Yesterday I shared with you the players on the North Squad at the 2018 Senior Bowl who the Dallas Cowboys could show interest in come draft time, so today I want to focus on the South Squad.
The South Squad will be coached by the Houston Texans staff and they have any of the talented prospects to work with. Honestly, I think the South Squad is a more talented of the two rosters, but I could be wrong.
Below I put together a list of prospects I will particularly be paying close attention to throughout the game. I think each one of these players could end up being a good addition to the Dallas Cowboys roster, but feel free to let me know what you think in the comment section located at the end of the article.
Running Back and Wide Receivers
#7 WR D.J. Chark, LSU (6'4", 198)
I'm personally really looking forward to seeing D.J. Chark at the 2018 Senior Bowl. He has already become one of my "pet cats" in this draft class, which is why I previously wrote about him and the skill set he would bring to the Dallas Cowboys.
I think he has the potential to be one of the better receivers in the 2018 draft class and has a chance to prove just that with a good showing at the Senior Bowl. He has all the intangibles to succeed in the NFL: strong hands, speed, solid route runner, and a strong work ethic.
#20 RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State (5'11", 220)
Rashaad Penny is still somehow flying somewhat under the radar in regards to being in the conversation as one of the top running backs in the 2018 draft class. But, I think that will change after he plays in the 2018 Senior Bowl. He should be one of the better players to play in this game.
There really aren't very many holes to Penny's game. He runs with both power and agility, and is a good receiver out of the backfield. The only knock him right now is his pass protection, but that is usually the case for RBs coming out of college. Maybe he can show improvement in that area in the game.
#28 WR James Washington, Oklahoma State (6'0", 200)
James Washington proved time and time again he is a big play threat during his time at Oklahoma State. It's his most intriguing quality right now, but he might not be able to make an immediate impact his rookie season due to his lack of route running experience.
I'll be watching for him to hopefully run a more diverse route tree in the game and show little more effort blocking the run game, something he he seemed uninterested in doing in college. If he can show improvement in these two areas, he could improve his draft stock and become a legitimate first-round pick.
#53 LB Micah Kiser, Virginia (6'2", 240)
The Dallas Cowboys are in need of depth at the linebacker position, which is why I will be watching Micah Kiser pretty closely in the Senior Bowl. He was a tackling machine during his career at Virginia, but he is more in the mold of the "Old School" LB.
Right now, Kiser is probably just a two down LB in the NFL. He is a liability in coverage and will need time to develop in that area in order to become a three down player. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but he could really help himself if he can prove he is better in coverage than his college tape suggests.
#93 DE Marcus Davenport, University of Texas at San Antonio (6'7", 255)
Although Marcus Davenport is considered a small school prospect, he has already regarded as one of the best defensive ends in the 2018 draft class. In fact, he might just have the most upside of any DE entering the draft, but he is still really raw.
My fellow Staff Writer Sean Martin recently did a breakdown of Marcus Davenport and his fit with the Cowboys here at Inside The Star, and I think he nailed it. I really want to see how he performs against better competition at the Senior Bowl. He could already be a target for the Cowboys at 19, but if he performs well, he could be long gone by then.
#71 OT Alex Cappa, Humboldt State (6'7", 305)
The Dallas Cowboys could definitely stand to upgrade their swing tackle position. I think we have all seen enough of Byron Bell and Chaz Green to agree that it was a problem in 2017. That is why I will be watching the tackles in this draft class particularly closely.
Alex Cappa is a small school prospect who is generating some buzz around the scouting community. He definitely has the size teams look for in their tackles, but he is going to have to prove himself against better competition to be considered a starter instead of a developmental player. The 2018 Senior Bowl is a great opportunity for him to do just that.
#72 OT Brandon Parker, North Carolina A&T (6'7", 309)
Like Alex Cappa, Brandon Parker is another OT small school prospect who can make a name for himself with a good showing at the Senior Bowl. He has NFL size and skill set, but needs to prove himself against better competition.
I actually like what I've seen of Parker on tape, but I think he needs time to develop before he can be depended on. I haven't heard much talk about him so for during the draft process, but that could change after the completion of this week.
#77 OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia (6'2", 302)
Isaiah Wynn has been one of my favorite offensive lineman I've studied so far. He has played center, guard, and left tackle during his career at Georgia, and hasn't looked out of place at any one of those positions. He is one of the most versatile and technique sound lineman in this draft class.
I'm really interesting seeing where he will play in the Senior Bowl. He doesn't really have the length to play LT in the NFL, so I expect him to be kicked inside to OG and maybe play a little center as well. He could be someone the Cowboys look at become their next starting LG.
