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NFL Draft

Draft Rumors: Cowboys Zeroed in on Three Players in 1st-Round

Brian Martin

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Cowboys Narrowed Down Their 1st-Round Pick To Three Players?

Welcome to Draft Day! A little later this evening the 2018 NFL Draft will officially kick off and we will finally be able to put to bed any kind of rumors or speculation about who the Dallas Cowboys will select with their first-round pick. But until then, there is one more rumor I thought worthy of being mentioned.

Normally, I don't put too much stock into draft rumors, especially this late in the process. But, this particular rumor comes from someone who has been a credible source in the past… Tony Pauline of Draftanalyst.com.

Almost at this exact point in the draft process a year ago Tony Pauline reported that the Atlanta Falcons were looking to jump the Dallas Cowboys in the draft to select a pass rusher. That proved to be true when the Falcons traded up from 31 to 26, two spots ahead of the Cowboys at 28, in order to take Takkarist McKinley.

Now, Tony Pauline has another report involving the Dallas Cowboys. According to Pauline, the Cowboys have zeroed in on three specific players with their first-round selection.

"Sources tell me the order of the three players the Dallas Cowboys are targeting with the 19th pick is Vita Vea, Leighton Vander Esch, and D.J. Moore. A report from Rotoworld yesterday stated that the Cowboys organization compared Vander Esch to Brian Urlacher."

I don't know who Pauline's sources are, but it sounds very plausible that the Dallas Cowboys have an interest in each one of the three players mentioned. Each one of them plays a position the Cowboys need to fill in the draft and they are some of the top prospects at those given positions.

Personally, I would change the order of these three players. I would keep Vita Vea where he is, but move D.J. Moore up and drop Leighton Vander Esch to third in the pecking order. I'm a big fan of Moore, but not a very big fan of Vander Esch.

I have D.J. Moore ranked as the top wide receiver prospect in the entire 2018 draft class. I think he is exactly the type of "Dak-friendly" WR the Dallas Cowboys are looking for. He is a good route runner and has a wide catching radius. But, what I like about him the most is the physicality he plays with and his ability to pick up yards after the catch.

I'm not as high on Leighton Vander Esch as others. I don't see a linebacker who plays with much physicality. Too many times on film I've seen him get washed out of plays or not be able to shed blocks. I think he is just a WILL linebacker in the NFL and you can find those kind of off-ball LBs later in the draft.

Which of these three prospects would you prefer the Dallas Cowboys draft at 19?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. winstar

    April 26, 2018 at 11:19 am

    I don’t put any stock in what sources say. Jerral is known for putting out propaganda to get the media to attempt to throw off the competition. That said, Vea will IMO be a game changer but I have strong doubts he will be available. I expect the Cowboys to draft a WR first due to the fact I hate WR’s in the first round.

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      April 26, 2018 at 11:49 am

      Honestly, I would rather have a WR then Leighton Vander Esch.

      • DCU99

        April 26, 2018 at 12:24 pm

        http://www.rotoworld.com/player/cfb/139637/leighton-vander-esch

        From the Rotoworld.com link above:
        On the Stick to Football podcast, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller reported that five teams have taken Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch off their draft boards because of a “neck” and/or “spine” issue.
        Miller explains: “It’s a spine problem where they feel like it’s narrowing. And for some teams that’s just too much of a problem. It’s too scary for them, they’re not going to take that risk.” Miller was unequivocal in his report. This dispatch mirrors news first reported by Walter Football’s Charlie Campbell a little over a week ago. Rotoworld’s Thor Nystrom reported that Vander Esch’s medical report included a concussion, a c-spine nerve injury and a minor knee injury. The concussion and pinched nerve occurred on the same play in 2016, injuries that ended his season prematurely. Whether the “narrowing” that Miller vaguely alludes to has anything to do with that injury or not is not yet known. Expect for this to be a storyline all day Thursday. Vander Esch has been considered a consensus Round 1 prospect throughout the process. We’ll find out on Thursday night whether this news effects that status. Apr 25 – 9:28 PM

  2. Saul Molina

    April 26, 2018 at 11:34 am

    Anybody but leighton vander esch he is average at best or a bust has injury risk hasn’t proven anything and they are comparing him to sean lee,Brian Urlacher,luke kechley more like bobby carpenter please if anyone one in the organization reads this don’t draft him will hernandez,vita vea,Courtland sutton,calvin ridley,dj moore those guys would be 100% better if you can get to from that list that would be great

    • Brian Martin

      Brian Martin

      April 26, 2018 at 11:48 am

      Saul, I am right there with you about the Boise State LB. I will be really disappointed if he is their first-round pick.

      • Saul Molina

        April 26, 2018 at 12:00 pm

        I thought about it alot Brian we need DL,WR,LB,S,OG get calvin ridley or dj moore move collins to guard and Fleming to tackle that eliminates 2 positions get earl thomas at safty then get deshoun elliot later and then either nathan shepard or poona ford at tackle and josey jewell,shaquem griffin,malik jefferson fred warner or darious lenard at linebacker what do you think

        • Brian Martin

          Brian Martin

          April 26, 2018 at 12:13 pm

          Sounds like a good plan to me.

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Washington Safety Taylor Rapp

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Draft Target: Washington Safety Taylor Rapp
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

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.

The Player

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.

The Fit

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.



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NFL Draft

Should the Dallas Cowboys Make Offensive Tackle a Draft Priority?

Brian Martin

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Should 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.

La'el Collins

Dallas Cowboys RT La'el Collins

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?



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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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