In the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Cowboys decided to address arguably their biggest draft need by selecting former Oklahoma Sooner Defensive End Charles Tapper.
When evaluating Tapper, the first thing you notice is that he is an athletic freak. At 6'3" 270 pounds Tapper ran a 4.59 40-yard-dash at the combine, the fastest time of any defensive lineman who ran.
Tapper's combine performance generated a lot of buzz around him, as he had previously been flying under most radars due to the defensive line depth in this draft class, especially in the interior.
It is tough to really evaluate Tapper's film and stats his last two seasons due to his poor scheme fit in Oklahoma's defense. Tapper shined as a Sophomore in 2013 as a traditional 4-3 pass rushing defensive end. He was named to the All-Big 12 Team and tallied up 9 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks; second in the Big 12 as only a Sophomore.
Tapper made a name for himself nationally during the 2014 Sugar Bowl when he chased down Alabama's Wide Receiver, Amari Cooper from behind and brought him down. Yeah, he is that fast.
Make or find animated gifs like Charles Tapper vs. Alabama (2013) on gifs.com
This game was also the last time we saw Tapper in the traditional pass-rushing role which he will play in Dallas, however.
For his Junior and Senior seasons, Tapper was asked to be a two-gap player, a role which he was never really comfortable in or suited for. However, he was once again named All-Big 12 in 2015, even when playing out of position.
The million dollar question for the Cowboys becomes, what can Tapper's ceiling be as a 4-3 edge rusher? By drafting him, they seem to think that the ceiling is higher than others do, and the film shows that he does possess some raw skills which Rod Marinelli can cultivate.
Let's take a look at the tape.
I have already mentioned Tapper's top of the line athletic ability. He has the size and build to play at the next level, showcases a strong bull rush at times, and has very long arms which help him keep offensive lineman's hands off, and keep them off balance as well.
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Here, we see an example of that arm length and strong bull rush. Tapper is given the rare opportunity in Oklahoma's defensive front to line up in a 3 point stance, pin his ears back and get after the passer. He immediately gets hands on, gets his inside arm extended, keeps his outside shoulder free, and utilizes his strength to put the offensive tackle on skates.
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Against Kansas here, we see more of this freakish athletic ability and arm length being put to use. When Tapper is put into these type of situations, he shows a ton of potential and he thrives.
On both of these plays, we see Tapper show off some pass rushing awareness as well.
He is able to sense that he is getting up-field, and instead of simply rushing past the quarterback he makes a move inside and gets home. This type of awareness is important in edge rushers, and while Tapper shows it in these instances, he displays too many inconsistencies on film to say that he has it for sure.
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Once again against Kansas, Tapper shows off his powerful bull rush after getting his arms extended. He doesn't get the sack here, but he does force a roll out and an incompletion. You would like to see him keep his balance here, though, and his balance is an issue we see quite a bit.
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Tapper will probably be used as a situational pass rusher during his rookie season in Dallas. But what gives him hope to one day become a 3-down player are plays like this. Once again his arm length and strength allows him to immediately get hands on, and drive the offensive lineman back into the backfield. Then, he sheds the blocker and makes the play.
Make or find animated gifs like Charles Tapper vs. Texas Christian (2014) on gifs.com
Tapper plays a stand up defensive end role here, which he will not do in Dallas. I included this clip to show off his speed, however. When Tapper is told to get off the ball and rush, he is able to get there in a hurry. Unfortunately, he was asked to read and react a little too much for my liking in Oklahoma.
But with all of these strengths come some question marks as well.
First and foremost, Tapper's pad level is a problem. He plays way too high at times, and it contributes to him getting knocked off balance by backs who may be chipping him, or other offensive linemen who may be uncovered and giving help.
While his bull rush is impressive at times, he will need to develop better hand play and develop his other pass rush moves to be consistently successful in the league. He won't be lining up against offensive lineman for Kansas anymore; these are professionals now and beating them with your bull consistently is a lot tougher to do.
As I just mentioned, Tapper's hands need some work. His arm length and power are huge bonuses, but he will have to refine his hand play for the next level.
Lastly, I would like to see Tapper use his speed around the edge much more than he did on tape. Of course, this has a lot to do with the scheme he was playing in at Oklahoma, and hopefully he can learn how to use his speed and leverage to his advantage more consistently.
I see Charles Tapper as a situational pass rusher early on during his rookie season, with a chance to crack the starting lineup in 2017. Overall, I like the pick and I think Tapper can be productive in the defensive end rotation from day 1.
Difference-Making Prospects Linked to Cowboys in Latest Mock Drafts
The next time we take a look at these mock drafts to see who various members of the media have landing with the Cowboys, it will be on the week of the NFL Scouting Combine. This 2018 Draft process is charging towards Dallas, and with it we have some new prospects to add to the radar this week.
After introducing you to two secondary players last week, along with a consensus top-10 player in Georgia's Roquan Smith, here is the latest crop of college talent to be mocked to America's Team.
CBS Sports: Calvin Ridley, WR - Alabama
This mock draft comes to us from Chris Trapasso, with the most complete receiver in the draft falling to the Cowboys.
