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
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
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.
2018 NFL Draft: Cowboys to Hold Visit with UCLA Tackle Kolton Miller
The Dallas Cowboys have been
frustratingly unsurprisingly quiet through the start of free agency, as their opportunity to improve at the AT&T Stadium hosted 2018 NFL Draft is rapidly approaching. Offensive line depth remains a team need for the Cowboys, one they're actively looking to address by visiting free agent Guard Marcus Martin while planning a pre-draft visit with UCLA Tackle Kolton Miller.
I'm told UTEP Guard Will Hernandez is another of Dallas' 30 pre-draft visitors. Hernandez joins Alabama WR Calvin Ridley and UCLA G/T Kolton Miller on the list of reported visitors for the #Cowboys. Since 2014, 14 of Dallas' 35 picks (40%) have been pre-draft visitors.
Protecting one of the top quarterbacks available in the draft in Josh Rosen through college, Kolton Miller absolutely blew up the Combine in Indianapolis - entering the draft as one of the most athletic available linemen.
It is this athleticism and versatility that the Dallas Cowboys should absolutely be looking for, if trying to add another "blue chip" player to an offensive line already featuring LT Tyron Smith, C Travis Frederick, RG Zack Martin, and RT La'el Collins.
Kolton Miller with the broad jump world record for an offensive lineman at 10 1 wow
Tyron Smith's health (along with the level of play the Cowboys received at his spot in his absence) and the FA status of Jonathan Cooper are both reasons the Cowboys should consider adding a new, controllable option to their dominant offensive line. Whether this is with the 19th overall pick, or later on with a prospect like Miller, will depend on how the board falls through the first 18 picks of the draft.
With ten total picks coming in, the Cowboys could be positioning themselves for a move up the board to land an impact defender, or an additional piece for Kris Richard to work with in the defensive backfield. Staying home at 19th overall and selecting a player capable of playing swing tackle would not only be a safe option for the Cowboys, but a smart one with Ezekiel Elliott returning full-time to the lineup in 2018.
Without Elliott for six games in 2017, the Cowboys still managed nine wins. This is a point lost to most of Cowboys Nation, especially those watching the entire playoffs without their team in it, only to watch the Eagles hoist the Lombardi. Elliott's impact on each's week game plan for Dallas is hard to understate, and the Cowboys' trust in him begins up front.
Testing as an elite athlete with the film to match at tackle in the Pac 12, Kolton Miller should be a welcome addition to America's Team - getting the opportunity to learn the Cowboys' way with a trip to The Star in his future.
Can Powers of Persuasion Help Make Will Hernandez a Cowboy?
There is no shortage of NFL hopefuls who would like to become a member of the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 NFL Draft. But, not one of them have used their powers of persuasion to make their intentions known as much as former UTEP offensive guard Will Hernandez.
Throughout the entire draft process, Will Hernandez has done nothing but stand out when given the opportunity. He first started to make waves at the 2018 Senior Bowl, where he pretty much dominated his competition. Then, he improved his draft stock even more by putting on a show at the Scouting Combine.
The 6'2", 330 pound offensive guard has likely cemented himself as a surefire first-round draft pick and is arguably the second-ranked OG in the entire 2018 draft class. He is a plug-and-play prospect for any team who drafts him, but he has made his intentions well known that he would love to play for the Dallas Cowboys.
Back in February, Will Hernandez was spotted hanging out with the Cowboys bookend offensive tackles, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, to see the premiere of the movie Death Wish, starring Bruce Willis.
@PujolsFive Cowboys fans will appreciate this post!! ⭐️ Movie Premiere #Deathwish Great movie!
To see Will Hernandez rubbing elbows with a few of the Dallas Cowboys talented offensive lineman only strengthened the connection for Hernandez becoming a draft pick by America's Team. But, this wasn't the only time the former UTEP offensive guard was seen out with a Cowboys player.
In March, he was once again seen out on the town with the Cowboys All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith.
