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NFL Draft

Dallas Cowboys Draft: Is Stanford’s Solomon Thomas Worth Trading Up For?

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Draft: Is Stanford's Solomon Thomas Worth Trading Up For?

Super Bowl LI was the best possible ending to the 2016 NFL season - except for one thing. The Dallas Cowboys weren't playing, and ever since this reality set in with their Divisional loss to the Packers, I've been scouting defensive line prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft over at Slant Sports. The Cowboys' need for improvements along the defensive line is a well-known problem now, and solutions to this problem will be plentiful throughout the draft.

Even if they stay home and draft off of their board with the 28th overall pick, they can likely find EDGE talent - as my recent three round mock lands UCLA's Takk McKinley in Dallas with this pick.

Should the Cowboys want to trade up and land a premier defensive line prospect though, Solomon Thomas of Stanford could be their guy. With the talent to instantly make a difference on Rod Marinelli's defense, it's not an exaggeration to say that this Cardinal Junior could be the missing piece for America's Team in advancing through the playoffs in 2017.

2017 DL Solomon Thomas VS Colorado - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

With his best reps coming against guards, Thomas’ incredibly strong legs never stop driving, which often sets him up to shed blocks at the point of attack and finish.

This film clip and quote comes from my full scouting report on Solomon Thomas, and quickly gives you a feel for his natural strength, power, and size. An absolute force for any offensive guard to deal with, Thomas' most explosive rushes come from the 3T DT position, where Dallas is already well off with Tyrone Crawford, Cedric Thornton, and Maliek Collins all capable of producing at the position.

What still makes Thomas a target for a potential blockbuster trade on draft night with the Cowboys is his ability on tape to translate his skill set seen as an interior rusher to the left defensive end position.

...his NFL projection to me comes down to the “ceiling vs. floor” debate. Thomas’ ceiling is certainly high, and while it may not be as astronomically high as other true EDGE prospects in this draft, it is his floor that makes him a special player.

The 2017 NFL Draft is absolutely loaded with EDGE talent, and thus there are different types of rushers that will fit each team's needs differently. It would be unfair to pair Thomas with the true speed defensive ends that many in Cowboys Nation covet, but he would be an elite strong side base DE with the Cowboys in year one.

2017 DL Solomon Thomas VS UCLA - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

What made the 2016 Dallas Cowboys draft class so special this past season was their depth, as a fourth round pick won Offensive Rookie of the Year, and a sixth round pick stepped up to play a major role at cornerback. Obviously, trading away the picks that could land the Cowboys their next Dak Prescott or Anthony Brown would drastically change expectations for this draft compared to the last - but that is nothing more than a compliment to the star that Solomon Thomas could soon become in the NFL.

...Solomon Thomas is going to be a fixture on any team’s defensive line for a long time in the NFL

It is time long overdue for the Cowboys to fix their defensive line, and drafting young talent at the position is the best way to go about this. Whether they evaluate the talent left on the board with the 28th overall pick, or try to move up and get their guy like Solomon Thomas, a pass rush is the last realistic thing standing between Jason Garrett's team and a Super Bowl.

As far as I'm concerned, Solomon Thomas could be this pass rush, and is well worth moving up for on draft night.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Draft: Is Stanford’s Solomon Thomas Worth Trading Up For?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Randy Martin

    February 7, 2017 at 10:02 am

    Just before our season ended I was already doing mocks and Thomas was always my target. At that time I was not hearing his name discussed by scouts and pundits but somewhere along the line the cat came out of the bag and everybody has moved him up their board. Now pretty much every mock I do he is going in the top 10 every time. Of course that is some algorithm doing the picking. But I hear some like him better than Jonathan Allen. However, as much as I like Thomas it might be a little rich to move up into the top 10 to take him. If I’m moving up at all I would be moving up to take Myles Garrett. For me this draft is more like a move back draft into early 2nd round and stockpile more picks and take advantage of the depth at our positions of need. Of course it also depends on who might fall to us at #28. Combine starts in 21 days!

    • Sean Martin

      Sean Martin

      February 7, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      I’m convinced that it would take a trade to the #1 overall pick to get Garrett, but you’re right about where this team would need to go to get Thomas. Top 10-12.

