The 2018 Senior Bowl is set to take place this Saturday, January 27. This is a great opportunity for NFL teams to get a first-hand look at some of these incoming prospects after receiving NFL coaching.
The North Squad will be coached by the Denver Broncos staff, and the South Squad will be coached by the Houston Texans staff. Both squads have some talented players, which is why I decided to break down each team and share with you some of the prospects who could be of interest to the Dallas Cowboys.
Today, I want to focus on the North Squad, coached by the Denver Broncos. Below are the participants who I will be watching extra closely.
#23 S Armani Watts, Texas A&M (5'11", 205)
Armani Watts is a 2018 Senior Bowl participant I'm particularly looking forward to watching. He is a born-and-bred Texan, and had quite a career for himself at Texas A&M.
The Dallas Cowboys could be looking to upgrade their safety position, and Watts is a player who could be of interest to them.
He has the physicality to play around the line of scrimmage as a box safety, but also has the range and play-making ability to play deep.
#25 RB Akrum Wadley, Iowa (5'11", 191)
The Dallas Cowboys will likely look long and hard at this running back draft class to provide some more depth behind Ezekiel Elliott in 2018, which is why Akrum Wadley makes this list of participants to watch at the 2018 Senior Bowl.
Wadley isn't the biggest or fastest RB in the 2018 draft class, but he has an intriguing skill set to make an immediate impact for the NFL team who drafts him.
He's a patient runner with good vision and runs with more power than his size would suggest. He looks natural catching the ball out of the backfield, and he's elusive with the ball in the open field.
#59 DE Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State (6'4", 265)
With the exception of DeMarcus Lawrence, the Dallas Cowboys really don't have another proven defensive end on the roster. They have the bodies to play the position, but that likely won't keep them from drafting another DE at some point in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Tyquan Lewis was part of an impressive Ohio State defense the last few years, and has played on both the left and right side.
He has the size and power to stand up at the point of attack, and the athleticism and explosiveness to be an effective passer. But, he needs to work on his snap recognition, because sometimes he's the last one out of his stance when the ball is snapped.
#76 OG Will Hernandez, UTEP (6'3", 330)
Although the Dallas Cowboys arguably have one of the best offensive lines in the entire NFL, they could stand to upgrade the left guard position.
Jonathan Cooper was serviceable in 2017, but he's not the long-term solution.
Will Hernandez is someone who I believe can be a plug-and-play starter for the Cowboys, and probably have a decade-long career in the NFL.
Despite what his size would indicate, I believe he can play in a power or zone blocking scheme. It'll be interesting to see how he stacks up against better competition at the Senior Bowl. Check out my fellow Staff Writer's [Kevin Brady] scouting report and Cowboys fit here.
#81 TE Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin (6'6", 248)
The Dallas Cowboys might not be as interested in the 2018 tight end draft class as I am, but I'm watching the position closely.
Outside of Jason Witten, I don't like what the Cowboys currently have on the roster at the TE position, and even he's beginning to become a liability.
Troy Fumagalli is probably the most mentally prepared TE in the entire draft class. He's not going to blow teams away with this athleticism, but he is a technician as both a blocker and receiver.
It's unlikely he really stands out at the Senior Bowl, he's just not that kind of player, but he should be able to prove he is arguably the most well-rounded TE in the draft this year.
#84 WR Michael Gallup, Colorado State (6'1", 200)
The Cowboys could be looking at upgrading the wide receiver position at some point this offseason, which means they will probably focus in on some of these WRs in the 2018 draft class.
One such receiver that fits their typical profile is Michael Gallup.
My fellow Staff Writer Kevin Brady, recently did a write-up on Michael Gallup and his fit with the Cowboys, and I agree with his assessment.
Gallup is a big physical receiver, with strong hands and a large catching radius. He's a good route runner and is fearless on the field.
How he performs in the Senior Bowl could help solidify his draft status as one of the better WRs in this draft class.
#88 TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State (6'6", 252)
Again, I'm going to be watching this tight end draft class pretty closely because I think the Cowboys need to find their future starter. Mike Gesicki is definitely someone who could be of interest to the Cowboys.
Gesicki is more in line with the move/receiving type tight end that has become so popular in the NFL, but he has been used as an in-line blocker at Penn State.
He will probably show up in the passing game at some point in the Senior Bowl, but I want to see how he handles himself as an in-line blocker. He could really improve his draft stock with a good showing.
Any North Squad participants at the 2018 Senior Bowl you will be watching?
Sean’s Scout: Florida DT Taven Bryan A Disruptive Target for Cowboys
By now you know that the Dallas Cowboys have not prioritized the defensive tackle position at the Draft in some time, a point made prominent with the amount of talent available at DT in this 2018 class.
Despite not being as high on him as most, Florida's Taven Bryan would fit what the Cowboys are doing defensively under Rod Marinelli very well. Bryan is a disruptive player at the 3T position, where the Cowboys currently have a decision to make on RFA David Irving.
Even if Irving and Maliek Collins are back in the fold for 2018, Taven Bryan would be a great addition to this front seven - thanks to his raw athleticism and motor.
Let's take a closer look at how Bryan fits the Cowboys' defense.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
"Bryan excels at not giving his man much of a blocking surface area – playing with good pad level and impressive bend for a DT."
This film clip and quote comes from my full scouting report on Florida's Taven Bryan at Slant Sports. Far from a finished product, Bryan shoots gaps and beats guards off of the line with ease. This is a player with rare traits at the 3T position, bending well while playing with enough strength throughout his entire frame.
"Using a smooth upper body paired with quick footwork and burst, Bryan is frequently shooting gaps to finish in the backfield."
