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2017 NFL Draft: Constructing The Cowboys EDGE Draft Board

Kevin Brady

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2017 NFL Draft: Constructing The Cowboys EDGE Big Board

As draft day gets closer and visits starting wrapping up, everyone is thirsty for some insight into what the Cowboys might do with their first round draft pick. Despite being so late in the first round, the depth talent in this year's class has most fans confident Dallas can add a year-one contributor with the 28th overall pick.

To narrow down the options, I recently published the three most likely defensive ends and cornerbacks to have their named called for the Cowboys on April 27th. I thought it would be beneficial to work out a more detailed draft board, however, highlighting and ranking which defensive ends to expect the Cowboys to covet the most during the entire draft process.

Over the last few drafts, three of the Cowboys' draft boards have been leaked to the public (2010, 2013, and 2016). Using the information provided by the team's rankings of players in those three draft classes, as well as the Cowboys draft tendencies in the Will McClay era, I have constructed this EDGE board for the 2017 NFL Draft.

The Process

I started these rankings by examining the Cowboys 2010, 2013, and 2016 draft boards. Here are the EDGE defenders with first round grades from the Cowboys during those three years.

  • Jared Odrick, DE, 2010
  • Jason Pierre-Paul, OLB, 2010
  • Derrick Morgan, OLB, 2010
  • Dion Jordan, DE, 2013
  • Barkevious Mingo, DE, 2013
  • Ezekiel Ansah, DE, 2013
  • Bjoern Werner, DE, 2013
  • Joey Bosa, DE, 2016
  • Leonard Floyd, OLB, 2016
  • Shaq Lawson, DE, 2016
  • DeForest Buckner, DE, 2016

Next, I examined the measurables and athletic testing of each of these players, as well as the EDGE defenders drafted by the Cowboys during the same time span. Then, I compared the testing of these 11 EDGE defenders and the 6 drafted by Dallas to the prospects available in this class. And, lastly, I ranked the players using these thresholds and my own film evaluations to a certain degree.

Based on the height, weight, arm length, vertical/broad jump, and three-cone time (all provided by Mockdraftable.com and determined most important to being a "force player") I did my best to compare prospects which Dallas was documented to love in the past to those in this year's draft class.

Dallas Cowboys EDGE Big Board

  • Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
  • Solomon Thomas, Stanford
  • TJ Watt, Wisconsin
  • Derek Barnett, Tennessee
  • Jordan Willis, Kansas State
  • Charles Harris, Missouri
  • Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
  • Taco Charlton, Michigan
  • Carl Lawson, Auburn
  • Tyus Bowser, Houston
  • Tarell Basham, Ohio
  • Derek Rivers, Youngstown State

So, those are, in order, the top twelve EDGE players I expect to be on the Cowboys draft board. Let's explain the listing.

First off, Myles Garrett is the number one overall prospect on just about everyone's board. He passes the minimum thresholds of each category the Cowboys hold for defensive ends and would be a slam dunk to be picked at 28th overall. Solomon Thomas is the same way, though his hands size is smaller than Dallas tends to look for in their defensive ends (and it shows on tape).

Number three is where things get interesting.

Wisconsin's TJ Watt possesses an athletic profile almost identical to Georgia's Leonard Floyd, who received a first round grade from the Cowboys in 2016. Passing every single athletic threshold for the Cowboys, Watt's three-cone time and broad jump make him an athletic freak by the Cowboys' standards.

Joey Ickes on Twitter

@saynepsycho @WFAAJFlo 6'4"-6'5" 245-260 lbs 33-34 in arms, explosive, bend like gumby

As Joey Ickes described in this Tweet, Watt fits the Cowboys athletic profile for an EDGE defender to a "T."

Despite my hope for Derek Rivers to be drafted by Dallas, his attendance of an FCS school greatly hurts him on the Cowboys draft board, and helps to push him down to 12.

The final two prospects which I'd like to discuss are Jordan Willis of Kansas State and Tyus Bowser of Houston. Like Watt, both players hit the threshold for every single category, and Willis excels in most. Willis' profile is very similar to that of Randy Gregory and Barkevious Mingo, each of which were targeted by the Cowboys in their respective drafts. Willis is also the best "SPARQ" athlete of this EDGE class, which the Cowboys tend to value heavily.

