With the 2017 regular season coming to a close, it's now time to focus on one of my favorite times of the football calendar: the 2018 NFL Draft. The Dallas Cowboys clearly have their fair share of needs, which they should look to fill through both the draft and free agency, but defensive tackle is towards the top of that list.
In 2017, the Cowboys ranked 21st in Defensive DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) against the run, and against good-to-great offenses, their run defense was often shredded. Especially when linebacker Sean Lee was missing.
Maliek Collins and David Irving are both good options on the interior, but both are at their best when playing 3-technique. The Cowboys need a true 1-technique in order to reach their full potential as a run defense. Luckily for the Cowboys, the 2018 NFL Draft class is loaded with interior defensive line talent.
Here are just a few options the Cowboys will have come draft day.
DT Vita Vea, Washington
To be honest, Vita Vea (like Vay-uh) is probably my favorite option at defensive tackle for the Cowboys. Vea weighs over 330 pounds and is an absolute load in the middle of the defense. It's his athletic ability and strength which help make him such a dynamic player, however.
Vea consistently dominated offensive linemen at Washington with a vicious push-pull, and showed the ability to anchor against double-teams as a nose tackle. He is at his best against the run, and though used as a nose tackle in an odd front at Washington, I think he can play well as a 1-technique in Dallas.
In terms of pass rush, I think Vita Vea has a solid upside as well. He typically goes to the bull-rush, and considering his strength and get-off, he is often successful.
I also saw him utilized on stunts effectively during his college career.
I will have a full-length scouting report on Vita Vea as the draft process moves along, but for now you should know that he's going to be a legitimate option with the 19th overall pick.
DT Taven Bryan, Florida
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
The next name you should get to know is Florida Gators defensive tackle Taven Bryan.
Bryan declared for the draft just a few weeks ago, and after my initial viewings, I'm tempted to consider him very early in the 2018 NFL Draft. In fact, I've seen Bryan ranked as high as the top-30 on some respected NFL Draft boards.
Like Vea, Taven Bryan has a powerful bull-rush move, as you can see in the video. Bryan's first step is lethal, as he often beats offensive linemen before they are even out of their stance.
His biggest issue is probably his pad level.
I noticed he sometimes comes off the ball too high, allowing offensive linemen to get into his chest and render his quick get-off useless.
Taven Bryan is a bit of hybrid defensive tackle, showcasing he can play both the 3 and the 1. Regardless, he would be a valuable addition to the Cowboys defensive unit.
DT Da'Ron Payne, Alabama
Last but not least, Alabama defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne is an athletic freak on the interior. The 6'2", 308-pound junior has been incredibly disruptive during his time at Alabama.
While his numbers don't look all that pretty, Payne's tape speaks for itself. Payne hasn't been as consistent as his former teammate, Dalvin Tomlinson, was as a defensive tackle at 'Bama, but his flashes show just how high his ceiling can be.
His size, skill, and athletic ability make him scheme-versatile -- something we all know Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli values greatly.
Da'Ron Payne would be a solid second-round option during the 2018 NFL Draft if the Cowboys decide to wait until day two to address their 1-technique needs.
Cowboys Draft Dilemma: Deebo Samuel (Rd. 2) vs. Stanley Morgan Jr. (Rd. 4)
There are a lot of fans around Cowboys Nation who are hoping former South Carolina Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel is still on the board when the Dallas Cowboys are on the clock in the second-round with the 58th overall selection. Samuel is the dream replacement for Cole Beasley for a lot of us, but would likely be a luxury this early in the draft instead of a need.
I don't want to rain on the parade for all you Deebo Samuel fans, myself included, but I don't know if the Cowboys would pull the trigger on a WR that early. This is especially true considering there is someone who I believe compares favorably to Samuel and could be available at least two rounds later. In case you haven't figured out yet, I'm talking about former Nebraska WR Stanley Morgan Jr.
Deebo Samuel of course is the more hyped WR and is in the running as one of the top five receivers in the 2019 draft class, but Stanley Morgan Jr. shouldn't be considered a consolation prize. These two WRs could be a carbon copy of one another on paper and tested surprisingly similar at the NFL Combine as well.
