The search for a tight end in the 2019 NFL Draft continues this week, as we profile Stanford Junior Kaden Smith. Smith was a two year contributor at Stanford, and though he didn't produce eye-popping numbers, he has garnered some draft hype as of late.
Many respected draft analysts have Smith in their top five tight ends, which puts him firmly in the Cowboys' sights this Spring. The question will likely become if he is worth of the 58th overall selection, and if the Cowboys value his skillset enough to pull that trigger.
As of right now Kaden Smith is TE4 on my board, behind Iowa's TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant as well as Alabama's Irv Smith Jr.
At 6'5" and 250 pounds, and still with a rather impressive athletic profile, Smith has some of the ideal traits for a tight end in the NFL. The Junior tight end had 47 catches for 635 yards and 2 touchdowns last season, and considering the offensive play style of Stanford, these numbers are solid.
In terms of his skillset, Kaden Smith fits the "seam buster" profile the Cowboys could be looking for. He is at his best pushing routes vertically and finding the soft spot in the zone. I'm not saying he's Jason Witten in his ability to find those soft spots, but when Smith is winning in the pass game its usually because of his understanding of the opponent's zone defense. Not because he burned someone with his speed or defeated a defender which technically-sound route running.
As a run blocker, Kaden Smith needs some developing, but there is reason for optimism. He's not overly powerful as a blocker, but does well working with tackles on double teams. He clearly understands the blocking scheme he's being asked to execute and uses body positioning to his advantage. This is especially useful to compensate for his lack of power and drive off the line of scrimmage.
He's going to need work in his technique, specifically his footwork and base, but the upside as a blocker is there. Still, if you're drafting Kaden Smith early on, it's not because you want an excellent run blocker. It's because you're looking for production from your tight end in the passing game.
His Fit With The Cowboys
Kaden Smith just looks like a Dallas Cowboys tight end, doesn't he?
Like Irv Smith, Kaden Smith would provide the Cowboys immediate TE1 potential in the second round. He obviously needs to improve in certain areas - such as high pointing the ball more consistently and improving the nuance of his route running - but what he is working with now is impressive nonetheless.
No, Kaden Smith isn't the medicine which cures all the Cowboys passing game woes from a year ago, but he could be a valuable piece to the puzzle which should help Dak Prescott play beyond what his ceiling may seem to be at this point.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Draft Needs: Defensive Tackle
After the Dallas Cowboys gave up 273 rushing yards in last season's playoff loss to the Rams, the defensive tackle position became a greater concern for 2019. It's one of the key spots that Dallas may address in this week's NFL Draft.
It's unfair to allow one game to paint the entire picture. Before going to Los Angeles, things were looking good at DT with solid play from Maliek Collins and Antwaun Woods. We weren't even bemoaning the absence of David Irving; the Cowboys' defense had emerged as one of the top groups in the league.
But then Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson ran wild, and now it's left folks wondering if Dallas is going to be able to stand up to the elite teams in the NFL without some better talent in the middle of their defensive line.
Collins and Woods are back in 2019, and veteran Tyrone Crawford should be used more at DT this year now that Robert Quinn here to play defensive end. Dallas also signed free agent Christian Covington from Houston to add to their interior rotation, plus re-signed Daniel Ross for depth.
It's a solid group, but none of these players can claim to be a game-changer at this point. There are high hopes for what Antwaun Woods might be evolving into, but that's hardly guaranteed.
Not only could the Cowboys stand to add more talent to the mix, but they may need to draft someone now in preparation for the future.
Assuming everyone sticks around in 2019, next year could see a mass exodus from the current DT depth chart. Crawford is likely to be a salary cap casualty while Collins and Covington will be unrestricted free agents.
Even Ross and Woods will technically be free agents, but they will be under the Restricted and Exclusive Rights designations so Dallas can easily keep them if they choose to.
Clearly, though, the Cowboys should be thinking ahead when it comes to their defensive tackles and this draft. And their second-round pick, 58th overall, may give them an opportunity to get better now and find a long-term answer.
