This is the day we've all been waiting for. Draft Day. The NFL Draft is finally here and finally we can move on from the overly speculative aspect of the NFL Draft process and actually start selecting players.
The NFL Draft is by far one of the best parts of the NFL. Aside from actual games -- aside from Cleveland Browns games -- not a whole lot in the NFL or in professional sports holds up to the excitement, anticipation, and grandeur of the NFL Draft.
So, today is the day and with many final mock drafts coming out over the last couple of days, let's take a look at who the analysts and experts think the Dallas Cowboys will select at #19.
Vita Vea, DT, Washington
"The Cowboys have a ton of needs and will find talent for basically every position they could use at 19. Vita Vea would help the defense a lot, wrecking chaos in the middle of the line of scrimmage. With talented players like DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving, the Cowboys could have a top defensive line for the 2018 season.
If they don't find Vea, they could target a WR like Sutton or Moore. Offensive guard might be an option as well, especially with Hernandez and Wynn still on the board. Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch will also be in consideration, but I don't like either at 19 compared to the other prospects, to be honest."
Jonah Tuls of NDT Scouting also had the Dallas Cowboys selecting Vita Vea, the physically impressive defensive tackle from the University of Washington. He's a player who's been rumored to go in the early teens, so if he were the selection, it would make a strong contingent of Cowboys Nation elated.
Here's what Jonah had to say:
The Cowboys could go a number of different directions here including wide receiver, offensive line or linebacker, but I think defensive tackle is squarely in play here, especially if Vander Esch is off the board. This team views Vea as a three-down player and brought him in for a visit as a result.
Jonah Tuls - NDTScouting.com
Another NDTScouting.com guy, Kyle Crabbs, also has the Dallas Cowboys going with the big man, Vita Vea, but after a trade back with the Atlanta Falcons to pick #26. If that happened, I'd be thrilled. Crabbs sends us his mock via FanRagSports.com:
The Cowboys have to be thrilled to see Vea still on the board here at 26. Yes, WR Courtland Sutton is in the mix, but Dallas insiders have suggested the team views him as more of a second-round talent. Dallas would be wise to take their pick at 50 and get into the first 10 picks of the second round.
That approach would give them a solid interior presence who can rush the passer AND a size receiver to help replace Dez Bryant.
Kyle Crabbs - FanRagSports.com
Leighton Vander Esch, Linebacker, Boise State
The Leighton Vander Esch love has grown quite strong over the last month. Bobby Belt, the host and creator of Cowboys Cast, has had him to the Dallas Cowboys for quite a while, even if some of us -- looking at myself -- were in denial about it.
As of today, here are the percentages I'd put on who is pick 19... Rashaan Evans - 25% Leighton Vander Esch - 20% Da'Ron Payne - 15% Calvin Ridley - 15% Will Hernandez - 5% Isaiah Wynn - 5% Field - 15%
Kevin "KT" Turner over at TheAthletic.com had the Dallas Cowboys going with LVE at 19 as well in his most recent and final mock draft.
"If Vita Vea is around, I suspect the Cowboys will pounce on him. But the Jones family will rest more easily knowing that they’ve solidified their fragile group of linebackers. Vander Esch doesn’t have a long track record but is an unbelievable athlete with huge upside. Sean Lee, Vander Esch, and Jaylon Smith have a chance to be a special linebacking corp."
Kevin Turner - TheAthletic.com and 105.3 The Fan
K.D. Drummond over at CowboysWire.com also mocked Leighton Vander Esch to the Dallas Cowboys, but he's not too pleased with it.
"This might end up being the worst mock draft in the history of history. Screw it, though. We’re going live with it. And if you aren’t a fan of the player mocked to the Cowboys here, you’re likely going to have to live with it."
He adds at the end.
"Please oh please let the reverse jinx work."
K.D. Drummond - CowboysWire.com
Dan Kadar of SBNation.com in his most recent mock draft also has the Dallas Cowboys selecting Vander Esch.
"Dallas would love to see Vander Esch still on the board. You can argue for a wide receiver or guard for the Cowboys, but Vander Esch could make a big impact on defense."
Dan Kadar - SBNation.com
Josh Norris of Rotoworld.com is also team LVE, but leaves himself a bit of an out. He doesn't give us a ton of analysis on his pick and his mock draft is pretty straight forward, but here are his thoughts.
"This pick is LVE, Vea or receiver."
Josh Norris - Rotoworld.com
Jeff Risdon is all aboard the LVE train as well as he has the Dallas Cowboys selecting Vander Esch at 19.
"An off-ball linebacker with potential to become a pass rusher, Vander Esch is one of draft season’s biggest winners. Dallas reinforces the defense. I know many think they go WR here, but I’m sticking with the D."
Jeff Risdon - RealGM.com
Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
Newsweek.com tried to come up with a consensus pick for the Dallas Cowboys, based pretty much on how five analysts mocked the players in their mock drafts. It's an interesting exercise, not sure how scientific it is, but the Dallas Cowboys do end up with a good player in Landry.
