There are few areas of the 2009 Dallas Cowboys that can be depicted as being "soft", but there is one area in particular that is of great concern, moving forward. The offensive line of the Cowboys must be better next year in order for this team to continue to progress.
Last Sunday in Minnesota, Tony Romo spent the majority of the afternoon running for his life, and the rest of the day on his back. To put it mildly the Cowboys offensive line played miserably in every way.
The players would probably say they just had a bad day, and they would be wrong. Marc Colombo, Doug Free, Andre Gurode, Kyle Kosier, and Leonard Davis were outplayed, out worked, and just downright beaten.
I've heard fans discussing their displeasure with the play calling of Jason Garrett, and specifically his supposed fascination with the delayed runs. Jason Garrett fell in love with that type of running play for only one reason—it was/is the best way he could think of to disguise the Cowboys' problems along the line.
For being one of the largest lines in the league this line plays extremely soft and lacks a nasty streak.
Marc Colombo was supposed to be a big lift for this unit, if for no other reason than his nasty streak. Unfortunately, for everyone involved, that did not happen. Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards (a solid DE, but far from being All Pro) repeatedly blew past Colombo like he was a street walker begging for change. And let's be honest, as well as Doug Free played in his absence, he would have no chance against Jared Allen.
The Cowboys tried to slow the bleeding by keeping extra blockers in—the Vikings just pinned their ears back and attacked the soft interior of the Dallas line.
The Cowboys have some work to do here, and that work is going to start with upgrading the tackle position.
Flozell Adams has been one of the best left tackles in the game for a long time, but his best years are far behind him. The time is now to find his successor.
Marc Colombo has been great for the Cowboys (outside of last week in Minnesota) but his spot will be heavily evaluated by the coaching staff.
Last year Dallas drafted Robert Brewster with the hope that he could come in and eventually take over one of those tackle spots. However, Brewster went down early with an injury and never played a snap in 2009.
The Offensive line will most assuredly be addressed in this year’s draft. But just who are the most viable players?
Let's take a look...
Russell Okung - Senior Tackle from Oklahoma State 6'5" 300 lbs.
Graded by many as the best Tackle in this year’s draft, some throughout this year even said that he may have a shot at being the first overall selection. While he was not the starter at the beginning of his freshman season at OSU, by game 6 of that year he was and he never looked back. Okung is an athletic tackle with quick feet. He's able to handle the edge-speed rushers, yet still strong enough to handle the bull rush. Coming from the pass happy Big 12 afforded him the opportunities to hone his pass protection skills, but don't think for a second that he's a one-trick-pony.
He is an excellent run blocking tackle and his agility and quickness allow him to get out in front and open huge holes.
Russell will be long gone by the time the Cowboys make their first selection as it stands now, but if management feels that they need to replace Flo quickly, this would be the guy to move up in the draft for.
Anthony Davis - Junior Tackle from Rutgers 6'6" 325 lbs.
Anthony Davis is one of the top offensive linemen in the nation, and before that he was one of the top prep offensive linemen in the nation, and odds are very good that he will be a top offensive lineman in the NFL.
Davis has been a man among boys in the Big East conference.
As a sophomore in 2008 he was second team all conference. As a freshman he was a First Team Freshman All America at Rutgers.
Anthony Davis is the Prototypical NFL Left Tackle—he is big, strong, agile, and moves extremely well for a big man. Davis will likely be on the board in the vicinity of where Dallas selects in the first round, and if he is there, Dallas would have a very difficult time letting him get away.
Bryan Bulaga - Junior Tackle from Iowa 6'6" 312 lbs.
Bryan Bulaga is just another outstanding offensive lineman to come out of Lineman U. (Iowa). Bryan began his collegiate career as a Guard and he started five games at that spot as a freshman.
The following spring he became the starting left tackle at Iowa, where he has remained the last two years.
