The Dallas Cowboys will likely be looking to add another wide receiver this offseason with the possible departure of Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams. While they could look to fill those positions from within with guys like Noah Brown, Cedric Wilson, or Allen Hurns, or via free agency, there is one player that will be in the 2019 NFL Draft that adds a speed element that the Cowboys haven't had since Terry Glenn. That player is Oklahoma Sooners Wide Receiver Marquise Brown.
Now, I am an Oklahoma fan, let me admit that off the top, but don't let that affect the way you see this player. He's got elite traits.
Marquise Brown was a two year starter at Oklahoma after transferring in from junior college before the 2017 season. In his two years with the Sooners he totaled 132 receptions for 2,413 yards, and 17 touchdowns. He averaged 18.3 yards per reception. He'll be 22 years old in June and according to Sports Reference, he comes in at 5-10, 168 pounds.
Obviously his size isn't great and would need to put on some weight and strength at the NFL level to not get bullied at the line of scrimmage against press coverage. Beyond size, there isn't much to dislike about "Hollywood's" game.
For this study, I watched the 2018 games against Texas and West Virginia as well as the 2017 game against Oklahoma State.
- The first thing that jumps off the tape about Brown is his ability to get downfield quickly. Even when teams were playing 10 yards off the line of scrimmage against him, he was able to run by them and several times I noticed him having to wait on the ball. That's pretty incredible considering he played with Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray who have pretty strong arms.
- Teams respected his speed so much that they wanted to play press man against him in order to disrupt the timing of his route, but his quick feet off the line of scrimmage gave him free releases nearly every time.
- Because teams have to respect his over the top speed, he's able to win a lot on comeback routes. He creates a lot of separation at the top of the route because opposing corners fear him going deep. He gives his quarterback huge windows to throw the ball when angling back to the sideline. Because of the huge amount of separation, Brown is able to gain yards after the catch on comebacks.
- His speed and quickness allow him to take shorter throws and gain significant yards after catch. On drags, bubble screens, and tunnel screens, he watches the ball into his hands and then turns up field quickly. On the screens, he gets up field quickly, but is also patient as he waits for his blocks to set up. Follows blockers with nice instincts.
- Marquise Brown not only makes people miss, but he breaks tackles as well. He uses a nice array of stutters and jump cuts to make defenders miss to take the ball for more yards after catch.
- Oklahoma didn't run him on many slants, but the several times he did, he used nice change of speed to set up the route and then take the ball for a big gain after the catch.
- He has quick feet in and out of his breaks as well as at the line of scrimmage to set up his routes. He's polished as a route runner. You can see him use head and body feints and fake cuts to get his defender turned around. When he runs a post, he looks to get his defender thinking the outside comeback or a corner route, before angling deep over the middle.
- He primarily played on the outside on the right side of the formation. Was seldomly used in the slot, but was targeted there on drag, wheel, and hitch routes.
- He's a willing and effective blocker in the running game. Though he doesn't have great size, he gets his body in position to make the block. He doesn't give up on plays and several time went the distance with the running back, blocking all the way down field to allow the back to score.
- Draws flags when waiting on the ball down field. Knows how to get his body in position to draw contact from the defender. Is excellent at tracking the ball downfield.
- Though he tracks the ball well downfield, he did have some drops on over the shoulder plays and doesn't have the strongest of hands. It will be interesting to see what his hand size is at the NFL Scouting Combine.
- He hasn't suffered any major injuries, but often times struggled with ankle injuries that would have him out for a play or two in game. It never seemed to inhibit his play, but something to take into account at the next level.
One of the biggest things to consider when looking at Marquise Brown is level of competition. The Big 12 struggles to play defense as a conference and Brown put up elite numbers against the Big 12. In three games against UCLA, Georgia, and Alabama, Marquise Brown put up 12 receptions for 202 yards and two touchdowns. Against Alabama he was shut out on five targets including two drops, but was suffering from an injury he sustained in the Big 12 Championship game.
The Dallas Cowboys have done a nice job at retooling their wide receiver group in the last year with the additions of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Those two have given Cowboys Nation a lot of hope that the passing game can take another step forward in 2019. If you add Marquise Brown to the mix, it opens up a ton of room in the passing game for Gallup and Cooper. Despite not having ideal size for the NFL, his speed and quickness alone threatens teams downfield leaving a ton of room underneath for Gallup and Cooper to operate. If the Cowboys were to add Brown, he'd likely be their third receiver on the field. When the Cowboys were to go with three or more wide receivers, Brown would most likely play outside with Cooper moving to the slot, but Marquise would see some time in the slot as well.
Marquise Brown doesn't have the size that NFL teams generally look for, but with the success of DeSean Jackson and Tyreek Hill, teams could look at Brown as a similar type of player. He may be small, but he does everything really, really well. If he's there at 58, the Dallas Cowboys need to highly consider drafting him.
