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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft: Laying The Building Blocks To A Championship Defense

Kevin Brady

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Copyright: Louisiana Tech University Foundation.All Rights Reserved.(teemo@aol.com) 318.237.3030 (photo by TOM MORRIS)

After day one of the 2017 NFL Draft, most of Cowboys Nation (including me) was left feeling unfulfilled. Sure, Michigan Wolverines' DE Taco Charlton is going to be a solid pro, and most likely will be a starting defensive end on this team for years to come, but he had been forgotten about in the echo chamber of Twitter analysis.

Charlton wasn't the edge rusher many had hoped for, leading those masses to light their pitch-forks and doubt the ability of the Cowboys front office to replicate their offensive success to the other side of the ball.

But, from round two on, Will McClay and company erased all doubt.

Grabbing cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis on day two, the Cowboys found starting caliber defensive backs from the first day they walk in the building.

Awuzie, the versatile athletic freak whose pro day made him worthy of the "upper-bound player" label through Ethan Young's Slaytics metric, could find himself playing any of the corner roles in Dallas. With the ability to play both in the slot and on the outside, Awuzie should compete for, and possibly overtake, a veteran's job this season.

Lewis, the under-sized yet physical slot cornerback, is arguably the top nickel corner in this draft class. If not for an off the field domestic violence issue which has yet to be solved legally, Lewis would have been in the conversation for a late first or second round selection.

Instead, the Cowboys stayed put in round three, as Lewis fell right into their lap. Ironically, I had Lewis in the second round and Awuzie in the third, and the Cowboys got them in reverse order.

Dallas Cowboys Draft CB Jourdan Lewis at #92

On day three, the Cowboys made two of their best moves of the entire draft.

First, selecting the shifty route runner and elite special teams talent of North Carolina WR Ryan Switzer in the fourth round, and then trading up to acquire Louisiana Tech safety Xavier Woods in the sixth.

Switzer is going become beloved by fans very early in his career. With quick and efficient footwork and top-notch play speed, Switzer may become offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's new favorite toy this season. Like most of the Cowboys' draft picks this year, Switzer brings versatility to both the offense and return game, and will be able to "wear many hats" for this team.

Possibly my favorite pick of this draft, however, came in the sixth round. Trading next year's fifth round pick to the New York Jets to move up and snag safety Xavier Woods fired me up in ways a sixth round pick probably shouldn't.

But, when grading his film, I had Woods graded as a third round safety. So, according to my own board, drafting him in the sixth was an absolute steal.

In many ways, Xavier Woods is what people think now-Cleveland Browns safety Jabrill Peppers is. Like Ryan Switzer gives coach Linehan a new toy to work with, Woods gives defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli that same flexibility at safety.

Ollie Connolly on Twitter

Here's Xavier Woods lining up at six different spots. Rod Marinelli is going to love him.

To top off this elite-caliber draft class, the Cowboys added another promising corner in Florida State's Marquez White, a potential Z receiver in Ohio State's Noah Brown, and two gritty defensive linemen in Florida's Joey Ivie and Colorado's Jordan Carrell.

The Cowboys first round pick may not have been as splashy as some had hoped, but when looking at this class as a whole, it is clear the Cowboys had a plan. And, they executed that plan to perfection.

It is quite possible the Cowboys drafted four-to-five players which will make significant contributions to their team this season, let-alone about 3-4 years from now. They have completely turned over their secondary from older, slower, and injury prone to younger, faster, and more athletic.

With the combination of high floor players and a few risks on talent, the Cowboys have hauled in a draft class which could even rival last season's. Of course, it is too early to concretely say what these players will bring to the team during their careers, but, no one can say the Cowboys haven't tried to fix this defense through the draft.

Already having the offensive line, quarterback, and offensive weapons in place, the Cowboys have done all they could in this draft to re-build the other side of the ball.

Now, we wait, and hope that these players pan out to become the best they can be, and complete the Cowboys' plan.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and have been with ITS since 2016.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Travis Diggs

    April 30, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Overall Will McClay and Co. put together a solid draft We did some good things but we missed out on a couple players I thought we had opportunities to draft(Melinfonwu,K.King,Josh Jones) but I have never seen a draft with this much defense in it so in all We made out and so did alot of other teams. Taco and Awuzee might be the Defensive version of Dak and Zeke next year for the Boys

  2. Russ_Te

    April 30, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    Versatility is the 2017 buzzword for the Cowboys, and this draft says it loudly.