"The Cowboys are thrilled with Ridley still being available. While he's not the biggest wideout and has a skinny frame, he's a dynamic route runner and has the deep speed Dallas has to inject into its offense."
Calvin Ridley may be the one WR in this draft too good for me to pass up on in the first round. As I've studied deeper into this class, the amount of talent available in the later rounds looks much more attractive for a Cowboys team that remains set on at least two starting receivers.
Should this WR depth deter the first 18 teams in the draft order from taking Alabama's Calvin Ridley though, this is a trigger that has to be pulled in Dallas.
Rotoworld: Maurice Hurst, DT - Michigan
Josh Norris' mock draft produces a familiar outcome for the Cowboys, but the talent he passes up on to mock Hurst to this team is certainly interesting.
"I know Vita Vea is on the board, but in Hurst the team is getting more of an upfield, disruptive lineman. He has special moments off the snap, creating instant penetration and totally destroying the offense’s plan."
Yawn. It feels inevitable that at least one mock draft each week will have the Cowboys doubling up on Michigan defensive linemen in the first round - upgrading the 3T position with Hurst. While I'm not dismissing Hurst's talent in any way, I don't see a consistent enough player (nor enough of a difference maker) to warrant the 19th overall pick.
Should the Cowboys lose RFA David Irving, there is no doubt they'll be in need of a disruptive defensive tackle. As the roster stands now though, the Cowboys' bigger need is at the 1T position - which Norris ignores despite the best player at that position (Vea) being available.
Bleacher Report: Tremaine Edmunds, LB - Virginia Tech
Like Chris Trapasso's mock, Mike Tanier's latest draft projection has another top player sliding the Cowboys' way.
"Tremaine Edmunds has been a tricky player to slot in this mock draft. He has limitless upside, but at a position (off-the-ball linebacker) that few teams prioritize in the first round anymore. He should be a Bobby Wagner/Luke Keuchly-caliber contributor by 2019, but whoever drafts him will experience some growing pains as the not-yet-20-year-old Edmunds learns not to get sucked into play action or get caught flat-footed in coverage."
An argument could be made for Tremaine Edmunds as the best LB in this draft. At the very least, he is in elite company atop the board with Roquan Smith. Both prospects play the WILL position, which Tanier correctly points out as one that is devalued currently.
This shouldn't stop Smith from having his name called early in the 2018 Draft, and I have my doubts about it doing the same for Edmunds. A freak athlete out of Virginia Tech, Edmunds will be just 19 years old at the time of April's draft.
This bodes exceptionally well for the Cowboys, who are of course preparing to start Sean Lee at WILL once again. Drafting Edmunds may go against this team's philosophy of drafting immediate starters, along with first round linebackers.
With all that said, Tremaine Edmunds is not a player I could pass up on with the 19th overall pick.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The NFL Scouting Combine will give teams and draft analysts a much better evaluation of where all of these prospects truly belong. Through three weeks of doing this series, I can't say that any player mocked to the Cowboys has been a reach.
Instead, the likes of Smith, Edmunds, and Ridley could soon disappear entirely from the majority of Cowboys mock drafts moving forward. The bigger picture of who actually will be available to Dallas, and who they're targeting in the first round, is slowly coming into focus.
Cowboys Draft: 3 LBs To Pay Attention To
The Dallas Cowboys enter the 2018 NFL offseason with clear needs to fill at linebacker. Starting MIKE backer Anthony Hitchens will enter free agency, starting WILL Sean Lee has been riddled with injuries, and the now third-year Jaylon Smith is still somewhat of a question mark.
Considering all of the doubts surrounding the Cowboys linebackers, it would be wise to target one during the 2018 NFL Draft. Of course, Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds have become fan favorites over the last few months.
Both of these guys are clearly first round players, however, and may both be gone by the time the Cowboys are on the clock. Dallas will probably need to find their linebacker starting on day two, so I have compiled a short list of some potential targets.
Josey Jewell, Iowa
With each NFL Draft cycle, scouts everywhere can typically feel good about their evaluations of Iowa Hawkeyes players. The BIG 10 school is known for producing solid, pro-ready talent that NFL teams absolutely need to fill out a roster. Enter Iowa Linebacker Josey Jewell, a three-year starter and captain on this Hawkeyes defense.
Iowa Hawkeye's linebacker Josey Jewell has been gaining traction within the draft community as of late. The three-year starter and collegiate captain has been discussed as one of the more pro-ready and consistent linebackers in this draft class.
Jewell earned a third round grade on my draft board, and fellow Inside The Star writer Sean Martin saw him in a similar light. Jewell possesses impressive instincts, plays with textbook technique, and is a solid run defender/tackler in the box.
His main weakness, however, is his athletic ability. He doesn't move laterally as well as someone like current Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith did in college. Jewell is a player with a solid floor, but not a very high ceiling. Drafting him would give the Cowboys another good piece on their defense, and a starting SAM backer.
Sean Martin believes he can play at either WILL or MIKE, and we both view him as a potential target for the Cowboys 81st overall.
Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
Vander Esch reads it and attacks at 100 mph. Put this guy on my football team. https://t.co/RaTvP9sO7u
Boise State's Vander Esch is a linebacker garnering a lot of hype throughout Draft Twitter. At 6'4" and 240 pounds, Vander Esch certainly looks the part of an NFL linebacker. His athleticism and ability to move laterally leaves much to be desired, however.
Vander Esch totaled 141 tackles and 3 interceptions during the 2017 season, breaking onto the scene as a Junior. Vander Esch is a three down linebacker who has been labeled a leader and hard worker by his Boise State teammates and coaches, making him an excellent "RKG" candidate for Jason Garrett. He is an instinctual player who reads, reacts, and attacks on a routine basis against the run. He is also consistently impressive in coverage, something the Cowboys could use from their linebackers.
Despite his positives, which there are many, I just can't convince myself to draft Vander Esch as early as he's being talked about. I believe he can be a solid professional linebacker, and fit in as an off ball WILL, but if I were running the Cowboys I wouldn't make that pick until the third round.
And the way things look, Vander Esch will be long gone by the 81st overall pick. Maybe Dallas will see things differently, and make the move in round two.
Rashaan Evans, Alabama
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My favorite of these three linebackers, Alabama's Rashaan Evans is an off ball/edge hybrid who was all over the field for Alabama.
At 'Bama, Evans had six sacks and 10 quarterback hits, ranking 16th in pass rushing productivity (Pro Football Focus) among all qualifying draft-eligible inside linebackers. Still, I believe his best plays came from when lined up as a traditional off ball linebacker.
In Dallas, Evans could be used as a WILL backer who also rushes as a defensive end in passing situations. The 6'3" 234 pound linebacker is exactly the type of player that NFL defenses are moving towards, and he would be a welcomed addition to this young Cowboys defense.
I believe Rashaan Evans is a top-30 type of player, making it tough to envision being able to draft him 50th overall. If completely wiped out, Evans could be a candidate at 19, though I wouldn't hold my breath. Evans is ILB3 on my draft board, and earned the highest grade of these three linebackers.
Could This Draft Sleeper be Dez Bryant’s Successor?
One of my favorite parts of the NFL offseason is jumping into the draft process and studying the next group of incoming rookies. I don't pretend to be a professional scout, but I do trust my own analysis for the most part. I find myself right about these prospects more times than not, but no one is perfect.
When scouting these prospects, I am particularly looking at players that fit in with what the Dallas Cowboys like whether it is based on scheme or preference. I try not to waste my time with the ones who I don't believe fit into those categories.
Today, I want to share with you a wide receiver I happened to stumble upon who isn't getting talked about enough, but probably should. He is still flying under the radar, but I think that could change here in a few weeks when the NFL Combine gets underway.
We all know the Dallas Cowboys would probably like to add another receiver at some point in the draft, but when and where is debatable. I think it's unlikely they take one on Day 1, and possibly not even Day 2. It will likely depend on how things fall, but Day 3 could still have quite a few good options available.
I've started to study these Day 3 prospects, and I think I've found a diamond in the rough. I'm actually surprised he hasn't been talked about, but that could be good news for the Cowboys.
Let me be the first to introduce you to former Southern Mississippi Golden Eagle, Korey Robertson.
WR Korey Robertson, Southern Miss
I don't know about you, but I don't think of ever watched Southern Mississippi play a single collegiate game. They're not a big powerhouse school and don't produce a lot of high-end draft picks, but we've seen small school players make a name for themselves in the NFL before.
As you can imagine, I wasn't expecting much when I started to watch Korey Robertson's game film, but I was pleasantly surprised. I think he has the potential to be a WR1 in the NFL and he reminds me a lot of the Dallas Cowboys own, Dez Bryant.
Robertson was a surprise early entry into the 2018 NFL draft class. He had remaining eligibility left and could have possibly improved his draft stock by returning to Southern Miss, but that's neither here nor there now.
Robertson certainly looks the part of a WR1 in the NFL. He is 6'2", 210 pounds and plays with amazing physicality. I think he could be the best WR in this draft class at attacking the ball in the air and winning those 50/50 jump balls. This is where he reminds me of Dez Bryant the most.
But don't take my word for it, take a look at his highlights and judge for yourself.
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I really like what I seen of Korey Robertson. I think he really makes an intriguing wide receiver prospect for the Dallas Cowboys. I personally think he has WR1 potential.
He registered 76 catches for 1,106 yards and 12 touchdowns this last season, so the production is there, but he's far from a finished prospect.
Robinson still needs to fine-tune his route running, but it's not terrible. He shows good speed on film and is expected to run in the 4.4 range at the combine. That would definitely boost his draft stock.
I think he checks just about all of the boxes. He has the size, speed, catches the ball easily (with his hands), and plays with the physicality that will immediately make him a fan favorite.
I currently have a third-round grade on him, but I'm probably higher on him with others. I think he will be a Day 3 draft pick, which means the Dallas Cowboys could use one of their compensatory picks to select this talented wide receiver.
What do you think of Korey Robertson as a potential Cowboys WR?
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