Bulaga is big and has exceptionally quick feet for his size. He has very long arms which he uses superbly to run speed-rusher’s right of the play. While he is not as strong as a Joe Thomas or Jake Long, he's still very young and has the body to accommodate some added bulk. Bulaga is an excellent pass blocker—his main priority will be to focus on his run blocking. As with Anthony Davis, he will be in the Cowboys area code and it'll be hard to pass him by.
Trent Williams - Senior Tackle from Oklahoma 6'5" 318 lbs.
Trent Williams is a very large human being. He has all the physical attributes that one would look for in a Left Tackle. Trent started his career at Oklahoma as a right Tackle, and was only just moved to left tackle before the 2009 season. He's a very solid Tackle but in my opinion he's an underachiever.
This was the year he was supposed to be a dominant force for Oklahoma, but if any of you watched any Sooner games this year what you saw was an extremely porous line, and it was Trent Williams leading the charge.
Trent Williams will more than likely be drafted among the first four or five linemen taken, and will more than likely never make any kind of contribution. Please Dallas, stay away.
Charles Brown - Senior Tackle from USC 6'5" 290 lbs.
Charles Brown is yet another athletic lineman to emerge from USC.
While at USC he played as a "light" tackle (light as far as NFL standards go) but he has the frame to accommodate some extra bulk without it affecting his athleticism. He's very fast and agile coming out of his stance, and has above average mobility, body control, balance, and change of direction skills.
His major flaw, however, is his lack of physicality, power, and mass.
He struggles with holding his ground against the bull rusher. Brown has a ton of upside and could step right in and perform well in pass protection. But it will take time, bulk, and strength to improve his run blocking. He could be a very nice 2nd or 3rd round selection for Dallas.
Bruce Campbell - Senior Tackle from Maryland 6'7" 310 lbs.
Campbell has all the tools—length, athleticism, size, and good footwork—to be an exceptional tackle in the NFL.
He sets up quickly, is able to correct and recover, gets to the second level, and is exceptional in space.
As a run blocker he seals very well and get this folks, he is the perfect tackle fit for a team that likes to run screens and delayed runs! However, where there is good there is always bad. Campbell is still pretty raw. Yes, he is an elite pass blocker, but his run blocking needs quite a bit of work.
He's just not aggressive enough in the run game.
He sometimes gets lazy with his technique and has been known to lose the leverage battle. There were a few times at Maryland that he appeared to have a case of the don’t want to's but that team was awful and he was young. But he'll have to prove his dedication. This guy is the wild card of the bunch, he could be a top 20 pick or he could fall to the 3rd or 4th round.
What’s the Cost/Benefit Ratio of Trading During the NFL Draft?
The NFL Draft is now less than a week away and the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the National Football League – said in your best Chris Berman voice -- should have their draft boards together after months of due diligence.
While there's a lot of speculation and a lot of rumors about which player will go where, the fact remains that a lot of what front offices think can be completely disrupted by a surprise or two. Whether it’s a surprise trade up or a player that gets taken before the general consensus predicted, what actually happens during the draft can throw a lot of our preconceived notions out the window.
What I'd like to explore today is the cost of moving up and the benefit of moving down. As we look at it, it's important to discuss the tool a lot of teams use to allocate value to the draft picks. It's not a hard and fast tool, but it gives a general idea on the value of these picks.
The Trade Value Chart
I've highlighted Dallas' picks in each round and the corresponding value given by the trade chart. This one is from Draftek.com.
These are just numbers, and there is no telling how teams are going to value picks in this draft, which appears to be pretty deep. So I have to preface this with, picks may not have the value that the trade value chart offers. Just based on the human element of assigning value to picks, a team like the Miami Dolphins could value third round picks higher than a team like the Oakland Raiders.
Only the guys in the room know, and we'll only know on draft night how they value those picks. The trade value chart gives us a starting point or a frame of reference for what these picks are valued at in a vacuum.
With that being said, let's look at what it would take for the Dallas Cowboys to trade down.
