They've searched far and wide to get an understanding of this draft class in hopes of finding the best players possible for the 2019 season and beyond. The Dallas Cowboys, however, may find some of their best options right down the road in College Station.
During their pre-draft visits, the Dallas Cowboys hosted or met with three players from Texas A&M University. Jace Sternberger, Trayveon Williams, Kinglesy Keke, and Daylon Mack have all been discussed as potential selections during the 2019 NFL Draft, which starts on Thursday.
Each of these players fit a position of need for the Dallas Cowboys and each have a different cost attached. Let's talk about each one, where the Cowboys could grab them. and the likelihood of their choice.
Jace Sternberger, Tight End
The Dallas Cowboys have been rumored to need a tight end for the last two drafts. Heading into the 2018 draft, they still had future Hall of Fame inductee Jason Witten on the roster. Then he shocked Cowboys Nation with his seemingly sudden retirement just before the second round of the draft started.
The Cowboys didn't panic and stayed true to their pre-draft game plan. They did select a tight end in the fourth round of the draft; Dalton Schultz. As we head into 2019, there is still a large spotlight on the tight end position though Jason Witten again shocked the world and came out of retirement to return to the Dallas Cowboys.
Though they would seem set at the position, there is still some uncertainty. Witten is in an advanced NFL age. Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz still have a lot to prove.
That brings us to Jace Sternberger, who was the focal point for the Aggies passing offense and had a tremendous 2018 season. Last season, Sternberger caught 48 passes for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns. He averaged 17.3 yards per reception.
Here's his game log from 2018. You can see that he performed well even against the stalwarts of the SEC.
|1||2018-08-30||Texas A&M||Northwestern State||W||5||56||11.2||2||0||0||0|
|7||2018-10-13||Texas A&M||@||South Carolina||W||7||145||20.7||1||0||0||0|
|8||2018-10-27||Texas A&M||@||Mississippi State||L||2||13||6.5||0||0||0||0|
|12||2018-11-24||Texas A&M||Louisiana State||W||5||75||15.0||2||0||0||0|
|13||2018-12-31||Texas A&M||N||North Carolina State*||W||1||28||28.0||0||0||0||0|
Sternberger's athletic testing wasn't great, but he's an ascending player that could make an impact in the NFL. He's more of a positional blocker, but is willing to get physical and fight in the running game. Sternberger has a good feel for zone and man coverage and shows an excellent ability to make plays down the seem.
Many people think he could be gone by the time the Dallas Cowboys go on the clock in the third round at pick number 90, but I think 58 could be a bit early for the Cowboys to take a tight end. Given that there will be defensive lineman, safeties, and wide receivers available to the Cowboys around 58, I'd imagine they wait till later in the draft to take a tight end, if they take one at all.
Projected Round: Late 2nd, Early 3rd
Cowboys Draft Probability: 30%
Trayveon Williams, Running Back
The Dallas Cowboys aren't looking for a lead back. They've got one in two-time NFL Rushing Champion Ezekiel Elliott. What they do need is a reliable backup behind Elliott to take five to 10 touches a game to keep their lead back fresh.
Though diminutive in size at 5-9, 200 pounds, Running Back Trayveon Williams is a player that the Dallas Cowboys met with at the NFL Scouting Combine and could have some interest in.
Trayveon Williams was a very productive player for the Aggies in his three seasons, scoring 35 total touchdowns in three seasons, including 19 in 2018. In 2018, he totaled 2,038 yards from scrimmage and 6.8 yards per touch. That's incredible production for a player who played in the SEC. Though he didn't have a great showing against Alabama, he ran with the toughness of a player with 20 more pounds on him.
|1||2018-08-30||Texas A&M||Northwestern State||W||20||240||12.0||3||1||2||2.0||0|
|7||2018-10-13||Texas A&M||@||South Carolina||W||19||78||4.1||1||1||4||4.0||0|
|8||2018-10-27||Texas A&M||@||Mississippi State||L||10||26||2.6||0||4||45||11.3||0|
|12||2018-11-24||Texas A&M||Louisiana State||W||35||198||5.7||2||1||-2||-2.0||0|
|13||2018-12-31||Texas A&M||N||North Carolina State*||W||19||236||12.4||3||0||0||0|
This guy is just a good football player. Against Alabama, Clemson, and Mississippi State he struggled, but those squads each feature defensive lineman that will be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Alabama's defensive line features three guys that could go by pick 100.
