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2018 NFL Combine: Evaluating 3 Important LB’s Performances

Kevin Brady

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2018 NFL Combine: 3 LBs Who Impressed
Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

There's no secret that the Cowboys have questions to answer in their linebacker corps, and the main way to address those questions would be through the NFL Draft. This year's linebacker class is rather solid, and features some serious day two options.

The 2018 NFL Combine did a good job of separating some of these linebackers, and the results of these three players make them impressive candidates for the Dallas Cowboys.

Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State LB

Vander Esch is a linebacker I struggled with on tape, but his combine performance was undeniable. Vander Esch came in at 6'4 256 pounds, ran an impressive 6.88 3 cone time (85th percentile), and had a 39.5" vertical jump (93rd percentile).

According to MockDraftable, Vander Esch is most similar to a linebacker the Cowboys reportedly considered in the past: Anthony Barr. He also tested like an EDGE rusher, comparing athletically to Tyus Bowser, Khalil Mack, and Connor Barwin.

Leighton Vander Esch would be an outside linebacker with the Cowboys, and could be a target in the second round. You have to wonder, however, if Vander Esch tested himself out of the Cowboys' second round range.

Josey Jewell, Iowa LB

2018 NFL Draft: Scouting Iowa LB Josey Jewell - Slant Sports

With each NFL Draft cycle, scouts everywhere can typically feel good about their evaluations of Iowa Hawkeyes players. The BIG 10 school is known for producing solid, pro-ready talent that NFL teams absolutely need to fill out a roster. Enter Iowa Linebacker Josey Jewell, a three-year starter and captain on this Hawkeyes defense.

Going into the 2018 NFL Combine, I had questions about Josey Jewell athletically. While I knew he was a solid linebacker on tape, and someone who could play inside early on in his career, his combine performance was going to be important to projecting his NFL future.

Jewell was relatively unimpressive at the combine, but he did perform well in drills the Cowboys tend to value in their linebackers. According to MockDraftable Jewell's 3 cone time was in the 93rd percentile among all linebackers and his 60 yard shuttle was in the 79th percentile. Jewell's 20 yard shuttle was also impressive among Cowboys' standards.

Josey Jewell is considered to be the prototypical Big 10 linebacker, who should be a solid and "safe" pick during the upcoming NFL Draft. His performance at the combine does make him an interesting target for the Dallas Cowboys specifically, however.

Fred Warner, BYU LB

2018 NFL Draft: Scouting BYU LB Fred Warner - Slant Sports

Believe it or not, BYU linebacker Fred Warner was the best player at his position at the 2018 Senior Bowl. During his time at BYU, Fred Warner recorded 264 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and 7 interceptions. He played in 49 games for the Cougars during his four collegiate seasons, and was a star on BYU's defense ...

My personal favorite of these three linebackers, BYU's Fred Warner has seen his stock rise over the last few months. Warner was misused a bit at BYU, playing an EDGE role much of the time. He moved to off-ball linebacker full time for the Senior Bowl, and made his presence felt immediately.

At 6'3" 236 pounds, Warner is a "long and strong" linebacker who could be a starting WILL very early on in his career. Warner's 3 cone was in the 89th percentile of all linebackers, and while his short shuttle wasn't all that impressive, his performance in the agility drills certainly turned heads.

Warner is going to benefit greatly from being used in his best role to succeed in the NFL, and could be a realistic option for the Cowboys 81st overall.



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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14 Comments
  • Reynaldito LaPorte

    I like Jewell the most but how good can we expect him to be in his rookie season at an in impact position not to mention he’s a lil undersized.

    We really need to start thinking about Lee’s replacement though as he has never played a full season and as good as he is the best ability is availability. If we can I say we get Davis from the Jet’s and draft an off ball LB. we’ll see tho.

    Great read BTW!!!

  • Reynaldo Laporte

    I like Jewell the most but how good can we expect him to be in his rookie season at an in impact position not to mention he’s a lil undersized.

