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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft: Offensive Tackle Prospects & Strategies

Tommy Simon

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NFL Draft - Cowboys Draft: Offensive Tackle Prospects & Strategies

In previous articles, we looked at the running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends. So now it’s time to look at the big guys. The guys who make the offense run smoothly and make the running backs and quarterbacks stars. Show me a bad team and I will show you a bad line. Look no further than the Patriots last year. The worse their line got, the worse Tom Brady looked.

Let’s start with the tackles. The Cowboys are in pretty good shape at tackle, but if the right prospect falls to them, don’t be surprised to see them make a move. Doug Free will be done in two years and Chaz Green is still unproven. The Cowboys will need to start thinking about the depth of the position soon.

Before we look at the various prospects available in this year’s NFL Draft, let’s look at some of the attributes that are important when analyzing the tackle position:

  1. Balance/Knee Bend – Do they move with balance? Do they keep their feet under them at all time. Do they keep their knees bent and butt low.
  2. Feet – Do they have quick, light feet to keep in front of defender
  3. Hands – Do they have ‘heavy” hands? Do they have a good punch to shock and awe rusher. Are the hands on the inside?
  4. Athleticism – Can they pull, get to the second level, can they handle seed rushers
  5. Power/Physicality – Can the handle bull rushers, can they drive DEs back on run plays
  6. Size – The bigger the better
  7. Technique – Are they polished and understand how to win with proper technique
  8. Vision – Do they see stunts, blitzes, and lanes
  9. Intelligence – Do they understand their assignments
  10. Character/Work Ethic – Are they the right kind of guy

Now let’s take a look at some of the prospects that will be available to the Cowboys:

Laremy Tunsil

Strengths

  • Great feet. Kick step is as good as it gets
  • Body control, stays in balance and does not over extend
  • Really good knee bend and balance
  • Pass protection is text book
  • Able to get to second level with ease
  • Can drive DEs back. Good movement, creates holes.
  • Functional strength. Wins the leverage battle
  • Heavy hands, punch has some pop to it
  • If he gets hands on you it is over
  • Can sit down on a power rusher
  • Athletic for size

Weaknesses

  • Tends to anticipate snap count and will get motion penalties
  • If he gets beat it is when he over extends on his kick step and the rusher get inside of it
  • Will get handsy and draw holding penalties
  • Not the best engine. Will stop during play if he thinks the play is away from him

Summary

  • Better pass blocker than run blocker right now
  • Athletic and strong, he should be an all pro caliber player
  • Could be character concerns
  • For Cowboys would make a bookend tackle with Smith
  • I have him as a top 5 player

Ronnie Stanley

Strengths

  • Quick off the ball. Whether it is a run or he is in his kick stance
  • Plays with good power
  • Can get to second level to cut off linebackers. Quick feet
  • Heavy hands. Defenders are knocked off balance when hit with them
  • Good technician. Plays with fundamental techniques
  • Disciplined. Will not draw many holding penalties
  • Intelligence. Understands his assignment
  • Aware. Picks up stunts.
  • Can set down on the power rush or handle speed of outside edge rush
  • Good feet
  • Stays engaged on block. Tries to finish

Weaknesses

  • Inside power rush can give him issues
  • Seems to get distracted at times
  • Has an unusual set up at times. Seems to take extra step
  • Can overextend and get off balance when run blocking

Summary

    • Solid against both run and pass
    • Would like to see him play with more anger
    • Will be starting left tackle for a long time in league. May not be all pro level
    • For Cowboys would make a bookend tackle with Smith
    • I have him as a top 10 – 15 player

Jack Conklin

Strengths

  • Good at run blocking. He create holes. He pancakes DEs
  • He plays to the whistle
  • He plays with nastiness, wants to finish play
  • Can sit down on a power rusher
  • Good pass protector, but not great
  • Fundamentally sound, has good footwork
  • Assignment sound, understand who he needs to block at snap
  • Handles stunts will. Knows how to pass rushers to guard