I’ve been a huge proponent of a trade back with where the Dallas Cowboys are sitting. There're going to be several football players at 19 that can help them as a franchise. Even a small trade back of 3-5 spots could net them an extra third-round pick that could be very valuable to a team that's become quite adept at hitting on talent in the middle rounds of the draft.
For example, if the New England Patriots offered pick number 23 (760 points), they'd also have to offer pick number 95 (120) to equal Dallas' pick at 19 (875). A move back of only four spots could still grant them the opportunity to get a guy with a first-round grade.
If the Patriots wanted to keep 23 but were still looking to move up in the first round with pick number 31 (600), they'd also have to include their second round pick, number 63 (276), to get to number 19.
If they can get a team like New England, the Jacksonville Jaguars, or Pittsburgh Steelers to come calling, in theory, they could end up with an extra second.
That’s a huge asset to acquire for a team that's still building its roster, but is close to contending.
Trading back in the first and picking up even a third rounder could allow the Cowboys to move up in the second, if a player they like falls.
Using the same scenario with New England trading up from number 23 to 19 where Dallas also gets number 95, the Cowboys could use number 95 in a trade up in the second round. Pick 95 (120 points) added to pick 50 (400) could, in theory get Dallas up to number 38, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are drafting.
Recently, I did a mock draft exploring what it could look like for the Cowboys to trade back in the first round and then up in the second. I think you'll like the results.
Now that you know my official stance, I want to explore the trade up scenario.
For me, there are really only four players I would make a serious move up the draft board to get: Quentin Nelson, Bradley Chubb, Roquan Smith, and Tremaine Edmunds. Guys that I'd make a small move up the board for would be Harold Landry and Vita Vea.
It’s highly unlikely any of those players will make it to Dallas’ pick at 19, and could all realistically go in the top twelve.
Here's what it would take to move up.
If you wanted to get to picks 10, 11, or 12, it's likely you would have to give up both your first (#19) and #50 in the second round. 10 (1300 points), held by the Oakland Raiders, could still require an extra late round pick to be thrown in there, but Dallas' first and second could be enough to get there.
If the Dallas Cowboys thought that was too rich for them to move up, then using their first and third (pick 81), which would be 1,060 points, gets them to pick 15. If they wanted to get to 13 or 14, they would probably have to include their first fourth rounder as well, valued at 62 points. That would be in the range to get a Harold Landry, who could go to the Green Bay Packers at 14 (1100).
To get to the Baltimore Ravens' pick at 16 (1000 points), they would likely have to package their first and both of their fourth round picks.
To get to the Los Angeles Chargers at pick 17 would likely only take their first and the first of their two fourths.
There will probably be options to move up in the draft, but they'll have to ask themselves, is it better to move up or stay where they are and keep their picks.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Anything is possible when it comes to the draft. I don't think many observers saw the trade the Dallas Cowboys made for Morris Claiborne coming.
With several holes still to fill and depth needed at several positions, these draft picks are valuable. However, the possibility of adding the top offensive or defensive lineman or the top linebacker in the draft could prove invaluable.
I'm still an advocate for trading back in this draft. I think the Dallas Cowboys are going to like their options at 19 and if they stay there and make their selection, I'll be cool with it.
Thursday will get here before we know it. Enjoy draft weekend.
Cowboys 2018 Draft Needs: Defensive Tackle
The Dallas Cowboys have been relying on band-aids for a while now in the middle of their defensive line. It may finally time to make a big investment at tackle, which is why the DT position has been targeted in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft.
While Dallas had the 8th-best defense in terms of total rushing yards allowed last year, they were only average (tied for 16th) in yards-per-attempt. Now that they've found their dynamic pass rusher in DeMarcus Lawrence, attention can be turned to a dominant presence in the interior.
There is already a lot of talent at DT, but it's all guys who excel at the same thing. David Irving. Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford; these are all players who are best suited as the "3-technique" tackle who can use athleticism to beat his man and get in the backfield.
What the Cowboys have lacked for some time now is a truly great space eater. That guy, typically called the "1-technique" or "nose tackle," commands double teams and opens things up for others.
