I like to think that during the deliberations in the Dallas Cowboys War Room throughout the 2016 NFL Draft that when a tough decision was on the table someone said, "Go with your gut."
The human belly is capable of making some great decisions when under pressure. I mean, how often do you look back at a decision in retrospect and say to yourself, "I should have gone with my gut."?
My gut is nice and full from this year's Draft and it has fully digested everything that went on regarding the nine newest members of America's Team. That's what's so cool about guts - they're diverse. Will McClay, Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, Jason Garrett... their guts were used to decide who to take. My gut is telling me what I think about them, and it's thinking about food at the same time.
Food is one of the greatest pleasures in this world so I figured - why not marry the two? We walked into the 2016 NFL Draft Cafe with empty stomachs and were ready to feast, so I brought perspective to the Draft in a fashion that your gut will really enjoy. That's right, I built a meal out of these Draftees so that you can truly have a "gut reaction."
We're about to have some fun.
Glass Of Water: Dak Prescott, QB, 4th Round, 135th Overall
Alright so we've just sat down at the Draft Table - and we're starving. The very first thing that we see here is a tall glass of water in the form of a quarterback named Dak Prescott (he's 6'2" to be precise).
What makes Dak the glass of water in this meal? Well think about this for a second. We're starving, right? Water isn't exactly what we're craving. We're going to be ordering a drink soon anyway (soda, tea, cocktail, whatever) so the water is really just on standby. We're only going to drink this whenever we're out of our primary drink (like when QB1 is down for instance).
Let's hope that we have great health, uh I mean service, this season and that this water/backup QB isn't ever truly necessary. It's great to have it to lean on in the even that we get really thirsty, though!
Bread For The Table: Charles Tapper, DE, 4th Round, 101st Overall
You've got your glass of water, but I know that you're looking for some actual substance to start scarfing. Here's that beautiful basket of bread that you've been dreaming about the whole drive over to the restaurant.
What makes Charles Tapper the bread in this meal? The Dallas Cowboys faithful are absolutely starving for some help at the defensive end position thanks to the suspensions of Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence. Tapper is the first sign of actual food that is very sorely needed in the extreme absence of some.
Now I'm not trying to overlook Charles as a prospect here. Yes, the presence of any kind of food looks incredible considering how hungry we are, but Tapper is the real deal. According to Dane Brugler's Draft Guide (which you can, and absolutely should, get right here) he has the fastest recorded 40-yard dash time of all the top DEs in the Draft. Slap some butter on that and let's roll (ba-dum-psh!).
Appetizer: Maliek Collins, DT, 3rd Round, 67th Overall
This is the first component of the meal that we're consciously ordering, and by we I mean Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli.
NFL.com's pro comparison for Maliek is Henry Melton, which explains why Rod ordered this dish. It's a situation where we've already gotten something to snack on in the bread, but Rod's been to this restaurant before and swears that this appetizer is the bomb.
Collins gives the Cowboys even more depth at the Defensive Tackle position, and is primarily seen as a three-tech player. We're all going to enjoy the appetizer sure, but Rod is the one who's getting a majority of it and even saving some to eat along with his main dish.
Compliments Of The Chef: Rico Gathers, TE, 6th Round, 217th Overall
We're at the point in the meal where we've started to get a little full, and we kind of forgot what we ordered. Whoops!
In the midst of our food stupor, out comes the waiter carrying a dish that we've never seen before. He drops it off at the table and lets us know that it's "compliments of the chef" chock full of ingredients that we've never really tasted.
A dash of basketball, a pinch of insane physical traits, and a whole lot of haven't-played-competitive-football-in-forever and we've got ourselves a Rico Gathers! This is the dish that we weren't expecting at all, but we will take it and try it out. What's the worst that could happen?
Palate Cleanser: Darius Jackson, RB, 6th Round, 216th Overall
It's almost time for the big show so we need to ready our taste buds, that's where Darius Jackson comes in.
Darius, a product of Eastern Michigan, is coming from a team called the Eagles that sported green and white as their colors... so he's basically improving his life by 100% in that regard.
He's an interesting little treat, similar to a strawberry sorbet, and a quick one at that. According to the Brugler Draft Guide only one running back clocked a faster 40-yard dash than Darius. Suddenly this boring palate cleanser is a little tasty, no?
Ultimately though, Darius is likely a practice squad guy so it makes perfect sense that his role in the meal is to ready us for the main dish.
Main Course: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, 1st Round, 4th Overall
The filet mignon!
This is what we came for: why we made the reservation ahead of time, why we sat in traffic to get to the restaurant, and why we're paying such a big price.
Ezekiel Elliott is the real deal. Forget the fact that he's entering a situation with the Best Offensive Line in the NFL, Top Tier Quarterback, and stud Wide Receiver... even without all of those components this would be one delicious meal.
Coupled with those outstanding side dishes Zeke makes for the perfect main course. We have high expectations, of course, but we know that it's going to deliver. This meal has great reviews and passes all the tests. Grab your fork and let's dig in.