"To make the process as scientific as possible, we have combined each selection and then divided it by five to work out the average, then assigned the player with the lowest average to the team picking first and so on.
At the same time, players with a lower average than others but who did not appear in all the five mock drafts analyzed appear lower in the order. For example, a player whose average pick position is 6.2 but only appears in four mock drafts, is listed lower than a player whose average is 8.7 but appears in all five mock drafts"
DJ Moore, Wide Receiver, Maryland
InsideTheStar.com Draft Analyst, Sean Martin -- who will be covering the 2018 NFL Draft from the AT&T Stadium press box -- has the Dallas Cowboys addressing the wide receiver position in the first round of the draft. He also mocks out the other nine picks the Cowboys will be making over the rest of draft weekend.
"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."
Sean Martin - InsideTheStar.com
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com, who puts out one of the more comprehensive draft guides in the industry, released his final mock draft and has the Dallas Cowboys taking wide receiver DJ Moore from Maryland, but sees it as a back-up plan for the Cowboys.
"I think Option A for the Cowboys is linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, but in this scenario, he is off the board. Depending on who is available, the focus could shift to wide receiver and Moore gives Dallas the versatility to play the X, Y or Z wide receiver positions."
Dane Brugler - NFLDraftScout.com
Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com, in his annual "What they should do" mock draft, also had the Dallas Cowboys selecting DJ Moore.
"They have to get better outside in the passing game. They just don't have enough speed, and Moore would help fix that."
Pete Prisco - CBSSports.com
Former University of Texas quarterback, Chris Simms, now with Bleacher Report, gave us his final predictions on the 2018 NFL Draft and has the Dallas Cowboys going with Moore as well. Here's an excerpt from his analysis.
"Moore phenomenal [sic] at playing the ball in the air, and he'll make life easier on Dak Prescott. He's also the draft's most explosive receiver with the ball in his hands. Dallas can use him to attack downfield, but it can also use him on screens and speed-sweeps and even out of the backfield."
Chris Simms - Bleacher Report
Courtland Sutton, Wide Receiver, Southern Methodist
Another wide receiver who has been linked to the Dallas Cowboys is SMU's Courtland Sutton, who had a private workout with Head Coach Jason Garrett. NFL.com Draft Analyst Mike Mayock has the Dallas Cowboys selecting the big-bodied wide receiver.
"He's got outstanding hands. Oily hips, ability to get in and out of breaks. You can throw the ball to this guy immediately, and he's capable of making an impact."
Mike Mayock - NFL.com
Mike Tagliere, who works for FantasyPros.com, has a pretty good in-depth knowledge of the NFL Draft. He isn't just a "fantasy guy." Like Mayock, he's sending Courtland Sutton to the Dallas Cowboys. Here are his thoughts. Tagliere goes three rounds in his final mock draft and it's worth your time.
"I mentioned this pick two weeks ago in my last mock draft, as the Bryant rumors were to [sic] strong not to have some substance. Sutton is the closest thing you’ll find to a prototypical No. 1 wide receiver build in this draft and even though there are a few concerns, he’s likely worth the risk at this point. You aren’t going to go into the season with Allen Hurns and 36-year-old Jason Witten (he’s just not the player he was a few years ago) as your top two receiving options, so it all comes down to who the Cowboys view as the best receivers in the class."
Mike Tagliere - FantasyPros.com
James Daniels, Guard, Iowa
After scouring the internet, I finally found a final mock draft that had the Dallas Cowboys doing what I hope they will do when it comes time to pick at #19 - take a guard and make the OL an elite unit. Michael Sisemore over at BloggingTheBoys.com did just that. His selection is via a trade back in the first.
"Not every Cowboys’ fan is going to walk away with elation from AT&T Stadium this Thursday night with this unsexy pick but it’s still a good move. The value here is tremendous when you pencil Daniels in at starting left guard not only because of his supreme athleticism but because how well he fits the zone blocking scheme. Point blank, when the Cowboys are dominant up front, they dominate their competition, and we’ve seen the alternative. Here’s to five years of getting another top road-grader playing below the market price."
Michael Sisemore - BloggingTheBoys.com and The Brews and the Boys Podcast
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Well, there you have it.
There are still several names that have been linked to the Dallas Cowboys that could be their pick in the first round. Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez, and Calvin Ridley could still all be in play for Dallas. Trading up is also an option, though it would mean giving up pick 50 and/or 81 to do so.
Needless to say, it seems like the draft could go in a hundred different directions for the Dallas Cowboys. How it all falls in round one is anyone's guess, but it could dictate what the rest of the draft looks like.
I, for one, think by Sunday night, we're going to like what we see.
Make sure you come by Inside The Star for your NFL Draft Coverage. We'll be working tirelessly to provide you with the best content and analysis throughout the weekend.
Have fun and How 'Bout Them Cowboys!!!