There have been some solid players in that role. Terrell McClain did well in 2016 and earned a nice contract from Washington. Nick Hayden had the job before him and was durable, but never exceptional.
No, since the Cowboys switched back to the 4-3 defense in 2013, they haven't had a great player in that 1-tech spot. Perhaps that will change after this weekend.
Investing a first-round pick at DT could pay dividends across the defense. The immediate impact would be allowing Maliek Collins, who had to play the 1-tech spot last year, to get back to his more natural position. After his impressive rookie season playing next to McClain, Collins was not as effective in the 1-tech role last year.
Similarly, David Irving could be even more dangerous with a stronger presence beside him. We've already seen what a force Irving can be on the field, and another guy commanding attention could make him even more lethal.
As we said before, Dallas wasn't bad against the run last year. But what if they were much better? What if they could take it away from opposing teams?
With the pass rush on the rise and exciting young talent now in the secondary, forcing teams to throw more could lead to more sacks and turnovers. Sticking offenses with long 2nd and 3rd-down plays increases your defensive opportunities.
This is why a run-stuffing defensive tackle, while perhaps not a glamorous player to use your first-round pick, could be a very wise choice in this 2018 draft. It's why you've seen a guy like Washington's Vita Vea mocked to Dallas in the first round.
Of course, wide receiver has become the hot topic since Dez Bryant's release. But a rookie WR probably won't have the same overall impact on his side of the ball, at least not in 2018, that a great DT could have on defense.
The Cowboys know this as well as anybody, and their defensive coordinator has a soft spot for defensive linemen. If Rod Marinelli sees a guy he thinks can be a star, that opinion will go a long way to deciding what Dallas does this weekend.
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Other 2018 Draft Needs articles:
Martin’s Mock: Final 1st Round Projection with All 10 Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks
It is draft week. By this time next week, all 32 NFL teams will come away from the Dallas Cowboys AT&T Stadium hopefully feeling better about their football team for the 2018 season.
For the hosting Cowboys, this draft may very well be their chance to put this roster over the top, with ten total selections to work with.
I will be departing for Dallas on Wednesday morning to bring Cowboys Nation coverage of this draft. Before then, here is my final prediction for how Thursday's first round plays out - along with the remaining nine Cowboys picks.
1. Cleveland Browns: QB Josh Allen - Wyoming
Once again, the Cleveland Browns control the draft with the first overall pick. In a draft with at least four passers expected to go in the first round, there has not been much consensus from scouts anywhere on this class of quarterbacks.
Baker Mayfield has remained my QB1, but the Browns seem content with project that is Josh Allen. Paired with reports that they'll also consider a quarterback with the fourth overall pick, and earlier comments from HC Hue Jackson about starting Tyrod Taylor, the Browns are going to have teams on the edge of their war room seats on Thursday night.
2. New York Giants: QB Sam Darnold - USC
The New York Giants may have a fresh face on the sidelines in Head Coach Pat Shurmur, but the former Vikings Offensive Coordinator will be leading this team into his first season with 37-year old QB Eli Manning still under center.
Working on the belief that they're not as bad as their 3-13 record indicates, the Giants take advantage of their position at second overall to draft the QB the Browns should have first. Sam Darnold would be ready to play right away should he be forced into action in New York, but sitting a year behind Manning could only do him well.
3. New York Jets: QB Baker Mayfield - Oklahoma
All reports out of New Jersey are that the Jets love Baker Mayfield. As my top available QB, it is hard not to - especially for a team looking to take the next step after being led to a surprising five wins with Josh McCown.
It would be hard for the Jets to pass on a prospect as electrifying as Mayfield and still feel good about their QB situation in 2018, assuming he's the quarterback they're hoping slides past their "roommate" Giants.
4: Cleveland Browns: G Quenton Nelson - Notre Dame
By my own evaluations, the Browns would not be making a smart choice in Josh Allen first overall. They could make up for this in a big way by drafting my top overall prospect in Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson.