Could Cowboys Take Another 2nd Round Risk On DT Jeffery Simmons?
The Dallas Cowboys have taken a few risks when on the clock in the second round of the NFL Draft in recent years. Randy Gregory and Jaylon Smith, both important starters on defense, were drafted to the Cowboys after they went down on many teams' draft boards. In 2019, they'll have the opportunity to take yet another risk. Recently, one of the best defensive tackles in this year's class, Jeffery Simmons, suffered a torn ACL while going through a drill during his workout in Florida.
Simmons took to Twitter to share the unfortunate news that will drastically affect his draft stock only a couple of months before the Draft.
Before the injury, Jeffery Simmons was seen as a top draft prospect. Some even envisioned him being drafted in the top 10. As a 21-year old defensive tackle from Mississippi State, Simmons had an impressive career during his time in college football. In three seasons he managed to rack up 157 tackles and seven sacks.
If one thing is clear it's that the Mississippi State product will be an impact player when he gets on the field on Sundays. His quick reaction on the get-off will still interest a lot of teams despite his injury. A sound defender on the running and passing game, he'll pay big dividends for whichever team decides to pull the trigger on him come April.
Due to their recent second round draft history, I can't help but wonder if the Dallas Cowboys will consider him when they're on the clock in the second round. This year though, there will be a big difference. Pick #58 will be the first time the Cowboys will be on the clock in this year's draft after trading away their first rounder for Amari Cooper last year.
It will be tough for them to wait until the third round to pick a player they could actually put on the field for the 2019 season. Specially considering the fact that they're a football team with title aspirations this year. Despite their history and the fact that Simmons will be one hell of a pro, I believe the team will not want to make such a pick in the second without a first round selection.
The team has a big need at DT, although Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins were very serviceable in 2018. We'll see how tempted they are if Jeffery Simmons is still on the board when they're on the clock.
Cowboys Draft: Film Notes on Maryland Safety Darnell Savage Jr.
The Dallas Cowboys defense was one of the better units throughout the season, but it wasn't without its flaws. An area where they struggled was in creating turnovers and at times against the run. As good as they were in 2018, they have positions where they can use upgrades; defensive tackle and safety. Xavier Woods showed a lot of promise in his second season with the Dallas Cowboys and should continue to be a prominent player moving forward, but Jeff Heath's full-time role may have run its course. Today we're going to look at Darnell Savage Jr, safety from Maryland.
Per College Football Reference, Darnell Savage Jr. stands at 5-11 and weighs in right at 200 pounds. In his last three years at Maryland he played in 35 games. He averaged 56.67 tackles, 2.67 interceptions (3.5 per season over his last two seasons and four in his senior season), and three tackles for loss over his final three seasons. He had eight pass deflections as a junior and two more as a senior.
Savage could be a player that's in play for the Dallas Cowboys at number 58 of the second round.
I watched the Texas and Temple Games from 2018.
Darnell Savage Jr. Film Notes
- Maryland lined him up in two-deep cover two looks a lot and dropped him into different coverages. From his two-deep alignment, he would move into cover-3, cover-4, and man coverages.
- Temple or Texas looked to avoid him as part of their game plans. The one time the either Texas or Temple through his way, he came down from his 2-deep look into man coverage and jumped a five yard out route and intercepted the pass, taking it to the end zone for a touchdown.
- He's excellent in diagnosing bubbles screens and swing passes. On several occasions he met the ball carrier five yards behind the line of scrimmage and dropped him for a loss.
- Savage wraps up in the open field against. Once he diagnoses the play, he gets moving toward the ball in a flash.
- Willing to take on bigger blockers and receivers with the ball in their hands. Stymied the 6-4 225 pound Lil' Jordan Humphrey from Texas on a bubble screen after Humphrey had broken one tackle. Savage wrapped him up and brought him to the ground.
- Temple attempted to run a reverse after the hand off and Savage came all the way from across the field to meet the runner for a six yard loss.
- Plays with excellent speed and aggressiveness when he sees the play. Sometimes Savage gets caught watching the action on his side of the field and doesn't recognize what is happening in the middle or opposite side of the field.
- Several times on the read-option, it appeared that he didn't recognize that the QB had given the ball away. It could be that he was schemed to take the quarterback, but one time the runner went against the grain to Savage's side of the field and he was unable to get to him before he scored a short touchdown.
- Maryland had Savage cover tight ends and wide receivers and again, Temple and Texas didn't throw his way much at all.
- Again, in a two-deep safety look came up from 10 yards deep to make a play on a toss to the running back and tackled him for a four yard loss. It's dangerous to run things to the perimeter with this guy. If he gets to the line of scrimmage unblocked, he's bringing you down.
- When blocked on runs to the perimeter, he does a good job of stringing the play to the outside. Savage works his blocker and doesn't give up on the play. He fights to get unblocked in order to make a play.