Dessert: Jaylon Smith, OLB, 2nd Round, 34th Overall
Let's be honest with ourselves here... we don't always need dessert. BUT WE WANT IT. WE HAVE TO HAVE IT.
Jaylon Smith is that piece of, hell the whole, chocolate cake that we saw on the back of the menu right when we sat down. We knew that it was impractical to leave room for such a big piece, but the time has come where the waiter asks and we are ordering it. Oh well.
The Jaylon Smith pick is a bit indulgent. There's no denying that. Typically players drafted in the 2nd Round are expected to come in and contribute right away. Jaylon obviously won't fit that bill, so we'll just have to hope that this cake doesn't show up on the scale in the immediate future.
After Dinner Mint: Kavon Frazier, SS, 6th Round, 212th Overall
Our collective gut is approaching a point of ultimate filling by this point. It's nearly impossible to fit any more food in there - this meal has been exquisite.
We do want something for a little later, though. When the waiter comes by with those after dinner mints... we're grateful. That's how we should feel about Kavon Frazier.
This is a player who could very well be a starter in 2017. We're talking about a great run stopper and ability to contribute on special teams. Oh and he can pack quite the punch, just like that spark of mint here.
Toothpick For The Road: Anthony Brown, CB, 6th Round, 189th Overall
We have dined quite nicely, haven't we? The food was excellent from start to finish, and it's about time to head home.
Before we do we need to grab a toothpick, oral hygiene is very important after all! Anthony Brown is the perfect type of toothpick because we want lots of picks from him.
A cornerback isn't totally necessary right now given that the Cowboys haven't let any of theirs go recently, but it never hurts to have more. We want depth, depth, depth... and Anthony Brown helps us clean everything out to keep making room for more.
Cowboys Draft Target: Kentucky CB Lonnie Johnson Jr.
Since Kris Richard has taken over the back-end of the Dallas Cowboys defense, they have clearly shown a bias towards a "type" of cornerback. Richard, looking to build this Dallas unit in a similar form to his Seattle teams, has prioritized long corners both in height and arm length.
As his responsibilities within the organization increase, it's only fair to expect Kris Richard to have more say in who the Cowboys' defense acquires in terms of talent. This means we should anticipate more defensive backs who fit his type, such as Kentucky Wildcats cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr.
So why does Lonnie Johnson fit the mold of what Kris Richard tends to look for? Well, for starters, he is 6'3" and 206 lbs with 32 1/4" arms. He's a long corner with excellent size and the trait profile which indicates he could be the perfect candidate to play cornerback in Dallas.
But while he might look great on paper, the tape is always the most important factor for evaluating and projecting talent. And, for Johnson, the tape isn't all-that great. Despite his length, Johnson struggled mightily in press-man coverage at Kentucky. Too often he is late or ineffective with his hands, leaving him susceptible to being blown by by the opposing receiver. He often loses balance due to poor footwork, and is rather average with his hips and quick change of direction.
Where Johnson was his best in college was in zone coverage, playing his deep third of Kentucky's cover-three look. Rarely did he allow receivers behind him in zone coverage, and displayed good instincts when deciding whether to jump routes or play more conservatively when playing in that deep third. He was not nearly as comfortable underneath, and Kentucky didn't ask him to play in that role too often. Because of how big he is, Johnson is able to contest at the catch point regularly, yet he only deflected 9 passes in 2 years.
What gives me the most hope for Lonnie Johnson as a prospect (besides his length) is his Senior Bowl performance. Johnson impressed daily at the Senior Bowl, looking more comfortable in man coverage and playing much better in his press technique.
Was this Johnson becoming more comfortable over time and a sign of things to come at the next level, or was it an anomaly that we shouldn't read too much into? The answer to that question is up to the individual teams, but his combine performance will play a huge role in how those teams answer.
As I've discussed already, Lonnie Johnson Jr. fits what Kris Richard tends to look for in his cornerbacks. He is long, tall, and relatively athletic, making him a clay piece for a coach like Richard to develop.
The question is, however, how much development can really occur? The highs for Johnson are rather high when he maximizes his natural abilities on the field. But too often he is sloppy in technique, or looks lost in man coverage. Whether or not Richard can "fix" Johnson completely may never be seen, but teams (especially this one) could fall in love with him as a prospect for what he can become if it all comes together.
Cowboys Draft Target: Oklahoma Sooners RB Rodney Anderson
NAME: Rodney Anderson
CONFERENCE: Big 12
POSITION: Running Back
CLASS: RS Junior
JERSEY: No. 24
RECRUITMENT RATING: 4-star
Rodney Anderson || 2017-18 Highlights ᴴᴰ || Oklahoma Like, Comment, and Subscribe for More! Follow my Instagram: @szhighlights Songs: - "Don't Know Me" by Trae Tha Truth - "Better Days" by Trae Tha Truth I do not own any of these highlights or music clips.