The definition of a plug-and-play lineman, Nelson should dominate at either guard position for a long time in this league. Drafting a player with a floor as high as Nelson to protect their latest rookie quarterback is a safe bet for the Browns - should they not be tempted by flashier players on both sides of the ball.
5: Denver Broncos: DE Bradley Chubb - North Carolina State
Per John Elway, this fifth overall pick is for sale in Denver. Depending on how the run of quarterbacks goes at the top, there may be one the Broncos cannot pass on. Another team may feel the same way though, offering Denver a significant haul to trade up.
Assuming the Broncos stay in and make a pick, the best pass rusher of the 2018 Draft is a terrific consolation prize. Like Myles Garrett a year ago, Chubb is ready to perform at a high level on day one. Chubb displayed a full array of pass rush moves in the ACC while testing as the same dominant athlete at the Scouting Combine.
6: Indianapolis Colts: RB Saquon Barkley - Penn State
Trading down to this pick with the Jets, the Colts feel they can still target a similar crop of players at sixth overall compared to third. Saquon Barkley has always been in the discussion for a Colts team welcoming back Andrew Luck in 2018.
Being able to acquire additional picks while landing one of the best overall RB prospects in recent memory is a great move for a rebuilding Colts team playing in a tough division.
7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: S Minkah Fitzpatrick - Alabama
The Buccaneers could use a new starter alongside Vernon Hargreaves in their secondary. Whether or not they feel that Alabama's MInkah Fitzpatrick is the guy at cornerback or safety, Fitzpatrick is this draft's top defensive back.
Allowing Fitzpatrick to patrol this Tampa Bay defense at any level will instantly give the Buccaneers a boost - particularly playing twice a season against Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton.
8: Chicago Bears: LB Roquan Smith - Georgia
The Bears should be absolutely ecstatic if given the opportunity to draft Roquan Smith. Arguably this draft's best linebacker, along with Virginia Tech's Tremaine Edmunds, Smith was a star in the SEC at Georgia and projects to be one in the NFL too.
I give Smith the nod over Edmunds for a Bears defense lacking a physical presence like him, as eighth overall is not too rich for a LB talent like Roquan.
9: San Francisco 49ers: WR Calvin Ridley - Alabama
The 49ers are the best example going right now of how important the QB position is compared to any in sport. By acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots as their new starter, the 49ers' rebuild was kicked into high gear under John Lynch.
A combination of Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo has a chance to be something special out west for San Francisco. They'll embrace the future of their offense here by drafting the most ready-made contributor at WR available, Alabama's Calvin Ridley.
Ridley is a smooth route runner with polish as a vertical threat and reliable hands catcher, hindered by poor QB play in college but waiting to explode onto the NFL scene.
10: Oakland Raiders: CB Denzel Ward - Ohio State
Just how much of an impact the loss of rookie CB Gareon Conley had on the Raiders' struggles defensively remains to be seen, but this is a team that needs to do everything they can to upgrade their passing defense at the draft.
Adding Conley's teammate in Ward is a fantastic start, as I have the Raiders passing on Derwin James to take a player of more pressing need. Ward can line up at any cornerback position on the field and stick to receivers with his fluidity, balance, and length to attack the football relentlessly.
11: Miami Dolphins: LB Tremaine Edmunds - Virginia Tech
Searching for new leaders on the defensive side of the ball, the Dolphins are an ideal spot for 19-year old LB Tremaine Edmunds. Age is far from Edmunds' only positive trait, as he is already prepared to take over games at WILL linebacker thanks to freakish athleticism and length.
12: Buffalo Bills: QB Josh Rosen - UCLA
In a dream scenario, the Bills do not have to make another draft night trade to land their franchise quarterback. Looking to build off of their first playoff appearance since 1999, the Bills see arguably the best day one QB prospect in this draft slide to the 12th overall pick.
13: Washington Redskins: S Derwin James - Florida State
Derwin James has a chance to affect the entire first round of the draft should he slide into the early teens. Doing so here, there are bound to be teams looking to trade up for the latest FSU stud to anchor the Seminoles secondary.