Bowser's profile is eerily similar to that of Watt's and Floyd's, making him extra attractive to the Cowboys. If the Cowboys were to trade back out of the first round to acquire another second round pick, I'd expect either Willis or Bowser to be their first targets.

With that being said, I don't believe Willis' athletic traits will over-value the tape of some of these other prospects who may not be as athletically gifted. Plus, players like Derek Barnett and Carl Lawson still hit most of their thresholds (besides height, mainly, as both are undersized for Dallas).

Of course, this is just my best guess at what their EDGE board may look like. But considering the Cowboys willingness to draft/target athletic players and look for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to mold them, I think it is a rather educated guess.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft: Will A Quarterback Be Considered?

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Draft: Will A Quarterback Be Considered?

Dak Prescott is the current and future starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. Let's make that clear.

Prescott has done more than enough over the first three years of his career to earn this "franchise quarterback" title, and the contract he will eventually receive from the Cowboys' front office.

But that doesn't mean the Cowboys shouldn't consider drafting a quarterback this year. Or next year. Or the year after that.

Quarterback is the game's most important, and highest paid, position. It's the position where a player can most greatly effect a game individually, both positively and negatively.

And it's the position you must make sure is accounted for heading into any new season. Yes, the Cowboys clearly trust now fourth-year quarterback Dak Prescott, but adding talent to your QB room is never a bad thing. In fact, it's typically a great thing.

Behind Prescott are Cooper Rush and Mike White. Rush beat out now-offensive coordinator Kellen Moore for the backup job during the 2017 preseason, and then held off rookie Mike White in 2018 to maintain the job.

When the Cowboys drafted White, however, they had dreams of a new backup quarterback in mind. White didn't perform as well, or progress as quickly, as some had hoped leaving Cooper Rush as the unquestioned QB2, however.

Is Cooper Rush good enough, though?

This is a question which really is yet to be answered. And if the Cowboys have it their way, it will never be truly answered. He was excellent during the 2017 preseason, no doubt about it. But he was, well, bad last year. Rush and the offense struggled mightily during the preseason, and while lack of offensive line depth didn't help him, Rush's play didn't spark much optimism or excitement either.

The Cowboys would be wise to consider drafting a quarterback later in the 2019 NFL Draft, but they shouldn't spend too much time worrying about it either way. The backup quarterback, especially behind Dak Prescott, will bring his value in terms of game-planning and aiding Prescott, rather than with his actual arm talent.



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NFL Draft

Can Dallas Cowboys Find a “Plug In Starter” in Round 2 of the NFL Draft?

John Williams

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Cowboys Draft: Should You Worried About Taylor Rapp's Pro Day

The Dallas Cowboys second round draft exploits have been well documented. From Gavin Escobar to Jaylon Smith, the Dallas Cowboys took calculated risks on players that might not play right away, but could be impact players when given the opportunity. Some have worked out, like Jaylon Smith, though it took two years for Smith to make a significant impact. DeMarcus Lawrence was slowed by injuries early in his career, but caught on in 2017 and 2018, which led to a big contract extension. Like Lawrence, injuries early on kept Sean Lee from breaking out or having the career he could have. Randy Gregory was the risk that has only paid out in small dividends.

Prior to 2018, most of those second round risks really didn't pay off. Jaylon was good as a blitzer in 2017, but was a liability in coverage, Randy Gregory couldn't see the field, Gavin Escobar flamed out in the NFL, leaving DeMarcus Lawrence as the only second round player that had paid off prior to 2018 and he wasn't really a risk. When they moved up in the second round to draft him, he was viewed by the front office as the last potentially elite pass rusher available in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Since the high risk-high reward second round drafts of 2011-2016, things have taken a turn, arguably for the better.

Over the last two NFL Drafts, the Dallas Cowboys front office has taken a more conservative approach to the draft, looking for players who were going to have impacts right away in Chidobe Awuzie and Connor Williams. Unlike those two players, Jaylon Smith and Randy Gregory had top 10 film but slid to the second round because of Smith's injury and Gregory's substance abuse issue.

At the Dallas Cowboys pre-NFL Draft press conference, Vice President Stephen Jones spoke of the team's desire to find a day-one impact player in the second round when they draft in the second round in nine days.