Though his athletic testing doesn't show it, he's a player with quickness and enough speed to get to the corner. He did test similarly to former Cowboys Nation draft darling Duke Johnson in the 40, vertical jump, and broad jump. Williams tape looks better than his testing, though it will be his size and his testing that keeps him in the range for the Dallas Cowboys to consider him.
I don't believe that the Cowboys will take a running back higher than the fourth round. The runner they select won't have a huge role in the offense because of Ezekiel Elliott. Therefore it makes it difficult to spend a premium pick (rounds 1-3) on a player whose role is limited before even steps foot on the practice field.
With the quickness and speed he displayed on tape, Williams could be a nice change of pace back for the Cowboys if they were to select him. The question is, does he fit what the Cowboys are looking for. We won't know until they draft, but if they don't see him as a potential three-down back, Williams may not be the runner that they're looking for in the fourth or fifth round.
Projected Round: Late 4th, Early 5th
Cowboys Draft Probability: 60%
Kingsley Keke, Defensive Tackle
One of the positions of question surrounds the defensive line and in particular defensive tackle. They've got Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford, Kerry Hyder, Antwaun Woods, and Christian Covington all slated to take snaps at defensive tackle. Given that Maliek Collins, Antwaun Woods, and Kerry Hyder will be free after 2019 and they could find cap relief from Tyrone Crawford next offseason, the Cowboys would have a seriously gaping hole at defensive tackle.
Texas A&M Defensive Tackle Kingsley Keke is a player that could fit into the Cowboys 2019 plans and beyond. Keke has experience playing all over the defensive line for the Aggies and was very productive in 2018.
His 7.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss are evidence of a disruptive player. Though he didn't register a sack against Alabama, he played well during the rest of his SEC schedule. Only one of his sacks and three of his tackles for loss came against non-Power 5 conference opponents.
Athletically, he didn't test great, but he tested similarly to Ohio State Defensive Lineman Dre'Mont Jones. Jones has been mentioned as a potential second round pick. Dane Brugler and Jonah Tuls have Keke projected in the fourth or fifth round.
Keke is a tall and long player, which fits the defensive line prototype for Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli. At 6-4 and 288 pounds, Keke has the size to play the 3-tech position and has experience playing the 1-tech and on the EDGE. This Cowboys coaching staff loves versatility from their defensive linemen.
Projected Round: Late 4th, Early 5th
Cowboys Draft Probability: 70%
Daylon Mack, Defensive Tackle
One final player from the Aggies that could hold some interest from the Dallas Cowboys, is 1-technique, Daylon Mack.
After seeing the way the Los Angeles Rams abused them up front in the playoffs, the Cowboys could use some beef on the inside. The question is, do they value the 1-technique defensive tackle position enough to spend a draft pick on one?
I'm not sure that they do.
Antwaun Woods was a pick up off of the Tennessee Titans practice squad. Before him, they used Maliek Collins as the 1-tech in 2017. And before that, they tried Cedric Thornton for a season. The Cowboys front office has had opportunities to address the 1-tech spot along their defensive line, but have shown little interest in doing so.
The Cowboys brass met with Mack during the Senior Bowl week and he could have a role with the Cowboys in 2019 if they made him a selection.
In 2018, Mack recorded 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss for the Aggies. At 6-1, 336, you could imagine that Mack wouldn't test very well athletically, and he didn't. The only test where Mack scored better than the 25 percentile was in the bench when he recorded 30 reps of 225 pounds. That placed him in the 80th percentile among defensive tackles.