Weaknesses

  • Speed rush can give him issues
  • Will lose balance from time to time
  • Can overextend and whiff
  • Not as athletic as top two OTs

Summary

    • Solid against both run and pass
    • He will be a starting LT or may be an all pro RT
    • Should be able to start early in his career
    • For Cowboys would make a bookend tackle with Smith
    • I have him as a top 15 -20 player

Taylor Decker

Strengths

  • Good length
  • Good balance and feet
  • Can pull and get to second level
  • Can sit down on a power rusher
  • Good initial kick step
  • Long arms, keeps rushers frim his body
  • Functional strength
  • Competitive, can play with edge
  • Understands how to use body to shield and turn blockers
  • Plays with shoulder over his toes. Good lean which helps with leverage

Weaknesses

  • Is hesitant on who to block when he sees blitz
  • Can be overpowered if defender gets into his body
  • Can get over extended
  • Plays tall and loses inside leverage
  • Does not have a powerful punch

Summary

    • Good movement skills. Is a natural left tackle
    • Will get better with a couple of years in a NFL system
    • Is equally consistent against run and pass
    • For Cowboys would be a swing tackle, eventually taking over for Free
    • I have him as a top 30 player

Jason Spriggs

Strengths

  • A natural athlete
  • Good size for position
  • Good feet for his size. Quick.
  • Can pull and take the right angle in the open field
  • Can get to the second level and take on linebacker
  • Good kick step. Natural pass blocker
  • Skilled, knows how to use body to shield and redirect
  • Can sit down on a power rusher
  • Effort is good
  • Plays with some attitude

Weaknesses

  • Can play tall and lose leverage
  • Will struggle against stronger DEs
  • Played in spread, will need to learn to play in NFL sets
  • Hands are weak. Needs better punch.

Summary

    • Good movement skills. Is a natural left tackle
    • Needs to get stronger and more physical
    • Very athletic
    • For Cowboys would be a swing tackle, eventually taking over for Free
    • I have him as a top 45 player

Shon Coleman

Strengths

  • Thick upper body, quick feet
  • Natural pass protector
  • Good feet and balance
  • Good shock with his arms. Can stop rushers in their tracks
  • One of the most physical tackles in this draft
  • Has the feet to get to second level
  • Effort is there
  • Good hands to fight blockers
  • Can sit down when power rushed

Weaknesses

  • Over extends and loses balance
  • Gets to second level but then misses too often
  • Not a power blocker. Is always in a pass set. Will need to learn to get low
  • Needs to add strength
  • Is immature technique wise

Summary

    • Could be left or right tackle
    • Immediate pass blocker, but will need to work on run blocking
    • As much upside as any tackle in the draft
    • For Cowboys would be a swing tackle, eventually taking over for Free
    • I have him as a top 50 player

Germain Ifedi

Strengths

  • Big, physical tackle. Strong upper body
  • Can protect the QB. Sets quick, uses feet well to stay in front
  • Long arms, uses them to keep defenders away from him
  • Heavy hands; they pack a wallop
  • Stands his ground well, see very little push
  • Good redirecting rushers past the play
  • Plays with some attitude
  • Will wall off rusher on draw plays

Weaknesses

  • Can play tall and lose leverage
  • Lunges and misses more than you would like
  • Has no concept of run blocking NFL style
  • Plays tall at times
  • Starts taking short choppy steps when engaged
  • Can struggle with speed to edge

Summary

    • I think he will be a right tackle in the NFL
    • Really needs to develop run blocking techniques
    • Will bring physicality
    • For Cowboys would be a swing tackle, eventually taking over for Free at right
    • I have him as a top 60 player

Le’Raven Clark

Strengths

  • Big body, good size and strength
  • Surprisingly quick set up.
  • For his size, he plays with good knee bend
  • Good feet for his size
  • Can maul rushers when he gets hands on them
  • Long arms helps him route rushers
  • Good in pass protection
  • Will put effort in blocking for run game