#80 TE Ian Thomas, Indiana (6'5", 248)
I personally believe the Dallas Cowboys need to find their future starting tight end this year and fortunately there will be a few options to watch at the 2018 Senior Bowl. Ian Thomas is one of those prospects.
Thomas is one of the more well-rounded TEs in the 2018 draft class. He is efficient in both the running and passing game. He is not one of the speedier TEs entering the draft this year, but he is a clean route runner and knows how to find the open hole in the passing game. I think he has the makings of a starting caliber TE in the NFL.
#81 TE Adam Breneman, UMass (6'5", 255)
Adam Breneman is more of the "classic" in-line tight end prospect. He does have strong hands and great eye-hand coordination, but he's not going to get much separation in the passing game. He also should make an easy transition into the NFL after playing in a more pro-style offense at UMass.
There are concerns about Breneman though. He had to walk away (retire) from Penn State earlier in his collegiate career due to chronic pain in his left knee, so medicals will be huge for him going forward. But, he has the skill set required to succeed in the NFL.
#86 TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State (6'5", 255)
Dallas Goedert is regarded as the top TE by most scouts, and for good reason. Even though he is a small school prospect, he shows immense talent/potential.
Goedert is absolutely dominant against lower competition in both the passing game and as an in-line blocker. If he continues to do that against better competition in the Senior Bowl, he will likely be the first tight end drafted. He could be exactly what the Dallas Cowboys need it they decide to take a TE early in the draft.
What South Squad prospects are you interested in watching at the 2018 Senior Bowl?
Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?
The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.
But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.
Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.
Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.
First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.
On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.
What about the rest of the class?
Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.
After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.
How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?
One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.
Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.
But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.
Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.
Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.
Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.
One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.
In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.
Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?
Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.
The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.
Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.
Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.
For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.
Why Cowboys Nation Should Feel Better About Leighton Vander Esch
A week ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell walked out to the stage at AT&T Stadium to announce the Dallas Cowboys first pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. For the second consecutive year, a large portion of Cowboys Nation was not pretty happy about the player America's Team had drafted in the first day of the Draft.
Boise State's Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has become one of the main debates among Cowboys fans right now and will continue to be one at least until the season starts. Some are fine with the decision the front office made and some simply don't view Vander Esch as a first round talent.
Naturally, taking Leighton in the first round has been widely compared to the team's last first round pick: Taco Charlton.
Both of these selections resulted in fans all around the world complaining and criticizing the selections since they both seemed like a reach, arguing that they could've gotten better players at other positions.
But fans shouldn't be so quick to compare the Charlton and Vander Esch selections, because they really aren't that similar. Sure, most of the media and Draft fans didn't consider any of these players worthy of a first round pick, but that doesn't mean both players were ranked similarly in the Cowboys' draft board.
Defensive End Taco Charlton, despite showing some very promising flashes towards the end of the year, wasn't able to become a starter at any point during his rookie season. Hopefully he develops into one next season. But when you're talking about first-round picks, being a solid starter at the end of the season at the latest is a very usual expectation.
Possibly what made the Taco pick hurt even more, is the fact that the front office didn't even consider him a first-round talent. Although he was drafted to wear the Star with the 28th overall pick, he wasn't their guy.
The #Cowboys had three first-round grades on DEs, but Taco Charlton wasn't one of them.
With Leighton Vander Esch, the same can't be said. The Cowboys knew he was their guy and that they were going to take him, regardless of the situation. For many weeks we wondered about just every scenario the team might face when they were on the clock.
What if DE Harold Landry is available? What if Calvin Ridley is still on the board? What if Derwin James slides, would they trade up?
For the front office, there was quite a lot of talent to choose from at 19 (not to mention James did slide out of the top 15), but they still took Leighton Vander Esch, even with Landry and Ridley on the board. We might disagree with the pick. We might not think the Boise State's product should've been taken so early. That's completely fine.
But Cowboys Nation should be happy knowing that this was the guy they wanted all along. Maybe if Derwin James hadn't been drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers with the 17th pick, Dallas would have still taken Vander Esch.
"If the Cowboys traded up a few spots in the first round, I believe it would have been to ensure they got Vander Esch, not get James or Edmunds." Dane Brugler on the Cowboys' approach to the Draft.
For now, it's time to root for the Dallas Cowboys' new rookie. Vander Esch will provide a special factor to this defense and has the potential to become a very good starter down the road. Playing side by side with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith will certainly help his development and turn him into an impact player soon.
At the end of the day, it takes years to properly evaluate how a draft pick turned out in the NFL. There are first round players who turn out to be complete busts just like there are sixth or seventh round players that go on to become superstars in the league.
The Dallas Cowboys did a hell of a job addressing their needs throughout the Draft this year and there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about this year's draft picks. Leighton Vander Esch is without a doubt, one of them.
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