I know what you're thinking, the Cowboys get blown out on the road at Atlanta and I'm giving up on the season and moving on to the draft. That is NOT what I'm doing. We are more than halfway through the regular season and the draft is creeping right around the corner (five months to be exact).
I'm here today, to (hopefully) educate you on a few prospects and highlight some of the Dallas Cowboys biggest needs heading into April.
If the season ended tomorrow, the Dallas Cowboys would be picking 17th overall, so highlight players who will realistically be around for the Cowboys to draft in that range and throughout the first few rounds.
Top Five Team Needs
- Wide Receiver
- Defensive End
Linebacker is one of the biggest positions that NEEDS to be addressed in April's Draft.
Outside of Sean Lee there isn't a single linebacker on the team that plays at a consistently high level. And unfortunately for the Cowboys (and Sean Lee), he has struggled to stay on the field his entire career.
Anthony Hitchens is a very solid MLB for the team, but he is entering a contract year in a year where DeMarcus Lawrence, Zack Martin, and David Irving (RFA) are also free agents.
Jaylon Smith and Damien Wilson are really the only two other options the Cowboys have as full-time linebackers and neither of the two are consistent in their level of play.
Damien Wilson has shown flashes of being a very good player, but he has struggled in coverage and misses tackles in the open field far too often.
As far as Jaylon Smith goes, I don't think he should be on the field at all right now. As bad as that sounds, Smith is currently hurting this defense. To make matters worse it doesn't seem that Jaylon Smith is being limited athletically, but the mental aspect of the game has let the former second round pick down big time.
Interesting plan by Jaylon. pic.twitter.com/z8eL80yYlh
Linebacker Options in the 2018 NFL Draft
- Rashaan Evans – Alabama – 6'3″, 235lbs
Rashaan Evans is a thumper in the middle of one of the most talented defenses in the nation. Evans does an excellent job taking on and disengaging from blocks to get to ball carriers in all depths of the field.
Evans shows glimpses of a familiar face in Sean Lee. His instincts may be his best trait.
Rashaan Evans is a little undersized, but he uses his smaller size to his strength. The Cowboys desperately need a linebacker who can contribute, but more importantly take over if Sean Lee's injuries continue to keep him sidelined.
Rashaan Evans would be a great option for the Cowboys in the middle of the first round.
Rashaan Evans 🐐🐐 pic.twitter.com/f4dV2jMHQW
- Roquan Smith – Georgia – 6'1″ 225lbs
Similar to Rashaan Evans, Roquan Smith is an undersized linebacker who flies all over the field. Smith's ability to diagnose plays and get to the football in a hurry is one of his biggest strengths.
The Cowboys linebackers corp currently lacks a player that can play sideline to sideline and that is the Georgia linebacker's best trait.
- Tremaine Edmunds – Virginia Tech – 6'5″ 235lbs
Tremaine Edmunds would fit in wonderfully in the Dallas Cowboys defense. Edmunds is a consistent tackler, who knows where to be and when to be there. The Virginia Tech junior plays both the run and the pass well and looks very athletic on tape for being 6'5″ 235 lbs.
Chaz Green was absolutely terrible in Sunday's matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, but the receivers weren't much better. While some of the blame should be given to the play-calling, the receivers didn't get any separation for Dak Prescott.
Dez Bryant is still a huge weapon in the red zone, but in between the 20s Dez has struggled the last few seasons. Dez Bryant wins with his size and physicality, but lacks the quickness to get separation against quicker cornerbacks.
Cole Beasley is great at gaining separation, but teams are scheming to bracket Beasley with a corner and a linebacker/safety.
The Cowboys need to target a wide receiver in this year's draft, and the first round may be the time to do it.
Wide Receiver Options in the 2018 NFL Draft
- Calvin Ridley – Alabama – 6'1″ 190lbs
The wide receiver depth in this year's draft class isn't great, but Calvin Ridley is.
Ridley uses his speed, route running ability, and smarts to create separation, off the ball, in the middle of his routes, and at the top of his routes. Ridley is the type of player that can get open and make plays in all depths of the field.
I really like Calvin Ridley's ability to make plays after the catch, but more importantly his ability to separate to allow his quarterback to get the ball out of his hands quickly.
First big Calvin Ridley play: MSU plays zone behind blitz. Ridley hits gap between underneath and McLaurin deep. Ridley runs good route and you can see McLaurin (top right) doesn't have time to get there. pic.twitter.com/2KQeDypNyb
— Brett Hudson (@Brett_Hudson) November 12, 2017
- Anthony Miller – Memphis – 5'11” 190lbs
To me, Anthony Miller is a poor man's Odell Beckham Jr.
Anthony Miller has extremely sticky hands, runs impressive routes, and has the quickness and smarts to create separation. Anthony Miller has elite traits, he just doesn't get the respect he deserves due to playing at a smaller school in Memphis. Miller may not be a clear-cut first rounder, but he could be an option in the second round.
What makes #Memphis WR Anthony Miller so special?…plays like this. He is a human highlight reel. He will be a top WR #devy pick, mark it. pic.twitter.com/ZdfbppLbob
— Jason DiRienzo (@allpurposescout) October 20, 2017
Oh man, where do I even begin? If the Cowboys could be promised that none of their starting five offensive lineman would ever get injured, then we wouldn't be talking about this at all.
Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Tyron Smith has been dealing with back problems for two years now, and was held out of the Atlanta game due to a strained groin. In his absence, Chaz Green and Byron Bell gave up 6.5 sacks (6 of which came from Adrian Clayborn). The swing-tackle position in Dallas is by far one of the weakest on the team.