    Because you could get the playmaker FS Woods and you have several thousand jobs open at CB, I think it says Byron Jones is going back to CB.

    Paired with Awuzie. This is already looking good. Jourdan Lewis give you a slot and long downs CB, and Anthony Brown is already that also. Now you are rich at CB and can run Scandrick out of Dodge… ;^)

    Who’s got SS? This will get very interesting over the summer. Heath is only the default guy to me. It’s only a guess but, because they did not get one in the draft, I still think they may toy with Jaylon Smith there in camp. Not saying it will work – only that if it did, that is a fast, imposing SS.
    (assumes knee recovery, but that’s true for him at LB also)

    • Kevin Brady

      Kevin Brady

      May 1, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      Like you mentioned, versatility is key. They’ve drafted players who can move all around the field and formations and do a bunch of different things. No, I’m still not ecstatic about the first round pick, but the class as a whole is fun.

  3. Russ_Te

    April 30, 2017 at 11:41 pm

    Now look at Charlton. He’s not the coveted, dominant RDE prospect that we already knew would be gone by pick 28. And you don’t need him at LDE.

    But because of his power and straight-line agility, what does make sense is moving him inside to LDT next to an emerging Irving at LDE. That could be potent crashing the backfield, and they both are tall with long arms to obstruct passing lanes in tandem on that side.

    It’s harder to get impact players without early picks, so overall they did well – especially to do so while filling need positions.

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Receive 4th-Round Compensatory Pick in 2019 NFL Draft

Jess Haynie

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Why Finishing 8-8 Improves Cowboys' 2018 NFL Draft Position

The Dallas Cowboys will receive an extra fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft after the league awarded compensatory picks today.

The pick will be 136th overall, which is one spot below were Dallas drafted Dak Prescott in 2016.

Adam Schefter on Twitter

And in other news... NFL awarded compensatory draft picks today - Patriots and Rams each received two third-round picks. The full list, per sources:

We have Anthony Hitchens to thank for this extra pick. The former Cowboys linebacker signed a five-year, $45 million deal with the Chiefs last offseason which far surpassed any of the deal that Dallas made with their own free agent acquisitions.

Only free agents whose contracts expired, not those released in the offseason by their previous team, count towards the compensatory pick formula.  Therefore, Allen Hurns' deal was not a mitigating factor.

As mentioned already, the fourth round of the NFL Draft recently gave Dallas its starting quarterback. Other notable fourth-round picks in the modern era have been Hitchens, Doug Free, Marion Barber, and Chris Canty.

Last year, Dallas drafted DE Dorance Armstrong and TE Dalton Schultz with fourth-round picks.

Already short their first and sixth-round picks this year from previous trades, the Cowboys are certainly happy to have this extra selection for April's draft.



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NFL Draft

7-Round Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft: Pre-Combine Edition

Brian Martin

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3 Potential Day 2 Tight End Prospects for the Dallas Cowboys 2

I thought it would be a good idea to get out another 7-round Dallas Cowboys mock draft before the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine kicks off next week. Not only will the Combine shakeup a lot of people's big boards and draft rankings, but it will also be the first opportunity a lot of us will get to see some of these players firsthand.

For this Cowboys mock draft I used Matt Miller's big board on Fanspeak.com. I don't necessarily agree with where he has some of these players ranked right now, but that's part of the fun of doing these kind of exercises. With that said, he is still one of my favorite draft analysts.

Without further ado, here is my Pre-Combine 7-round Dallas Cowboys mock draft.

TE, Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M (2nd-round)

*189th on Matt Miller's Big Board

Jace Sternberger

Texas A&M TE Jace Sternberger (John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports)

First off, I think Matt Miller has Jace Sternberger ranked way too low on his Big Board. I don't think he will make it out of the second round and may not even be available for the Dallas Cowboys when they are on the clock with the 58th overall pick. But if he is, I'm writing his name down on the draft card and not looking back.

