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Cowboys on the Clock: Morris Claiborne, #6 Overall

Sean Martin

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Morris Claiborne

There is less than a week until the 2016 NFL draft! Anticipation begins to build as the top two picks are now owned by different teams than they were originally. The Dallas Cowboys still sit at #4 overall, but the rival Eagles have traded up to the #2 spot in the draft.

We will have you covered leading up to the draft right here on Inside The Star, and on Twitter @CowboysNation, but today is about looking back to the 2012 NFL draft.

In this draft, the Cowboys moved up to acquire a certain defensive back out of LSU. Let's take a closer look at the team's most recent 6th overall pick...

Morris Claiborne

Claiborne was a star in the SEC at Louisiana State from 2009 to 2011. In his final season, he would be named the country's best defensive back by winning the Jim Thorpe Award. Claiborne was also a unanimous first team All-American this year, while earning all SEC honors as well.

He would enter the draft as many analysts' top corner, flying up draft boards after starting off his junior season as a second to third round talent. Morris was expected to be drafted anywhere in the top 10, potentially as high as 4th overall to the Vikings.

Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III would come off the board with picks #1 and #2 respectively, followed by the Browns grabbing Trent Richardson at #3. Minnesota passed on Claiborne to draft tackle Matt Kalil out of USC, and he slipped past the Jaguars with the next pick when they opted to select WR Justin Blackmon.

This left Claiborne still available for the Saint Louis Rams at #6 overall. Jerry Jones and the Cowboys came calling for the pick, and swapped their first rounder (14 overall) with the Rams to draft the LSU product. Dallas also gave up their 2nd round pick, which the Rams traded to the Chicago Bears later on.

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys on the Clock: Morris Claiborne, #6 Overall

April 26, 2012: Morris Claiborne, cornerback from LSU and drafted with the 6th pick by Dallas Cowboys, standing alongside NFL commissioner Roger Goodell with his new jersey during the 77th National Football Lague Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, New York. (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

Claiborne started his rookie season at corner for the Dallas Cowboys despite missing OTAs due to injury. He would deal with some more nagging injuries throughout the year, but start 15 games for the 8-8 Cowboys. He would record his first career interception in a week 6 win against the Carolina Panthers on the road.

More injuries would continue to get to Claiborne entering his second season in 2013, as he added on some weight in preparation to build off of his rookie campaign. A dislocated shoulder in the season opener restricted Claiborne, who would stay on the field but begin to lose snaps to Orlando Scandrick.

Things were trending down for the defensive back that started his NFL career with so many expectations. They would only go further south in 2014, as Claiborne stormed out of the team's facility in September following the loss of his starting job. Claiborne started just 7 games the previous season, and would start only 3 in 2014 - again suffering injuries that put him on the injured reserve in week 4.

Morris Claiborne had one season left on his deal in Dallas, and fans were already through with the injury-prone and often-burned corner. Instead, Claiborne seemingly defied all odds and rehabbed ahead of schedule from his injuries to start 11 games.

Not only was Claiborne back on the field with some consistency, but he was a much improved corner that finally lived up his draft status.

Claiborne's 2015 campaign earned him a new one-year deal coming in to 2016:

//insidethestar.com/dallas-cowboys-re-sign-cornerback-morris-claiborne/

The following players have also been selected with the 6th overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys:

Lee Roy Jordan, LB, 1963

For more on Jordan's 11 year career with the Cowboys, click here to read his "Countdown to Kickoff" profile from Inside The Star Staff Writer RJ Ochoa - naming him the greatest player to wear #55 in team history.

Tomorrow on "Cowboys on the Clock": 2003 first round pick Terence Newman

Tell us what you think about "Cowboys on the Clock: Morris Claiborne, #6 Overall" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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2 Comments
  • Ronin

    Give Tony his Emmitt. DRAFT ZEKE!!!

  • Blue Star

    Please pass on Elliott.

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How Should The Cowboys, And The NFL, Value RBs?

Kevin Brady

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Will Cowboys' Offense Improve With Ezekiel Elliott's Return?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There is no one, stand-alone "best" strategy for winning in the NFL. There are, of course, common themes and ideals which run true year in and year out among the top teams.

Strategy in the NFL is dynamic, or at least it should be. Running in place for too long under the same leadership often breeds mediocrity, and refusing to move with current trends can put you at a severe disadvantage.

Succumbing to those trends without fully analyzing the confounding factors your situation presents, however, can also ruin a team building exercise.

With that being said, should teams pay elite running backs top dollar? Or are those running backs expendable, replaceable, and often forgettable within the NFL machine?

To be honest these aren't very fair ways to pose legitimately interesting questions. You can acknowledge that a running back is important to your offense while also acknowledging that you don't want to break the bank for a position with such injury risk and high turnover year-to-year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently facing this dilemma, as their star running back Le'Veon Bell asks to be paid like an elite "weapon," not as a normal running back. And when you examine how the Steelers deploy Bell within their offense, he clearly has a point.

Bell is not your traditional "running back." He lines up on the boundary, in the slot, and is a passing threat out of the backfield as well. On top of all of this versatility, Bell is an excellent pass protector, something which is often lost among other "versatile" backs.

Bell can quite literally do it all for an offense, but the idea of paying that position elite-level money makes teams cringe. As The Athletic's Marcus Mosher pointed out on Twitter, teams like the New England Patriots have been able to replicate Bell's production by using multiple speciality backs rather than one workhorse.

In theory, this takes away the injury risk component to a certain extent. Rather than giving one player 350-400 touches per season, you spread those touches out and allow for players to do what they do best.

Lately, the NFL has seemed to agree that this is the most efficient way to play offense. But when you have a player like Bell or Ezekiel Elliott, in what way is taking the ball out of their hands "efficient" at all? In addition, how is using three players to mimic the skill set of one efficient?

