The Cowboys fan base, since the start of draft season, has split into groups that support one player or another joining the team with the upcoming fourth overall pick. These "teams" seem to all have vocal leaders on Twitter and other platforms, and perhaps no one has been steering the Jared Goff ship harder than I have.
I am all for Dallas drafting a quarterback in the first round, especially if Goff is in play, but also understand the needs at other positions. I explained why I changed my mind on Joey Bosa after the Randy Gregory suspension.
Whatever player you would love to see this team end up with in the first round, the truth of the matter is that the success of the team will rely just as heavily on their later round picks as well. At some point in the 2016 NFL Draft, one of these picks needs to be a quarterback.
That is something that the entire fan base should be able to agree on after watching Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore collectively win just one game. Tony Romo won the Giants, Eagles, and Dolphins games for us - but now carries serious sustainability issues, as Staff Writer RJ Ochoa pointed out.
Let's examine four quarterbacks that could be selected by the Cowboys sometime in the first four rounds.
Round 1 - Jared Goff
This pick requires little explanation. If indeed the Cowboys are serious about drafting a quarterback in the first round, I believe Goff is their guy. While Carson Wentz is a great prospect, I just do not see this team slotting him ahead of players like Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack on their board.
Goff is my top QB in this class, is a great fit for Dallas, and could benefit greatly from not having to start right away. This pick would make sense, and I would be all for it, but there are of course other very viable options in the later rounds...
Round 2 - Christian Hackenberg
Hackenberg is one of the more interesting QB prospects in recent years. A college career that started with so much promise turned into a story of disappointment and inconsistency - mired in coaching changes at Penn State along with terrible play in his offensive line.
The Cowboys could view Hackenberg as a very high value pick at #34 overall, because he would have gotten past teams near the bottom half of the first round like Houston who will seemingly have interest. They certainly have the offensive line to protect him come the day he has to step in, and in time, Christian Hackenberg could become a very talented NFL passer.
Round 3 - Dak Prescott
Prescott was impressive at the NFL Combine, and with quarterbacks like Cam Newton taking over the position, his overall stock has risen. Prescott likely best fits at the next level in a short-passing style offense, but sitting behind Tony Romo will only further develop his all around skills.
By the time he is expected to start, the Cowboys could have the offensive personnel in place to join the latest NFL trend and play the athletic Prescott at QB in a system that he can thrive in.
Round 4 - Jeff Driskel
I scouted Jeff Driskel right here on InsideTheStar.com, and was impressed with what I saw. In reading what pro scouts have to say about the former Florida Gator turned LA Tech Bulldog, the knock on Driskel has been his field processing speed along with inability to quickly get the ball out of his hands.
To me, these are two of the easiest things to fix once Driskel is brought into Dallas in his first seasons to simply learn the offense. The mental speed of the game will improve with each rep he gets, while the ball will come out of his hands faster as receivers like Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley break open.
Should the Cowboys be in a position to draft Goff and not take him, they can make up for it in my books by potentially stealing Driskel in the fourth round.
Also in the mix: Connor Cook, Jacoby Brissett, Nate Sudfeld, Kevin Hogan
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...
...of his offensive lineman.
During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.
As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.
It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.
With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.
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