The Cowboys have made it pretty clear they want to upgrade their TE position, but in order to do that they're going to have to draft one pretty early in my opinion. Sternberger may be a one-year wonder at Texas A&M, but he is exactly what Quarterback Dak Prescott needs in the passing game. He would change the dynamic of this whole offense.

At 6'4", 250 pounds, Sternberger has the size the Cowboys look for in their starting tight ends. His biggest asset right now is his natural receiving ability and how dangerous he is after the catch. He runs and moves like a big receiver. He's decent as an in-line blocker as well, but it's an area of his game that is still improving.

OT, Bobby Evans, Oklahoma (3rd-round)

*89th on Matt Miller's Big Board

Bobby Evans

Oklahoma OT Bobby Evans

It's a little surprising it hasn't been brought up more this offseason, but with Tyron Smith's continued back problems and La'el Collins entering a contract year, the Dallas Cowboys could be looking into drafting another offensive tackle. I know it may be an unpopular pick in the third-round, but I couldn't pass up on Bobby Evans.

At 6'5", 300 pounds, Bobby Evans has the prototypical size teams look for in their starting offensive tackles. He is a smooth athletically gifted lineman who does his best work in the running game. He projects best in a zone blocking scheme where he can use his athleticism to his advantage. He will struggle a little bit in pass protection until he cleans up his hand technique.

With the Cowboys he could compete with La'el Collins for the starting RT position as a rookie, but at the worst be the teams swing tackle in 2019. Since he has the ability to play either tackle position, he would make a good insurance policy if Tyron Smith has to miss time again because of his back issues. Again it may be an unpopular pick, but a necessary one.

OLB, Christian Miller, Alabama (4th-round)

*161st on Matt Miller's Big Board

Christian Miller

Alabama OLB Christian Miller

With the Dallas Cowboys needing more depth at linebacker and defensive end, I decided to select Christian Miller with their first fourth-round draft pick. He unfortunately hasn't been able to showcase his skill set on a regular basis due to being buried on the depth chart at Alabama and some unfortunate injuries, but he has immense potential.

I think a lot of teams will look to draft him as a outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but I really like the variety of roles he could play in the Cowboys 4-3 defensive scheme. I think he could replace Demian Wilson as their strong side linebacker, provide depth at defensive end, and be a special-teams demon as a rookie.

The Cowboys of course will have to be comfortable with his injury history, but in the fourth-round I don't think that would be a problem. If he can stay healthy he has Pro Bowl potential as a pass rusher because of his size (6'4", 247), athleticism and fluidity to bend and torque his body. This might be my favorite pick in this Cowboys mock draft.

DT, Daylon Mack, Texas A&M (4th-round comp pick)

*178th on Matt Miller's Big Board

Daylon Mack

Texas A&M DT Daylon Mack

The Dallas Cowboys could definitely use some more defensive tackle help, especially after all but washing their hands of David Irving. They currently just have Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins on the DT depth chart, unless you want to count Tyrone Crawford. That's why I returned to Texas A&M for the second time in this Cowboys mock draft and selected Daylon Mack.

Daylon Mack is a former five-star recruit who never really lived up to his billing at Texas A&M. Don't let that fool you though, he has the talent to earn a starting job with the Cowboys as a rookie at either the one or three-technique. He is the kind of prospect Rod Marinelli would love to work with.

At 6'1", 327 pounds, Mack would provide some much-needed beef to the Cowboys defensive front. He has surprising athletic ability for his size and has a devastating first step to be the kind of disruptive DT Marinelli prefers along his DL. I really love his violent hands and raw athletic ability, and I believe he could be an absolute steal in the fourth-round even though Matt Miller has him ranked much lower.

WR, Jalen Hurd, Baylor (5th-round)

*159th on Matt Miller's Big Board

Jalen Hurd

Baylor WR Jalen Hurd

Outside of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, the wide receiver position in Dallas is pretty dreadful. There are some young WRs who show some promise, but they still need more depth regardless. That's why I decided to take Jalen Hurd in the fifth-round in this Cowboys mock draft. He is one of the more intriguing prospects in the entire 2019 draft class.

