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.
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.
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.
Alabama LB Rashaan Evans Joins Dallas Cowboys List of 30 Visits
The Dallas Cowboys are the only remaining team in the NFL yet to sign an outside free agent, turning their attention towards what should prove a memorable 2018 NFL Draft from AT&T Stadium. Without filling any roster holes with top FA talent, the Cowboys' biggest loss of the offseason remains LB Anthony Hitchens - joining Matt Eberflus with the Colts.
The remaining market on free agent linebackers looks bleak, and without Eberflus on their sidelines the Cowboys may not feel as confident in their ability to acclimate newly acquired talent here. In search of another starter alongside Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys will be hosting Alabama prospect Rashaan Evans for a pre-draft 30 visit.
Cowboys pre-draft visitors: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama OG Will Hernandez, UTEP OL Kolton Miller, UCLA (@TonyPauline) RB Nyheim Hines, NC State (@TheWolfpacker) WR Daurice Fountain, Northern Iowa (@ConnorNFLDraft)
Evans is just the latest Crimson Tide defender to rise up draft boards as a hard-hitting linebacker that plays as a magnet for the football. This is a player with the ceiling to potentially step in for Lee or Smith should he be called on early in his Cowboys career, along with the talent floor to blend in with this team's projected starters at WILL and MIKE to add speed and tenacity to Rod Marinelli's unit.
The jostling for quarterback prospects at the top of the draft has already begun, with as many as five quarterbacks coming off the board before Dallas picks at 19th overall. Already planning on addressing their offensive line depth in free agency, the chances of an impact defender sliding to the Cowboys are increasing.
While there is no denying that Evans' presence would be felt from day one at The Star, I've already gone on record in naming him a "Player to Avoid at 19th Overall".
"Depth can be found at LB throughout this 2018 class, making Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds the only players I would consider with pick #19 at this position. Additionally, I've graded Evans as a third round player."
Should Edmunds or Smith be the linebackers that the Cowboys are in position to draft, this conversation changes entirely. Unlike Evans, these two prospects would be the "best available players at a position of need" that the Cowboys could target in the first round.
Rashaan Evans undoubtedly benefited greatly from the talent level of his surrounding Alabama defense - which will send multiple starters to the NFL again this season. Making enough plays to certainly be one such starter, Evans may prove in a tough spot to grab for the Cowboys come draft time.
This won't stop America's Team from doing their due diligence on a prospect that could help take their defense to another level, particularly against the run. Evans is officially on the Dallas Cowboys' radar, and could be their first LB selected in round one since Bobby Carpenter in 2006.
The Cowboys will also be meeting with Evans' Alabama teammate Calvin Ridley. Amazingly, they have not selected any player out of Alabama since 2001 (Tony Dixon). Planning valuable meetings with the draft's top receiver and one of its best linebackers gives SEC fans of the Cowboys hope that this streak will end next month.
2018 NFL Draft: Cowboys to Hold Visit with UCLA Tackle Kolton Miller
The Dallas Cowboys have been
frustratingly unsurprisingly quiet through the start of free agency, as their opportunity to improve at the AT&T Stadium hosted 2018 NFL Draft is rapidly approaching. Offensive line depth remains a team need for the Cowboys, one they're actively looking to address by visiting free agent Guard Marcus Martin while planning a pre-draft visit with UCLA Tackle Kolton Miller.
I'm told UTEP Guard Will Hernandez is another of Dallas' 30 pre-draft visitors. Hernandez joins Alabama WR Calvin Ridley and UCLA G/T Kolton Miller on the list of reported visitors for the #Cowboys. Since 2014, 14 of Dallas' 35 picks (40%) have been pre-draft visitors.
Protecting one of the top quarterbacks available in the draft in Josh Rosen through college, Kolton Miller absolutely blew up the Combine in Indianapolis - entering the draft as one of the most athletic available linemen.