Before we get into the player, we should really try to get to know Rodney Anderson the person. He attended Katy High School in Katy, Texas, one of the powerhouse HS football programs in the state. He was a four-star recruit who received offers from Auburn, Baylor, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma. He originally committed to Texas A&M, but changed his mind and decided to go to Oklahoma instead. He had an up-and-down career on the football field at Oklahoma because of injuries, but did graduate with a degree in Arts and Sciences in May 2018 and is pursuing his Master's in Human Relations.
Rodney Anderson has the ideal size and athleticism to become a featured back in the NFL. He shows good patience and vision on film to allow his offensive lineman to secure their blocks before sticking his foot in the ground and exploding through the hole. He runs behind his pads and shows good strength, loose hips, and balance to run through arm tackles. More than capable of picking up those "dirty yards" and is surprisingly slippery as a runner in the open field.
Anderson is capable of playing in a power scheme or a zone heavy scheme like the Dallas Cowboys deploy. He has been featured in a number of rushing concepts including gap/power, read action, and power sweeps. His talent also carries over to the passing game. He possesses soft hands and looks natural catching the ball both out of the backfield and down the field as a receiver. Solid in pass protection, but this is an area of his game where he can improve.
The biggest negative about Rodney Anderson is his injury history at Oklahoma. He is basically a one-year wonder because of three separate season-ending injuries, but bad things happen in three so maybe that's behind him. Durability will be a question mark entering the NFL though.
His vision is sometimes questionable, especially on inside and outside zone reads. Has a tendency to to try to bounce runs to the outside too often or cut back too quickly. Shows good explosiveness, but only average burst through the hole. Seems to have adequate long speed on tape, but is 40 yard dash time will be heavily scrutinized if he's able to run at the NFL Scouting Combine.
In the passing game he needs to improve his route running and pass protection if he wants to be a three-down back in the NFL. The talent is there, just not the production and consistency. Will also have to prove he can be productive against stacked boxes at the next level since he rarely saw any in college due to Oklahoma's spread offense.
If the Dallas Cowboys are looking for a running back capable of being a featured back in the NFL, while also spelling Ezekiel Elliott from time to time, then Rodney Anderson is there guy. His combination of power, balance, explosiveness, and scheme diversity could come in handy as their RB2. Not only would he provide a good insurance policy if the unthinkable were to happen to Zeke, but he could take over if they decide not to give No. 21 a contract extension.
There is a lot to like about Rodney Anderson's game and his ability to contribute in the running and passing game, but he is not by any means a clean prospect. Despite his immense talent, his injury history and lack of consistency in college is bothersome. But, as a mid-round pick the reward far outweighs the risks. Paired with Elliott, the Cowboys could have a formidable one-two punch in their backfield and could pound opposing defenses into submission.
Cowboys Draft Target: South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel
Our search for a new pass catcher for the Cowboys in this years' draft class continues, this time with a wide receiver.
South Carolina's Deebo Samuel put himself on the map with a strong Sophomore season, but fell off a bit due to a severe leg injury early in 2017. After a strong 2018 campaign, and an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, Samuel has played himself back into early Day Two draft discussions.
I don't know that anyone "won" Senior Bowl week more than Deebo Samuel did this January. Samuel, who had to deal with some poor quarterback play throughout his college career, didn't get much of a break in that department either at the Senior Bowl. But, he did show out every day at practice, and seemed to go viral on Twitter at least once a day.
During his actual collegiate season, Samuel finished with 882 yards and 11 touchdowns on 62 catches, solid production especially coming off an injury and playing in a limited offense. Initially in the NFL, Samuel is going to make his money in the slot. He's a shifty yet explosive receiver type than can quickly beat defenders with his speed. He's not the speedster than someone like Marquise Brown is, but he is explosive enough in his own right, especially in terms of short-area quickness.
Samuel isn't someone who will go up and grab the ball consistently, or even make up for inaccurate throws as often as some others might be able to. But he does have reliable hands, and his ability to get open quickly and create separation should give someone like Dak Prescott easy windows to find him in for completions.
What makes Deebo Samuel so fun for me to watch, though, is his ability after the catch. Despite his lack of size, Samuel is tough as nails, and rarely defers out of bounds or avoids contact. He's built well enough to withstand that contact as well, and when he gets free, he's hard to catch and bring down.
Drafting Deebo Samuel 58th overall would be a heck of a haul for the Dallas Cowboys. In need of another playmaker in the passing game, the Cowboys could make immediate use of Samuel's talents in 2019, specifically as a slot receiver.
As has been mentioned ad nauseam, it seems unlikely that Cole Beasley will be returning to the team this season, which makes the need for a slot wide-out that much greater. Samuel has big play ability from the slot already, and has traits which project him to potentially work outside as well. If he tests well enough at the combine, reps on the outside could very well be in his future.
Samuel should be on every Cowboys fans' shortlist of draft targets in the second round this year.
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