If you're cramming for the 2017 NFL Draft like I am for finals, you likely already know that you can sound smart in any Cowboys circle by simply bringing up Dallas' need at defensive end. Some of the top names in this draft class are pass rushers, with Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett expected to be the first overall pick.
Our Staff Writer Kevin Brady has done a great job breaking down the defensive end talent that could be available for the Cowboys with the 28th overall pick, first by hypothetically constructing their board at the position and more recently narrowing the talent pool at DE down to four players.
While this ranking will cover more than four players, it will not include defensive ends that the Cowboys have not had pre-draft visits with - a solid indication of their interest in a prospect.
It's not just draft season, it is the week of Football Christmas. Let's rank some players.
1. Charles Harris, Missouri
The Dallas Cowboys' connection to Charles Harris has been one of the more sustained team-prospect links over this draft process. Missouri has produced waves of talented pass rushers at the next level, and their latest in Charles Harris is almost perfectly built for Rod Marinelli's scheme at RDE.
With a go-to spin move that Harris can win on day one with along with a violent inside counter, the impact Charles Harris can have off the weak side edge in Dallas is clear-cut - with room to grow as an all-around defender.
Harris' ability to be a feared pass rusher with the Cowboys at the position they'll need him the most puts him at the top of my pre-draft DE rankings.
2. Malik McDowell, Michigan State
When he wants to be, Malik McDowell is a top player in this class that has no business even being discussed with the 28th overall pick. His inconsistent effort at Michigan State however - which has been tied to the team's overall lack of success, injuries to McDowell, and even reports that he played through late growing pains in 2016 - has put him right in the middle of the Cowboys' consideration.
McDowell, if motivated the right way by defensive line guru Rod Marinelli, could quickly become the steal of this draft for the Cowboys. From the moment he steps on the field, Malik can play as an athletic RDE, disruptive 3T DT, and immensely strong LDE.
Part of the reason I also think the Cowboys are in a good position to tap into McDowell's elite potential is that their current starter at 3T DT, second-year player Maliek Collins, appears to already be slotted in to McDowell's best position for some time. Malik would have to earn his snaps in Dallas, but if he does, you'll never see him leave the field.
3. T.J. Watt, Wisconsin
While Harris' buzz with America's Team has been ongoing, the recent push for T.J. Watt by Cowboys Nation has been deafening. First and foremost, yes, Watt is the younger brother of Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt.
In only one full-year on the defensive side of the ball, Watt flashed all the traits to be a quick-developing sack master in the NFL at Wisconsin - recruited originally by the Badgers as a TE and missing all of 2014 and parts of 2015 with separate knee surgeries.
If the Cowboys can put his injury history behind them, there is no doubt that T.J. Watt will be high on their list of pass rushing targets in the first round as - like Harris - he can make a difference on the edge with his quickness and power to work underneath offensive tackles on day one while developing even further as a defensive end.
4. Takk McKinley, UCLA
Another talented and budding pass rusher that the Cowboys have shown interest in is UCLA's Takk McKinley. Jerry Jones' "war daddy" remark has help up through this draft process in Dallas' search for a feared pass rusher, as has his all-important note that the Cowboys can't be afraid to take some reasonable risks in adding an impact defensive end.
Takk McKinley's shoulder injury may cause him to miss some time through his first training camp, but in the long run he is one of the most explosive players in this deep DE pool off of both edges.
Capable of winning the corner and finishing off the right edge or patiently reading the run on the strong side, McKinley slides into these pre-draft rankings just behind three ready-to-go players in Charles Harris, Malik McDowell, and T.J. Watt.
5. Derek Barnett, Tennessee
Derek Barnett's draft profile was one of the first I wrote to begin this long 2017 draft process. While I personally love the player, I believe the Cowboys view him as a solid left end - hurting his stock in Dallas' pursuit of their first true feared right end since DeMarcus Ware.
With that said, I also think the gap on this hypothetical board between McKinley and Barnett is razor-thin. McKinley will have a better chance to last until the 28th overall pick as well, as Barnett has all of the traits along with the production in breaking Reggie White's sack record at Tennessee to be long gone in the top 15 picks.
The Cowboys should be fortunate to even find themselves in position to pass on Derek Barnett on Thursday, but I believe they would for any of the players listed above.
6. Taco Charlton, Michigan
If Derek Barnett is a left defensive end on the Dallas Cowboys' board that can flex to the right side, Taco Charlton is a true left end that can excel in an area the Cowboys are already pretty well-covered at for his position.
Despite looking the part, Charlton is limited as a pass rusher and leaves a lot of plays on the field off the edge as he'll either struggle to snap the corner or generate enough power to shed his block and run to the ball with high pad level.