Weaknesses

  • Plays tall and stiff
  • Because of Texas Tech’s offense, has no idea how to run block
  • Misses in space quite a bit
  • Not someone who can easily get to second level
  • Better going back than going forward

Summary

    • I think he will be a right tackle in the NFL
    • Really needs to develop run blocking techniques
    • Can pass protect now
    • I have him as a top 75 player

Jerald Hawkins

Strengths

  • Versatile, can play either tackle position
  • Quick setting in pass protection
  • Understands how to use body to shield in the run game
  • Can get low and fight for leverage
  • Good functional strength
  • Athletic frame and footwork for his size
  • Long arms helps him route rushers
  • Can set down and anchor against power rushers
  • Can pull and get into the second level

Weaknesses

  • Needs to add more strength
  • Misses in space too often. Needs better angles
  • Needs heavy hands. Hands are a work in progress
  • Thinner frame than you would prefer
  • Can hesitate at times

Summary

    • Big power tackle that could eventually start in NFL
    • Needs more technique and power
    • Will make a backup swing tackle to start
    • For Cowboys would be a swing tackle, eventually could take over for Free at right
    • I have him as a top 90 player

John Theus

Strengths

  • Run blocking
  • Good lateral quickness to cut off DT on stretch plays.
  • Versatile, played left and right tackle
  • Has high motor, effort
  • Strong initial punch
  • Handles stunts well
  • Has good knee bend and plays with balance on initial set up
  • Has strength and technique to handle the bull rush

Weaknesses

  • Struggles getting to second level
  • Isn’t good in space. Too many times he just whiffs on blocks in space.
  • Can be slow, struggles with quickness
  • Will get beat off edge and has to lunge to try to guide rusher past QB.
  • Can be set up to worry about outside speed rush, then get beat with an inside move
  • Does not sustain blocks well

Summary

    • An anomaly, he is a better run blocker than pass protector. Best suited for teams that like to run.
    • Played left and right tackle, so can play the swing position. But natural position in NFL will probably be right tackle.
    • Experienced and technically sound, could start fairly quickly, but will have limited upside.
    • For Cowboys he would compete with Green for the third tackle spot
    • I have him as a top 100 player

Fahn Cooper

Strengths

  • Demonstrated good movement skills at combine.
  • While not an elite athlete, he does play with functional strength
  • Plays with good power, balance and leverage
  • Good run blocker. Will sustain his blocks
  • Can play tackle or guard. This versatility reduces the risk of missing on him and increases his draft value.
  • Versatile, having played right and left tackle
  • Gets to second level pretty easily.
  • He will engage, come off and reengage at second level

Weaknesses

  • Not an elite athlete
  • Is not always aware of blitzes and stunts
  • Can struggle with speed at times around edge
  • Can get beat on a hard inside move
  • Not as strong as you would like

Summary

    • A right tackle in the NFL or a right guard
    • Needs to add strength
    • Needs to work on technique with hands.
    • For Cowboys he would compete with Green for the third tackle spot and possibly fourth guard
    • I have him as a top 110-120 player

Joe Haeg

Strengths

  • Athletic and quick
  • Played in pro-style offense and can run block and protect.
  • Versatile, played left and right tackle
  • Gets to second level and can finish the play
  • Can pull
  • Quick set up in pass protection
  • Knows how to shield and deflect rusher pass QB
  • Good engine and sustains blocks
  • Gets movement in stretch plays
  • Can get out on screens

Weaknesses

  • Struggles against power
  • Lacks strength
  • Needs to be able to drive block better
  • Hands are not heavy
  • Competition was not strong

Summary

    • He showed quickness, but is that because he played inferior competition. At combine he looked  above average athletically
    • Needs to add strength to go along his quickness
    • He will need time to acclimate to better competition level
    • Played left and right tackle, so can play the swing position. But natural position in NFL will probably be left tackle.
    • A developmental player with high risk, high reward potential
    • For Cowboys he would compete with Green for the third tackle spot
    • I have him rated in the top 120