      • Randy Martin

        February 7, 2017 at 4:05 pm

        Definitely would have to be pick #1 to get Garrett and I wouldn’t advocate for that. Would cost too much and we need more picks, not less. I think if we can do some trade backs in a couple rounds we can pick up additional picks. With quality depth at DL, CB, TE, and WR, I would like more trips at the plate to increase my chances for hitting it out of the park!

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Kentucky CB Lonnie Johnson Jr.

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Draft Target: Kentucky CB Lonnie Johnson Jr.

Since Kris Richard has taken over the back-end of the Dallas Cowboys defense, they have clearly shown a bias towards a "type" of cornerback. Richard, looking to build this Dallas unit in a similar form to his Seattle teams, has prioritized long corners both in height and arm length.

As his responsibilities within the organization increase, it's only fair to expect Kris Richard to have more say in who the Cowboys' defense acquires in terms of talent. This means we should anticipate more defensive backs who fit his type, such as Kentucky Wildcats cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr.

The Player

So why does Lonnie Johnson fit the mold of what Kris Richard tends to look for? Well, for starters, he is 6'3" and 206 lbs with 32 1/4" arms. He's a long corner with excellent size and the trait profile which indicates he could be the perfect candidate to play cornerback in Dallas.

But while he might look great on paper, the tape is always the most important factor for evaluating and projecting talent. And, for Johnson, the tape isn't all-that great. Despite his length, Johnson struggled mightily in press-man coverage at Kentucky. Too often he is late or ineffective with his hands, leaving him susceptible to being blown by by the opposing receiver. He often loses balance due to poor footwork, and is rather average with his hips and quick change of direction.

Where Johnson was his best in college was in zone coverage, playing his deep third of Kentucky's cover-three look. Rarely did he allow receivers behind him in zone coverage, and displayed good instincts when deciding whether to jump routes or play more conservatively when playing in that deep third. He was not nearly as comfortable underneath, and Kentucky didn't ask him to play in that role too often. Because of how big he is, Johnson is able to contest at the catch point regularly, yet he only deflected 9 passes in 2 years.

What gives me the most hope for Lonnie Johnson as a prospect (besides his length) is his Senior Bowl performance. Johnson impressed daily at the Senior Bowl, looking more comfortable in man coverage and playing much better in his press technique.

Was this Johnson becoming more comfortable over time and a sign of things to come at the next level, or was it an anomaly that we shouldn't read too much into? The answer to that question is up to the individual teams, but his combine performance will play a huge role in how those teams answer.

The Fit

As I've discussed already, Lonnie Johnson Jr. fits what Kris Richard tends to look for in his cornerbacks. He is long, tall, and relatively athletic, making him a clay piece for a coach like Richard to develop.

The question is, however, how much development can really occur? The highs for Johnson are rather high when he maximizes his natural abilities on the field. But too often he is sloppy in technique, or looks lost in man coverage. Whether or not Richard can "fix" Johnson completely may never be seen, but teams (especially this one) could fall in love with him as a prospect for what he can become if it all comes together.



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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Oklahoma Sooners RB Rodney Anderson

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Draft Target: Oklahoma Sooners RB Rodney Anderson

NAME: Rodney Anderson

SCHOOL: Oklahoma

CONFERENCE: Big 12

POSITION: Running Back

CLASS: RS Junior

JERSEY: No. 24

RECRUITMENT RATING: 4-star

HT: 6'1"

WT: 219

D.O.B.: 9/12/96

Highlights:

Rodney Anderson || 2017-18 Highlights ᴴᴰ || Oklahoma

Rodney Anderson || 2017-18 Highlights ᴴᴰ || Oklahoma Like, Comment, and Subscribe for More! Follow my Instagram: @szhighlights Songs: - "Don't Know Me" by Trae Tha Truth - "Better Days" by Trae Tha Truth I do not own any of these highlights or music clips.

Before we get into the player, we should really try to get to know Rodney Anderson the person. He attended Katy High School in Katy, Texas, one of the powerhouse HS football programs in the state. He was a four-star recruit who received offers from Auburn, Baylor, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma. He originally committed to Texas A&M, but changed his mind and decided to go to Oklahoma instead. He had an up-and-down career on the football field at Oklahoma because of injuries, but did graduate with a degree in Arts and Sciences in May 2018 and is pursuing his Master's in Human Relations.

