The 2016 Dallas Cowboys draft class is here, and it covers just about everything we expected it to. After their premier fourth overall pick was used on running back Ezekiel Elliott, a move that will help Dallas dominate time of possession and keep the defense off the field, the bulk of the team's remaining picks were spent on stacking that very defensive unit.
However, there is one fourth round pick that went towards the offense, and that is what I am here to talk about. We knew the Cowboys would be bringing in a quarterback at some point in this draft, and they chose to do so with the 135th overall pick by way of Mississippi State's Dak Prescott.
Prescott was apparently the Cowboys' choice of signal callers only after they missed out on Paxton Lynch, who went to the Broncos, and Connor Cook - who went to the Oakland Raiders with the 100th overall pick.
The Raiders traded up into this spot, a pick ahead of the Cowboys, to select Cook before Rod Marinelli and Co. grabbed Charles Tapper.
Of course, none of this would have been possible if Jerry Jones overpaid for a move up to select Paxton Lynch.
Jerry Jones said he got about only 3 hours of sleep after missing out on Paxton Lynch. "I was still mad about it the next morning.
Jerry Jones: "When I look back on my life, I've overpaid for my big successes every time. I probably should've overpaid [for Paxton Lynch].
Lynch would have certainly cost the Cowboys Jaylon Smith, who easily could turn out to be the steal of this draft. A top-5 talent before his injury, adding him at 100% with Ezekiel Elliott in the same draft would immediately put the Cowboys near the top of any draft grades.
The next picks that would need to be given up were those used on Collins or Tapper. Dallas' defensive line needs as much help as it can get, so adding Elliott along with the 3-tech DT Collins at 67 was definitely the way to go. Tapper's pick (101) was apparently more up for grabs, which is scary considering he was the only defensive end brought in.
Additionally, if not for the Raiders move up into the fourth round's second pick, the Cowboys could have used Tapper's spot on Michigan State's Cook. All in favor of walking away from this draft with 0 edge rushers and 1 troubled back-up QB?
That's what I thought...
Cowboys Nation should be incredibly happy to "settle" for Dak Prescott. A full time starter in 2014 and 2015 for the SEC's Mississippi State, his completion percentage increased from 61.6% to 66.2% over these two seasons. Prescott's decision making was also improved, as the numbers show a 27/11 TD to interception ratio in 2014 followed by a 29/5 performance this past year.
Then there are the intangible things that will help Prescott develop as a potential starter for America's Team down the line. His 2014 Miss. St. Bulldogs team was a hot commodity through the middle part of their season, as they shot up to the #1 team in the country for the first time ever.
During this 3 week run as the top team in the nation, Prescott completed 60.7% of his passes against tough SEC competition. While things fell apart for the team down the stretch, losing two of their last three games to Alabama and rival Ole Miss, Prescott handled the pressure of bringing his school into the foreground of SEC and college football - becoming a potential Heisman Trophy target.
The same high-pressure moments, week in and week out, did not exist for Paxton Lynch or Connor Cook. Lynch never faced top competition at Memphis in his QB-friendly offense, and Cook struggled in some of his team's biggest games.
Against the National Championship winning Alabama defense during the 2015 CFB Semifinals, Cook completed 19 passes on 39 attempts, failing to throw a touchdown and adding two picks in Michigan State's 38-0 loss. The week prior, to get the Spartans into the playoffs, Cook was on the right end of a 16-13 conference championship game win against Iowa - despite completing just 50% of his passes for no touchdowns and one interception.
Add in his off the field issues, and it becomes clear that the Cowboys draft haul as a whole is perfect right where it is - with QB Dak Prescott potentially securing the future at his position.
Prescott grew up a Cowboys fan, and likely has a chip on his shoulder that he lasted up until the fourth round. However, they say some matches are made in heaven, and I feel that Prescott to Dallas is certainly one of them.
Being able to sit behind Tony Romo for a few seasons will help Dak out greatly, as he slowly adjusts to the NFL level of competition. Dual-threat quarterbacks are the newest trend in this pass-happy league, and it appears to be here to stay.
The Cowboys have themselves one in Dak Prescott, who could be ready to show the league his full potential in just a few years.
So, for every time an opposing QB playing against the Cowboys takes a beating in the fourth quarter - provided by Charles Tapper and Maliek Collins - due to their team trailing with little time remaining (we love you already, Zeke), take a moment to look over to the sidelines and find Dak Prescott taking it all in. The 6'2" signal caller will be patiently waiting for his opportunity to shine with the star on the side of his helmet.
Then, remember how it could have gone so horribly, horribly wrong, if the Cowboys landed Paxton Lynch or Connor Cook.