Kyle Murphy

Strengths

  • Decent at all phases of run and pass blocking
  • Durable and experienced in a pro set
  • Bends knees and plays with good leverage
  • Sound fundamentals
  • Versatile, having played right and left tackle
  • Knows how to use body to shield blockers
  • Knows how to change things up. Can cut block, quick set, drive block, shield, etc. Can keep rusher off balance
  • Gets to second level pretty easily

Weaknesses

  • While sound in all phases of blocking, he is not great at any
  • Limited upside athletically
  • Struggles with speed
  • When he get to second level, he does not finish the play.
  • Can lunge and get off balance

Summary

    • A right tackle in the NFL
    • Comes from an offense that uses a pro set. He can block and pass protect now
    • Limited upside. Will probably be a third tackle with potential to possible start one day.
    • For Cowboys he would compete with Green for the third tackle spot
    • I have him as a top 130 player

The Cowboys will probably not be in the market for a top tackle, but if one is available and a great value, then the Cowboys could be compelled to take one. However, the more likely scenario is if a projected second or third rounder falls into the fourth (Ifedi, Clark, Theus, Hawkins).

If the Cowboys do not draft a tackle in the first four rounds, they may try to draft a tackle in the sixth round that they can stash on the practice squad.

That’s all for the tackles, look for the next article which will have interior offensive linemen.

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Tommy Simon is an entrepreneur, writer, speaker and sports enthusiast. He is currently CEO of TechBAA, an investor and board member of TPC Technical and CommunitesFIrst, and acting CFO for ALS Communities. In addition to investing and advising companies, Tommy is also a Sales Management coach and is working with companies as a Fractional CMO/CSO. Tommy is a life long football player, coach and Cowboy fan. He currently coaches and sponsors several 7 on 7 teams. He manages/coaches an adult flag football team that is the top team in Florida one of the highest ranked teams in the country. Tommy's hobbies include international travel, fantasy football, reading, and engaging in intelligent political discourse. He is married to a wonderful women for 18 years; which is the best thing he has ever accomplished. He has a dog that is the best dog ever. He also has 9 siblings and roughly 30 nieces and nephews. For more information about tommy, or to request him to speak, please contact him at info@techbaa.com

NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Michigan DT Maurice Hurst

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Draft Target: Michigan DT Maurice Hurst

Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, it’s pretty clear defensive tackle is toward the top of the Dallas Cowboys’ needs. Dallas has invested multiple draft picks and resources into the secondary, linebackers, and defensive ends, but their interior defensive line still needs to add depth and talent. One potential target to fill this need is Michigan Wolverines Defensive Tackle Maurice Hurst.

Over at Slant Sports I completed a full scouting report on Hurst, giving him a first-round grade and ranking him atop this defensive tackle class.

At 6’2″ and about 280 pounds, Maurice Hurst clearly projects as a three technique at the professional level. Hurst played the under-tackle most of the time at Michigan, but he did kick down over the center or inside the guards at times. Still, I wouldn’t expect a team to draft Hurst to be their one tech of the future.

Hurst is an explosive beast at defensive tackle.

Playing with a nonstop motor, Hurst won off the ball often, but also created effort and hustle plays behind the line of scrimmage during his college career. Hurst’s first step, quick hands, ability to win with leverage, and overall explosiveness shine through on film.

nfldraft2018 maurice hurst 5 – Streamable

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“Here’s an example of that explosive first step. Hurst is lined up as the 3-technique on the far side. Winning with his first-step quickness and burst, Hurst gives the offensive linemen absolutely no chance to block him. He then powers through the recovery attempt by the lineman to make the tackle in the backfield.” ~Slant Sports

Hurst clearly doesn’t have the prototypical size of a defensive tackle in the NFL, but his play style suits his body well.

His explosiveness and burst off the ball make him incredibly dangerous, and his quick hands, low pad level, and strong lower body help him to win against any offensive lineman.