Yes, the NFL is a passing league, but when you have a playmaker who is of the caliber of a Bell or an Elliott, it is up to the offense to deploy in him ways that maximize his value. Teams should be using the Bells and Elliotts of the world as pass catching threats and as weapons all over the field. Force the entire defense to account for your running back rather than just jamming him between the tackles like it's 1975.

The movement towards "running back by committee" rather than the traditional one-back system can also be credited to the lack of workhorse-worthy backs entering the league.

Ezekiel Elliotts don't grow on trees, they are rare and special players. And when you have one, especially when you spend a premium pick on him, you should get the most out of him that you can. Playing winning offense in the NFL is about more than just "do you run or do you pass," and it often hinges on creating splash plays of 15-20 yards.

If you can get those plays through the use of an elite running back, that player becomes intrinsically valuable to your team. No matter what "position" he is labeled as. Of course you want to be able create mismatches in the passing game all over the field, so when you are able to do this with a running back, shouldn't that be deemed as highly valuable?

We can't say just yet if the Cowboys should re-sign Ezekiel Elliott once he enters free agency. After all, five seasons (and a franchise tag year) where he touches the ball more than most players in the league will almost certainly bring about some wear and tear.

But with the way the Cowboys have chosen to play offense, and the way in which they've built their roster, a workhorse back like Elliott is necessary for success.

Once again, at least it is for now.



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Star Blog

Is DE Kony Ealy At Risk Of Not Making Cowboys Final Roster?

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: As Late FA Signing, New DE Kony Ealy Brings Value at DE

As training camp approaches and we draw closer to the 2018 NFL season, fans are beginning to get excited for new faces, old stars, and new beginnings for the Dallas Cowboys.

One player which has been a bit forgotten about over the last few months, and even overlooked when he was first signed back in April, is defensive end Kony Ealy. Of course, some of this overlooking is justified, as Ealy's career has been filled with more valleys than peaks thus far.

With a fresh start in Dallas, though, some expect Kony Ealy to rekindle his career, and look like the player he was during the Panthers' Super Bowl 50 loss just a few seasons ago. The problem is, that game looks like the outlier and not the norm over his professional career.

Originally drafted by the Carolina Panthers, Ealy has had a shaky start to his career. Now joining his third team in the same number of seasons, it's certainly fair to say he hasn't lived up to his second round draft selection.

At 6'4" and 275 pounds, however, Ealy fits the mold of a 4-3 defensive end in the Cowboys' scheme. While he isn't the explosive pass rusher that other players on the roster are (and can be), he could provide solid rotational depth across the defensive line.

With fellow former second round pick Randy Gregory gaining reinstatement to the NFL this week, Ealy could struggle to salvage any real playing time with the Cowboys at all. Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, and Taco Charlton all feel like locks to make the team.

Then there is 2018 day three pick Dorance Armstrong and former fourth round pick Charles Tapper providing competition as well.

Tapper and Armstrong are unproven, but have the athletic profiles to become solid edge rushers at the professional level. For both, especially Tapper, health is of the upmost concern going forward. If Tapper can remain healthy, he has a real shot of making the team and having his impact felt as early as 2018.

That "if" has been a serious one thus far, however.

When the Cowboys first signed Kony Ealy back in April, I really believed he could provide solid and cheap depth along their defensive line. Now in July, I still have those beliefs, but it's become fair to question if he will even find himself on the final 53-man roster based on the competition around him.



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Star Blog

Can Connor Williams Follow in Zack Martin’s Footsteps?

Brian Martin

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Can Connor Williams Follow in Zack Martin's Footsteps?

Connor Williams has yet to play a single snap the NFL, but there are already some pretty high expectations for the rookie Guard. That's because he will be sandwiched between two Pro Bowl players in Center Travis Frederick and Left Tackle Tyron Smith. But, it's the Dallas Cowboys third Pro Bowl offensive lineman Williams should try to emulate and follow in the footsteps of.

Yes, I'm talking about Zack Martin.

Zack Martin's career couldn't have gotten off to a better start coming out of Notre Dame. He hit the ground running as a rookie with the Cowboys and put together a dominating performance his first year in the NFL, earning his first Pro Bowl bid as well as being named to the All-Pro team. He continued to play at a high level ever since and has not only turned into the best player at his position, but continued his Pro Bowl streak every season since entering the league.

To ask, or even expect Connor Williams to have the same kind of immediate success as Zack Martin is probably a little unfair, if not impossible. The kind of success Martin has had already in his career is almost unheard of. But, that's not to say Williams isn't going to try to follow in Martin's footsteps and to become the best player he can.

Zack Martin

Dallas Cowboys OG Zack Martin

The footsteps I think Connor Williams should try to follow as it pertains to Zack Martin is how well he made the transition from a collegiate Offensive Tackle to an NFL Guard. I think that should be Williams' main focus right now with training camp coming up.

Williams will be inserted into the starting lineup as the Cowboys new Left Guard. It will be a new position for him after playing mainly Tackle at the University of Texas, that will require an entirely new mindset and technique. But, it's in transition I believe he can make rather smoothly.

Connor Williams should benefit from Zack Martin's similar transition from college OT to an NFL OG. I wouldn't be surprised if we see the rookie shadowing Martin throughout training camp to soak up as much knowledge as possible. It's probably the best way for him to jumpstart his career.

Now, I fully expect to see some growing pains from Williams throughout the 2018 season. It's to be expected from any rookie, especially one transitioning to a new position. But, I do believe he will not only be an upgrade at LG for the Cowboys, but will make the entire OL even better.

I don't know about you, but I'm excited to see what kind of player Connor Williams ends up being this season.

Do you think Connor Williams can follow in Zack Martin's footsteps?



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