At one point in time this past weekend a stadium full of people, while present for an NFL Playoff Game, chanted for Brandon Weeden to come in and save the day for the Houston Texans.
That's how bad things can be in the game of football. Without a reliable quarterback you have no shot - that's just the way it works.
At the end of the drubbing that the Chiefs put on the Texans I gave a lot of thought to the upcoming draft for the Dallas Cowboys. I don't want us to ever be in the quarterback purgatory that Houston has placed their permanent home in.
Watching Brian Hoyer throw interception after interception, seeing the look of frustration on all 16 Texans fans, hearing them beg and plead for Brandon Weeden... as a Dallas Cowboys fan you couldn't help but be thankful for the strong sense of reliability that we've had at the all-important quarterback position, save for 2015 obviously.
I say "save for 2015 obviously" because it's no secret how the Dallas Cowboys rotation of quarterbacks this season was a carousel of clumsiness and ineptitude. A tradition of iconic moments at the quarterback position was replaced by broken clavicles, interceptions, and palpable frustration.
The members of Cowboys Nation left their seats at the 2015 table with three inescapable truths: Tony Romo is our MVP, his health and longevity are now seriously in question, and we were nowhere near even kind of close to being prepared in terms of quarterback depth.
My fellow Staff Writer Sean Martin pounded on that very table yesterday here at Inside The Star about how the 4th Overall Pick, which the Cowboys have in the 2016 NFL Draft, is a resource that must be devoted to righting those wrongs. You can read Sean's argument here.
Let's pause for a minute and go back to the Houston Texans.
The new doormat for the Kansas City Chiefs and the 2015 Dallas Cowboys actually have a lot in common. They both had sub-par play at the quarterback position and were both carried by strong defenses. Obviously the Cowboys lost Tony Romo, but how did the Texans find themselves in such a precarious situation?
We'll rewind this thing a little bit more. In 2012 the Texans won their division and a playoff game... a lot like the 2014 Dallas Cowboys.
In 2013 the Texans had a catastrophic season and wound up with a high, number one overall, draft pick... a lot like the 2015 Dallas Cowboys.
The whole "at least we have a high draft pick to get back on track with" song was sang by the Texans entering the 2014 NFL Draft. Sound familiar?
With some high-name prospects at quarterback, and a serious need at the position, Houston declined to get a new signal caller and went with famed pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney out of South Carolina.
Many people questioned Houston's dismissal of a new signal caller, especially with in-state hero Johnny Manziel available for the picking. Johnny, Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, and one other QB were all options that the Texans declined; however, it was the right strategy.
Houston felt that there wasn't a once-in-a-generation type talent at quarterback (think Andrew Luck in 2012) so they decided to capitalize on their strength. The Texans already had a Defensive Player Of The Year in their stud pass rusher JJ Watt (who would go on to win it again in 2014), so they decided to strengthen their strength with the addition of Clowney.
Enough chatter about the beleaguered Texans, let's talk about that other quarterback they let slip through their fingers. His name is Derek Carr and his older brother, David, was actually the first ever draft pick by the Texans all the way back in 2002.
Derek Carr was the second pick by the Oakland Raiders in that 2014 Draft. Their first selection was a pass rusher by the name of Khalil Mack who made history last week when he was named as an All-Pro at two positions! After taking a quarterback for their defense in Mack the Raiders took an actual quarterback in Carr - who Houston passed on again in the second round, mind you.
Carr and Mack have become cornerstones for the revamped Raiders franchise. Oakland was competitive for a substantial amount of an NFL season for the first time in what feels like forever... and that can largely be attributed to how strongly they hit in the 2014 Draft. They did what Houston had the opportunity to do had Clowney already developed and they'd taken a quarterback a little earlier. Houston's logic worked... just for another team.
Carr was the fourth quarterback taken in 2014 (Bortles, Manziel, and Bridgewater all went in the first) and for what it's worth Houston took the seventh one, Pitt's Tom Savage, in the fourth round. Savage hasn't amounted to much in two seasons while Carr has blossomed.
Alright RJ... I stuck with you long enough. What exactly are you trying to say?
While the Texans, seem to have, missed on Clowney... the logic behind the pick was sound. I just hyped up Derek Carr, but has he set the world on fire yet? Have any of the 2014 quarterbacks? Nope.
The Texans could still have something in Clowney, the Raiders definitely have something in Mack, and both of those players were taken by their respective teams before they addressed the quarterback position. And that's because neither of them had Tony Romo on their team!