It is this athleticism and versatility that the Dallas Cowboys should absolutely be looking for, if trying to add another "blue chip" player to an offensive line already featuring LT Tyron Smith, C Travis Frederick, RG Zack Martin, and RT La'el Collins.
Kolton Miller with the broad jump world record for an offensive lineman at 10 1 wow
Tyron Smith's health (along with the level of play the Cowboys received at his spot in his absence) and the FA status of Jonathan Cooper are both reasons the Cowboys should consider adding a new, controllable option to their dominant offensive line. Whether this is with the 19th overall pick, or later on with a prospect like Miller, will depend on how the board falls through the first 18 picks of the draft.
With ten total picks coming in, the Cowboys could be positioning themselves for a move up the board to land an impact defender, or an additional piece for Kris Richard to work with in the defensive backfield. Staying home at 19th overall and selecting a player capable of playing swing tackle would not only be a safe option for the Cowboys, but a smart one with Ezekiel Elliott returning full-time to the lineup in 2018.
Without Elliott for six games in 2017, the Cowboys still managed nine wins. This is a point lost to most of Cowboys Nation, especially those watching the entire playoffs without their team in it, only to watch the Eagles hoist the Lombardi. Elliott's impact on each's week game plan for Dallas is hard to understate, and the Cowboys' trust in him begins up front.
Testing as an elite athlete with the film to match at tackle in the Pac 12, Kolton Miller should be a welcome addition to America's Team - getting the opportunity to learn the Cowboys' way with a trip to The Star in his future.
Can Powers of Persuasion Help Make Will Hernandez a Cowboy?
There is no shortage of NFL hopefuls who would like to become a member of the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 NFL Draft. But, not one of them have used their powers of persuasion to make their intentions known as much as former UTEP offensive guard Will Hernandez.
Throughout the entire draft process, Will Hernandez has done nothing but stand out when given the opportunity. He first started to make waves at the 2018 Senior Bowl, where he pretty much dominated his competition. Then, he improved his draft stock even more by putting on a show at the Scouting Combine.
The 6'2", 330 pound offensive guard has likely cemented himself as a surefire first-round draft pick and is arguably the second-ranked OG in the entire 2018 draft class. He is a plug-and-play prospect for any team who drafts him, but he has made his intentions well known that he would love to play for the Dallas Cowboys.
Back in February, Will Hernandez was spotted hanging out with the Cowboys bookend offensive tackles, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, to see the premiere of the movie Death Wish, starring Bruce Willis.
@PujolsFive Cowboys fans will appreciate this post!! ⭐️ Movie Premiere #Deathwish Great movie!
To see Will Hernandez rubbing elbows with a few of the Dallas Cowboys talented offensive lineman only strengthened the connection for Hernandez becoming a draft pick by America's Team. But, this wasn't the only time the former UTEP offensive guard was seen out with a Cowboys player.
In March, he was once again seen out on the town with the Cowboys All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith.
All of this can probably be chalked up to a current player hanging out with an NFL hopeful, but as a Cowboys fan you want to believe it's more than just a coincidence.
The Dallas Cowboys without a doubt need a new starting left guard. It can be argued it's the team's biggest need this offseason and Will Hernandez fits the bill to a T. He would immediately upgrade the entire offensive line and solidify the unit for years to come.
The only problem is, the Dallas Cowboys have already invested quite a bit in their offensive line and taking Will Hernandez in the first round would be considered by some as overkill. I for one wouldn't be opposed to taking him at 19 if he is the top rated player when the Cowboys are on the clock.
It's hard to know if seeing Will Hernandez hanging out with Tyron Smith and La'el Collins improves his chances of being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, but it definitely doesn't hurt. Offensive lines around the NFL perform at their best when they play as a cohesive unit, so developing a bond already could be viewed as a good thing.
Who knows, maybe Will Hernandez's powers of persuasion will pay off and end up being the deciding factor to help him become the next first-round offensive lineman drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
Do you read anything into Will Hernandez hanging out with Cowboys players?
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