    We really need to start thinking about Lee’s replacement though as he has never played a full season and as good as he is the best ability is availability. If we can I say we get Davis from the Jet’s and draft an off ball LB. we’ll see tho.

    Great read BTW!!!

  • reynaldolaporte

    I like Jewell the most but how good can we expect him to be in his rookie season at an in impact position not to mention he’s a lil undersized.

    We really need to start thinking about Lee’s replacement though as he has never played a full season and as good as he is the best ability is availability. If we can I say we get Davis from the Jet’s and draft an off ball LB. we’ll see tho.

    Great read BTW!!!

  • Hector Espindola

    Great insight. Personally, my choise was Vander Esch before reading your analysis. I think LB would be addressed after DL, OL and WR, so that gives a chance at picks 16 and 37 of round 4, meaning that no one of the LB analized would be an every down player; that´s why Hitch needs to stay with the team.

    • Reynaldo Laporte

      As much as I like Hitch he’s not coming back and to be honest I would like an upgrade at the position. Davis would be that upgrade. We’ll see tho

      • Hector Espindola

        I´m all aboard with an upgrade at the position!

        • Reynaldo Laporte

          Think about how good our D would be with a serious 1 tech and Demario Davis playing MLB.

          We have our core guys from last year thst are still developing I’m excited to see where we can take it.

          • Hector Espindola

            You are totally right, Vita Vea must be that man (he is also an every down player), but might be gone when Dallas hits the clock. Moreover, I don’t see FO and Marinelli viewing any other 1 tech as an every down player to use on their two first pics. Seems then that FO would go for LG and till day 3 find their rotation guys (I hate that philosophy).

          • Reynaldo Laporte

            Don’t get me wrong I like BPA according to our needs, but when will we address a glaring issue that’s plagued us for years and that’s DT.

            I want to draft a LG too but if we need a premier pick all across our offensive line, then that says a lot about our coaching staff and FO.

          • Hector Espindola

            That last statement of yours on coaching brilliantly sumps it up. I think Da’Ron Payne is the next answer to DT issuesi if VV is gone. Hope FO shares this point of view.

          • Reynaldo Laporte

            Payne is Good too and plays both positions, but what does Reynaldito know ‘eh lol.

            They need to do right by our team and invest in defense. As good as our offense was the last two times we were in the playoffs our defense was exposed. Now is the time to address that.

          • EverybodyTalks

            Agreed. Our Defense was exposed. If Philly can sign Bennett and be 11 million over the cap, then the Cowboys still need to resign Hitchens. Anthony is much more valuable than any rookie in the draft or FA. I think Jewell will fall to the 3rd rd, based on his numbers in the combine. To be safe, I believe we should grab him in the 2nd. Stephen Jones stated that the Cowboys would not go after a DT1, unless that player had DT3 tendencies. That sounds like DaRon and Vita and therefore both have a shot in the 1st rd, if available at #19. So, imagine we have Hitch, with newbies DaRon and Jewell. Very possible.

          • Reynaldo Laporte

            I love Hitchens, but I feel as though we can upgrade the position. Not to mention his coach is in Indy know who just so happen to have way more cap room than we do.

            I dream of the day when our D will again be respectable. People get lost in the glamor and glitz of our last two season starts and don’t realize that the defense was only good in 2016 because of our ball control and and last year we had a semi good pass rush.

            Our defense is still middle of the pack and I hate the fact that our DC seems to want run of the mill guys when he always had studs on his squad

          • Hector Espindola

            You are totally right, Vita Vea must be that man (he is also an every down player), but might be gone when Dallas hits the clock. Moreover, I don’t see FO and Marinelli viewing any other 1 tech as an every down player to use on their two first pics. Seems then that FO would go for LG and till day 3 find their rotation guys for DL (I hate that philosophy).