- When a team runs play action or hands the ball off out of shotgun or pistol formations, Savage is slower to react and diagnose the play. He'll need to get quicker in processing what's happening there at the next level.
- One of the more impressive plays I saw him make was on a trick play. Temple attempted to run a wide receiver pass to the outside. Everyone bought the wide receiver reverse and even Savage did too, but was able to use his quickness and speed to make up five yards of separation that the Temple receiver had on him to be in good coverage. The Temple receiver wasn't able to come down with the catch and Savage's coverage affected that.
Darnell Savage Jr. doesn't have a ton of height, but he's an explosive player who can play down in the box and in two deep looks for the Cowboys. He's a guy that would pair well with Xavier Woods as you could use those two interchangeably depending on the matchup you face week-to-week. He's an aggressive player who uses his speed to get into the play and cause disruption. Savage could be around for the Dallas Cowboys at 58 and if they don't sign one of the big name free agent safeties, should be the selection. If he isn't a day one starter, he'd be starting by the end of the season.
Pre-Combine Position Rankings: Sorting Out The Tight Ends
It's pretty much universally agreed that the Dallas Cowboys have a need for a starting tight end, particularly one who can stretch the field as a receiving threat.
Despite not having a first round pick, this class should give the Cowboys an opportunity to add tight end talent to their roster through the NFL Draft.
Will that be TE1 talent, though? Or will it just be another replacement-level tight end on a roster which already seems full of them?
Let's get into my top 5 tight ends of this 2019 class, and see what they could potentially bring to the Cowboys this season and beyond.
1. TJ Hockenson, Iowa
The clear TE1 in this class is TJ Hockenson. The 2018 John Mackey Award winner earned his way to the top of this list with his versatility, lining up in-line and as a slot receiver for Iowa during his college career.
At 6'5" 243 pounds, Hockenson looks like he was made in a tight-end producing lab, and he has the athleticism and ability to maximize his build.
In the run game TJ Hockenson is a good blocker, showcasing excellent effort and competitiveness through his blocks. A technical route runner with good hands, a plus-catch radius, and legitimate yards-after-catch ability, Hockenson has a chance to be the very first offensive skill player off the board this Spring.
2. Noah Fant, Iowa
Hockenson's teammate at Iowa, Noah Fant, comes in at number two on my tight end rankings. While Hockenson is the more well-rounded of the two players, Fant certainly has more athletic upside. I expect him to test better than Hockenson will at the combine, and has the receiving skills to be a real threat at the next level.
Noah Fant fits the bill for a modern NFL tight end, flexing out wide and threatening defenses vertically with his receiving ability. A long player with good route running ability and speed, Fant is able to create separation against defensive backs in a variety of ways.
Fant is far from a one-trick pony, and would be an excellent addition to a Cowboys offense which is yearning for this type of flex-threat from the tight end position.
Unfortunately, he won't last anywhere near 58th overall.
3. Irv Smith Jr., Alabama
Can I interest you in a tight end who averaged 16.3 yards per catch and scored 7 touchdowns last season? If so, meet Alabama's Irv Smith Jr.
Smith is the number three tight end on my board entering the combine, and I really don't expect him to drop whatsoever in the coming months. Smith is an athletic player who runs good routes and offers excellent run blocking ability. He's not as refined as Hockenson nor as athletic/explosive as Fant, but he combines the in-line and flex abilities of the two to a certain extent.
Smith is the first somewhat-plausible target for the Cowboys on this list, though I'd still be surprised if he lasted until 58th overall.
4. Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M
Jace Sternberger came out of nowhere last season at Texas A&M. Relatively unknown before the 2018 season, Sternberger finished the year with 800+ yards and 10 touchdowns on 48 catches, and earned All-American honors for his production.
Now he has a chance to be a second round pick in the 2019 draft, and is finding himself mocked to the Cowboys by many major draft media outlets. Sternberger fits the prototype of the modern receiving tight end, with better speed and hands than most others in his class. Though he is still raw in many areas, his upside is intriguing, and there's no doubt he's a pretty good player as is.
Like the first three, it's hard to imagine I will move Sternbeger any lower than fourth in this class, and he is a legitimate option for the Cowboys 58th overall.
5. Isaac Nauta, Georgia
While the first four tight ends on this list will make their money with their passing game production, Georgia's Isaac Nauta looks like more of an old-school run blocker. Nauta is right up there with any tight end in this class in terms of blocking, and would be an immediate contributor to the Cowboys' run game in that area.
He's still growing in multiple areas as a receiver, however, such as his route running and yards-after-catch ability. Still, I think Nauta is much better as a receiver than his college production would suggest. He, like others in that talented Georgia offense, got lost in the shuffle a bit, and didn't get the number of targets he could have seen elsewhere.
There's a real possibility Nauta is available at 58 when the Cowboys pick, and I wouldn't be surprised if he were the pick either.
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