Happily staying in and adding James to a secondary that needs James' youth and athleticism, Derwin landing elsewhere in the NFC East is bad news for Cowboys fans.
14: Green Bay Packers: DE Harold Landry - Boston College
The 2018 Draft does not feature a deep class of defensive ends, and Boston College's Harold Landry is expected to slide a few picks because of it. The team that drafts Landry will have to come to terms with why he was a much different player from 2016 to 2017 in college, while still getting an elite EDGE prospect.
The Packers at 14th overall are a great fit for Landry's speed and finesse game off the edge.
15: Arizona Cardinals: QB Lamar Jackson - Lousiville
The Cardinals are another team that could be aggressively looking to trade up for their quarterback. Their aging roster finally hit a breaking point in 2017, and the energy Lamar Jackson could bring to this team at QB cannot be understated.
The Cardinals should view Jackson as a passer just scratching the surface of what he can be from the pocket, threatening teams with his scramble ability and sprinter speed in the open field as well.
16: Baltimore Ravens: G Isaiah Wynn - Georgia
One of the most valuable players available in the first round, Isaiah Wynn will provide his new team with depth at both guard and tackle. A finished product at guard, Wynn plays to the whistle to finish defenders on every snap, displaying the consistent technique to have NFL teams falls in love with him at Georgia.
17: Los Angeles Chargers: OT Mike McGlinchey - Notre Dame
The Chargers will look to keep Phillip Rivers upright for another season, and doing so with Mike McGlinchey makes a lot of sense. A technically sound player with tenacious run blocking ability, McGlinchey projects best as a starting right tackle early in his NFL career.
18: Seattle Seahawks: DE Marcus Davenport - UTSA
The Seahawks are going through a bit of a retool with their vaunted defense, and don't have the capital in this draft to fully restock. Starting off their draft with a potential top-ten prospect is as good as it gets for Seattle.
The Seahawks are in perfect position to mold Davenport into the player they need rushing opposing quarterbacks - something he excels at thanks to his shear size and strength.
19: Dallas Cowboys: WR D.J. Moore - Maryland
Too much has been made of the Dallas Cowboys targeting a true X-receiver to "replace" Dez Bryant. This is a team going in a new direction with their wide receivers, in desperate need of play makers on the outside.
With Calvin Ridley long gone, the Cowboys draft arguably the better fit in Maryland's D.J. Moore. An easy target for Dak Prescott given his burst and acceleration, Moore's trademark toughness with the ball in his hands will make Cowboys Nation fall in love with him.
20: Detroit Lions: DT Vita Vea - Washington
New Head Coach Matt Patricia is looking to turn the Lions' defense around. With some nice pieces to work with in the back end, Detroit would benefit greatly from the presence Vea brings at the 1T spot.
More than just a space eating nose tackle, Vea will disengage with freakish upper body power to make plays down the line and instantly make the defensive linemen around him better.
21: Cincinnati Bengals: CB Mike Hughes - Central Florida
Pairing Mike Hughes with William Jackson III, the Bengals create a solid cornerback tandem for years to come. This year's CB class is all about scheme fit and which traits teams covet, with Hughes getting the nod over other players on the board for the Bengals thanks to his size on the boundary.
22: Buffalo Bills: G/C James Daniels - Iowa
Dealing with the retirement of Center Eric Wood, the Bills draft some insurance for their rookie Quarterback Josh Rosen at 22nd overall. Like Isaiah Wynn, Daniels offers the depth that teams love on the offensive line at both guard and center.
Daniels' hand strength and movement ability make him a valuable starter at any interior position.
23: New England Patriots: LB Leighton Vander Esch - Boise State
I don't think I have ever struggled with a draft prospect more than I did this season with Boise State's Leighton Vander Esch. Testing as an absolutely dominant athlete, Vander Esch clearly struggles on tape when asked to get off of blocks and play physical.
The Patriots excel at using players like this better than any team can, so I'll trust their ability to get the most out of Vander Esch.