True, Dallas has not typically used high picks at the DT position. The third-round pick they spent in Maliek Collins in 2016 was the highest since Willie Blade was a third-round pick in 2001 (Crawford and Jason Hatcher were originally drafted as 3-4 defensive ends).
But this 2019 presents some unique circumstances. Dallas is covered at almost all of their "glamour" positions; it's rare they don't have a crucial need for a WR, CB, DE, or some other position of greater notoriety.
Plus, you could make a case for DT being the most pivotal need on the entire roster. It depends on how you feel about the current talent at safety and tight end, but you could make a case for the interior defensive line needing an upgrade as badly as any spot on the team.
Because of comparable need at positions like TE and S, the Cowboys aren't going to reach to fill any position. They will only take a player who they feel offers great value.
One guy who could fall to the 58th pick is Dexter Lawrence from Clemson, a mammoth DT at 6'4" and over 340 lbs. He's not only a run-stuffer but has shown the athletic ability to even get into the backfield at times.
It's going to take that kind of player to make Dallas pull the trigger on a DT in the second round. But even if it doesn't happen then, you can expect someone to probably get drafted somewhere in the team's earlier picks.
Because of their 2019 depth, Dallas might also be willing to take a chance on Jeffery Simmons out of Mississippi State. He has an ACL injury from the combine which might cost him most of this year, but Simmons is a first-round talent.
As we saw a few years ago with Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys are willing to take the risk for those kind of players. And Simmons' prognosis isn't nearly as dangerous as Jaylon's was.
However it goes, defensive tackle is certainly a position of need for the 2019 Dallas Cowboys. Despite their history, don't be surprised if they draft one high this weekend.
Draft Likelihood: 90%
Projected Round: 3rd-4th
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Other Draft Needs Articles
Cowboys Draft: DT is Unlikely at #58
The draft needs have been discussed. You've read the mock drafts. The Dallas Cowboys have put their draft board together. Now all that's left to be done is for the Cowboys to go and draft football players.
The NFL Draft will begin on Thursday night, but the Dallas Cowboys won't go on the clock -- unless a dramatic trade up occurs -- until Friday night when the second round begins. There's been a ton of speculation on who the Dallas Cowboys could select when they eventually get their turn to add to their roster.
Positions like safety, wide receiver, tight end, defensive end, defensive tackle, and cornerback have all mentioned in line with the Cowboys selection at pick 58. Though anything is possible, it's unlikely that the interior defensive line will be the direction the Cowboys go with their second round pick.
You have no further to look than the Dallas Cowboys draft history since 2011 when Head Coach Jason Garrett entered his first draft with the club as their permanent head coach.
|8||2014||2||34||Demarcus Lawrence||DE||22||2014||2018||0||2||3||33||64||47||1||34.0||Boise St.|
|10||2014||7||251||Ken Bishop||DT||23||2014||2015||0||0||0||0||5||0||Northern Illinois|
|11||2012||3||81||Tyrone Crawford||DE||22||2012||2018||0||0||5||31||92||74||22.0||Boise St.|
Since Jason Garrett took over as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, they have only drafted four defensive tackles. Tyrone Crawford, who was drafted as a 3-4 defensive end in 2012, has been more of a hybrid player. But if we consider him an interior defensive lineman, then the Cowboys have only selected five interior defensive linemen in eight seasons. Only twice did they use a pick higher than the seventh round on an interior defensive lineman. 2012, when they selected Tyrone Crawford in the third round with the 81st pick in the draft. Then in 2016, they took Maliek Collins with the 67th overall pick of the third round.
Every other defensive tackle choice has been in the seventh round. Compare that to the defensive end position. On the EDGE, the Cowboys have selected six players, only one of them being a seventh round pick. Of their six defensive end selections, one was in the first round, two were in the second (Randy Gregory not listed), two were in the fourth, one was in the fifth, and one was in the seventh.
The Cowboys have used picks in just about every round to find their defensive end rotation, but have been reluctant to spend premium picks on a defensive tackle.
