As Dallas Cowboys fans became noticeably restless with how the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft opened from AT&T Stadium, imagine how Texas OT/G Connor Williams felt. Seeing six offensive linemen go before him in the first round, and four in the first seven picks of the second round, the Cowboys' window was closing fast last night to find a starting left guard.
That is, if they were prepared to become just the latest team to overlook the Longhorns 6'5", 296 pound prospect in Connor Williams. The Cowboys chose instead to make another dream come true, selecting Williams to walk on stage in his new home as the latest member of the team.
In doing so, the Cowboys solidified their offensive line with a prospect that could have been a first round pick last year. Choosing to return to Texas and play through injury in 2017, Williams' stock took a hit. In talking to him last night though, sliding down to 50th overall is still a dream come true for the rookie that will now slide between Center Travis Frederick and Left Tackle Tyron Smith.
The night before, Williams had slid into the sports coat of Tyron, talking plenty in a post-pick media tour about modeling his game after the Cowboys first round pick of 2011. Williams joins Smith, Zack Martin, and La'el Collins as former left tackles to form an offensive line he described as "known" for the Cowboys.
I asked Connor Williams about Ezekiel Elliott's tweet to him, announcing he's going for the rushing title again. He answered with his thoughts on playing with Tyron Smith and this "known" #Cowboys offensive line. https://t.co/FKib4fykzl
Williams fits the Cowboys athletic profile well, a smasher against the run that will play well in space and on the move. Like Leighton Vander Esch, this is an impressive young man with a bright future in the NFL.
This should be said about Connor Williams wherever he may have been drafted, but being selected by his home state team to anchor the LG position is as good as it gets for Williams.
Connor did tell the media that he filled out Tyron Smith's jacket, an impressive feat to match the body type of the league's most athletic left tackle.
The Cowboys were prepared to enter the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft with their needs at guard and wide receiver unaddressed. Little did we know, they would hit a home run with the versatile and resilient Connor Williams at 50th overall, before stealing Colorado State WR Michael Gallup in the third.
Connor Williams wore Tyron Smith's sports coat to the first round of the #NFLDraft. He was drafted a day later to play immediately next to a player he's studied out of Texas.
With their first three draft picks, the Cowboys have filled out roster needs with a trio of terrific prospects that are all understandably excited to be a part of this franchise. For a small-town player like Vander Esch, this realization overwhelmed him following the 19th overall pick.
For Connor Williams, I never got the sense he took in the full meaning of what his journey back to football prominence at Texas concluding with the Cowboys will mean to this team. That moment will come, perhaps only when he's lined up shoulder to shoulder with Tyron Smith as the perfect Cowboys starter - the fourth guard taken in this Draft, but the right kind of guy that Dallas should be ecstatic about.
Cowboys Draft Target: South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel
Our search for a new pass catcher for the Cowboys in this years' draft class continues, this time with a wide receiver.
South Carolina's Deebo Samuel put himself on the map with a strong Sophomore season, but fell off a bit due to a severe leg injury early in 2017. After a strong 2018 campaign, and an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, Samuel has played himself back into early Day Two draft discussions.
I don't know that anyone "won" Senior Bowl week more than Deebo Samuel did this January. Samuel, who had to deal with some poor quarterback play throughout his college career, didn't get much of a break in that department either at the Senior Bowl. But, he did show out every day at practice, and seemed to go viral on Twitter at least once a day.
During his actual collegiate season, Samuel finished with 882 yards and 11 touchdowns on 62 catches, solid production especially coming off an injury and playing in a limited offense. Initially in the NFL, Samuel is going to make his money in the slot. He's a shifty yet explosive receiver type than can quickly beat defenders with his speed. He's not the speedster than someone like Marquise Brown is, but he is explosive enough in his own right, especially in terms of short-area quickness.
Samuel isn't someone who will go up and grab the ball consistently, or even make up for inaccurate throws as often as some others might be able to. But he does have reliable hands, and his ability to get open quickly and create separation should give someone like Dak Prescott easy windows to find him in for completions.
What makes Deebo Samuel so fun for me to watch, though, is his ability after the catch. Despite his lack of size, Samuel is tough as nails, and rarely defers out of bounds or avoids contact. He's built well enough to withstand that contact as well, and when he gets free, he's hard to catch and bring down.