He obviously isn’t at the same level, and may not deserve eye-to-eye comparisons with this player, but Maurice Hurst’s play style and body type remind me of a young Aaron Donald. (I’m not saying he’s better than Aaron Donald, save the comments).

nfldraft2018 maurice hurst 8 – Streamable

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In terms of his fit with the Cowboys, Hurst would compete with Maliek Collins for playing time at three technique.

Respected draft guru Dane Brugler, has mocked Hurst to Dallas in his latest mock draft, but the way they handle both Collins and impending restricted free agent David Irving will play a huge role in determining if Hurst would even fill a need.

Regardless, Maurice Hurst is a name deserving of first-round buzz, and Cowboys Nation should keep their eyes on him this offseason.

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NFL Draft

Sean’s Scout: Memphis WR Anthony Miller a Needed Weapon for Cowboys

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Memphis WR Anthony Miller A Needed Weapon For Cowboys
AP Photo / Jessica Hill

Slotted to pick 19th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys find themselves in position to add a first-round talent to a team that fell just short of the playoffs at 9-7 in 2017. Faltering entirely on offense without RB Ezekiel Elliott too many times this season, it’s hard to argue this asset is not best spent on new talent at WR.

The Cowboys haven’t drafted a wide receiver in the first round since 2010, trading up for Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant. Frequent injuries and the inability to develop with QB Dak Prescott have diminished Bryant’s status as a star receiver in Dallas, and it may be time to overhaul the position entirely.

After scouting Memphis WR Anthony Miller, he may be just what the Dallas Cowboys need. Let’s take a closer look at his fit in the Cowboys’ offense in the first draft-season edition of Sean’s Scout.

WR Anthony Miller 2 – Streamable

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With 96 receptions for 1,462 yards and 18 touchdowns in his final season at Memphis, Senior WR Anthony Miller is one of the top players at his position in the 2018 NFL Draft. These inflated numbers in the Tigers’ pass-happy offense do little to highlight Miller as a next level prospect…

This film clip and quote from my full scouting report on Miller shows the pure play-making ability Miller has. Miller wouldn’t fill the Cowboys need for an over-the-top burner at WR, but he has no problem tracking the ball with ease and adjusting in the air to make big plays down the field.

…Miller is as tough of a cover as you’ll find thanks to his explosive and concise release off the line.

Anthony Miller is certainly a “Dak-friendly” pass catcher, as he possesses the catch radius to snag passes away from his frame using his exceptionally strong hands. Even when he is covered, Miller is open vertically.

With that said, Miller has more than enough ability to separate with good initial quickness and elite balance through his routes.

WR Anthony Miller 4 – Streamable

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…he wastes no time accelerating through the secondary, and running with a powerful stride that makes it difficult to bring him down.

There may be better technical route runners in this draft class, but few set up defenders as consistently well as Miller — who has the production to match these NFL traits.

A willing run blocker too, Miller could walk into Dallas and immediately earn snaps as an X, Z, or Y receiver. Miller’s best fit to start his career is likely as a Z receiver, drawing less attention in coverage while being allowed to run a full route tree.

…Miller gets on cornerbacks in a hurry, setting them up with his fluidity and size to track the football through contact.

A potential replacement for Terrance Williams with the Cowboys, Miller is somewhat of a similar player in the way he wins with mostly size.

The Memphis product would still be an upgrade over Williams though, as it is much easier to get the ball in Miller’s hands. Add in the red-zone ability that Anthony Miller has to box out defenders, and the run-after-catch burst as an inside target, and Miller is a weapon the Cowboys could desperately use.

WR Anthony Miller 1 – Streamable

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…I found myself constantly impressed with the speed at which Miller gets up the field when taking the ball underneath.

Miller will have nothing but opportunities to raise his draft stock over the coming months. He will be at this month’s Senior Bowl, receiving NFL-level coaching to refine his game. The Scouting Combine will also be critical for Miller’s testing numbers to confirm the athlete seen on tape dominating at Memphis will take the next step.

