It's no surprise that eyes are turning to the draft after the Cowboys' underwhelming free agency period. That fourth-overall pick is exciting and, ideally, will bring in a future star at whatever position they draft.
Not to be lost in that top-five fanfare is that Dallas also has a very early second-round pick, the 34th overall. There is a high probability that some of the talent you're seeing in the late and even middle of first-round mock drafts will fall to the Cowboys' second pick, making it worthy of extensive consideration.
Starting today I'm going to profile various prospects who could reasonably be there for Dallas in the second round. We're going to kick it off with a rising star that played in the most recent National Championship game.
Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
Right now Dodd is being projected all over the place. I've seen him going as high as the 10-15 range in the first round and also falling to the middle of the second round. One major site's mock had him going at the 33rd pick to the Titans, one spot ahead of the Cowboys' second pick.
Dodd has been called both "NFL ready" and "raw" by scouts. He has great size at 6'5" and is listed at 277 pounds. He's a little older for a rookie, turning 24 in July, but that could be part of why he already has a mature and pro-ready body.
What I really like about him is that his best play has been his most recent; 3.5 sacks in his last three regular season games, one more in the playoff semifinal, and then three against Alabama in the championship. He's been showing up when the lights were brightest.
Comparison to Top Prospect
Let's see how Dodd's season and his workouts have compared to the consensus top prospect at defensive end; Joey Bosa from Ohio State. These are a mix of combine and pro day results.
Also, keep in mind that Dodd played one extra game due to being in the playoffs.
|Bosa (6'5", 269 lbs)||Dodd (6'5", 277 lbs)|
|Vertical||31 1/2||30 1/2|
Despite being nearly identical in size Bosa clearly outperformed Dodd in the workouts. However, there's no question which of the two was more productive in their on-field stats.
You can make the case that Dodd had more opportunities for stats as he was playing opposite from Shaq Lawson, whereas teams would be running away from and focusing on stopping Bosa. Let's look a little more at that argument.
The Shaq Effect
The most-repeated concern with Dodd is that he was benefiting from the presence of a premiere pass-rusher in Lawson. That's a fair point, but really more of a first-round issue. You'd be more worried if you were taking someone to be the star of your defensive line.
Look at it this way; Dodd is built to be strongside defensive end. On almost any time he will likely play that left side of the defense and go up against opponents' right tackles, the same as in college. On the other side would be the team's premiere pass rusher. He should enjoy the same relationship he had with Lawson with a future teammate who plays that weakside role.
Also, 12.5 sacks is still a huge number in college. It tied him fifth in the nation and just a half-sack behind Lawson. You don't get that kind of production just being at the right place at the right time. It speaks to his own ability.
Let's say Dallas takes Bosa or some other defensive end in the first round. I don't think that would necessarily preclude them from taking another one in the second.
As I've written about recently, Dallas is scarily thin at defensive end right now. DeMarcus Lawrence is your only sure thing, followed by unproven players in Ryan Russell and newly-signed Benson Mayowa. Randy Gregory will be suspended for four weeks and hasn't really proven himself on the field, either.
Rod Marinelli loves having a rotation and you obviously need several players for that. If he's on the board at #34 then Dodd could very well be the best player available at any position. Throw in our team needs, even with a DE being selected the night before, and you can see why they'd make the move.
What's more, if Dallas doesn't take a DE on Thursday then I could see them trading up into the last first round to get Dodd or someone of comparable talent. They have an extra fourth-round compensatory pick that would make excellent fodder for a trade-up scenario.
Have the Dallas Cowboys Overcome Their 2nd-Round Curse?
You may not be aware or maybe you've simply forgotten, but the Dallas Cowboys have struggled drafting players in the 2nd-round who can come in and contribute. Typically players drafted this highly are not only immediate contributors as a rookie, but are cornerstone players for years to come. That hasn't been the case for the Cowboys.
I don't know where you stand, but I was beginning to think the Dallas Cowboys were cursed with their 2nd-round draft picks. I know this was an area where they would gamble on players for some reason or another, but unfortunately it never really paid off. Hopefully, things are changing for the better.
Let's take a look back at past drafts to see what I'm talking about.
Past 2nd-Round Draft Picks Dating Back to 2006:
2018 Connor Williams
2017 Chidobe Awuzie
2016 Jaylon Smith
2015 Randy Gregory
2014 DeMarcus Lawrence
2013 Gavin Escobar
2012 (no selection) used to trade for Morris Claiborne
2011 Bruce Carter
2010 Sean Lee
2009 (no selection) traded out of 2nd-round
2008 Martellus Bennett
2007 (no selection) used to trade back into 1st for Anthony Spencer
2006 Anthony Fasano
You may be wondering why I decided to start all the way back in 2006. Well, I believe that's when the 2nd-round draft picks curse started for the Dallas Cowboys.
Anthony Fasano ended up having a solid career in the NFL, but he never lived up to his draft status as a former 2nd-round draft pick. The same can be said for Martellus Bennett, Gavin Escobar, and Bruce Carter. Shed a tear for them if you want, but I'd put them in the "bust" category.
The sad truth is, Sean Lee is the only 2nd-round draft pick on this list to ever see a second contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Although, I guess you can include DeMarcus Lawrence since he will be playing under the franchise tag in 2018. But, that's still not a very good hit percentage in the 2nd-round for more than a decade. Luckily, it looks as if things are changing.
DeMarcus Lawrence might end up being another "hit" for the Cowboys. It may have taken him four years to reach his potential, but there's no denying how dominant he was last season. If he can maintain that dominance this season, he could be looking at a big payday from the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys took a risk on the next two players they drafted after D-Law. They knew Randy Gregory had his off the field issues, but were willing to take a chance on his talent in the 2nd-round. That has yet to pay off, but Gregory has a chance to rebound now that it looks as if he has his life back in order.
The Cowboys took another risk in the following draft when they drafted Jaylon Smith. No one knew if he would ever be able to play again after the devastating knee injury he sustained in his final collegiate game, but it's looking as if he could make a full recovery and return to his pre-injury form. Year 3 will be big for him, but he could end up being an absolute steal.
Fortunately, the Cowboys 2017 and 2018 2nd-round draft picks (Chidobe Awuzie and Connor Williams) look to be cornerstone players for years to come. That's what you're looking for in players drafted this highly.
I say all of this because it's really looking like the Dallas Cowboys have finally broken their 2nd-round curse. Maybe it's a change in draft philosophy or maybe it's because Will McClay's voice carries more weight in the draft room, but it's definitely good news for the future of the franchise. Hopefully it continues.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys 2nd-round curse has ended?
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.
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