The most intriguing aspect of Hurd's game is his background as a running back. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and was once considered a top RB prospect during his time in Tennessee before deciding to transfer to Baylor in order to switch to wide receiver.

At 6'4", 227 pounds, he has the prototypical size teams look for in a WR prospect. He reminds me a little bit of Cordarrelle Patterson, but is much more natural catching the ball. His route running is a little raw, but he has the ability to play in the slot or on the outside, something he did at Baylor. I think he could help replace some of Cole Beasley's lost production.

RB, Bruce Anderson, North Dakota State (7th-round)

* 206th on Matt Miller's Big Board

Bruce Anderson

North Dakota State RB Bruce Anderson

I reached a little bit with this pick, but if Bruce Anderson is available this late in the draft I would do everything within my power to bring him aboard if I was the Dallas Cowboys. I really think he could be the lightning to Ezekiel Elliott's thunder in the Cowboys backfield. I personally have him in the 3rd-5th round range, but can understand why he's ranked so low on Miller's Big Board right now.

Unfortunately, the draft process hasn't been very kind to Bruce Anderson so far. He was originally expected to open a lot of eyes in Mobile at this year's Senior Bowl, but unfortunately sustained an injury that kept him from competing. To make matters worse, he was a surprise snub at the Scouting Combine, meaning he only has private workouts and his Pro Day to impress scouts.

I for one am a big fan of Anderson's though. I believe he is exactly the kind of RB the Cowboys need behind Zeke. I personally see a poor man's Alvin Kamara when I watched his game film because of the different ways he can be utilized as both a runner and receiver. But, he can also contribute on special teams as a return specialist.

How do you feel about this 7-round Dallas Cowboys mock draft?



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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Washington Safety Taylor Rapp

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Draft Target: Washington Safety Taylor Rapp
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

While most fans are hoping the Cowboys snag a different safety who played his football in the state of Washington, Huskies safety Taylor Rapp should be towards the top of their draft targets on day two.

The Cowboys have some decisions to make when it comes to their back-end, particularly at safety. Do they want to pursue a full time strong safety type who can play in the box, allowing Xavier Woods to play solely as the centerfield free safety? Or would they rather add a hybrid safety who can play in that deep third role, giving their defense more flexibility in how they utilize Woods moving forward?

If their answer to this question is to go with a more traditional strong safety, and slot Woods into one permanent role, then Washington's Taylor Rapp could be the right man in this draft class.

The Player

Taylor Rapp is not the single-high safety that I would typically value high in an NFL draft. He lacks the range to really play that centerfield role, and doesn't have the speed or agility to project to this role in the NFL. No one ever gets behind him, but that's more due to ridiculously deep alignment than excellent coverage skills.

Where Rapp does excel, though, is playing forward and downhill. Rapp is aggressive both in his pursuit of plays and in his tackling. He tackles with good technique as well, and can absolutely lay the wood when coming up to hit receivers over the middle. Rapp plays how you'd expect your old-school strong safety to play, and projects as a split-zone and box safety at the next level.

Rapp isn't anything special in man coverage, but he executes well at times. He's at his best when asked to cover tight ends in man coverage, something which would certainly be valued both in today's NFL and on this version of the Cowboys' defense. I wouldn't be as comfortable lining him up against shifty slot receivers over the middle, but he can match up well physically with tight ends in man.

Overall, Rapp is one of the best tacklers I've seen in this draft class so far, and with his instincts, size and physicality he will serve as a solid strong safety at the next level.

The Fit

I don't see Taylor Rapp as the typical versatile chess-piece the Cowboys have valued when drafting defensive backs in recent years. He does what he does well, but they would be ill-advised to mess with his alignment too often or try to make him fit into a different role. He's not going to move all over the field like Xavier Woods can, but he can certainly fit the Cowboys' current need for a strong safety.

Many fans want the Cowboys to pursue Landon Collins in free agency, but if they strike out there, Rapp could be their consolation prize in the NFL draft.

No, he's not as good as Landon Collins. Let me make that perfectly clear. But for a day two pick Rapp could fit a similar role to what Collins would here in Dallas: a strong safety who will play primarily in the box and cover tight ends in man.



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