Cowboys Draft: 3 Players to Avoid at 19th Overall
The NFL Scouting Combine -- beginning this week from Indianapolis -- is a valuable piece to the yearly puzzle that is the Draft cycle. It won't be long until many of these prospects are put in their rightful places on draft boards everywhere, based on their testing numbers and interview ability.
Missing this Combine information has not stopped many outlets from putting out mock drafts, many of which I've compiled in my weekly series.
Let's take a look at three prospects that have been linked to the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of this 2018 NFL Draft, and why the team should avoid drafting them.
Michigan 3T DT Maurice Hurst
Slant Sports Scouting Report: "2018 NFL Draft: Scouting Michigan DT Maurice Hurst"
The Cowboys doubling up on Michigan defensive linemen in the first round of the draft is by far the most popular prediction in mock scenarios right now. Maurice Hurst has a high enough floor with his NFL-ready size and strength to at least be a safe pick for any team, but I don't believe he significantly upgrades anything about the Cowboys' defense.
The Cowboys would be best served retaining RFA David Irving to play this 3T position, along with trusting their depth at defensive tackle. A first-round DT that I currently have graded in the second round would not be a great use of assets when it comes to the Cowboys at 19th overall.
Hurst is not consistent enough in his ability to use his power and rush abilities to get off of blocks and pressure the quarterback.
Georgia OL Isaiah Wynn
Slant Sports Scouting Report: "2018 NFL Draft: Scouting Georgia OL Isaiah Wynn"
I do firmly believe the Cowboys should be in the market for a new starting left guard, and this is a position worthy of the 19th overall pick. Given how well this team has evaluated OL talent though, drafting a true guard in the first round and following up with a swing tackle later on would be the better idea.
Wynn transitioned multiple times in college from LT to LG, bringing the same tenacity and solid technique to both positions. Wynn's body type almost guarantees that he will be a guard in the NFL though - leaving the Cowboys with better interior OL options at the start of their draft (Will Hernandez).
Alabama LB Rashaan Evans
The Cowboys will have a need at LB if free agent Anthony Hitchens signs elsewhere. With Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith finally expected to play alongside each other though, this need shouldn't exist in the first round.
Depth can be found at LB throughout this 2018 class, making Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds the only players I would consider with pick #19 at this position. Additionally, I've graded Evans as a third round player.
While there is plenty to like about this prospect, with the way he gets to the ball and plays with great awareness, my concern is that the rest of this NFL-level Alabama defense covered up for enough of his weaknesses.
Evans is just one name to keep in mind for the Cowboys to add needed depth at LB, but should be too "expensive" for this team if he performs exceptionally well at the Combine and garners further first-round buzz.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Whether or not these three prospects continue to be considered options for any team in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft remains to be determined by the Scouting Combine. From there, the Cowboys will move on to compile their list of players taking visits to The Star (of which each team gets 30 of), focusing in even further on whose name will be called in Dallas for America's Team.
For the sake of getting this team back on track towards the playoffs, with ten total picks to add to an already talented roster, let's hope these three prospects are passed on if given the chance by the Cowboys.
Cowboys Draft: Should Cowboys Consider WR James Washington?
The Dallas Cowboys' 2017 wide receiver group didn't live up to expectations. Why? It's hard to pinpoint it all in a single thing, as there were many factors that came into play. At the end of the day, the entire team struggled in just about every aspect of the game.
This year, wide receiver is among the Cowboys' top needs and fortunately, this is a very deep class for the position. In Dallas, the most talked-about former Oklahoma State WR is Dez Bryant. But today, it's not him we'll be talking about.
James Washington had a great career playing for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Playing until his senior season, he managed to rack up more than 1,000 yards in three of his four seasons playing for the Cowboys.
His last and most productive season resulted in 74 receptions for 1,549 yards and 13 touchdowns. Washington is known as a big-chunk player, averaging almost 21.9 yards per catch during his final college football season.
James Washington's biggest strengths come in the deep passing game. Primarily, his acceleration is enough to separate him from defensive backs the second he manages to release from the defender. Once he hits that second gear, he's gone.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
Washington's release versus press coverage is one of his biggest assets, although one could question whether or not this will translate to the NFL. In the play above, look how his first step causes the cornerback's hips to turn outside. Once that happens, he uses his insane acceleration to beat him.
Oklahoma State WR James Washington led the nation with 17.2 yards/attempt when facing press coverage, best in the nation. Best WR vs. press at the @seniorbowl in PFF 1-on-1 grading #PFFDraft
However, there is uncertainty on whether or not his skills against press coverage will translate into the NFL. Although good at releasing, his footwork on underneath routes feels awkward. He makes up for it with acceleration, sure, but he really isn't the most explosive receiver off the line of scrimmage.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
When the ball is in the air, he does a perfect job of tracking it and adjusting to the QB's throw. When it's under-thrown, he's able to adjust his speed in order to get it. When overthrown, he hits that second gear and is able to get it most of the time.