Generally, Rod Marinelli gets blamed for the lack of value placed on the interior defensive line, and some of that is true. Since Marinelli became the defensive coordinator in 2014, the Cowboys have only selected three interior defensive linemen. Maliek Collins was the only one of the three not selected in the seventh round.
Every other Rod Marinelli-era defensive tackle addition has been in search of a diamond in the rough. They found it, though temporarily, with David Irving and have apparently done so again with Antwaun Woods. The additions of Christian Covington and Kerry Hyder -- who played on the interior for Matt Patricia's 3-4 defense in Detroit -- seem to be further attempts to find rotational players at a low cost.
This year's NFL Draft has really good depth at defensive tackle. While a lot of the names at the top like Quinnen Williams and Ed Oliver have gotten most of the hype, there are players in the third through seventh rounds that could be week one impact players. Whether it's a Trysten Hill, Gerald Willis, Charles Omenihu, or Renell Wren in the second or third, or a Kingsley Keke in the fourth or fifth, the Cowboys will likely have options when attacking the defensive tackle position in the draft.
With a lot of their pre-draft visitors coming at the safety and wide receiver position, it seems much more likely that the team will allocate their second round pick to upgrade one of those position groups. Considering the contracts of Byron Jones and Robert Quinn are up after the 2019 season, it's possible that the Cowboys even look at cornerback or cornerback with the 58th overall pick.
The Cowboys are pretty deep at the defensive tackle position with Antwaun Woods and Christian Covington your primary 1-technique defensive tackles and Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford, and Kerry Hyder your primary 3-technique defensive tackles. Unless someone like a Jeffrey Simmons, Dexter Lawrence, or Christian Wilkins falls to them or within striking distance of a trade up, expect the Cowboys to use their first pick in the draft at a different position.
Cowboys Draft: Final Wishlist For 58th Overall
With the NFL Draft quickly approaching, the shortlist of prospects for the Cowboys to target with their first selection grows narrower and narrower.
Now, when the Cowboys come on the clock Friday night, fans will have a clear idea about which group of players they'd like to see the Cowboys choose from. Will they look for an athletic defensive back with "Swiss-Army Knife" type ability? Or a hard-nosed defensive lineman who can win with effort and power?
Right now, it's all speculation, but here is my personal wishlist for the Dallas Cowboys at 58th overall.
Find Yourself A Safety
Specifically, land either Washington's Taylor Rapp or Virginia's Juan Thornhill. The Cowboys won't be able to control which, if either, is available when they come to the podium, but both would provide their defense with something different.
Taylor Rapp is more of what the Cowboys need right now. He can play strong safety, he can play in the box, and he should be a solid professional and have a nice career. Juan Thornhill, though, is the one I see with a gigantic upside.
His athletic profile puts him in elite category, and his tape is more than good enough to justify a top 50 pick, let alone finding him at 58. Thornhill is the more versatile defensive back, while Rapp fits the "strong safety" prototype much more traditionally.
Either way the Cowboys will be making an excellent selection if they add one of these two players to their roster. Hopefully, they'll be available at the end of round two, but I'm certainly more skeptical about Rapp making it there.
Let's Beef Up The Trenches
This, on my wishlist, means taking either Boston College's Zach Allen or UCF's Trysten Hill.
It would be a bit of reach to grab Hill here, admittedly, but he's a good player that would fill a need of sorts right away. The Cowboys made some moves to help out the interior of their defensive line throughout free agency, but drafting a young gun is never a bad idea. I'd be more comfortable taking him at 90, but certainly won't be mad about it at 58.
While Trysten Hill might be considered a reach at 58, Zach Allen could be a steal. The 6'4" 280 pound defensive end is stout against the run, setting the edge and playing physically against offensive tackles, but he also offers upside as a pass rusher as well. His strength, effort, and heavy hands are impressive both against the run and pass.
You can never have enough talent across the defensive line, and both Zach Allen and Trysten Hill would give the Cowboys just that.
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