When I watched Taven Bryan, I was reminded of current Cowboys DT Maliek Collins in 2016. As a rookie, Collins played the penetrating 3T spot with similar burst and power.
With the Cowboys now preferring Collins at the 1T position, Bryan could fill in on day one as an interior force with the upside to become one of the league's best match up weapons up front.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
Unless a blocker across from Bryan works quickly into his frame, this is a player that is going to generate push and flow to the football with elite speed and balance.
"Taven Bryan allows his frame to be controlled too often, effectively getting washed out of any play where his blocker can squat against the speed rush and shoot their hands inside on Bryan."
Cowboys Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence proved that he is the "alpha" of this defensive line in 2017. Building this unit around Lawrence will yield positive results for the Cowboys, especially if they can find a long-term 3T to play alongside him.
One with as high of a ceiling as Taven Bryan becomes an intriguing option, especially considering the Cowboys' ability to play him in a rotation early in his career.
"Unleashing Taven Bryan as a gap-shooting 3T DT is the best way to see this prospect reach his ceiling..."
The Cowboys' 19th overall pick may be a bit rich for Taven Bryan, but this is a prospect to look for in the second round, where Dallas holds the 50th overall pick. A second round DT on my 2018 NFL Draft Board, Bryan should outplay his draft status regardless of the pick if put in the right situation to use traits that would greatly help the Dallas Cowboys.
2018 NFL Draft: How Early Should Cowboys Consider Tight End?
With Tight End Jason Witten set to enter his 16th season for the Dallas Cowboys, it has become an annual offseason tradition to discuss the team's need for young talent at TE. In a down year for the entire Cowboys offense, Witten caught the fewest passes (63) he has since 2003 - his rookie year.
Since 2003, the Cowboys have drafted seven tight ends, most of which suffering the same fate in Dallas. Playing behind the future first-ballot Hall of Fame TE in Witten, the only players that have sustained any success behind him remain current tight ends James Hanna and Geoff Swaim.
A sixth and seventh round pick respectively, Hanna and Swaim don't exactly excite anyone expecting the Cowboys to upgrade their passing game in 2018 and beyond for Quarterback Dak Prescott.
For all of the buzz about the Cowboys using their current 19th overall pick on a WR (a decision I would be against), where is the ideal spot in this draft to target a TE?
This year's draft class at TE is a top-heavy one, with some big time pass catchers available at the top of it. If the Cowboys are serious about adding a legitimate middle-of-the-field threat on offense, they could consider the likes of Dallas Goedert, Mike Gesicki, or Ian Thomas with the 50th overall pick in the second round.
Of course, Cowboys Nation continues to hold out hope for Rico Gathers to revolutionize the TE position in Dallas as their last pick in the 2016 draft, but the Baylor basketball convert has done little to prove he's motivated to rise up the depth chart anytime soon.
Doug Nussmeier is the Cowboys' third TE coach in as many seasons, joining the staff for 2018 with no previous experience in this coaching role specifically. Nussmeier does bring extensive experience alongside Cowboys OC Scott Linehan, as well as nine years as an OC himself with Fresno State, Washington, Alabama, Michigan, and Florida.
It is safe to say that Nussmeier understands the importance of the TE position for a QB, especially a young one like Prescott - who has inconsistently used Jason Witten as the "security blanket" he became known as under Tony Romo.
If recent draft history holds up, the Cowboys will wait until the later rounds to possibly address tight end. The impact a top player from this class could immediately have in Dallas needs to be considered though, making TE an intriguing draft need as early as the second or third rounds.
The 1 Player Cowboys Should Consider Trading Up For
The Dallas Cowboys enter the 2018 NFL Draft needing help in multiple areas. Of course, they could use new blood on the interior of their defensive line, in their linebacker corps, and in their receiver room. Their most important need to fill in the first round, however, seems to be left guard.
If the Cowboys could find an immediate starter at left guard, a dominant player who can function as an effective run blocker and allow Dak Prescott to trust his left side once again, their offense would be back in business. We typically think of the Cowboys offense, and their line in particular, as a strength. But down the stretch in 2017 that simply wasn't the case.
As I've discussed before, there should be realistic options available with the 19th overall selection, particularly Georgia guard Isiah Wynn. There is one player in this NFL Draft class they should consider moving up for if the price is right, though.
That player is Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson.
Make no mistake, Quenton Nelson is the best prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft class. He is a massive, yet athletic interior offensive lineman who cemented himself as the best guard in college football during his senior season with the Fighting Irish.
Nelson plays with an edge that you love from offensive linemen, especially from those you will be asking to run block often. He doesn't just open holes, he embarrasses defensive tackles. He doesn't just smartly use body positioning and footwork, he finishes his blocks and snatches souls. Plus, he shows the athleticism and agility to get to the second level to seal off linebackers.
Quenton Nelson works well in pass protection as well. Often labeled a weakness in his game coming out of high school, Nelson has shown vast improvements in his footwork, awareness, and balance in his pass set while at Notre Dame. He would be a day one starter in Dallas, and would take the Cowboys' offensive line back to their 2014-2016 form.
But how realistic is it that the Cowboys would move up for Nelson?
Well, not very realistic at all. In fact, I'd say it's more likely the Cowboys move back to take Will Hernandez or Isaiah Wynn than it is they give away future assets in such a Day Two-rich draft. If, for some reason, Quenton Nelson falls to around the 12th overall pick however, there could be an opening for the Cowboys to come up and snag him.
I don't condone trading up often whatsoever, but Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson leads a very short list of players I'd move up for if I were the Cowboys. Trading up for a guard seems like flawed logic, but considering the importance and impact he would have for this team, Quenton Nelson is well worth it.
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