With the 2017 NFL Draft just about a month away, I thought it would be a good time to identify some of the prospects that the Dallas Cowboys could target in the first round when they are on the clock at 28th overall. I decided to share with all of you five Cowboys draft targets that could immediately come in and upgrade the roster for 2017 and beyond.
The Cowboys likely need to add another safety, cornerback, and defensive end through the draft, but don't be surprised if they go a completely different direction in the first round. Below are five prospects I think could be on the Cowboys radar at the back end of the first round.
Obi Melifonwu, Safety, UConn
Much like his former teammate Byron Jones, Obi Melifonwu has been shooting up draft boards ever since his performance at the Senior Bowl and has only improved his draft stock after the show he put on at the NFL combine. So, it's not a reach to think that he won't be a first-round selection come April.
It's certainly not out of the question that the Cowboys draft a safety early, especially with the position looking a little thin after the departures of Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox. Melifonwu makes a lot of sense because of his size and athletic ability. His addition would arguably give the Cowboys two of the most athletically gifted safeties in the entire NFL and would allow defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to get really creative with his coverages.
Carl Lawson, Defensive end, Auburn
It's no secret that the Cowboys want to improve their pass rush this off-season, but drafting at the back in the first round isn't the ideal spot to find a difference maker. That's not to say it can't be done, because I think defensive end Carl Lawson could come in as a rookie and have 6-8 sack season in his first year in the NFL.
Lawson is one of the more pro-ready DEs in the entire 2017 draft class. He already possesses a diverse repertoire of pass rush moves and knows how to use his hands to keep opposing offensive lineman at bay. The only real concern about Lawson is his injury history while at Auburn. If not for that injury history, he likely would have been a top 15 draft pick and not available when the Cowboys are on the clock it 28.
Marlon Humphrey, Cornerback, Alabama
Marlon Humphrey might just be the most physically gifted CB in the entire 2017 draft class, but could very well still be on the board at the back end of the first round when the Cowboys are the clock at 28. Humphrey has relied too much on his natural physical ability during his time at Alabama, but he's going to need more than that if he's going to be successful at the NFL level.
Humphrey has the size/speed that NFL teams look for in their outside CBs, but he really needs to improve his footwork and technique if he wants to be a starter in the league. The Cowboys coaching staff was able to cleanup Anthony Brown's technique and footwork last season and we all saw how that turned out. They could do the same for Humphrey, which would likely turn him into the best CB in this draft class.
Corey Davis, Wide receiver, Western Michigan
I know what your thinking, why would the Dallas Cowboys draft a wide receiver after they re-signed Terrance Williams and Brice Butler? To that, I would answer Davis would be an upgrade over both players and could eventually become Dez Bryant's replacement as the Cowboys top WR.
I have Corey Davis ranked as my top wide receiver in the 2017 NFL draft class. But, he has had to miss the Senior Bowl with a shoulder injury and missed both the NFL combine and his Pro Day because of ankle surgery. That could cause him to slide a little bit on draft day.
Although I don't expect him to reach 28, if he is in the 20-25 range the Cowboys could trade up, much like they did with Dez Bryant years ago. This would definitely be a luxury pick, but it's not often you can come away with one of the best players that late in the first round.
Malik Hooker, Safety, Ohio State
Malik Hooker is another player that the Cowboys could decide to move up for in the 2017 NFL Draft. Hooker missed the 2017 NFL combine after having surgery on his labrum and a hernia. Much like what I mentioned previously about Corey Davis, this could cause him to slide down a little bit in the first round.
It's unlikely he will reach the Cowboys at 28, but again if the slides into the 20-25 range, I don't think they would hesitate to trade up in order to acquire one of the best ball hawking safeties in the entire 2017 draft class. This is especially true since the Cowboys have a need to upgrade the safety position and add depth.
Would you be on board with the selections for the Dallas Cowboys?
Should the Dallas Cowboys Make Offensive Tackle a Draft Priority?
The 2019 NFL Draft will be an interesting one for the Dallas Cowboys. From the outside looking in it doesn't seem as if they have any clear "needs" that need to be addressed. But, if you were to dive deeper into their roster you'd probably discover things might not be as stable as we'd like to believe.
The Dallas Cowboys could obviously stand to upgrade several positions. So far this offseason wide receiver, tight end, and safety have been at the forefront of the discussion, but one position not being mentioned is offensive tackle. Why?
There has to be growing concerns within the organization about Tyron Smith's inability to stay healthy for an entire season. He has a bothersome back and it has continued to make him unavailable for at least two or three games these past few seasons. How much longer can they afford to roll the dice with his back issues?
Then there is La'el Collins, who is entering a contract year in 2019. Collins' best attribute during his time with the Cowboys is probably his availability. He's battled through some injuries himself these past couple years, but managed to play through it. Unfortunately though, his career has been up-and-down since taking over as the starting right tackle. It's probably time to find his successor.
Sadly, Dallas doesn't have much offensive tackle depth behind Smith and Collins. Cameron Fleming, the Cowboys swing tackle in 2018, is now a free agent and is probably looking to join a team where he can earn a little more playing time. The only other OT candidate on the roster might be Connor Williams, but even that's an unknown sense he's never played tackle in the NFL.
I don't know what the Cowboys brass thinks of all of this, but I find it more than a little concerning. We know all too well what happens when the OT play isn't up to par. Chaz Green anyone!? That game alone against the Falcons is one we would all like to forget, but serves as a reminder of just how important it is to have an emergency plan in place.
The Cowboys of course have one or two ways of solidifying their tackle position. They can use free agency once again to find a swing tackle like they did with Cameron Fleming last year, or they can use one of their draft picks this year. The latter seems to be the wiser move, especially with Collins' contract coming to an end.
The Dallas Cowboys may have Tyron Smith and La'el Collins as their starters for the upcoming 2019 season, but it's never too early to start preparing for the future. That's why it wouldn't surprise me at all if Dallas used one of their draft picks this year on an offensive tackle. In fact, I'd encourage it.
I really like the idea of providing some competition at the RT position. If La'el Collins wins out fine. The rookie OT can then serve as the swing tackle and take over next season when Collins' contract expires. But, if the rookie wins Collins could also be become a trade asset. Sounds like a win-win to me.
Do you think offensive tackle should be a Dallas Cowboys draft priority?
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.
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