Pros:

Rodney Anderson has the ideal size and athleticism to become a featured back in the NFL. He shows good patience and vision on film to allow his offensive lineman to secure their blocks before sticking his foot in the ground and exploding through the hole. He runs behind his pads and shows good strength, loose hips, and balance to run through arm tackles. More than capable of picking up those "dirty yards" and is surprisingly slippery as a runner in the open field.

Anderson is capable of playing in a power scheme or a zone heavy scheme like the Dallas Cowboys deploy. He has been featured in a number of rushing concepts including gap/power, read action, and power sweeps. His talent also carries over to the passing game. He possesses soft hands and looks natural catching the ball both out of the backfield and down the field as a receiver. Solid in pass protection, but this is an area of his game where he can improve.

Cons:

The biggest negative about Rodney Anderson is his injury history at Oklahoma. He is basically a one-year wonder because of three separate season-ending injuries, but bad things happen in three so maybe that's behind him. Durability will be a question mark entering the NFL though.

His vision is sometimes questionable, especially on inside and outside zone reads. Has a tendency to to try to bounce runs to the outside too often or cut back too quickly. Shows good explosiveness, but only average burst through the hole. Seems to have adequate long speed on tape, but is 40 yard dash time will be heavily scrutinized if he's able to run at the NFL Scouting Combine.

In the passing game he needs to improve his route running and pass protection if he wants to be a three-down back in the NFL. The talent is there, just not the production and consistency. Will also have to prove he can be productive against stacked boxes at the next level since he rarely saw any in college due to Oklahoma's spread offense.

Cowboys Fit:

If the Dallas Cowboys are looking for a running back capable of being a featured back in the NFL, while also spelling Ezekiel Elliott from time to time, then Rodney Anderson is there guy. His combination of power, balance, explosiveness, and scheme diversity could come in handy as their RB2. Not only would he provide a good insurance policy if the unthinkable were to happen to Zeke, but he could take over if they decide not to give No. 21 a contract extension.

There is a lot to like about Rodney Anderson's game and his ability to contribute in the running and passing game, but he is not by any means a clean prospect. Despite his immense talent, his injury history and lack of consistency in college is bothersome. But, as a mid-round pick the reward far outweighs the risks. Paired with Elliott, the Cowboys could have a formidable one-two punch in their backfield and could pound opposing defenses into submission.



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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Draft Target: South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel

Our search for a new pass catcher for the Cowboys in this years' draft class continues, this time with a wide receiver.

South Carolina's Deebo Samuel put himself on the map with a strong Sophomore season, but fell off a bit due to a severe leg injury early in 2017. After a strong 2018 campaign, and an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, Samuel has played himself back into early Day Two draft discussions.

The Player

I don't know that anyone "won" Senior Bowl week more than Deebo Samuel did this January. Samuel, who had to deal with some poor quarterback play throughout his college career, didn't get much of a break in that department either at the Senior Bowl. But, he did show out every day at practice, and seemed to go viral on Twitter at least once a day.

During his actual collegiate season, Samuel finished with 882 yards and 11 touchdowns on 62 catches, solid production especially coming off an injury and playing in a limited offense. Initially in the NFL, Samuel is going to make his money in the slot. He's a shifty yet explosive receiver type than can quickly beat defenders with his speed. He's not the speedster than someone like Marquise Brown is, but he is explosive enough in his own right, especially in terms of short-area quickness.

Samuel isn't someone who will go up and grab the ball consistently, or even make up for inaccurate throws as often as some others might be able to. But he does have reliable hands, and his ability to get open quickly and create separation should give someone like Dak Prescott easy windows to find him in for completions.

What makes Deebo Samuel so fun for me to watch, though, is his ability after the catch. Despite his lack of size, Samuel is tough as nails, and rarely defers out of bounds or avoids contact. He's built well enough to withstand that contact as well, and when he gets free, he's hard to catch and bring down.

The Fit

Drafting Deebo Samuel 58th overall would be a heck of a haul for the Dallas Cowboys. In need of another playmaker in the passing game, the Cowboys could make immediate use of Samuel's talents in 2019, specifically as a slot receiver.

As has been mentioned ad nauseam, it seems unlikely that Cole Beasley will be returning to the team this season, which makes the need for a slot wide-out that much greater. Samuel has big play ability from the slot already, and has traits which project him to potentially work outside as well. If he tests well enough at the combine, reps on the outside could very well be in his future.

Samuel should be on every Cowboys fans' shortlist of draft targets in the second round this year.



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