Cowboys Draft Target: Washington Safety Taylor Rapp
While most fans are hoping the Cowboys snag a different safety who played his football in the state of Washington, Huskies safety Taylor Rapp should be towards the top of their draft targets on day two.
The Cowboys have some decisions to make when it comes to their back-end, particularly at safety. Do they want to pursue a full time strong safety type who can play in the box, allowing Xavier Woods to play solely as the centerfield free safety? Or would they rather add a hybrid safety who can play in that deep third role, giving their defense more flexibility in how they utilize Woods moving forward?
If their answer to this question is to go with a more traditional strong safety, and slot Woods into one permanent role, then Washington's Taylor Rapp could be the right man in this draft class.
Taylor Rapp is not the single-high safety that I would typically value high in an NFL draft. He lacks the range to really play that centerfield role, and doesn't have the speed or agility to project to this role in the NFL. No one ever gets behind him, but that's more due to ridiculously deep alignment than excellent coverage skills.
Where Rapp does excel, though, is playing forward and downhill. Rapp is aggressive both in his pursuit of plays and in his tackling. He tackles with good technique as well, and can absolutely lay the wood when coming up to hit receivers over the middle. Rapp plays how you'd expect your old-school strong safety to play, and projects as a split-zone and box safety at the next level.
Rapp isn't anything special in man coverage, but he executes well at times. He's at his best when asked to cover tight ends in man coverage, something which would certainly be valued both in today's NFL and on this version of the Cowboys' defense. I wouldn't be as comfortable lining him up against shifty slot receivers over the middle, but he can match up well physically with tight ends in man.
Overall, Rapp is one of the best tacklers I've seen in this draft class so far, and with his instincts, size and physicality he will serve as a solid strong safety at the next level.
I don't see Taylor Rapp as the typical versatile chess-piece the Cowboys have valued when drafting defensive backs in recent years. He does what he does well, but they would be ill-advised to mess with his alignment too often or try to make him fit into a different role. He's not going to move all over the field like Xavier Woods can, but he can certainly fit the Cowboys' current need for a strong safety.
Many fans want the Cowboys to pursue Landon Collins in free agency, but if they strike out there, Rapp could be their consolation prize in the NFL draft.
No, he's not as good as Landon Collins. Let me make that perfectly clear. But for a day two pick Rapp could fit a similar role to what Collins would here in Dallas: a strong safety who will play primarily in the box and cover tight ends in man.
Should the Dallas Cowboys Make Offensive Tackle a Draft Priority?
The 2019 NFL Draft will be an interesting one for the Dallas Cowboys. From the outside looking in it doesn't seem as if they have any clear "needs" that need to be addressed. But, if you were to dive deeper into their roster you'd probably discover things might not be as stable as we'd like to believe.
The Dallas Cowboys could obviously stand to upgrade several positions. So far this offseason wide receiver, tight end, and safety have been at the forefront of the discussion, but one position not being mentioned is offensive tackle. Why?
There has to be growing concerns within the organization about Tyron Smith's inability to stay healthy for an entire season. He has a bothersome back and it has continued to make him unavailable for at least two or three games these past few seasons. How much longer can they afford to roll the dice with his back issues?
Then there is La'el Collins, who is entering a contract year in 2019. Collins' best attribute during his time with the Cowboys is probably his availability. He's battled through some injuries himself these past couple years, but managed to play through it. Unfortunately though, his career has been up-and-down since taking over as the starting right tackle. It's probably time to find his successor.
Sadly, Dallas doesn't have much offensive tackle depth behind Smith and Collins. Cameron Fleming, the Cowboys swing tackle in 2018, is now a free agent and is probably looking to join a team where he can earn a little more playing time. The only other OT candidate on the roster might be Connor Williams, but even that's an unknown sense he's never played tackle in the NFL.
I don't know what the Cowboys brass thinks of all of this, but I find it more than a little concerning. We know all too well what happens when the OT play isn't up to par. Chaz Green anyone!? That game alone against the Falcons is one we would all like to forget, but serves as a reminder of just how important it is to have an emergency plan in place.
The Cowboys of course have one or two ways of solidifying their tackle position. They can use free agency once again to find a swing tackle like they did with Cameron Fleming last year, or they can use one of their draft picks this year. The latter seems to be the wiser move, especially with Collins' contract coming to an end.
The Dallas Cowboys may have Tyron Smith and La'el Collins as their starters for the upcoming 2019 season, but it's never too early to start preparing for the future. That's why it wouldn't surprise me at all if Dallas used one of their draft picks this year on an offensive tackle. In fact, I'd encourage it.
I really like the idea of providing some competition at the RT position. If La'el Collins wins out fine. The rookie OT can then serve as the swing tackle and take over next season when Collins' contract expires. But, if the rookie wins Collins could also be become a trade asset. Sounds like a win-win to me.
Do you think offensive tackle should be a Dallas Cowboys draft priority?
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.
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.
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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