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?
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
Dallas Cowboys6 days ago
3 Dallas Cowboys Who Could Be Traded Before Week 1
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
5 Takeaways from Dallas Cowboys OTA’s
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Kasey Redfern, a Name Dallas Cowboys Fans Might Want to get to Know
Star Blog2 weeks ago
3 Reasons 2019 Will be Dak Prescott’s Best Season Yet
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Could Amari Cooper Threaten Cowboys Receiving Records in 2019?
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Will DE Taco Charlton “Break Out” In 2019?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Post-OTA’s Dallas Cowboys 53-Man Roster Projection
Dallas Cowboys7 days ago
Cowboys CB Donovan Olumba Should Compete for Roster Spot