It's difficult for all of us to acknowledge that Tony Romo probably won't play all 16 games in a season ever again, but we're planning on him at least playing a majority aren't we?
Why are we about to devote the 4th Overall Pick on a quarterback when we have one who we're planning on playing a majority of the season and there are other highly skilled players at positions who will contribute across the whole season?
There is undeniably a need for quarterback depth, but are we really going to sacrifice the #4 in the name of it? If your rebuttal is about some guy who has great vision, pocket awareness, and arm strength... well didn't Bortles, Manziel, Bridgewater, Carr, or any other top prospect in the history of the NFL? There are no guarantees in football.
The front office absolutely has to address the need at quarterback. That can happen via free agency or even the Draft itself! I'm not saying that it can't.
What I'm saying is that there is a Jadeveon Clowney or a Khalil Mack out there who can come in and contribute significantly right now. Not to mention that the odds of a successful draft pick are higher for non-quarterback positions, but that's a topic for another day.
I understand that we have to prepare for the future and the post-Romo era, but what good is planning for the future if we're sacrificing the present?
There's a delicate balance that we have to find, and it's certainly not easy. We need to capitalize on our strengths in 2016 (like Houston tried to do with Clowney) with the 4th Overall Pick, but we also need to get our quarterback before it's too late (like they failed to do in the same draft with Derek Carr).
Considering that we have Tony Romo for next season, at whatever length we do, that buys us time that Houston didn't have in 2014. We can't take that for advantage and take this season's Tom Savage, we have to learn from their mistake and take this season's Derek Carr.
The 4th Overall Pick isn't a luxury. Using it on a quarterback, or for that matter any player who you aren't planning on using every game of the season, is treating it like one. Think about it... What player have you EVER seen taken in the Top 5 who's team didn't intend on using all 16 games? You can't because that's ridiculous.
There are a lot of players in this upcoming Draft that I really like, and a lot of them are quarterbacks. But we don't have to take one at #4 just for the sake of taking one.
Best player available. It's a tale as old as time. Let's live it.
Cowboys Draft: 3 LBs To Pay Attention To
The Dallas Cowboys enter the 2018 NFL offseason with clear needs to fill at linebacker. Starting MIKE backer Anthony Hitchens will enter free agency, starting WILL Sean Lee has been riddled with injuries, and the now third-year Jaylon Smith is still somewhat of a question mark.
Considering all of the doubts surrounding the Cowboys linebackers, it would be wise to target one during the 2018 NFL Draft. Of course, Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds have become fan favorites over the last few months.
Both of these guys are clearly first round players, however, and may both be gone by the time the Cowboys are on the clock. Dallas will probably need to find their linebacker starting on day two, so I have compiled a short list of some potential targets.
Josey Jewell, Iowa
With each NFL Draft cycle, scouts everywhere can typically feel good about their evaluations of Iowa Hawkeyes players. The BIG 10 school is known for producing solid, pro-ready talent that NFL teams absolutely need to fill out a roster. Enter Iowa Linebacker Josey Jewell, a three-year starter and captain on this Hawkeyes defense.
Iowa Hawkeye's linebacker Josey Jewell has been gaining traction within the draft community as of late. The three-year starter and collegiate captain has been discussed as one of the more pro-ready and consistent linebackers in this draft class.
Jewell earned a third round grade on my draft board, and fellow Inside The Star writer Sean Martin saw him in a similar light. Jewell possesses impressive instincts, plays with textbook technique, and is a solid run defender/tackler in the box.
His main weakness, however, is his athletic ability. He doesn't move laterally as well as someone like current Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith did in college. Jewell is a player with a solid floor, but not a very high ceiling. Drafting him would give the Cowboys another good piece on their defense, and a starting SAM backer.
Sean Martin believes he can play at either WILL or MIKE, and we both view him as a potential target for the Cowboys 81st overall.
Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
Vander Esch reads it and attacks at 100 mph. Put this guy on my football team. https://t.co/RaTvP9sO7u
Boise State's Vander Esch is a linebacker garnering a lot of hype throughout Draft Twitter. At 6'4" and 240 pounds, Vander Esch certainly looks the part of an NFL linebacker. His athleticism and ability to move laterally leaves much to be desired, however.
Vander Esch totaled 141 tackles and 3 interceptions during the 2017 season, breaking onto the scene as a Junior. Vander Esch is a three down linebacker who has been labeled a leader and hard worker by his Boise State teammates and coaches, making him an excellent "RKG" candidate for Jason Garrett. He is an instinctual player who reads, reacts, and attacks on a routine basis against the run. He is also consistently impressive in coverage, something the Cowboys could use from their linebackers.