All of this can probably be chalked up to a current player hanging out with an NFL hopeful, but as a Cowboys fan you want to believe it's more than just a coincidence.
The Dallas Cowboys without a doubt need a new starting left guard. It can be argued it's the team's biggest need this offseason and Will Hernandez fits the bill to a T. He would immediately upgrade the entire offensive line and solidify the unit for years to come.
The only problem is, the Dallas Cowboys have already invested quite a bit in their offensive line and taking Will Hernandez in the first round would be considered by some as overkill. I for one wouldn't be opposed to taking him at 19 if he is the top rated player when the Cowboys are on the clock.
It's hard to know if seeing Will Hernandez hanging out with Tyron Smith and La'el Collins improves his chances of being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, but it definitely doesn't hurt. Offensive lines around the NFL perform at their best when they play as a cohesive unit, so developing a bond already could be viewed as a good thing.
Who knows, maybe Will Hernandez's powers of persuasion will pay off and end up being the deciding factor to help him become the next first-round offensive lineman drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
Do you read anything into Will Hernandez hanging out with Cowboys players?
Keeping Dez Bryant Shouldn’t Stop Cowboys From Drafting Calvin Ridley
With NFL Free Agency buzz at full speed this week, Dez Bryant is one of the most intriguing names in the Dallas Cowboys world. We all know the story. We've been talking about it since last season. Bryant, who was once among the "Top WR of the league" conversation, doesn't look like an elite player anymore.
That doesn't mean he is a bad football player, but the problem is that he's getting paid big time.
The Dallas Cowboys, who have struggled with cap space for many years now, may want to avoid paying $16.5M to a player who isn't justifying his paychecks on the field. Big name and all, it certainly doesn't feel that way.
His lack of production on the field the last three years is concerning, even though he's played with quarterbacks not named "Tony Romo." There are other receivers around the league who have played with bad quarterbacks and have still been able to produce.
Even still, it wouldn't be easy to replace Bryant on the offense just like that. Right now, top free agents are already off the market, so if Dallas wants to replace him, it'd have to be via trade or via the NFL Draft.
ICYMI: A few things to consider as we wait on news about Dez Bryant's future with the Dallas Cowboys https://t.co/cCNpXmhARe
Right now, it seems that Dez is going to remain a Dallas Cowboy and after seeing the contracts other receivers in the league are about to get, who knows if a pay cut will even enter the equation.
Even if Dez keeps wearing the Star every week next season, wide receiver is still one of the team's top needs. Despite the fact that Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams and Jason Witten are some very well-known names, the truth is this offense needs a guy who can create separation and be harmful as a deep threat.
This is a draft class with a lot of depth at wide receiver, and the Cowboys could find contributors at the second or later rounds. Even still, if they're on the clock at 19 and Alabama's Calvin Ridley is available, the front office should pull the trigger.
Yes, even if Dez is still on the team.
Despite last year's struggles, we shouldn't lose faith on the Cowboys' offense when it has a lot of talent. We believed in this group to take us to the Super Bowl. What they are missing could just be a new, dynamic wide receiver.
Calvin Ridley is by far the best WR in the Draft this year and will be an impact player anywhere he goes. Despite a poor showing in the Combine, Ridley proves to be worthy of a first round pick on tape. Ideal route-running, great ability to separate and more than enough speed for the NFL.
This would certainly take a lot of pressure off Cole Beasley's shoulders, who was constantly double-teamed last year. Sure, he's still good, but if he continues to run into double-coverage, Dak Prescott and company will probably continue to struggle another year.
It's tough to imagine Calvin Ridley being available at 19, especially with the Baltimore Ravens holding the 16th overall pick. However, some people believe there's a 50/50 chance he's available once Dallas is on the clock. If that's the case, the Cowboys shouldn't pass on this prospect.
Ridley could very well end up being the most productive receiver for the Cowboys in 2018 becoming an essential "best friend" for Dak Prescott.
We've seen how other front offices have made friendly offenses for their young QBs and if Calvin Ridley is what it takes, why even think about it?
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