Drafting Deebo Samuel 58th overall would be a heck of a haul for the Dallas Cowboys. In need of another playmaker in the passing game, the Cowboys could make immediate use of Samuel's talents in 2019, specifically as a slot receiver.
As has been mentioned ad nauseam, it seems unlikely that Cole Beasley will be returning to the team this season, which makes the need for a slot wide-out that much greater. Samuel has big play ability from the slot already, and has traits which project him to potentially work outside as well. If he tests well enough at the combine, reps on the outside could very well be in his future.
Samuel should be on every Cowboys fans' shortlist of draft targets in the second round this year.
3 Potential Day 2 Tight End Prospects for the Dallas Cowboys
By now it's no secret the Dallas Cowboys don't have a first-round draft pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft. The Amari Cooper trade took care of that, meaning sitting through the entire Day 1 could be a little tiresome for us fans. But, Day 2 of the draft could get really interesting for the Cowboys, especially as it pertains to the players/positions they could target.
Today, I wanted to take a look at a few of the Day 2 tight end prospects the Dallas Cowboys could be interested in. This would be the second tier of TEs behind the likes of T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant, and Irv Smith, all of which should be gone by the time the Cowboys are on the clock at 58th overall in the second round.
I really believe that if the Dallas Cowboys plan on drafting a starting caliber tight end in this year's draft class they are going to have to do it with either their second or third round selection. The TEs available beyond that point probably aren't much of an upgrade over Blake Jarwin or Dalton Schultz, which is praise in itself about the upside of the young TEs they currently have on the roster.
With all of that in mind, I put together a list of three tight ends I would personally target on Day 2 if I were the Cowboys. I tried to identify what they typically look for in a starting TE (size, speed, athleticism), while also taking into account the ones that are are versatile enough to contribute on all three downs in both the running and passing game.
Isaac Nauta, Georgia
Isaac Nauta is a former five-star recruit who never really lived up to his billing during his time with the Georgia Bulldogs. He is a top-notch blocker both in line and when split out wide, but due to the Bulldogs run heavy offense he never really developed into the pass catcher many envisioned him becoming. He possesses good speed and terrific hands to be a threat in the passing game though, even if he doesn't show a lot of separation ability on film.
Nauta looks and plays like a prototypical Dallas Cowboys tight end. He has the desired size (6'4", 246), athleticism, and skill set to step in and be the Cowboys TE1 as a rookie. His blocking ability alone will get him on the field early, but he also shows enough pass catching ability to be a threat in the passing game as well. Overall, Nauta is a pro-ready three down TE who is a high floor prospect with very little downside.
Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M
Jace Sternberger is a former three-star recruit and the definition of a one-year wonder. He was basically a complete unknown before the 2018 season and had just one catch for 5 yards during his two years at Kansas before deciding to transfer to JUCO. He didn't fare much better at Northern Oklahoma A&M, but Jimbo Fisher thought enough of him to bring him aboard a Texas A&M, essentially turning him into an All-American and first team All-SEC.
Sternberger is almost the exact opposite of Isaac Nauta, but still has the desired traits the Dallas Cowboys look for in their tight ends. Unlike Nauta, Sternberger is much more accomplished as a passing threat. He runs and moves like a big wide receiver and possesses good separation ability. Due to his size (6'4", 250) and athletic ability he is difficult to bring down after the catch as well. He's not as accomplished as a blocker as Nauta, but he shows good technique and will improve in time with added strength. He has the ability to be the Cowboys TE1 as a rookie.
Dawson Knox, Ole Miss
Dawson Knox is a former walk-on quarterback at Ole Miss, but spent the last two years playing tight end for the Rebels. He is one of the more difficult tight ends to evaluate in this draft class due to the unorthodox offense he played in and his usage in the system, but may actually be more pro-ready than many of us believe. He does have the size (6'4", 250), speed, and natural hands to be a complete three-down TE in the NFL and reminds me a little bit of George Kittle when he was entering the league.
Knox is still pretty raw as a player, but moldable and he has the upside to be one of the best tight ends in this entire draft class. He could probably compete to be the Dallas Cowboys TE1 as a rookie, but it might be better for him to be in a timeshare of sorts while he develops his God-given talent. Nevertheless, I have a hard time seeing him making it out of Day 2 of the draft, especially after he puts on a show at the NFL Scouting Combine. His talent might be too much for the Cowboys to pass up.
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.
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