24: Carolina Panthers: CB Jaire Alexander - Louisiville
Finding the right players in the secondary has been a massive struggle for the Panthers, in desperate need of the skills that an alpha like Jaire Alexander could bring.
Alexander plays with a patented "my ball" mentality whenever tested, disrupting routes and recovering quickly in man coverage.
25: Tennessee Titans: DT Da'Ron Payne - Alabama
Another team looking to take the next step, with plenty of promise on offense, the Titans satisfy new HC Mike Vrabel with this 25th overall pick.
Da'Ron Payne is just the latest Alabama defensive tackle to wreak havoc at both interior positions, bringing above average play strength and power as an up field player.
26: Atlanta Falcons: LB Rashaan Evans - Alabama
Keeping another SEC prospect close, the Falcons scheme on defense fits what Rashaan Evans does best (which is nearly everything). Evans has no problem running to the football as a WILL linebacker, arriving with balance and textbook positioning to bring down nearly every ball carrier he faced.
Evans should be one of the most noticeable rookie defenders on the field this season.
27: New Orleans Saints: OT Connor Williams - Texas
Adding a versatile offensive line prospect at the end of the first round is always a safe move for a team without any glaring needs. The Saints would come away as winners of the first round if they get 2016's level of play out of Connor Williams.
A star that year for the Longhorns, Williams was hindered by injuries in 2017 but did everything he could to help Texas. In taking the next step to the NFL, Williams may start for some team at guard (where the Saints could use him initially) before transitioning back out to tackle.
28: Pittsburgh Steelers: TE Dallas Goedert - South Dakota State
With the board washed out at positions of need on defense, the Steelers can't resist the opportunity to add a dynamic TE to their elite passing game. Goedert's tape out of South Dakota State is an absolute joy to watch, as the 6045 (6' 4 5/8") pass catcher was smooth to all levels of the field with the ability to play through contact.
29: Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Courtland Sutton - Southern Methodist
If the Jaguars are going to return to the AFC Championship Game with Blake Bortles as their starting QB, they need to provide him help through this draft. Luckily for them, a deep draft at WR allows the Jaguars to stay home at 29th overall to take Courtland Sutton.
One of the only true X-receiver prospects in this draft, Sutton will take some time getting acclimated to the NFL, but has enough raw ability to go with his prototypical size to contribute right away.
30: Minnesota Vikings: G Will Hernandez - UTEP
The Vikings have remained relevant through a shuffle of quarterbacks that's landed them with Kirk Cousins for 2018 and beyond. This year's prized FA acquisition is clearly the best QB they've had in recent memory, and the Vikings should be looking to content with Cousins under center.
Giving the pocket passer more time to operate while adding a player with as much nastiness as Will Hernandez is how the Vikings can establish their dominance in the NFC North for a long while.
31: New England Patriots: DT Harrison Phillips - Stanford
You don't see many nose tackles from the PAC-12 be as productive as Harrison Phillips, who has all of the traits to be a force for any defensive front in the NFL. The Stanford product feels like a perfect New England Patriot - the complete package of versatility, toughness, and rare play making ability.
32: Philadelphia Eagles: RB Derrius Guice - LSU
The defending Super Bowl champions were given a significant boost on offense following a trade for RB Jay Ajayi, who returns for the 2018 season along with Corey Clement.
Both backs are better as change of place players behind a more bruising back, which Derrius Guice would be for the Eagles' Carson Wentz led offense.
Remaining Dallas Cowboys 2018 NFL Draft Picks:
Round 2, 50th Overall: S Ronnie Harrison - Alabama
If any secondary coach is going to maximize Ronnie Harrison's potential, it is former Seahawks "Legion of Boom" architect Kris Richard. Already a major voice on the Cowboys' coaching staff, the team should be looking to solidify their secondary with the right priority pick.
Ronnie Harrison at 50th overall is the perfect value to bring Dallas a punishing defender with range and unteachable instincts when playing downhill.
