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.
Potential RB Prospects Dallas Cowboys Could Target in Each Round
The Dallas Cowboys have been pretty forthcoming about their desire to add another starting caliber running back to pair with Ezekiel Elliott at some point in the 2019 NFL Draft. That would suggest they are prepared to take one as early at 58th overall in the second-round, or at some point in the rounds in which they hold a draft pick beyond that.
Depending on what the Dallas Cowboys mean by "starting caliber", this year's RB draft class offers some pretty intriguing candidates. It's almost impossible to know at this point which RBs might have caught their eye, so I thought it would be a good idea to share with you some of these potential candidates they could target in each round. With maybe the exception of Josh Jacobs, every other running back could be in play for the Cowboys.
Let's take a look…
Damien Harris, Alabama
Damien Harris was a three-year starter during his time in Alabama and led the team in rushing in each of those three seasons. He is one of the more complete running back prospects in the 2019 draft class and the most pro-ready. He has excellent vision and instincts, allowing him to evade would be tacklers despite his lack of explosion. He actually reminds me of a slightly less explosive version of Ezekiel Elliott, and if paired with Zeke would give the Dallas Cowboys the best RB duo in the NFL.
David Montgomery, Iowa State
David Montgomery was a three-year starter and an every down back in a heavy zone-read offense at Iowa. He is an ultra-competitive back who broke a lot of tackles during his time in college. He is elusive in short areas with quick, active feet and is quicker rather than fast. He is a good receiver out of the backfield and solid as a pass protector. Overall, he is a starting quality RB capable of handling a heavy workload in the NFL. He would make a formidable 1-2 punch if paired with Zeke.
Darrell Henderson, Memphis
Darrell Henderson was a three-year starter at Memphis and was the lead running back in their zone heavy offensive scheme. He is built (5'8", 208) more like a complementary back in the NFL and is at his best when he can slash and weave through gaps. He's not a grinder and doesn't have the kind of long speed to be a home run threat, but his agility and instincts should make him an intriguing starter in the NFL. He would be a really good complement RB to Zeke with the Dallas Cowboys.
Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M
Trayveon Williams was a two-year starter at Texas A&M and thrived in the Aggies new coaching staff's zone blocking scheme in 2018. Much like Darrell Henderson, Williams is a bit undersize and projects best as a complementary back in the NFL. He is quicker rather than fast, and shows good vision and competitiveness in both the running and receiving game. Despite his size, he is also solid in pass protection, which should help him get on the field early as a rookie.
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
Justice Hill was a three-year starter at Oklahoma State and led the team in rushing the last three seasons. He is another undersized running back who projects best as a complementary piece in the NFL. He is a shifty runner with good lateral agility and has shown the ability to be a threat in the passing game as well. His slight frame and small stature is a cause for durability concerns and could limit him as a pass protector as well.
Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma
Rodney Anderson was pretty much a one-year wonder after his breakout season in 2017 at Oklahoma. He has had a run of bad luck throughout his collegiate career due to some unfortunate injuries, but has the size and skill set to become an every down back in the NFL if he can stay healthy. He reminds me a lot of DeMarco Murray with his upright running style and talent as a runner and receiver, but he's not nearly as polished at this point in his career.
Alexander Mattison, Boise State
Alexander Mattison was a two-year starter at Boise State and became the first player in school history to earn the Mountain West rushing title in 2018. He is a crafty runner who runs with good patience and vision, which allows his blocks to develop. He is a big, physical back with only average burst, but his tenacious running style will wear down opposing defenses throughout the game. He is also a factor in the passing game, showing soft natural hands. He would be a solid RB2 and spot starter behind Zeke.
Devine Ozigbo, Nebraska
Devine Ozigbo was a one-year starter at Nebraska and played in a heavy zone read, option offense. He is a hard charging runner who plays with a good burst, but only average long-speed. He is mostly a straight-line athlete, but is surprisingly elusive for a back his size. He has every down versatility due to his skills as a receiver and in pass protection. Like Alexander Mattison, he would be a solid RB2 and potential spot starter behind Zeke.
Elijah Holyfield, Georgia
Elijah Holyfield was a one-year starter at Georgia, but split the workload with D'Andre Swift in 2018. He looks the part of an NFL RB and has pretty impressive film that should get him drafted, but his poor testing numbers at the NFL Combine and his Pro Day will take him off of a lot of teams boards altogether. He is a tough as nails runner, but needs to improve his decision-making and tempo to stick around at the next level. If he can develop his game further, he has workhorse potential.