Read Kevin Brady's Scouting Report on Daylon Mack.
Projected Round: 5th Round
Cowboys Draft Probability: 5%
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Obvioiusly, it's possible that the Cowboys don't select any players from Texas A&M, but I found it intriguiging that they have shown interest in four of their top players during the draft process. If I had my choice of which they would select, it would be Kinglsey Keke in the fifth round. I think he has a lot of upside as an interior rusher. He wouldn't have to start in year one, but could be a rotational player that would figure into the competition at 3-tech in 2020.
There are several schools that have produced really good draft classes this year, but none has garnered more interest from the Dallas Cowboys than the Aggies of Texas A&M.
Cowboys Draft: Reviewing Kansas DT Daniel Wise
Throughout the post draft media process, the Cowboys' decision makers have been adamant that they found multiple draft-able players in undrafted free agency this year. Each of which, of course, will have an opportunity to compete for a roster or practice squad spot this summer.
One of those players who almost certainly had a draft-able grade despite fall through all seven rounds, is Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise.
At 6'3" and 290 pounds, Wise projects as a 3-technique in the NFL, and should compete for that very role on the Cowboys defense. Wise is not an overly bendy or athletic player, but he has a good initial quickness which allows him to penetrate gaps well. Wise plays with excellent effort, having the type of motor that I'm sure Rod Marinelli valued highly during the pre-draft evaluations.
A strong and powerful interior presence, Wise can offer some upside as a pass rusher as well. He has quick, active, and heavy hands. When combining his hands with his get-off, Wise is a real threat as a pass rusher. Maybe his most impressive pass rushing quality, however, is the effort which he plays with. Never giving up on a play, you'll have to block Wise until the final whistle or he will threaten for effort sacks.
In college, Wise was often asked to be a two-gap defender from the 5-technique, but that's just not where he'll be at his best. Rather, he should be used in the role the Cowboys likely envision for him, allowing him to play with power at the point of attack and disrupt the running game.
But what are Daniel Wise's chances of even making the team?
The Cowboys made a concerted effort to improve their defensive line this offseason, specifically on the interior. By adding free agents like Kerry Hyder and drafting Trysten Hill 58th overall, Dallas has improved what was considered a weakness during the postseason a year ago.
Not all of these talented defensive tackles will make the team, though, it's simply a numbers a game. And cutting an undrafted free agent will certainly be easier to do than cutting someone who will be owed real money, or was acquired through premium draft capital.
Regardless, Daniel Wise will have the chance to prove his worth during training camp and the preseason. And based on how he projects through his college tape and physical attributes, he'll likely make those final decisions very difficult on the Cowboys' staff.
Pre-Draft Visitors Highlight Dallas Cowboys 2019 Rookie Class
The Dallas Cowboys are "officially" adding 21 rookies to their roster, eight of which they drafted and the remaining 13 are undrafted free agents. The number of rookies the Cowboys are bringing in isn't all that surprising, but what did surprise me was how many of them were pre-draft visitors.
You may or may not know, but the NFL allows 30 allotted pre-draft visits for each team around the league. Teams don't have to use all 30 visits of course, but the majority of them take advantage of the opportunity and generally use up all 30 visits. It's a chance to introduce these rookies into the atmosphere they could be playing in and work them out in more of a one-on-one basis.
The Dallas Cowboys of course are known as a team who take their 30 pre-draft visits very seriously. Over the past several years they've drafted several players who were brought in for pre-draft visits, and 2019 was no exception.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, paying attention to the Dallas Cowboys 30 pre-draft visits is a good idea because the odds of them drafting one or more of them is pretty high. That's why I decided to run a pre-draft tracker this year, and because of it I was able to confirm 27 of the possible 30 pre-draft visitors for the Cowboys.