Don't take my word for it of course. Take a look for yourself…
Stanley Morgan Jr.
|Arm length||31 3/8"||32 3/8"|
|Hand size||10"||9 7/8"|
|20 yard shuffle||4.14||4.13|
|3 cone drill||7.03||6.78|
As you can see from the measurements and the testing, Deebo Samuel and Stanley Morgan Jr. are amazingly similar on paper. The similarities don't end there though. Both players are devastating with the ball in their hands and easily create separation through their route stems.
The only real difference I have seen between the two is Samuel is a little more thickly built and has been more productive as an outside receiver so far in his career. He is also the more powerful of the two, which serves him well in contested catch situations. That's not saying Morgan can't be just as effective as an outside WR. He just wasn't utilized in that manner during his time at Nebraska.
As far as the Dallas Cowboys are concerned though, both Samuel and Morgan would be ideal inside/outside WR candidates capable of replacing Cole Beasley in the slot. The only question now is which receiver would the Cowboys prefer?
It's really a tossup if you don't really know these receivers and have never watched them play, but not if you take into consideration what we know about the Dallas Cowboys. They like bargains, which is why I have a hard time believing they wouldn't be bargain shoppers in the 2019 NFL Draft like they have been so far in free agency.
As much as we all love Deebo Samuel and the skill set he would bring to the Cowboys, investing a second-round pick might be too high for Dallas considering they can get a similar player at least two rounds later. Stanley Morgan Jr. is a bargain I just don't think they could pass up.
This is all speculation of course, but it's definitely something to take into consideration when the 2019 NFL Draft gets underway.
Deebo Samuel or Stanley Morgan Jr.? Which receiver would you draft?
Cowboys Draft Target: Mississippi State S Johnathan Abram
NAME: Johnathan Abram
SCHOOL: Mississippi State
JERSEY: No. 38
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
HT: 5' 11 3/8"
|Tackles||Tackles||Tackles||Tackles||Tackles||Def Int||Def Int||Def Int||Def Int||Def Int||Fumbles||Fumbles||Fumbles||Fumbles|
Johnathan Abram, playing for the Bulldogs of Mississippi State University, is considered the hardest hitting safety in college football. He's top NFL prospect, who is projected to be selected in the late 1st to early 2nd round(s) of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Johnathan Abram's biggest strength as a safety prospect is his ability to play around the line of scrimmage as a box safety, which is why he's projected to be a strong safety in the NFL. Possesses the prototypical size for the position. He also has the ability and skill set to play a hybrid safety/linebacker role as well.
Abram is at his best when he's playing downhill and sideline to sideline against the run. His size, strength, and physicality allow him to stack and shed blocks like a linebacker. Aggressive tackler who is always looking to deliver a big hit. Also shows good technique to get his head across the ball carrier's chest while wrapping up to make the tackle.
Shows adequate range and speed in coverage. Is able to flip his hips and redirect to change direction quickly, but there is some stiffness there as well. Has the size and athletic ability to match up with tight ends. Shows an understanding of route recognition. His physicality in the run game carries over into the passing game.
The biggest concern about Johnathan Abram's game is his ability, or lack thereof, in coverage. Whether it's an man or zone coverage, he struggles with his responsibilities and can be eaten alive by receivers who know what they're doing. This doesn't bode well for his transition to the NFL, which has become a heavy passing league.
His aggressive nature will get him into trouble in the passing game. Can be clunky in his transitions against good route runners. Will panic and grab when he's caught out of position, which has generated, or should have, flags being thrown. Lack of desired range will keep him from becoming a deep safety, making him a strong safety only.
Questionable ball skills. Only has two interceptions and 10 pass deflections in his career. Struggles locating the ball and doesn't show instincts or anticipation to jump routes. Can be too aggressive against the run, causing him to over pursue and create cutback lanes.