Kate Hairopoulos on Twitter

Stephen Jones said the Cowboys hope to find a plug-in starter at No. 58 pick. Recent 2nd rounders: Connor Williams, Chidobe Awuzie, Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, Gavin Escobar.

As we've seen with Williams and Awuzie, it's possible to find a player who can have  week one impact, but the question becomes, at what position is there a potential opportunity for a rookie to make an impact early? If you look at the roster as it stands now, there aren't many holes on this squad. Obviously injuries can change things, but given what the roster looks like there are only two spots where a rookie could come in and be a "plug-in starter."

Safety

At safety, the Cowboys are sporting Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, and the newly signed George Iloka. Aside from Woods, who had a really good 2018, the rest should be considered role players and good depth behind your starters. There's obvious opportunity to upgrade that position in this year's NFL Draft.

It's a position with a lot of depth in the second round. Taylor Rapp, Johnathan Abram, Juan Thornhill, Darnell Savage, and Deionte Thompson all have been projected in the second round. Where the Dallas Cowboys are picking at 58 is a perfect spot for them to grab one of those safeties.

Though Jeff Heath has been a mainstay in the Cowboys secondary, his play is better suited in a reserve role. If the Cowboys pull the trigger on a safety in the second round, it's not a stretch to think they could beat out Heath for snaps alongside Xavier Woods.

This year's secondary class is a really good group with diverse skill sets. From rangy athlete, to physical thumper, the Cowboys can select the guy they think pairs best with Woods. And Woods flexibility means it doesn't have to be primarily a strong safety type.

Now some, might say that defensive tackle is a place where a second round rookie could come in and play significant snaps right away. It's possible, but based on this team's history, it doesn't seem as likely for two reasons.

First, in the Jason Garrett era, the Cowboys haven't drafted a defensive tackle higher than the third round. Tyrone Crawford and Maliek Collins. They've opted to bargain hunt on other team's practice squads in attempt to find diamonds in the rough like David Irving and Antwaun Woods. They simply don't want to spend premium capital at the position.

Secondly, the Dallas Cowboys look loaded on the interior with Antwaun Woods and Christian Covington slated to be the primary 1-tech defensive tackles along with Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford, Kerry Hyder, and possibly Taco Charlton at 3-tech.

That's a lot of bodies on the inside of your defensive line. Given Jason Garrett's reluctance to play rookies, offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott aside, I don't see a rookie defensive tackle pushing Maliek Collins or Tyrone Crawford aside.

If the Cowboys have their sights set on a player who can contribute a starter's snap distribution, then safety is the position they need to look in the second round. There aren't any players that could be available that would come in and start for them week one at any other position. They can certainly find impactful role players that would likely start at some point in 2019 or beyond, but a wide receiver, tight end, defensive tackle or defensive end isn't walking in day one and starting for the Dallas Cowboys.

The safety position, however, has room for some young talent and in this draft, there's a lot of talent that can make plays from the safety position.



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NFL Draft

Potential DT Prospects Dallas Cowboys Could Target in Each Round

Brian Martin

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Potential DE Prospects Dallas Cowboys Could Target in Each Round

Nearly all of the Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman are either under a one-year contract or entering the remaining year of their deal, so the 2019 NFL Draft might be a good time for them to start preparing for the future. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Cowboys draft a DT early, quite possibly with their first selection at 58th overall in the second-round.

With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to share with you some of the defensive tackle prospects in this year's draft class the Dallas Cowboys could be interested in in each round. Fortunately, this is a good year to draft a DT and there are several potential candidates in each round that makes sense.

Let's take a look…

Second Round

Dexter Lawrence

Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence

Dexter Lawrence, Clemson

Dexter Lawrence has a chance to sneak into the first-round, but could slide right into the Dallas Cowboys lap just as easily. He would be a no-brainer pick and take over as the starting one-technique from Day 1. He moves surprisingly well for a player his size and flashes dominant qualities as a run defender. He needs to improve his pass rushing repertoire, but the skills are there. He would immediately upgrade the defense and help keep the Cowboys young, talented linebackers clean to make plays all over the field.