NFL Draft

Looking Ahead to 2019 NFL Mock Drafts, a Pass Catching Theme Persists

John Williams

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Looking Ahead to 2019 NFL Mock Drafts a Theme Persists

The Dallas Cowboys haven't played the 2018 NFL season yet, but that shouldn't stop us from looking ahead to the 2019 NFL Draft and seeing what players the team will have their eye on this fall.

With the NFL season fast approaching, that means the college football season is as well, and as we look through these mocks, perhaps you get an idea of whom to watch with a Cowboys perspective this fall.

I scoured the internet looking for the best and brightest minds and their "way too early 2019 mocks." As I perused the mocks, one thing was clear. Many of the national writers see the Dallas Cowboys going with an offensive pass catcher in the 2019 NFL Draft. Namely a TE.

TE Noah Fant, Iowa

Noah Fant, from the University of Iowa, will be a junior in his 2019 season and as a sophomore caught 30 passes for 494 yards (16.5 yards per reception) and 11 touchdowns. The receptions and yardage may not look all that impressive, but if we think about Iowa's offense in the Big 10, we can understand that he's not going to get many opportunities to catch the ball when the team is running it as often as they do.

In fact, the Hawkeyes ran the ball 10 more times per game than they threw it and their quarterback only completed - on average - 15 passes a game.

Fant accounted for 21% of the receiving yards on the season and 42% of the passing touchdowns. He was only 36 yards away from leading the team in receiving despite catching 21 fewer passes than leader Nick Easley. No other pass catcher for Iowa had more than four receiving touchdowns.

If there's something not to like at the moment about Fant, it's his size.

At the moment, College Football Reference has him listed at 232 pounds. There are running backs that weigh more than Fant does and he'll probably need to add about 10-20 pounds in the NFL to be an effective in-line blocker.

Mocked to the Dallas Cowboys by Dane Brugler of The Draft Show on DallasCowboys.com. In a mock draft he did for Sports Day DFW and the Dallas Morning News, he had this to say.

"It is now the post-Witten era in Dallas and unless a tight end on the roster emerges this season, the position could be high on the wish list next offseason. His athleticism makes Fant an appealing up-and-coming prospect."

Dane Brugler - Sports Day DFW, Dallas Morning News

Eric Galko of The Sporting News selected the Iowa tight end to the Cowboys as well, seeing him as a special prospect that has the chance to fill the shoes of Jason Witten.

Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington also had Noah Fant to the Cowboys, thinking they are in need of a Jason Witten replacement.

DE Austin Bryant, Clemson

Depending on what Dallas can get out of Right Defensive Ends Tyrone Crawford, Randy Gregory, Dorance Armstrong, and Charles Tapper, it could have the Cowboys taking a defensive end in the first round for the second time in three years.

Will Brinson's mock doesn't offer much analysis on Bryant, mostly saying that Clemson is going to be good. But here's what Draftek.com's Brett Clancy, who covers the 49ers, had to say about Bryant:

"Clemson's Austin Bryant is the 4th EDGE off the board in this mock and 2nd from his school, but he's still well worth a mid-round pick. Bryant broke out with 8.5 sacks as a junior last year and many thought he'd go pro. I like Bryant's move to stay in school and refine his game, specifically growing a repertoire of pass rush moves to complement his strong edge-setting ability."

Brett Clancy - Draftek.com

Bryant was amazingly disruptive for the Clemson Tigers as a junior, racking up 50 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks. At 6-5 265, he could come in and play right defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys on day one.

DT Raekwon Davis, Alabama

We know that the Dallas Cowboys have an affinity for Power 5 prospects and Jason Garrett goes back with Nick Saban.

Despite that relationship, it hasn't led to many Alabama players being selected by the Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps, that should tell us something.

One other factor that could be in play with Davis is dependent upon who the defensive coordinator is in 2019. We all know that Rod Marinelli doesn't place premium draft value on defensive tackles, but prefers to find diamonds in the rough to develop.

If Kris Richard takes over as the defensive coordinator in 2019, the story could be a bit different. Seattle, with Richard at the defensive helm, selected defensive tackles in the second round of the 2016 and 2017 NFL Drafts.

