As we continue to move through the Cowboys’ positions of need and construct their overall draft board, we now take a look at what Dallas tends to look for in linebackers.
The Cowboys have some real questions to answer within their linebacker corps this offseason. Sean Lee is an obvious stud, but his injury history makes him a bit unreliable. Jaylon Smith began to come along later in the season, but how much better will he be in 2018? And then, of course, there is the impending free agency of Anthony Hitchens the team must deal with.
The Cowboys will certainly be looking at this somewhat-deep linebacker class in the upcoming draft, and after reviewing what their “type” has been in the past, a few prospects stood above the rest.
And here it is for LB. Better set of training data so should be more predictive of future picks. LVE is a freak athletically.
For starters, Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds must have been built in a lab. At 6’4″ 253 pounds he is much bigger and stronger than the typical Cowboys linebacker, but his athletic testing all exceed the normal thresholds as well. He is significantly faster and more athletic than the typical Dallas draft pick, and would be an excellent candidate with the 19th overall pick. Unfortunately, I don’t anticipate him being their for the taking.
Iowa’s Josey Jewell is an interesting prospect to evaluate. A rather reliable player on film, Jewell also passes each of the athletic thresholds set by Dallas in previous years. Well, besides his 40 time, which is nearly a full second slower than their average selection. Still, considering his tape, short shuttle, 3 cone, and broad jump, I expect him to be a potential target for the Cowboys on day two.
The 2 linebackers which fit the Cowboys’ plan best, however, are BYU’s Fred Warner and Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch.
As seen on the spreadsheet, Vander Esch is a certified freak by Cowboys’ standards. He greatly exceeds each of Dallas’ athletic markers, and does it all at 6’4″ and over 250 pounds. Like I said, he’s an athletic freak in the eyes of the Cowboys.
Warner is just below the average weight in previous years (by only 2 pounds), but he is much more athletic than players we’ve seen the Cowboys draft since 2011. He is converting from more of an EDGE-type role in college to being a full time off-ball linebacker, and so far he has looked comfortable doing so at the Senior Bowl and Combine.
Considering the struggles the Cowboys have had on defense as of late, finding these younger and faster players should be a priority. And, as indicated by the testing of their previous draft classes, the Cowboys should be able to upgrade on that athleticism during the 2018 NFL Draft.