If the Dallas Cowboys are looking for a hard-hitting strong safety who excels around the line of scrimmage, then Johnathan Abram is their guy. He is a heatseeking missile when playing downhill or sideline to sideline, and would play that Kam Chancellor type role on the backend of Kris Richard's defense. He has outstanding size and speed for the position, and is a more fluid athlete then he's given credit for. More of a "traditional" throwback safety.
Abram unfortunately struggles in coverage, despite showing good range and long speed. He may be nothing more than a box safety or nickel/dime linebacker in the NFL. This could hurt his chances of landing with the Cowboys, especially if they are looking for an interchangeable safety to pair with Xavier Woods. But, if there are looking for that "enforcer" type of player, they'd probably have to take him at 58 in the second-round because it's unlikely he will still be there when they're on the clock in the third-round.
Dallas Cowboys Make Trades in this 7-round Mock Draft
Though we're still in the midst of the free agency frenzy that took hold this week, the Dallas Cowboys are continuing the grind toward the end of April as they look forward to the most important aspect of roster building for their franchise, the NFL Draft.
As we know by now, the Dallas Cowboys prefer to build their team through draft, supplement their roster with lower cost free agent signings, and retain their own players through contract extensions and resignings. As they get ready for the draft, they'll be exploring all opportunities to improve a roster that made it to the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs in 2018 with the hopes of advancing even further in 2019.
This is the first installment of mock drafts that you'll see from me here at Inside The Star, and like last year, I wanted to explore what some trade options might look like for the Dallas Cowboys. For this installment, I used Draftek's big board over with Fanspeak's On The Clock Premium Simulator. It allows for trades and allows you to select whether the simulation will use the same big board or multiple big boards to create more variables. I selected multiple, because that's closer to the reality of the NFL Draft. Every team has a unique big board that they're operating from.
All trades went through Draftek's Trade Value Chart, which is what the teams use when assigning value to draft picks.
58 - TRADE
58 to San Francisco for 67 and 86
Because the Cowboys don’t have a first round pick or a sixth round pick and this draft class is deep at several positions where the Cowboys could use some reisnforcements, they’re going into the draft looking to trade back with their first pick.
The San Francisco 49ers come calling and offer picks 67 (3.3) and 104 (4.2) for the 58th overall pick.
Per the trade value chart produced by Draftek, the Cowboys gain 21 points in value from the trade. It’s not a far trade back, as it’s only nine spots. Their ability to pick up an extra fourth is huge.
67 - Christian Miller, EDGE, Alabama
With their first pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, The Dallas Cowboys select Christian Miller, EDGE, Alabama.
Somewhat of a forgotten man on the Alabama defense, Miller exploded for eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss in his senior season with the Crimson Tide.
Check out The Draft Network's Scouting Report on Christian Miller.
90 - Charles Omenihu, DL, Texas
Admittedly, I’m not as high on Charles Omenihu as some others might be as a second round selection, but as a third rounder, I can see the value in drafting Omenihu to help fortify your defensive line.
The Texas Longhorn product has experience playing on the EDGE, 3-Tech, and 1-tech alignments, and would probably be best suited playing 3-Tech in the NFL.
He reminds me a bit of Tyrone Crawford in that he doesn’t do anything spectacular, but he finds ways to make plays.
He was a productive player at Texas finishing with 9.5 sacks in the season.
Back in February I wrote a film review on Omenihu.
104 - TRADE
104 to the Buffalo Bills for 112 and 131
In another trade back, the Cowboys sent pick 104 in the fourth round to the Buffalo Bills for their two fourth round picks, 112 and 131. Per the trade value chart, the Cowboys picked up 25 points in pick value by trading back eight spots.
112 - Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi St.
The Dallas Cowboys could use a safety that can play in the box and Johnathan Abram from Mississippi St. could very well be the guy to line up next to Xavier Woods in the secondary.
In 2018, Abram recorded 99 total tackles, nine tackles for loss, three sacks, five passes defenses, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and two interceptions.
In 2017, he recorded 71 total tackles, diver tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles and five passes defensed.