A very solid option against the run, Charlton falls behind five other pass rushers on this list, making it hard to imagine a scenario where he is indeed the pick at 28th overall.
7. Tarell Basham, Ohio
Unlike any other defensive end on this list, Ohio's Tarell Basham is a target the Cowboys could see in the second round. Generating some buzz from other teams at the back end of the first round, Basham may be the perfect player to trade down for and gain more picks in the Cowboys war room.
A small-school prospect that has managed to generate some well deserved hype, Basham can also play off of both edges with a consistent get off to capture the corner. Tarell Basham excels at using his long arms to generate power and push into the backfield before shedding and finishing at the football with consistency.
Basham may not be a day one "war daddy" in the NFL, but he would be a great start to a Cowboys draft that includes gaining extra picks to use towards the defense while trading down for his services at DE.
8. Tanoh Kpassagnon, Villanova
The best case scenario for the Cowboys landing Kpassagnon in this draft is if they've already landed one of the seven players ranked above. Kpassagnon has some intriguing traits to warrant a later round pick, but his glaring inconsistency on the edge paired with the concerns that come with Villanova's level of competition take him out of consideration to really "move the needle" when it comes to Dallas getting to the quarterback anytime soon.
Relying on sheer strength and power with some rarely seen bend, Kpassagnon allows tackles to get his hands inside and steer him out of plays too often. If he continues to develop with his consistent pad level and increasing strength, Kpassagnon can find NFL snaps - but it won't be as anyone opposing offensive coordinators lose sleep over while preparing to face the Cowboys.
This is how I see the Cowboys ultimately ranking the eight defensive ends they have gotten to know better than the rest with pre-draft visits. Unlike the rankings for these three safety prospects, you see that Will McClay and the Dallas brass is more committed to addressing the need for a pass rusher early in this draft.
The real fun will begin as some of these players inevitably come off the board before pick #28, playing us into a situation where we can find out once and for all how this team has some of these edge players graded - potentially opting to look at a first round CB or S.
One thing is pretty certain when looking over the Cowboys full list of pre-draft visits, and it is that Dallas is all-in on upgrading defensively. Part of this plan could very well include one of the above pass rushers.
Cowboys Draft: Looking at West Virginia WR David Sills
Although the Dallas Cowboys won't be on the clock in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, they essentially invested their first pick in Amari Cooper. However, wide receiver remains a need for the team, specially with Cole Beasley heading for free agency. Out of West Virginia, Wide Receiver David Sills is an interesting potential target for Dallas. A quarterback-turned-wide-receiver story, Sills is one of those guys who constantly shows up when you watch his football team play. That's what you want in a receiver.
Let's dive in.
During his time playing for the West Virginia Mountaineers, David Sills was a scoring machine. He scored 35 career touchdowns (15 in 2018, 18 in 2017) and caught over 980 yards in each of his two seasons as a starter. The Big 12 is known for its lack of good defensive backs, which will naturally raise skepticism when discussing how good Sills really is but it shouldn't.
Sills is 6-foot-4 and weighs 210 pounds. His frame is constantly criticized but thanks to his size and his excellent ability to high point the football that shouldn't be an issue. He's one of the best in this draft class when it comes to 50-50 jump balls. He shines the most as a vertical threat, including over the middle of the field, which should be an interesting trait for the Dallas Cowboys. Throughout his career, he was almost indefensible when given the opportunity at deep over the shoulder passes.
Although he doesn't have the best acceleration, Sills' build-up speed can be lethal for opposing defensive backs. Paired with this is his skill to adjust for deep balls, slowing down when necessary to take on defenders.
What I personally like the most about Sills is his play in goal line situations. Whether it's playing inside on a slant or running a fade route, the Mountaineer wide receiver surely made a lot of opposing defenses suffer. Thanks to his background as a quarterback, his understanding of defensive coverages is pretty solid. He manages to find the defense's soft spots and get open constantly.
But why isn't he valued as a top prospect on this year's NFL Draft? Well, unfortunately, there are a few reasons for this.
First off, David Sills had some problems in the "drops" department. He has plenty of body catches that aren't necessary. When balls weren't on target, he often didn't make the play despite counting with a pretty good catch radius. He can greatly improve in his route running abilities and he was challenged by true press cornerbacks, struggling to release early.
For the Dallas Cowboys, Sills could be a solid contributor as a vertical threat and in the red-zone, where the offense struggled so much last season. With the class being quite loaded at wide receiver this year, Sills should be a realistic target even in the fourth round.
Cowboys Receive 4th-Round Compensatory Pick in 2019 NFL Draft
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.
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.
7-Round Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft: Pre-Combine Edition
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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