With the end of the NFL season in sight, it is time to focus on one of the better stages of the offseason: The NFL Draft. If your favorite team did not make, or caught an early exit from the playoffs, more than likely GMs and scouts are already working day and night on a plan to improve their team's fortune. We take a look at the teams in the draft with the top 10 picks and project what the team needs and who they could draft.
#1. Tennessee Titans
Pick: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
When you have the #1 pick of the NFL draft that typically means you need help at the quarterback position or help all over the field. In the Titans case, they need help all across the board on offense, other than the aforementioned quarterback spot. A great place to start is by grabbing the best Left Tackle in the draft to protect the face of the franchise in Marcus Mariota.
Yes, Tennessee does have Taylor Lewan and he is a solid player but he is best suited playing at the Right Tackle spot. When you give up 105 QB hits and a league high 54 sacks and your QB has to miss playing time because of that, you need to make that change to maximize not only the talent on the line, but give a guy like Mariota more time to work with.
#2. Cleveland Browns
Pick: Jared Goff, QB, Cal
Like Tennessee, the Browns need help across the board on offense and defense. Cleveland ranked one of the worst in every major stat on both sides of the ball so any kind of pick will be an instant upgrade. However, with the addition of Hue Jackson at head coach and Johnny Manziel apparently heading out the door (Jackson doesn't want him around), it would only make too much sense to draft the best signal caller in Jared Goff.
The highly touted prospect has drawn comparisons to another Cal QB in Aaron Rodgers and as crazy as it may sound, that isn't a far-fetched statement after throwing for 4,252 yards and 37 TD passes. Goff can make every throw you want in an NFL pocket passer and has the mental capacity to bring life into a lifeless offense (which is Cleveland).
Pairing him with Hue Jackson is a great start to turning around a horrific offense.
#3. San Diego Chargers
Pick: Joey Bosa, DE/OLB, Ohio State
A tackle here would have been ideal for San Diego but since I had Tunsil going #1, I'll put Joey Bosa here instead. The Chargers run a 3-4 defense but Bosa has the kind of versatility that could have him playing both DE and the pass rushing 3-4 OLB position. Bosa can bring an immediate impact to a defense that ranked 24th in sacks and 27th against the run and wasn't very good at producing turnovers. This would also make sense because Melvin Ingram not only had a tough time staying healthy, he is entering a contract year.
#4. Dallas Cowboys
Pick: Jalen Ramsey, S/CB, Florida State
It's no secret that the Cowboys have been having issues in the secondary for some time now. They addressed it with their first round pick in 2015 by picking the versatile Byron Jones. While Jones enjoyed a pretty good rookie season, there are still holes to be filled. Orlando Scandrick is coming off a knee injury, Mo Claiborne is a free agent, Brandon Carr could be a cap casualty, and Dallas still needs that playmaker at safety. Enter Jalen Ramsey, regarded by some as one of the more talented and versatile players in the draft.
He can play either the Cornerback or Safety spot and bring an immediate impact on a defense that went from 2nd in forced turnovers (2014) to the worst in 2015. Like Jones, Ramsey can line up all over the field and make a difference. He can also get after the Quarterback on blitzes and is pretty good against the run. A talent like this is hard to pass up.
#5. Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Protect your investment. What I mean by that is if you have a young franchise QB, you should have a young franchise Left Tackle to protect him.
At this point in the draft, Ronnie Stanley is the best at his position and can help stabilize a line that gave up 51 sacks. Luke Joeckel was supposed to be that cornerstone left tackle but has been underwhelming to say the least. Moving him around on the line could help but he isn't suited to be a left tackle. With Stanley, Jacksonville would be getting one of the better (if not the best) pass protectors in the draft.
#6. Baltimore Ravens
Pick: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
I almost went with a pass catcher here because the Ravens need to start thinking about life after Steve Smith soon. On the other hand, when your defense is dead last in interceptions (6 during the season), it makes addressing the secondary the #1 priority.
Vernon Hargreaves III has been considered the best cover corner in this draft since he stepped foot at Florida. Although he had a rough finish to the season, he was still arguably the best shut down corner in the nation. He will bring much-needed help to this secondary.
#7. San Francisco 49ers
Pick: DeForest Buckner, DE/DT, Oregon
The first season without Jim Harbaugh saw the 49ers defense ranked near the bottom of the NFL in sacks and run defense (29th in both) last season. With that being said, Buckner would be a nice fit in the 49ers 3-4 defense. At his size (6'7, 290) and his ability to rush the passer and to stop the run, he would be an instant upgrade to the defense. He's drawn comparisons to Calais Campbell; I wouldn't be surprised to see him match his productivity in the long run.
