Before we jump into tonight's draft action I wanted to share my own thoughts about Dallas' selection of Ezekiel Elliott.
Dallas was presented with the choice that I wrote about yesterday; Elliott or Jalen Ramsey? I am glad that Ramsey was on the board so that we weren't left with any doubts as to which player the Cowboys really wanted. It's an extra jolt of confidence towards how much Dallas truly thought of Elliott and what they think he's going to do in their system.
I stand by what I said yesterday; Ramsey presented a rarer talent at a position of greater need. I would've picked him but I completely understand the Cowboys' strategy by going with Elliott. They are hoping that ground-game domination will help all phases of the game.
This isn't an original concept, of course. Running the ball well has always taken pressure off your quarterback, helped you dominate time-of-possession, and kept your defense from getting worn out. This pick cements what the selections of Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin have already spoken to; Dallas is trying to get back to what won them Super Bowls in the 1990s.
The issue now is getting the defense to a championship level. The 90s dynasty had a defense that has become woefully underrated over time. In the modern era, no team has won on the strength of its running game without a great defense to help. There's a reason that Adrian Peterson and LaDainian Tomlinson don't have any rings.
Thankfully, Dallas' #34 pick will offer them many quality defenders to choose from.
Several defensive players who were being projected in the first round, even the middle of the round, are still on the board. I posted a 35-player Big Board on Wednesday and several of those names are still out there. Here is how this list looks if I keep my rankings from the other day:
- Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
- Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
- Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
- Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
- Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
- Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio St.
- A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
- Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma St.
- Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
- Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
- Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
One thing that the actual draft gives you, which no amount of pre-draft information can, is just how worried teams are about health and/or character issues with players. Jack and Fuller both have knee injury concerns and Spence is a feared headcase. That's why they're all still out there, despite all potentially having Top-10 talent. That nobody took a chance on them in the late first round tells me the concerns are pretty big.
I would also revise my stance on Ragland after seeing everyone pass on him. NFL teams must see him as too much of a "throwback" to the point that he may not be too useful in the modern passing era. Ragland is a run-stuffing middle linebacker but won't have the domination of the Alabama defensive front to help him play clean-up duty.
That leaves me with one guy, Kevin Dodd, who is now at the top of my list for the Cowboys. He already has the body and strength to play in the NFL and was highly productive for a National Title contender. He won't even be an amazing sack artist but he looks like the kind of player who will be a solid starter for the next ten years. You can't realistically ask for more than that in the second round.
There's a chance that a few of those guys could even fall to our third-round pick, which would be
very intriguing. We can go ahead and take Derrick Henry off the board but any of those others player would be in play if they fell another round.
Is a Quarterback Coming?
It's been confirmed that Dallas tried to make a trade back into the first round to draft Paxton Lynch but couldn't outdo Denver. That opens up plenty of speculation about what they might do with any of their remaining picks, even the second-rounder, in terms of finding a young quarterback.
It's possible that the Cowboys may have been sold specifically on Lynch and not interested in the remaining prospects. However, if they were determined to find a quarterback this weekend then they may have to consider Connor Cook or Christian Hackenberg with their next pick. Both of them will probably be gone before the third round.
If Dallas' next target is Dak Prescott, who they had a bit of pre-draft activity with, then they can probably wait for the third round. However, trying to wait beyond that could easily burn them.
The variables skyrocket the further we go in the draft, so about anything could happen tonight. I feel pretty confident that Dallas will draft a defensive lineman with the 34th pick and likely a pass rusher. However, by the third round it gets almost impossible to know what they might do. At that point it's all about acquiring the best talents and position need becomes less and less of an issue.
Report: Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch Visiting Cowboys
As the 2018 NFL Draft draws closer, teams are beginning to hold their official visits with prospects of their own choosing. The Cowboys have already met with a few different prospects thus far, and they've reportedly added a linebacker to that list this week.
Multiple reports are saying the Cowboys will meet with Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch this week, adding him to the list of 30 potential visits.
BoiseState LB Leighton Vander Esch will be a pre-draft visitor for the #Cowboys. Add him to your list of 30, per Tony Pauline.
Vander Esch is a bit of a controversial prospect in the draft world. As I've stated before, he tested like a freak athletically, and his combine profile alone would put him in the discussion on day one. The problems I have with Vander Esch have nothing to do with his athleticism, however, and everything to do with his actual football-playing ability.