Despite his positives, which there are many, I just can't convince myself to draft Vander Esch as early as he's being talked about. I believe he can be a solid professional linebacker, and fit in as an off ball WILL, but if I were running the Cowboys I wouldn't make that pick until the third round.
And the way things look, Vander Esch will be long gone by the 81st overall pick. Maybe Dallas will see things differently, and make the move in round two.
Rashaan Evans, Alabama
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My favorite of these three linebackers, Alabama's Rashaan Evans is an off ball/edge hybrid who was all over the field for Alabama.
At 'Bama, Evans had six sacks and 10 quarterback hits, ranking 16th in pass rushing productivity (Pro Football Focus) among all qualifying draft-eligible inside linebackers. Still, I believe his best plays came from when lined up as a traditional off ball linebacker.
In Dallas, Evans could be used as a WILL backer who also rushes as a defensive end in passing situations. The 6'3" 234 pound linebacker is exactly the type of player that NFL defenses are moving towards, and he would be a welcomed addition to this young Cowboys defense.
I believe Rashaan Evans is a top-30 type of player, making it tough to envision being able to draft him 50th overall. If completely wiped out, Evans could be a candidate at 19, though I wouldn't hold my breath. Evans is ILB3 on my draft board, and earned the highest grade of these three linebackers.
Could This Draft Sleeper be Dez Bryant’s Successor?
One of my favorite parts of the NFL offseason is jumping into the draft process and studying the next group of incoming rookies. I don't pretend to be a professional scout, but I do trust my own analysis for the most part. I find myself right about these prospects more times than not, but no one is perfect.
When scouting these prospects, I am particularly looking at players that fit in with what the Dallas Cowboys like whether it is based on scheme or preference. I try not to waste my time with the ones who I don't believe fit into those categories.
Today, I want to share with you a wide receiver I happened to stumble upon who isn't getting talked about enough, but probably should. He is still flying under the radar, but I think that could change here in a few weeks when the NFL Combine gets underway.
We all know the Dallas Cowboys would probably like to add another receiver at some point in the draft, but when and where is debatable. I think it's unlikely they take one on Day 1, and possibly not even Day 2. It will likely depend on how things fall, but Day 3 could still have quite a few good options available.
I've started to study these Day 3 prospects, and I think I've found a diamond in the rough. I'm actually surprised he hasn't been talked about, but that could be good news for the Cowboys.
Let me be the first to introduce you to former Southern Mississippi Golden Eagle, Korey Robertson.
WR Korey Robertson, Southern Miss
I don't know about you, but I don't think of ever watched Southern Mississippi play a single collegiate game. They're not a big powerhouse school and don't produce a lot of high-end draft picks, but we've seen small school players make a name for themselves in the NFL before.
As you can imagine, I wasn't expecting much when I started to watch Korey Robertson's game film, but I was pleasantly surprised. I think he has the potential to be a WR1 in the NFL and he reminds me a lot of the Dallas Cowboys own, Dez Bryant.
Robertson was a surprise early entry into the 2018 NFL draft class. He had remaining eligibility left and could have possibly improved his draft stock by returning to Southern Miss, but that's neither here nor there now.
Robertson certainly looks the part of a WR1 in the NFL. He is 6'2", 210 pounds and plays with amazing physicality. I think he could be the best WR in this draft class at attacking the ball in the air and winning those 50/50 jump balls. This is where he reminds me of Dez Bryant the most.
But don't take my word for it, take a look at his highlights and judge for yourself.
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I really like what I seen of Korey Robertson. I think he really makes an intriguing wide receiver prospect for the Dallas Cowboys. I personally think he has WR1 potential.
He registered 76 catches for 1,106 yards and 12 touchdowns this last season, so the production is there, but he's far from a finished prospect.
Robinson still needs to fine-tune his route running, but it's not terrible. He shows good speed on film and is expected to run in the 4.4 range at the combine. That would definitely boost his draft stock.
I think he checks just about all of the boxes. He has the size, speed, catches the ball easily (with his hands), and plays with the physicality that will immediately make him a fan favorite.
I currently have a third-round grade on him, but I'm probably higher on him with others. I think he will be a Day 3 draft pick, which means the Dallas Cowboys could use one of their compensatory picks to select this talented wide receiver.
What do you think of Korey Robertson as a potential Cowboys WR?
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.
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