Abram, who will be one of the Dallas Cowboys 30 visitors in preparation for the draft, was a splash player in the SEC.
128 - Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma
Were it not for the ACL injury suffered by Oklahoma Running Back Rodney Anderson, it’s possible we’re talking about a top 60 selection in this year’s draft. Anderson’s injury history, however, has him consistently available for the Cowboys in the fourth round.
As they look for a backup to Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys would be hard-pressed to find a runner as productive and as talented as Anderson is without paying a premium price.
Like Elliott, Anderson’s a smooth runner, who is able to play through contact as well as make people miss in the open field.
For his career, Anderson averaged 6.4 yards per carry and scored 16 touchdowns. His only full season with the Sooners, he rushed for 1161 yards on 188 attempts (6.2 yards per carry), 13 touchdowns, and caught 17 passes for 281 yards, and five more touchdowns. That’s a touchdown every 11.4 touches.
Prior to being lost for the season in week two against UCLA, Anderson was averaging 10.8 yards per carry.
Read Brian Martin's Draft Preview on Rodney Anderson.
131 - Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State
Parris Campbell has the speed, quickness, and athleticism to be a threat both in the slot and on the outside for the Dallas Cowboys.
Admittedly, it’s not likely that a player with his athletic traits and production would be available in the fourth round, but in the NFL Draft, there are few guarantees.
Campbell recorded 90 receptions for 1,063 yards, and 23 touchdowns in his senior season with the Buckeyes. He'd be an excellent asset in the slot and on the outside as a speed threat for the Dallas Cowboys.
136 - Ben Banogu, EDGE/LB, TCU
You can never have too many pass rushers, and that’s what the Cowboys believe as they double-up on weakside EDGE players by selecting Ben Banogu from TCU in the fourth round.
Banogu was a very productive player for the Hirned Frogs. For his junior and senior seasons, Banogu averaged 8.5 sacks and 17.25 tackles for loss.
At 6-4, 249, he brings good length to the position and has the frame to add a bit more bulk to help him set the edge in the NFL.
165 - Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA
Count me as one who’s excited about the possibility of Blake Jarwin developing into a starting tight end for the Cowboys. He certainly showed over the last half of the season that he’s capable, just needs more experience and playing time. That said, despite the addition of Jason Witten, the Cowboys should still look to add a tight end in the draft, and here’s a good one in UCLA product, Caleb Wilson.
In 11 games for the Bruins in 2918, Wilson caught 60 passes for 965 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged 16.1 yards per reception in the PAC 12.
If there’s a knock on Wilson, it’s that he has had some injury struggles in his collegiate career. He has potential to be a move tight end in the NFL with his receiving ability.
241 - Jalen Hurd, WR, Baylor
There are few prospects that can be had around the fifth round or later that are as intriguing as Baylor Wide Receiver Jalen Hurd.
The first three years of his collegiate career, Hurd played running back for the University of Tennessee and averaged about 4.6 yards per carry. In his freshman season, he ran for 899 yards and five touchdowns, while adding 221 yards receiving on 35 catches and two more touchdowns.
When he transferred to Baylor for his senior season, the Bears coaching staff converted him to wide receiver and he flourished. In 12 games, Hurd caught 69 passes for 946 yards and four touchdowns. The Bears also used him as a runner and he gained 209 yards on 48 carries for three more touchdowns.
In his four year career, he averaged 1,070 yards from scrimmage on 193 touches for 8.25 touchdowns. That’s at two different positions and two different schools.
at 6-4, 217 pounds, Hurd has the size to play receiver in the NFL. He has the ability to play both inside and outside and can give you some snaps out of the backfield as well.
Check out Brian Martin's film review on Jalen Hurd.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
This is just one of many scenarios that could take place when the NFL Draft rolls around at the end of April. The possibilities are endless. The Cowboys have several needs on the offensive and defensive side of the football and this draft has players that can fill those areas of need throughout. Obviously, they'll look to draft the best player available when they come on the clock, and these could very well be players that end up with a star on their helmet in 2019.
How would you feel about the Cowboys drafting any of these guys?
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