On film, I see a player who struggles to get off blocks and will have trouble finding a home with the Cowboys. Still, I wouldn't mind the Cowboys drafting Vander Esch - that pick cannot come in the first round though.
Vander Esch is a long, rangy, and athletic linebacker who is at his best playing laterally and tracking down plays. As a blitzer, Vander Esch has some rather clear issues. He often runs directly into blocks and is unable to shed at the point of attack. I also don't think he is as instinctual a player as some of the other linebackers in this class, such as BYU's Fred Warner or Alabama's Rashaan Evans.
The way things are looking, however, Vander Esch is going to be a first round pick. And if not, he'll almost certainly be a top 50 pick. I wouldn't be very comfortable taking him at 19, and I'd have to think twice before even taking him at 50 for that matter.
2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott
With more pressing needs on offense at guard and wide receiver, and defensively at DE or LB, the Cowboys' concerning lack of proven ability at safety has taken a backseat in this offseason's roster build. With the expectation that new Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard will elevate the play of the entire Cowboys' secondary, the team is doing their due diligence on safeties available in the 2018 NFL Draft - starting with Texas' DeShon Elliott.
It appears Texas S DeShon Elliott is visiting the #Cowboys today
With 63 tackles and six interceptions in his final season at Texas, Elliott took full advantage of being a starter in the Big 12 for the first time in his career, flying onto the NFL Draft scene.
Elliott is a well-balanced, average athlete with the upside to be targeted late in April's draft and make a difference.
If they had to play a game tomorrow, the Cowboys would be rolling with Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier at safety.
Finding an expanded role this season for Frazier should be a priority in Dallas, as should supplementing Heath and Woods with additional talent. DeShon Elliott would fit this group well, along with the Cowboys' scheme, given his range and disruptive ability.
Should Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and now Byron Jones help the Cowboys reach their full potential at CB, the Cowboys safeties will not be tested in single coverage up the field often. This is an area that Elliott was exploited in at Texas plenty of times, performing better as a true free safety or second-level player.
Continuing to add young talent at the right price is key to the Cowboys' ongoing rebuild on defense, now visiting with a local safety prospect that should be available to them in the later rounds. Texas' DeShon Elliott is officially a name to consider come draft week in Dallas.
Cowboys Draft: PSU WR DaeSean Hamilton Fits Cowboys’ “Type”
Last week, I detailed what the Cowboys tend to look for when drafting a wide receiver. In terms of a combine profile, Dallas clearly has a "type" of wide-out they like to target.
The Cowboys certainly need to upgrade their receiving corps, but with the plethora of other holes to fill, they may not be able to do so until the 3rd or 4th round. Luckily for the Cowboys, there is at least one receiver which both fits their profile and should be available early on day three.
That player is Penn State wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton.
Working on something for @InsideTheStarDC... here's the height, weight, 40 time, and 3 cone for every WR DAL has taken since 2010.
First, let's re-examine what the Cowboys like to look for. As you can see from the above graphic, the Cowboys draft targets all seem to fit a similar profile. If we treat Dez Bryant as their "ideal" draft pick, the trends become even clearer. Dallas wants to find a wide-out who is about 6'1" 205 pounds, runs nearly a 4.5 40 yard dash, and about a 6.9 three come time.
DeaSean Hamilton, coincidentally, is 6'1" 203 pounds, ran a 4.47 40 yard dash at the Penn State pro day, and ran a 6.84 three cone at the combine. Penn State's all time receptions leader stole the show at the 2018 Senior Bowl, putting all of "Draft Twitter" on notice to his talent.
An efficient and smooth route runner, Hamilton looks natural coming in and out of breaks, creating separation with his precise routes. The Cowboys don't have many receivers on their roster who can win with their route running, and adding a player like Hamilton would greatly help third year quarterback Dak Prescott moving forward.
With the ability to play in the slot, as well as potentially being a Z receiver for the Cowboys and a replacement for Terrance Williams, Hamilton would be an excellent draft target in the third or fourth round. And, keeping in mind how nicely he fits their typical draft profile, I'd expect Dallas to target Hamilton during the 2018 NFL Draft.
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