Bruce Anderson, North Dakota State
Bruce Anderson had a really good four-year career at North Dakota State and was a triple threat as a runner, receiver, and special teams player for the Bisons the past four seasons. He runs with good contact balance and is elusive in the open field, but he doesn't have a real good feel for setting up blocks or choosing the optimal running lane. That could improve with better coaching in the NFL, but right now he's a work in progress. His ability as a runner, receiver, and kick returner is intriguing though and should get him drafted.
Should Cowboys Avoid DL Jaylon Ferguson At 58?
First team All Conference three times. Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year in 2018. NCAA all time leader in sacks. 67.5 tackles for loss over four collegiate seasons.
This guy is a first round pick, right?
Not so fast.
Both in terms of the expression, and when speaking about the player and his ability.
These honors and stats are all held by Louisiana Tech's defensive end Jaylon Ferguson, who played himself into top 50-pick consideration during his college career. Everyone is looking for pass rushers that can get to the quarterback, and Ferguson's college production is second to none.
So why is he not talked about as a top tier edge rusher? For starters, people have questions about his level of competition in college. Playing mostly against offensive tackles who will work 9-5 jobs next year, it's sometimes difficult to evaluate just how good small school pass rushers are.
This is small concern, however, as Ferguson played well against bigger schools in college as well. The real problem scouts, and I, have with Jaylon Ferguson and the possibility of the Cowboys selecting him 58th overall, are his athletic traits.
Ferguson ran an 8.08 second three-cone at his Pro Day. According to Pro Football Reference's combine indexer, only two other defensive ends or edge rushers have ran an 8 second or greater three cone at the combine since 2000. Neither was even drafted.
8.08 seconds is downright horrible, and Ferguson's lack of bend and explosion is shown on his tape as well. Ferguson is a grinder. He's a very powerful rusher who uses his length and strength to his advantage to beat blockers and get to the quarterback. He's not going to show off an incredibly impressive get-off or really turn the corner.
But will this work consistently enough in the NFL to take Jaylon Ferguson with your first pick of the entire draft?
Personally, I wouldn't consider Jaylon Ferguson at 58. I'd start thinking about taking him in the third round, where the expectations for his future as a rusher will be tempered a bit more.
Jaylon Ferguson is too good a football player to flame out of the league or go undrafted, but his traits tell me his ceiling is nowhere near as high as the Cowboys should be looking for with their first draft pick.
Dallas Cowboys 2019 Draft Needs: Defensive End
We've been discussing the Dallas Cowboys' 2019 draft needs throughout the last week, working our way up to the most critical positions. Today we're going to look at defensive end, which could've been a major need if not for some of the Cowboys' recent free agent moves.
The biggest move was, of course, getting DeMarcus Lawrence signed to a long-term deal. Dallas avoided a holdout situation with its key defensive lineman, and hopefully soon enough that his shoulder surgery will be fully healed by Week One.
Before getting Lawrence's contract done, the Cowboys sent a 2020 sixth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins for veteran Robert Quinn. They've also signed Kerry Hyder, a hopeful reclamation project from the Detroit Lions.
These moves were partly necessary as insurance against a stalemate between Lawrence and the team over his contract. But more directly, they were needed after Randy Gregory wound up back in suspended status for another backwards step in the NFL's substance abuse program.
The team is hopeful that Gregory will return at some point in 2019, but they're too close to Super Bowl contention to count on it. And with 2017 first-rounder Taco Charlton having yet to emerge as a reliable player, Dallas knew it had to add some different options at defensive end. But with Gregory and Charlton still in the mix, the Cowboys are now about as loaded at DE as they've ever been.
In fact, we haven't even mentioned a few other options yet.
Last year, Dallas spent a fourth-round pick on pass rusher Dorance Armstrong from Kansas. He didn't get much playing time last year but flashed potential, and he may be in line for more snaps on passing down this year.
There's also versatile veteran Tyrone Crawford, who can help one the edges if needed. The Robert Quinn addition means we'll probably see Crawford more at defensive tackle this year, but he's also a factor in the Cowboys' overall security at DE.
As we can see, Dallas clearly has a stocked cupboard right now at defensive end. That allows them to not worry about the position in this week's 2019 NFL Draft, but it won't stop them from taking one either.
After all, Quinn and Hyder are only here on one-year contract. Crawford is likely going to be released next year to clear cap space. And again, we don't know how much we can rely on Gregory or Charlton now or in the future.
The Cowboys would be justified in drafting a DE if a good value pick falls to them somewhere in the middle rounds, particularly if they see that player as having more potential than Armstrong or Hyder.
Thankfully, though, Dallas' offseason activity so far has given them draft-day freedom. Their hand won't be forced at any position, and especially at defensive end thanks to their free agent moves. They can afford to wait for exceptional value this year, or until 2020 if needed.
Draft Likelihood: 20%
Projected Round: 5th-7th
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