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.