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.
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. https://t.co/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.
- 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. https://t.co/2KQeDypNyb
- 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. https://t.co/ZdfbppLbob
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 https://t.co/ePkCUvOgUl
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.
That dip RT @EricElizondo8: Harold Landry bending the corner https://t.co/zFzO7sqY7t
- 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. https://t.co/EJVzXiSqZQ
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?
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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