#8. Miami Dolphins
Pick: Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA
Myles Jack is one of the most talented players in this draft after playing both ways at UCLA as a running back and linebacker. Before his knee injury, Jack might have been a top-5 pick in this draft and even so, there is still a chance he can be.
The Dolphins need help behind the front line of their defense and drafting Jack will add talent and depth to a much-needed spot.
Although he can play all 3 LB spots, he is better fitted playing on the outside where he can rush the passer, cover running backs and tight ends, and even some receivers. He is that talented and can be a playmaker in a defense that needs more.
#9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
In a division with QBs like Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Matt Ryan, you can never have enough pass rushers, but the Bucs really don't seem to have enough of them. Gerald McCoy led the team with 8.5 sacks and Jacquies Smith was second with 7. Other than those two, there wasn't much of a pass rush.
Shaq Lawson is arguably the best pass rusher in this draft class who is also capable of making plays in the back field versus the run. Before his injury against Oklahoma, Lawson was making a living in the backfield, he was doing the same against an also pretty good Alabama offensive line in the championship game.
#10. New York Giants
Pick: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Ranked last in pass defense and 25th in yards per attempt, the Giants also might be losing their best cover corner in Prince Amukamara due to free agency. The quickest way to not only replace, but upgrade from him is to draft the shutdown corner out of Clemson. Mackensie Alexander had a great season for the Tigers before re-injuring his hamstring in the title game against Alabama. Alexander will bring swagger and an immediate impact to a defense that is in need of a true #1 cornerback.
Have the Dallas Cowboys Overcome Their 2nd-Round Curse?
You may not be aware or maybe you've simply forgotten, but the Dallas Cowboys have struggled drafting players in the 2nd-round who can come in and contribute. Typically players drafted this highly are not only immediate contributors as a rookie, but are cornerstone players for years to come. That hasn't been the case for the Cowboys.
I don't know where you stand, but I was beginning to think the Dallas Cowboys were cursed with their 2nd-round draft picks. I know this was an area where they would gamble on players for some reason or another, but unfortunately it never really paid off. Hopefully, things are changing for the better.
Let's take a look back at past drafts to see what I'm talking about.
Past 2nd-Round Draft Picks Dating Back to 2006:
2018 Connor Williams
2017 Chidobe Awuzie
2016 Jaylon Smith
2015 Randy Gregory
2014 DeMarcus Lawrence
2013 Gavin Escobar
2012 (no selection) used to trade for Morris Claiborne
2011 Bruce Carter
2010 Sean Lee
2009 (no selection) traded out of 2nd-round
2008 Martellus Bennett
2007 (no selection) used to trade back into 1st for Anthony Spencer
2006 Anthony Fasano
You may be wondering why I decided to start all the way back in 2006. Well, I believe that's when the 2nd-round draft picks curse started for the Dallas Cowboys.
Anthony Fasano ended up having a solid career in the NFL, but he never lived up to his draft status as a former 2nd-round draft pick. The same can be said for Martellus Bennett, Gavin Escobar, and Bruce Carter. Shed a tear for them if you want, but I'd put them in the "bust" category.
The sad truth is, Sean Lee is the only 2nd-round draft pick on this list to ever see a second contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Although, I guess you can include DeMarcus Lawrence since he will be playing under the franchise tag in 2018. But, that's still not a very good hit percentage in the 2nd-round for more than a decade. Luckily, it looks as if things are changing.
DeMarcus Lawrence might end up being another "hit" for the Cowboys. It may have taken him four years to reach his potential, but there's no denying how dominant he was last season. If he can maintain that dominance this season, he could be looking at a big payday from the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys took a risk on the next two players they drafted after D-Law. They knew Randy Gregory had his off the field issues, but were willing to take a chance on his talent in the 2nd-round. That has yet to pay off, but Gregory has a chance to rebound now that it looks as if he has his life back in order.
The Cowboys took another risk in the following draft when they drafted Jaylon Smith. No one knew if he would ever be able to play again after the devastating knee injury he sustained in his final collegiate game, but it's looking as if he could make a full recovery and return to his pre-injury form. Year 3 will be big for him, but he could end up being an absolute steal.
Fortunately, the Cowboys 2017 and 2018 2nd-round draft picks (Chidobe Awuzie and Connor Williams) look to be cornerstone players for years to come. That's what you're looking for in players drafted this highly.
I say all of this because it's really looking like the Dallas Cowboys have finally broken their 2nd-round curse. Maybe it's a change in draft philosophy or maybe it's because Will McClay's voice carries more weight in the draft room, but it's definitely good news for the future of the franchise. Hopefully it continues.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys 2nd-round curse has ended?
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.
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