Dre'Mont Jones, Ohio State

Dre'Mont Jones unfortunately didn't test as well as many were expecting at the 2019 NFL Combine, but he possesses the skill set to become a disruptive force as a three-technique in a 4-3 defensive scheme like the Dallas Cowboys deploy. He has a quick first step and understands how to get skinny to be a force as a pass rusher. His work as a run defender leaves much to be desired though. He will really need to improve his strength and technique before he can be considered in every down player.

Third Round

Trysten Hill

Central Florida DT Trysten Hill

Trysten Hill, UCF

Trysten Hill is someone the Dallas Cowboys have shown a pretty strong interest in throughout the draft process. He was not only part of their 30 allotted pre-draft visitors, but Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli also personally put him through drills at his Pro Day. He also happens to be one of my "pet cats" in this year's draft class. He is exactly the kind of disruptive DT Marinelli likes and has the versatility to play it at the one or three-technique. He plays with reckless abandon right now and needs to clean up some things, but he is a moldable piece of clay worth developing.

Khalen Saunders, Western Illinois

Khalen Saunders is an athletic big-bodied DT who absolutely dominated lesser talent during his time at Western Illinois. He flashes dominance on tape in both the running and passing game, but is still pretty raw from a technical standpoint. He needs to improve his pass rush moves and technique because he has struggled at times getting off the blocks. His athletic ability and strength are all NFL ready though and he projects best as a 4-3 one-technique with three-tech upside.

Fourth Round

Gerald Willis III

Miami DT Gerald Willis III

Daniel Wise, Kansas

Daniel Wise was a four-year starter at Kansas and played up and down their defensive line in a variety of roles and fronts. He projects best as a three-technique in a 4-3 defensive scheme in the NFL due to his quick first step and relentless motor. He never quits on a play and gives it his all down after down. He played a high volume of snaps during his time with the Jayhawks and never seem to wear down, which is a testament to his endurance. He only has average athletic ability, but his relentlessness makes them difficult to block in both the running and passing game.

Gerald Willis III, Miami

Gerald Willis III was a one-year starter at Miami and unfortunately doesn't have the best track record on or off the field. He would come with plenty of red flags if he were to be drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, but he has the talent to become a starter in the NFL. He projects best as a three-technique and has the quick first step to be a disruptive force in both the running and passing game. He's a little undisciplined with this approach and will need to clean up his technique, but he has the skill set to have a long career in the league.

Fifth Round

Michael Dogbe

Temple DT Michael Dogbe

Keke Kingsley, Texas A&M

Keke Kingsley was a three-year starter at Texas A&M. He started his career as a nose tackle before dropping 20 pounds and moving to defensive end prior to his senior season. He is a smooth athlete for his size and has the versatility to play a variety of roles along the defensive line. He shows strength in his upper body, but needs to play with a better base and pad level at the next level. He would likely be a rotational player in a 4-3 defense his rookie season, but with more development he has started potential in a year or two.

Michael Dogbe, Temple

Michael Dogbe is one the strongest players in the entire 2019 draft class. In summer workouts he bench pressed 505 pounds, including 37 reps up to 25 and squatted 685 pounds. He played all across the defensive line during his time at Temple and has the versatility to do the same in the NFL in a four man front. He probably projects best as a three-technique where he can use his quick first step and strength to his advantage. He's probably a rotational player as a rookie, but has starting potential with more seasoning and development.

Seventh Round

Terry Beckner Jr.

Missouri DT Terry Beckner Jr.

Terry Beckner Jr., Missouri

Terry Beckner Jr. was was a three-year starter at Missouri. He struggled with knee injuries early on in his career, but started all 26 games his last two seasons and finished with double digit tackles for loss both years. He had plenty of splash plays in his collegiate career, but really needs to improve his strength and mechanics to carve out a role in the NFL. He has the desired quick first step to become successful, but if he doesn't win with his initial burst he tends to get washed out of plays.

Demarcus Christmas, Florida State

Demarcus Christmas was a four-star recruit out of high school and a three-year starter at Florida State. He was a part of a heavy defensive line rotation with the Seminoles and played primarily over the A-gap. He looks the part of an NFL defensive lineman with his well proportioned 300 pound broad frame and uses his size effectively to stack and shed offensive lineman, but he hasn't developed like many believed he would. He has the power to play in the league, but needs to improve his instincts and technique if he wants to make an NFL roster.



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