If the Dallas Cowboys are going to spend a first on a defensive tackle, this is the guy to do it on.

He was highly productive as a sophomore for the Crimson Tide, racking up 69 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He also had one interception that was returned for 19 yards. At 6-7 306 pounds, he has the size and frame to be an immediate impact player on the Dallas Cowboys interior.

If the Dallas Cowboys choose not to resign David Irving in the 2018 offseason and Maliek Collins doesn't take a step forward, then Davis becomes a real possibility.

Here's what Draftek's Cowboys analyst had to say about Raekwon Davis.

"Alabama's Raekwon Davis has played both DT and DE in the Crimson Tide's 3-man line. He can maintain his gaps against the run when needed, but his primary skill set is using his long arms and strong lower body to use a variety of pass rush moves to win with power and speed. 

"One red flag on Davis happened 8/27/17: he was struck in the leg by a stray bullet during the wee hours of Sunday morning at a Tuscaloosa bar (Bar 17) where several shootings have occurred over the past few years. Despite HC Jason Garrett's affinity for Nick Saban coached players, this incident might remove him from the Dallas board."

Long Ball - Dratek.com

Interestingly, Draftek did a second round in this mock and they sent Boston College Safety Lukas Denis to the Dallas Cowboys.

S Jaquan Johnson, Miami

Speaking of safeties, Dan Kadar over at SBNation sent one to the Dallas Cowboys in the form of Jaquan Johnson.

Johnson, from the University of Miami, was very productive in his junior season for the Hurricanes, racking up 96 total tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and four interceptions. He returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown.

Here are Kadar's thoughts on the second team All-ACC player:

"There was a lot of talk during the draft that the Cowboys were in talks to trade for Earl Thomas. If they want to address safety next draft, Johnson was a second-team all-conference player who some thought would go pro."

Dan Kadar - SB Nation

Obviously, this pick will depend on what happens with Earl Thomas over the next nine months and the development of Xavier Woods, but Johnson will be a name to watch for teams that need a safety.

Looking Ahead to 2019 NFL Mock Drafts a Theme Persists 2

Miami Hurricanes WR Ahmmon Richards

WR Ahmmon Richards, Miami

Another Hurricane to have on your NFL Draft radars is Wide Receiver Ahmmon Richard, who is going into his junior season at Miami.

The Dallas Cowboys have begun the process of overhauling their wide receiver corp with the departures of Dez Bryant and Brice Butler in the 2018 offseason. In 2019, it's likely that Terrance Williams (contract) and Cole Beasley (age) could be next to go.

That would leave them with Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Deonte Thompson, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson as their WR depth chart. It's certainly a solid group, but adding a talent like Richards could help.

The Draft Wire's Luke Easterling believes, "Richards would be another great addition with impressive size and speed."

In two seasons at Miami, Richards has averaged 18.8 yards per reception, and 68.65 yards per game. He's got deep-threat ability which would combine well with Gallup and Hurns.

WR Collin Johnson, Texas

If Richards doesn't do it for you, then lets head a couple of hours south of Dallas to the University of Texas and Wide Receiver Collin Johnson.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has the Dallas Cowboys going with the junior wide receiver and had this to say:

"The Dallas Cowboys made interesting moves at wide receiver in the 2018 draft—trading Ryan Switzer to Oakland, acquiring Tavon Austin from Los Angeles, not selecting a receiver early—and will head into the upcoming season with a need for a playmaker down the field. Texas' Collin Johnson at 6'6" can be the downfield weapon and red-zone nightmare the Cowboys so badly want.

"Johnson does need to improve upon his production from the last two seasons and prove to scouts he can run well enough to separate from NFL defenders, but his size and hands are already getting buzzed about as teams prepare for the upcoming college season."