Here are 2019 pre-draft visitors currently on the Cowboys roster:
- DT, Trysten Hill
- RB, Tony Pollard
- RB, Mike Weber
- WR, Jon'Vea Johnson
- CB, Chris Westry
If you're doing the math, 5 out of 30 equates to 17% of the players the Dallas Cowboys brought in as pre-draft visitors. But, if Dallas only brought in 27 that percentage rises to 19%. To say that the Cowboys value these pre-draft visits would be an understatement, at least as far as 2019 is concerned.
The first three of Trysten Hill, Tony Pollard, and Mike Weber were of course all draft picks and have the best chance to stick around on the final 53-man roster, but I wouldn't rule out Jon'Vea Johnson and Chris Westry. Both were draftable players, but somehow fell through the cracks right into the lap of the Cowboys as UFAs.
I don't really know if it's a good idea the Dallas Cowboys are so transparent with how valuable the treat these 30 pre-draft visits. We've seen teams time and time again trade up right in front of them to draft a player the Cowboys could've possibly been eyeing, and this year was no exception.
After drafting Running Back/Wide Receiver Tony Pollard with the first of their fourth-round draft picks, it looked like the Dallas Cowboys had their sights set on small school Defensive End/Defensive Tackle John Cominsky out of Charleston with their second pick in the fourth. Unfortunately, the Atlanta Falcons traded up a spot ahead of them to draft Cominsky.
This of course isn't the first time the Falcons have done this, which begs the question as to how they knew the Cowboys could have possibly been targeting Cominsky. We can throw a conspiracy theory out there that Atlanta might have been inside source, but that's highly unlikely. More plausible theory is they were paying attention to Dallas' 30 pre-draft visitors as well.
It may be time for the Dallas Cowboys to deploy a little more smoke and mirrors when it comes to who they bring in for pre-draft visits in the future. But regardless, there's no denying the Cowboys pre-draft visitors highlight their 2019 rookie class.
Are you surprised the Dallas Cowboys added so many pre-draft visitors to the roster?
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Draft Grades
Another year, another draft come and gone. The difference was that this year the Dallas Cowboys were without a first-round pick thanks to their trade for Amari Cooper with Oakland. Their de facto first-round pick would obviously earn an A+ from how well he meshed with Dak Prescott and gave this Cowboys offense another dimension.
Given how well the Cowboys have done in the first round in recent history -- all but two of their first round picks since 2011 have been in the Pro Bowl, a trend that continued with last year’s pick, Leighton Vander Esch. This season, the Cowboys only had picks from round two and on. So this year was all about finding value and hoping it would fall into their laps.
Obviously time will tell if any of these players work out or not. For the time being, we can grade the picks based on what we do know. Some picks were worth it, while others raised questions, as well as eyebrows.
58 Overall: DT, Trysten Hill
In what has been considered the best defensive line draft in decades, the Cowboys took a bit of a risk with their first “official” pick. Trysten Hill is a first round talent out of UCF, but reports questioning his love for the game had some give him a third round grade.
Dallas has already had an off-season dealing with talented defensive linemen with questions around their passion for the game (i.e. David Irving) and so obviously people didn’t love this pick.
It’s a high risk, high reward move that we’ll have to wait and see how it turns out.
90 Overall: G, Connor McGovern
As far as value goes, McGovern was probably the team’s best pick. In my pre-draft rankings, Connor McGovern was my fourth overall interior lineman; a player who you can play anywhere in the interior and start immediately.
However, guard didn’t really seem like a need. This was obviously a “best player available” pick. What this pick has done instead is raise a bunch of questions.
Who’s job could be on the line?
Does this imply the team won’t re-sign La’el Collins?
Is Connor Williams going to play tackle like he did in college?
Is one of them going to get traded?
Is Travis Frederick really ready to go?
So many questions surround this pick, but there’s no questioning the player. Connor McGovern is likely a future starter on the line and Cowboys fans should be excited about that.