The above play is a good example of his strong hands and his ability to secure the ball consistently. His long arms certainly help and impact the way he attacks the ball, giving him a more than decent catch radius.
One of the things I'd wish we saw more from him is going up in the air to get the ball. Although he doesn't do it often, he shows flashes of being capable of doing so.
Washington's biggest weaknesses come at route running. When he's not running a deep route, his route-running is really average. However, he is physical after the catch, and NFL teams will love that.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
During his college football career, he didn't run a full route tree and that's something he'll need to work on in order to be good at the next level. During the Senior Bowl week, he did a nice job at running routes and was one of the most outstanding prospects on the field.
The Scouting Combine will be another good opportunity for him to demonstrate his route-running, and if he leaves scouts impressed as he did in the Senior Bowl, his stock will do nothing but rise.
In a WR-loaded draft class, drafting James Washington at 19 may seem like a reach. However, he might just be what the Dallas Cowboys are looking for to get this offense going. Washington is the kind of guy I could see this team target if they trade down into the second round or even late first.
To me, he's a late first rounder.
This is a guy who will be able to contribute from day one, and in the case of the Cowboys, he's what they need. A deep threat who can create separation and force teams to stop double-teaming Cole Beasley and loading up the box against Ezekiel Elliott.
Would you like to see James Washington wearing the Star?
Why The Cowboys Shouldn’t Draft a Guard in the First Round
With the 19th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys are in what some call an "awkward spot" to choose a player. As a team with both offensive and defensive needs, it'll all depend on how the board falls and who's still available once they're on the clock.
They can go ahead and find this team's next number one wide receiver, look for a young linebacker for the future, draft a defensive tackle to upgrade the front seven or they can use their first-round pick to continue to build on their already elite offensive line.
Recently, my colleague Brian Martin wrote about how upgrading the left guard position should be the Cowboys' top priority in this Draft. A large amount of fans, writers and analysts feel the same way. Even still, I truly believe that Dallas may be better off addressing a different position in the first round this time around.
However, it'd be foolish not to admit that once Draft Day arrives, if Dallas ends up taking someone to instantly solidify that great offensive line to keep Dak Prescott clean and make holes for Ezekiel Elliott, the pick would simply make sense.
It's hard to imagine how things will turn out, but it's very likely that once the Cowboys' turn comes, the best player available will be a guard. There will be a lot of talent there. Isaiah Wynn and Will Hernandez will probably still be on the board, for instance.
Also, the front office has done a very good job at drafting offensive linemen. In the past recent years, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin have been one of the main reasons for this team's offensive success.
There are many reasons to believe that OG is the way to go, but I can't help wondering...
Drafting a guard at 19 is the safe pick... but is it the right one?
This is an important question. We all know that taking a guard is the safe pick, and that if that's the direction they choose to go, they won't miss and whoever they draft will contribute from Day 1 to this team's success.
Unfortunately, anyone who looks at the Cowboys' situation objectively knows that there are some other needs they have to attend to take another step.
They have at least three linemen playing at an elite level. Not to mention La'el Collins, who has the potential to become an elite player as well. Like it or not, we need to include the salary cap into the picture.
According to Over The Cap, Left Tackle Tyron Smith averages $12.2M per year and Center Travis Frederick $9.4M. Enter Zack Martin who is about to get paid the big bucks soon. He's still playing under his rookie contract after Dallas picked up his fifth-year option.
However, a contract extension is expected to arrive this offseason. If we're being honest with ourselves, he will ask for a big amount of money, because he deserves it. Browns' Kevin Zeitler, the highest paid RG right now, earns $12M a year. Martin's numbers will probably be even higher.
If the Cowboys draft a guard, it'll be in order to ensure that this offensive line will work at a high level.
But if you already have Smith, Martin and Frederick, shouldn't it already be working at a high level? Do you really need four first-round picks (La'el Collins would've been a first-round pick if it wasn't for a situation which had nothing to do with him) in your offensive line to be successful?
A guard at 19 makes sense. It's safe. But I'd rather see this team diversify. They did a great job at finding Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis to rebuild the secondary last year. Maybe they can find a DT or a LB who can help this defense go from "solid" to great.
Or maybe, if they're ready to make this a Dak-friendly offense, go get him a fresh wide receiver. Someone who can create separation and get this offense going.
You can bring back Jonathan Cooper, who did a nice job last season or bring in another free agent. They should definitely look for a guard in April, but not in the first round. Unless it's Quenton Nelson, who is arguable the best or second-best player available this year, I hope they go in a different direction.
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