently in the second round on my 2018 NFL Draft Board, there is no denying that Hurst's talents would fill a pretty obvious need in Dallas.
The Cowboys appear set on having Maliek Collins move forward playing the 1T position, which leaves restricted free agent David Irving as the primary 3T.
When he is on the field, Irving is one of the most disruptive forces in the entire league from the interior. Playing in a rotation with a physical beast like Hurst would only help the entire Cowboys defensive line though, as the Michigan product flashes rather consistently as a tough-to-move run defender with the power and burst to get after quarterbacks.
I believe the Cowboys can likely get better value out of the 19th overall pick, but Maurice Hurst would be a nice addition.
Wide receiver is another position that will likely be featured prominently in every mock draft for the Cowboys. Add in the local appeal for Sutton joining the Cowboys by way of SMU, and this fit appears to make a lot of sense.
Every time I watch a new WR in this 2018 draft class, I come away with two realizations:
- They are a better football player than Courtland Sutton.
- The depth of this WR class should steer the Cowboys away from drafting one in the first round.
Shockingly, the Cowboys like to draft players that will see the field a ton as rookies in the first round. With Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams already under contract for 2018, it would be difficult for this team to justify a WR with the 19th overall pick - despite their need at the position.
With better options available deeper in this draft, Courtland Sutton is exactly the target the Cowboys don't need to make their offense more "Dak-friendly". Relying on his size and athleticism to win in the air, Sutton does little to fill the Cowboys' need for a pass catcher that can separate from coverage while beating defenses over the top.
If I'm the Dallas Cowboys, Sutton is a player I'm letting any other team be happy about drafting come April.
CBS Sports: Rashaan Evans, LB - Alabama
The Eagles' Super Bowl championship was salt in the wounds of Cowboys Nation - especially considering the nature of how Philadelphia overcome key injuries to prevail as champions.
The Cowboys' failure to do exactly what the Eagles did this season is the reason they missed the playoffs, and one of their most noticeable absences was LB Sean Lee. Not getting any younger (or healthier), the Cowboys are looking ahead to Jaylon Smith leading the way at linebacker for a long time.
Addressing the depth of this front seven is something the Cowboys must do though, especially with LB Anthony Hitchens set to hit free agency.
"Evans may not have the speed to be an All-Pro type in the NFL, yet his play-recognition skills are sharp, and he's everywhere on runs between the tackles."
There are a lot of things I hate about this pick at 19th overall for the Cowboys. Alabama's defense is known for producing top-end talent in the NFL, but Rashaan Evans is much closer to a depth player at the next level than he is superstar.
So long as Sean Lee projects to be the Cowboys' starting WILL LB in 2018, finding a spot for a rookie linebacker to play alongside Lee and Smith is difficult. While Evans (who does project best as a WILL) could use a solid starter playing ahead of him to start his NFL career, he is simply not worth a top 20 pick in this draft.
Evans is a sure tackler that diagnoses plays hastily, but lacks some of the athletic traits needed to finish as many plays as you'd like a first round pick to make. Out of the three mocked draft picks featured here, Rashaan Evans at #19 would easily be the most disappointing outcome for the Cowboys.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Cowboys will do their best to not enter the 2018 NFL Draft with any glaring holes in the roster. Viewed nationally as a talented team in need of depth in some important areas, mock drafts gifting the Cowboys a new DT, DE, LB, or WR in the first round will be a staple of this draft season.
Early on in the process, this draft class is best described as one without a definitive five or ten best players - instead featuring a deep pool or ready-made starters that will help a lot of teams next season.
This is music to the Dallas Cowboys' ears, not only for the first round but later on in the draft as well.
DT Maurice Hurst, WR Courtland Sutton, and LB Rashaan Evans can all help this team as rookies. The value the Cowboys get out of each prospect may vary wildly, but this initial look at national Cowboys' mock drafts remains a helpful resource in the tedious process that is year-to-year roster building in the NFL.
Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?
The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.
But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.
Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.
Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.
First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.
On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.
What about the rest of the class?
Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.
After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.
How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?
One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.
Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.
But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.
Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.
Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.
Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.
One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.
In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.
Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?
Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.
The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.
Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.
Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.
For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.
Why Cowboys Nation Should Feel Better About Leighton Vander Esch
A week ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell walked out to the stage at AT&T Stadium to announce the Dallas Cowboys first pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. For the second consecutive year, a large portion of Cowboys Nation was not pretty happy about the player America's Team had drafted in the first day of the Draft.
Boise State's Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has become one of the main debates among Cowboys fans right now and will continue to be one at least until the season starts. Some are fine with the decision the front office made and some simply don't view Vander Esch as a first round talent.
Naturally, taking Leighton in the first round has been widely compared to the team's last first round pick: Taco Charlton.
Both of these selections resulted in fans all around the world complaining and criticizing the selections since they both seemed like a reach, arguing that they could've gotten better players at other positions.
But fans shouldn't be so quick to compare the Charlton and Vander Esch selections, because they really aren't that similar. Sure, most of the media and Draft fans didn't consider any of these players worthy of a first round pick, but that doesn't mean both players were ranked similarly in the Cowboys' draft board.
Defensive End Taco Charlton, despite showing some very promising flashes towards the end of the year, wasn't able to become a starter at any point during his rookie season. Hopefully he develops into one next season. But when you're talking about first-round picks, being a solid starter at the end of the season at the latest is a very usual expectation.
Possibly what made the Taco pick hurt even more, is the fact that the front office didn't even consider him a first-round talent. Although he was drafted to wear the Star with the 28th overall pick, he wasn't their guy.
The #Cowboys had three first-round grades on DEs, but Taco Charlton wasn't one of them.
With Leighton Vander Esch, the same can't be said. The Cowboys knew he was their guy and that they were going to take him, regardless of the situation. For many weeks we wondered about just every scenario the team might face when they were on the clock.
What if DE Harold Landry is available? What if Calvin Ridley is still on the board? What if Derwin James slides, would they trade up?
For the front office, there was quite a lot of talent to choose from at 19 (not to mention James did slide out of the top 15), but they still took Leighton Vander Esch, even with Landry and Ridley on the board. We might disagree with the pick. We might not think the Boise State's product should've been taken so early. That's completely fine.
But Cowboys Nation should be happy knowing that this was the guy they wanted all along. Maybe if Derwin James hadn't been drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers with the 17th pick, Dallas would have still taken Vander Esch.
"If the Cowboys traded up a few spots in the first round, I believe it would have been to ensure they got Vander Esch, not get James or Edmunds." Dane Brugler on the Cowboys' approach to the Draft.
For now, it's time to root for the Dallas Cowboys' new rookie. Vander Esch will provide a special factor to this defense and has the potential to become a very good starter down the road. Playing side by side with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith will certainly help his development and turn him into an impact player soon.
At the end of the day, it takes years to properly evaluate how a draft pick turned out in the NFL. There are first round players who turn out to be complete busts just like there are sixth or seventh round players that go on to become superstars in the league.
The Dallas Cowboys did a hell of a job addressing their needs throughout the Draft this year and there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about this year's draft picks. Leighton Vander Esch is without a doubt, one of them.
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