128 Overall: RB, Tony Pollard
If you follow me on Twitter, you know my feelings about Tony Pollard already.
Tony Pollard might be my favorite #Cowboys pick. Has experience at both the RB and WR position, plus had 7 career kick return TDs in college. He addresses all 3 needs in 1. #NFLDraft
Returner has been a need for a year now. I never liked the team trading away Ryan Switzer because it created a huge hole on special teams, as well as the receiving core.
The team also needed a backup running back to take the load off Ezekiel Elliott a bit. With Tony Pollard, they get all three positions filled in the form of a player who's 6'0" 210 pounds, ran a 4.52 40 and compiled 25 total touchdowns. Terrific value in the fourth round.
158 Overall: CB, Michael Jackson
This is the type of corner Kris Richard loves; big and tall. At 6'1" 200 pounds, Michael Jackson fits the profile.
His 2017 tape was actually better than his 2018 tape, and all four of his career interceptions came in '17. However, the team is obviously betting on his potential, especially with corner being a serious need.
With the Cowboys' four primary corners coming into contract years the next three seasons, odds are that at least one will be gone. MJ doesn’t fill in day one as a difference maker but, given some time under Kris Richard, he could be a nice player.
165 Overall: DE, Joe Jackson
Take Joe Jackson, new Cowboy, as well as Michael and Darius Jackson, and the team is just two short of a Jackson 5 reunion.
The team has been very busy trying to rebuild the depth at edge and Joe Jackson is icing on an already stacked cake. In an off-season that saw the retirement of David Irving and another suspension for Randy Gregory, the team was able to extend DeMarcus Lawrence and trade for Robert Quinn.
The edge room was already full but you can never have too many.
Joe Jackson is a fun, productive player from The U, who was teammates with the previous pick, Michael Jackson. In his career, he totaled 24 sacks and 37.5 tackles for loss all in three seasons. He’s not the fastest edge rusher in the world but has plenty of power to make up for it. With the team only for sure having DeMarcus Lawrence guaranteed beyond 2019, it’s good to have as much talent as possible.
213 Overall: S, Donovan Wilson
The team really needed a safety and it enraged most people that they didn’t pick one earlier. Especially with Taylor Rapp, Juan Thornhill and Amani Hooker all available at different times.
Donovan Wilson is an interesting pick. His career has been a rollercoaster while at Texas A&M, with a highly productive 2015 season, a dip in 2016, a fractured foot in the 2017 opener, and a rebound 2018 season.
Had his career not been derailed by his injury, he’s likely gone way before the sixth round and the Cowboys are obviously betting on his potential. Meets a need, but not a plug-in right away type of pick.
218 Overall: RB, Mike Weber
Tony Pollard is going to get first crack at the backup running back spot. However, given that he’s also the team’s likely return man as well, it makes sense that they’d want to deepen the running back room to give the team a true RB2.
Mike Weber was Ezekiel Elliott’s teammate at Ohio State, but didn’t come close to the impact Elliott had. Only topping 1,000 yards once in college, Weber is likely in competition with Darius Jackson for the backup spot.
He’s not as flashy as Zeke but can pick up the slack when asked to and is a solid receiver out of the backfield. If Weber can’t beat Jackson for the backup spot, then Weber is a likely candidate for the practice squad.
241 Overall: DE, Jalen Jelks
Jalen Jelks falls into a similar boat that both Hurricanes players are in. Like Joe Jackson, he’s a good solid edge piece (fifth round draft grade), but like Michael Jackson, his prior season's tape was better than his final season.
It's interesting that the Cowboys would pick a player who seems to be better suited to play in a 3-4 as a OLB, but has plenty of starter potential. Otherwise he’s a player that’s likely headed to the practice squad that the Cowboys wanted to make sure they get first crack at. Still, a good value in terms of where he was picked.
Dallas Cowboys Overall 2019 Draft Grade: B
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