Earning a second round grade on my 2018 NFL Draft Board, there is a chance the Cowboys have to use their first round pick if they truly want Anthony Miller in Silver and Blue. A very complete player that fills a need, Miller as the Cowboys first pick could make plenty of sense in April.

Tell us what you think about “Sean’s Scout: Memphis WR Anthony Miller a Needed Weapon for Cowboys” in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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NFL Draft

Luxury or Need for Cowboys to Draft Another 1st-Round OL?

Brian Martin

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Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, offensive line

Due to growing concerns about Tyron Smith‘s availability and future health, due to reoccurring back injuries, there seems to be a growing consensus among Dallas Cowboys fans that there’s a need to draft an offensive lineman with the first-round pick. But, is it actually a need, or would it be more of a luxury?

There is legitimate concern about Tyron Smith and his future health.

Back injuries have a way of flaring up at the most inopportune times. It’s also not an injury that’s going away anytime soon, if ever. This is the unknown the Cowboys are faced with heading into the off-season, and it could end up having a major impact on the direction they go in the 2018 NFL Draft.

There seems to be a growing consensus around Cowboys Nation that the Dallas Cowboys should seriously consider selecting the best available offensive tackle with the 19th overall pick.

There are probably two reasons for this:

  1. Tyron Smith’s health concerns, and
  2. the need to upgrade the swing tackle position after watching Byron Bell and Chaz Green play in 2017.

But, the question remains: is drafting yet another offensive lineman in the first-round a luxury or need for the Dallas Cowboys?

Personally, I can see both sides of this argument. So, let’s break it down a little and examine each.

Luxury

Zack Martin

Dallas Cowboys RG Zack Martin

The Dallas Cowboys have already invested an enormous amount of resources to build arguably the best offensive line in the NFL.

They’ve spent three first-round draft picks to acquire Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin, two of which have already received long-term extensions with Martin waiting in the wings.

That’s a lot of money devoted to one position, which ultimately means the Cowboys have to go cheaper in other areas in order to fit under the salary cap. This is the money that would be used in free agency to acquire some of those higher-priced free agents fans are always hankering for.

It also can be used to re-sign some of the Cowboys players at other positions, such as DeMarcus Lawrence.

But, it’s not only the money that makes drafting a first-round OL a luxury.

Four out of five of the Cowboys OL are already pretty much set in stone. The left guard position is really the only unoccupied position right now, but that could be filled rather easily. This, of course, is assuming Tyron Smith stays healthy, but regardless, he is the starting left tackle when the 2018 season begins.

Need

Byron Bell

Dallas Cowboys OL Byron Bell

There’s no reason to believe Tyron Smith will be able to play an entire 16-game season going forward. The last two seasons he has had to sit out several games due to injuries, and unfortunately his back issues aren’t going away anytime soon.

To make matters worse, Dallas doesn’t have an adequate backup, which was proven on more than one occasion in 2017. Hence the need.

With the exception of the quarterback, the left tackle position is arguably the most important on offense. They protect the QB’s blindside and are largely responsible for keeping him healthy and upright.

There’s a reason they are drafted so highly and paid so handsomely: they are that important to a team’s success.

There was also a reason the Dallas Cowboys offense started to sputter once Tyron Smith started missing time. Opposing defenses no longer respected the Cowboys LT, and started putting their best pass rusher on that side to get after Dak Prescott.

Prescott ended up having happy feet and it had a ripple effect throughout the entire offense, and not in a good way.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Quite honestly, I think it would be a luxury to draft any kind of offensive lineman with the Cowboys’ first-round selection, but I wouldn’t be completely surprised if that’s the direction they went. There are positives and negatives to both sides of the argument.

But, if they stick to the draft board and an OL is their highest rated player there, I say go for it.

The only thing we can do is have faith that the Dallas Cowboys know more about Tyron Smith’s health and his availability to play then we do as fans. If they decide to draft an offensive lineman early, I think we should all take that as an indication that they are worried about Smith, at least a little bit.

Luxury or Need: Do the Cowboys draft a first-round OL?

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