Tackle Options in the 2018 NFL Draft
- Connor Williams – Texas – 6'6″ 315lbs
If not for a knee injury that has kept Connor Williams out for a majority of the 2017 season, he would be looked as the best offensive lineman in this class.
Williams has the size, strength, and athletic ability to manhandle rushers off the edge. Williams is an excellent run blocker that still needs a little bit of refining as a pass blocker. If the Cowboys front office is extremely worried about Tyron Smith's health, drafting Connor Williams in the first round wouldn't surprise me one bit.
- Orlando Brown – Oklahoma – 6'8″ 345lbs
As you see from his height and weight, Orlando Brown is a massive human being. While that does help him in some instances, it also hurts him when dealing with some of the smaller/quicker pass rushers.
For his size, Brown does do a nice job of keeping his technique clean when run blocking and not reaching or extending too early.
Where Brown needs work is in his pass blocking sets.
Brown is often a tick too slow to reach his landmarks which allows some rushers to beat him to the edge. If Brown can clean that aspect of his game up he would be an intriguing option for Dallas on day two.
The Cowboys spent two top-100 draft picks on corners last year. Chidobe Awuzie has spent a majority of his time on the sideline nursing a hamstring injury that he can't seem to shake. Jourdan Lewis, on the other hand, has been fantastic.
Outside of those two guys – Anthony Brown has had an up and down year. For the most part, it's safe to say that Anthony Brown's sophomore season has been a disappointment.
Orlando Scandrick is a veteran in the locker room and has played nicely for the Cowboys in 2017, though I'd be surprised to see him back in 2018. Drafting at least one corner in the top-100 is something I think the Cowboys NEED to do for the makeup of their roster in 2018.
Cornerback Options in the 2018 NFL Draft
- Tarvarus McFadden – Florida State – 6'2″ 198lbs
Last draft season, McFadden was slated to be a top-five pick in 2017. I think McFadden's inconsistent play has pushed him down draft boards just a bit.
In 2016 McFadden finished the season with eight interceptions, making him one of the most intriguing prospects heading into his junior year.
In 2017, McFadden hasn't picked off a single pass yet, but he can still play at a really high level.
- Quenton Meeks – Stanford – 6'2″ 200lbs
Quenton Meeks is another corner I think Dallas would really like to land in April's draft. Meeks is a long corner that has good speed and is an extremely smart player.
The Stanford junior plays a lot of off-coverage allowing him to watch and read the quarterback's eyes and body movements. Quenton Meeks isn't a guy you may be familiar with in November, but you'll start hearing his name a lot more the closer we get to April.
#PickSix by Stanford True Freshman Quenton Meeks #RoseBowlGame #NerdNation #TheFarm pic.twitter.com/ePkCUvOgUl
— Demetric D. Warren (@DemetricDWarren) January 1, 2016
This may leave some scratching their heads as well. For years Cowboys Nation has been screaming for a dominant pass rush and they finally have one. DeMarcus Lawrence leads the NFL in sacks, but is also a free agent at the end of the year. David Irving is playing lights out as the defensive line's Swiss Army Knife, but is also a restricted-free-agent at the end of the season.
While I do think both players will be back, at least for 2018, the depth behind them is concerning.
Taco Charlton has had a dreadful year and is barely getting to see the field. Benson Mayowa has yet to register a sack and is getting a lot of reps at weak-side defensive end. Tyrone Crawford has probably had his best season yet, but has dealt with his fair share of injuries and isn't an ideal option at WDE (weak-side defensive end).
With the concerns of talent and depth at defensive end, I think WDE is a very important position the Cowboys must target in the draft.
Defensive End Options in the 2018 NFL Draft
- Harold Landry – Boston College – 6'3″ 250lbs
Harold Landry is your prototypical WDE. At 250lbs, Landry has the speed, bend in his lower half, and explosiveness to win the edge on a high percentage of reps. Landry also has very polished hands that allow him to control blocker's arms and hands when they are able to get a hold of him.
Landry would certainly require more attention at the RDE position than any of the players the Cowboys are throwing out there right now. That opens up more opportunities for DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving, if both players are re-signed like I imagine.
- Bradley Chubb – N.C. State – 6'4″ 275lbs
While Harold Landry doesn't really fit the profile the Dallas Cowboys like out of their defensive ends, Bradley Chubb does. Chubb is a bigger body that could play either LDE or RDE, maybe even some three-technique in certain situations.
Chubb is extremely powerful and has a large arsenal of pass-rush moves that he uses to get after the quarterback. If Chubb can hang around until the 17th overall pick, don't be surprised if his card gets turned in.
- Marcus Davenport – University of Texas San Antonio – 6'7″ 255lbs
Knowing it's hard to believe the Cowboys spend back to back first round picks on defensive ends, I added Marcus Davenport to my list.
Davenport is a freak athlete that is still learning how to rush with good technique. At 6'7″ 255lbs, Davenport runs like a running back but has the strength of a defensive tackle.
The UTSA senior has the speed to excel at RDE, but also the strength and ability to play the run as a LDE in the Cowboys' 4-3 scheme. If the Cowboys do go elsewhere in the first round, Marcus Davenport may be a great option in the second round to help bolster the Dallas Cowboys pass rush.
#UTSA DE Marcus Davenport #93 was dominant vs. UNT: 4 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF…6-6, 255 athlete w/ hoops background. NFL excited about him. pic.twitter.com/EJVzXiSqZQ
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 16, 2017
There is still a lot of football left in the 2017-2018 NFL Season, but it's never too early to start talking about some guys who could potentially help the Dallas Cowboys get to the Super Bowl in 2018. We're only a few months away from hearing who your Dallas Cowboys select in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft!
Who do you think the Cowboys should draft in April?