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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.



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

Dallas Cowboys

Have the Dallas Cowboys Overcome Their 2nd-Round Curse?

Brian Martin

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Have the Dallas Cowboys Overcome Their 2nd-Round Curse?

You may not be aware or maybe you've simply forgotten, but the Dallas Cowboys have struggled drafting players in the 2nd-round who can come in and contribute. Typically players drafted this highly are not only immediate contributors as a rookie, but are cornerstone players for years to come. That hasn't been the case for the Cowboys.

I don't know where you stand, but I was beginning to think the Dallas Cowboys were cursed with their 2nd-round draft picks. I know this was an area where they would gamble on players for some reason or another, but unfortunately it never really paid off. Hopefully, things are changing for the better.

Let's take a look back at past drafts to see what I'm talking about.

Past 2nd-Round Draft Picks Dating Back to 2006:

2018 Connor Williams
2017 Chidobe Awuzie
2016 Jaylon Smith
2015 Randy Gregory
2014 DeMarcus Lawrence
2013 Gavin Escobar
2012 (no selection) used to trade for Morris Claiborne
2011 Bruce Carter
2010 Sean Lee
2009 (no selection) traded out of 2nd-round
2008 Martellus Bennett
2007 (no selection) used to trade back into 1st for Anthony Spencer
2006 Anthony Fasano

You may be wondering why I decided to start all the way back in 2006. Well, I believe that's when the 2nd-round draft picks curse started for the Dallas Cowboys.

Anthony Fasano ended up having a solid career in the NFL, but he never lived up to his draft status as a former 2nd-round draft pick. The same can be said for Martellus Bennett, Gavin Escobar, and Bruce Carter. Shed a tear for them if you want, but I'd put them in the "bust" category.

Sean Lee

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee

The sad truth is, Sean Lee is the only 2nd-round draft pick on this list to ever see a second contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Although, I guess you can include DeMarcus Lawrence since he will be playing under the franchise tag in 2018. But, that's still not a very good hit percentage in the 2nd-round for more than a decade. Luckily, it looks as if things are changing.

DeMarcus Lawrence might end up being another "hit" for the Cowboys. It may have taken him four years to reach his potential, but there's no denying how dominant he was last season. If he can maintain that dominance this season, he could be looking at a big payday from the Cowboys.

The Dallas Cowboys took a risk on the next two players they drafted after D-Law. They knew Randy Gregory had his off the field issues, but were willing to take a chance on his talent in the 2nd-round. That has yet to pay off, but Gregory has a chance to rebound now that it looks as if he has his life back in order.

Jaylon Smith

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

The Cowboys took another risk in the following draft when they drafted Jaylon Smith. No one knew if he would ever be able to play again after the devastating knee injury he sustained in his final collegiate game, but it's looking as if he could make a full recovery and return to his pre-injury form. Year 3 will be big for him, but he could end up being an absolute steal.

Fortunately, the Cowboys 2017 and 2018 2nd-round draft picks (Chidobe Awuzie and Connor Williams) look to be cornerstone players for years to come. That's what you're looking for in players drafted this highly.

I say all of this because it's really looking like the Dallas Cowboys have finally broken their 2nd-round curse. Maybe it's a change in draft philosophy or maybe it's because Will McClay's voice carries more weight in the draft room, but it's definitely good news for the future of the franchise. Hopefully it continues.

Do you think the Dallas Cowboys 2nd-round curse has ended?



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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?

Kevin Brady

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2018 NFL Combine: 3 LBs Who Impressed
Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.

But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.

Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.

Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.

First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.

On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.

Cowboys Land Small School WR In Latest PFF Mock Draft

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 1: DUPLICATE***Colorado State Rams wide receiver Michael Gallup (4) picks up a few yards after catch as Colorado Buffaloes defensive back Isaiah Oliver (26) comes in for the tackle during the first quarter on September 1, 2017 in Denver, Colorado at Sports Authority Field. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post)

What about the rest of the class?

Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.

After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.

How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.



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NFL Draft

Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?

One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.

Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.

But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.

Cowboys en Español: Dallas Selecciona a Vander Esch, ¿Quién Sigue?

Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.

Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.

Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.

One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.

In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.

Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?

Dallas Cowboys Add Depth on Day 3, Building Future with Young Starters 1

Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.

The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.

Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.

Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.

For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.

Tell me what you think about "Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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