Round 3, 81st Overall: LB Josey Jewell - Iowa
Depending on who you ask, the Cowboys biggest need is at linebacker. I believe there will be enough talent left at this position later in the draft for the Cowboys to wait and find their backup plan to both Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee.
Josey Jewell is this player out of Iowa, consistently reacting to plays as a MIKE and WILL linebacker to finish at the football. A tad undersized, Jewell plays as if he's the biggest defender on the field and rarely struggles to get off blocks.
Round 4, 116th Overall: DT Deadrin Senat - South Florida
Just like the LB position with their last pick, the Cowboys can wait on filling their perceived need at 1T DT. Maliek Collins did a nice job in this role last season, but still projects best as this team's 3T.
Deadrin Senat is a square player that flashed above average play strength and upper body leverage at South Florida to give opposing guards all they could handle. In Rod Marinelli's rotation of defensive lineman, there is no doubt that Senat could help the Cowboys rushing defense in 2018 while developing into an NFL nose tackle.
Round 4, 137th Overall: G Braden Smith - Auburn
Not addressing their need at guard until the fourth round is certainly not ideal for the Dallas Cowboys, but it's just how the board fell in this last mock. A player like Braden Smith should easily outplay this draft position, especially if starting between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick.
Smith will stand his ground against the toughest rushers, using his strong hands to control through blocks. Smith will reset with his hands and create movement that makes up for some lower body issues. This is a skilled offensive line prospect with an NFL body and experience at multiple positions - all of which is music to the Cowboys ears.
Round 5, 171st Overall: WR Marcell Ateman - Oklahoma State
Creating competition for the lower depth in their crowded WR room, the Cowboys could be landing a steal in Oklahoma State's Marcell Ateman. As mentioned while discussing the first round prospects, there are not many dominant X-receiver types in this draft.
Marcell Ateman may not ever be a dominant player in the NFL, but he does possess the size and leaping ability to play as an X and create big plays. Ateman's best use early in his career will be in the red zone, where he tracks the ball with ease to secure it at its highest point with soft hands.
Round 6, 192nd Overall: CB Nick Nelson - Wisconsin
A competitor on every snap for Wisconsin, Nick Nelson made up for his lack of stature and polished technique with the balance and motor that the Cowboys would love to add to their secondary. If all goes well for second year players like Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, Nelson wouldn't see the field much early in his Dallas career.
This suits him well, as Nelson can refine his technique and develop into a valuable man coverage asset.
Round 6, 193rd Overall: DE Joe Ostman - Central Michigan
Joe Ostman is the perfect hard-working edge rusher for Rod Marinelli to pound the table for in the later rounds of this draft. Out of Central Michigan, Ostman will never be a dynamic rusher, but does consistently get to the level of the QB with the stopping power to push off the edge.
Round 6, 208th Overall: TE Troy Fumagalli - Wisconsin
With the retirement of James Hanna, the Cowboys may feel inclined to add a TE to at least have through training camp. Troy Fumagalli should be much more than a camp body if he figures himself out at the next level.
At his best, Fumagalli was a consistent threat in Wisconsin's offense thanks to his smooth route running ability. Also serving as a viable blocker on the edge, the Cowboys could easily find a role for Fumagalli if he slides to them in the right spot.
Round 7, 236th Overall: OT Jaryd Jones-Smith - Pittsburgh
The later rounds of the NFL Draft are all about finding players with workable traits. As a completely raw OT prospect, Jones-Smith was the only player at the Combine to measure above a 36-inch arm length. There are things to like about his game out of Pittsburgh, which is all the Cowboys need to see in adding further depth to their best unit.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
This is the last article I'll be writing from my home state of New Jersey. Tomorrow morning, I'll be arriving in Dallas with Slant Sports Draft Analyst Nick Flaherty to bring Cowboys Nation four great days of 2018 NFL Draft coverage.
I greatly look forward to connecting with the fans and players that make this event so special every year, and hope you'll be along for the ride right here at Inside The Star.
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