Matt Miller - Bleacher Report

I'll agree with Miller that Johnson will need to increase upon his production. Some believe that the quarterback limitations in Austin have been a factor, but at the moment, I'm leery of taking a wide receiver from the Big 12 that doesn't have excellent production in the first round of the draft.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

It's obvious from these mock drafts that analysts see the Dallas Cowboys continuing to invest in pass catchers for their offense and that is a reasonable thought.

Obviously, a lot will change between now and next April when the Dallas Cowboys go on the clock, but this gives us a bit of insight on who to watch in this upcoming college football season.

What names will you be watching in college football this season?



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NFL Draft

Does Marquez White Assault Charge Alter Cowboys Plan in Supplemental Draft?

Sean Martin

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Does Marquez White Assault Charge Alter Cowboys Plan in Supplemental Draft?

Last night, it was reported that Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Marquez White has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The incident comes from a traffic confrontation that took place back in October, where White -- according to his camp -- was justified in drawing his weapon for self-defense.

A promising young player that stuck on the Cowboys practice squad in his rookie season, the sixth round pick doesn't need this case hanging over his head as training camp approaches. When considering the timing up against this week's supplemental draft, and the rare crop of defensive back talent available in it, White could soon be fighting for relevance on the Cowboys roster.

Becoming complacent in building one of the best young secondaries in the league won't be an issue for the Cowboys under new Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard. The Cowboys were relying on White to be a depth option behind projected starters Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis.

White's spot on the depth chart may very well hold up, but by the end of the week he could also have added competition in Adonis Alexander or Sam Beal.

Respectively, the former Virginia Tech and Western Michigan cornerbacks are two of the most talented supplemental prospects to enter the draft in years -- both likely to be the first players drafted since 2015.

Alexander and Beal are also joined by Mississippi State Safety Brandon Bryant as another backup option for Dallas.

Supplemental Draft: CB Adonis Alexander A Depth Option for Cowboys? 1

A lengthy cornerback with the toughness to play on the boundary, Alexander is a similar player to White, and one that Richard should love for his physical traits. Whether or not this natural skill outweighs some maturity issues that saw Alexander fall from freshman starter to suspended at VT will determine if the Cowboys feel comfortable sending away a 2019 draft pick for his services.

Where Alexander's career leaves his arrow trending downward on the eve of the supplemental draft, Beal is a rising prospect that some are calling the best to ever enter this draft.

An all-conference cornerback as a Junior out of Western Michigan, Beal improved with each passing college season, determined to finish out his degree along the way. However, once Beal's eligibility for his Senior season was called into question, the feisty 6'1" CB decided to turn towards the NFL.

Beal's professional football faith is now in the hands of any team that's done their homework on him. Projected to be taken as early as the third round, teams impressed by Beal's tape could be giving away a premium pick in next year's draft to add him just before training camp.

Should this team be the Cowboys, Beal's presence would put more than just White on notice. The Cowboys are also expecting corners like Duke Thomas and Kam Kelly to fight for roster spots. In a perfect world, say the one the Cowboys were living in yesterday before this White news broke, Thomas or Kelly could replace White on the practice squad as the Florida State product took another jump in Oxnard.

Cowboys CB Marquez White Could Emerge in 2018

Dallas Cowboys CB Marquez White

As I've written before though, teams must be relentless in their search for talent. The Cowboys have drafted well, but passed on big name free agents in recent years. The result is a young roster full of potential and ready to compete.

If either Adonis Alexander, Sam Beal, or even Brandon Bryant help them do so this year, we could be right here talking about a new Cowboys rookie in the middle of July. Marquez White would be happy to see this talk overshadow his legal situation for the moment.

This won't be the case when he's competing against another player that will likely cost the Cowboys more than the sixth round pick they invested in him two years ago.

Tell us what you think about "Does Marquez White Assault Charge Alter Cowboys Plan in Supplemental Draft?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Dallas Cowboys

Have the Dallas Cowboys Overcome Their 2nd-Round Curse?

Brian Martin

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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.

Sean Lee

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

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.

Jaylon Smith

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

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?



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