The big night is upon us!
Here is the final draft board that I'm taking into this weekend's festivities. My hope is that the Cowboys will come away from the first two rounds with two of these 40 players. I wouldn't even be opposed if they traded away that second pick to snag some of the top names on the list.
Yesterday I posted my final rankings for the Cowboys biggest draft needs. This is really the foundation for my logic behind this board and how I'm prioritizing players. Referencing it would help you understand some of my decisions.
It's important to know that I have narrowed the focus of this board by leaving off certain positions. Based on their current talent, there's no way I see the Cowboys drafting any quarterbacks, running backs, or interior offensive linemen with their first two picks.
Of course, that means we hope that other teams will. We want those guys to go early and often to push some players to us.
1. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
The best DE and pass-rushing prospect in this class and one of the most exciting in this decade. If he doesn't go first overall to Cleveland then the Browns have just written the next chapter in "Brown Town: A History of Shitty Decisions." I only wish Dallas had the ammo pull off some kind of trade.
2. Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Despite the likelihood that he goes in the top three picks, Thomas feels like a major afterthought compared to Garrett. He would be the best DE prospect in just about any other draft class and whoever gets him will be very happy.
3. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio St.
About as good as CB prospects get. Lattimore can fit into any scheme and will likely walk into his new team as their top corner. Nobody comes close in this class.
4. Malik Hooker, S, Ohio St.
Injuries and a lack of college experience may keep Hooker below Jamal Adams tonight. However, Hooker's upside is tremendous and would make more sense for the Cowboys with Jeff Heath also a potential starter.
5. Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Many expect Adams to hear his name in the first three picks. Guys like Eric Berry and Kam Chancellor have made safety trendy again, as has the ongoing evolution of the NFL into a passing league. Great safeties used to seem like a luxury, but they are now becoming a necessity.
6. Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
Some would balk about putting Harris above Barnett and other pass rushers but I think he fits the Cowboys needs perfectly. He has a polished, complete pass rush skill set that will allow him to be an immediate contributor. Any concerns about run defense aren't a problem in Dallas because they have so many other options for the rotation. Harris attacks quarterbacks, plain and simple, and that's what the Cowboys need.
7. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Barnett's college production is undeniable but I worry about his ability to attack NFL left tackles He's not a superior athlete and has some technical issues for pure, professional pass rushing. Still, he could be dynamic as the left end and likely better than anyone Dallas currently has.
8. Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
The opposite of Barnett, McKinley's raw skills are exciting but the rawness is a concern. He may need a season to really develop body and technique for playing 4-3 RDE, but the potential is tremendous.
9. Haason Reddick, LB/DE, Temple
Not quite as dynamic as Von Miller but a similar type of player, Reddick should be a major contributor for any defense. His versatility to play in space or as a blitzing LB could give the Cowboys a new edge and unpredictability.
10. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Jason Witten's retirement could come as soon as next year and none of James Hanna, Geoff Swaim, or Rico Gathers have proven much, if anything. While there's little chance of it, Howard falling to the 28th pick would be too good for Dallas to ignore. He would bring immediate juice to the offense and settle the question of Witten's eventual replacement.
11. T.J. Watt, LB/DE, Wisconsin
Some would put Watt above the pass rushers I've already listed, but I have my concerns. I think he can be productive but perhaps not a catalyst that makes everyone better. I also wonder where he'd be rated with a different last name. Still, he's clearly talented and will
12. Tyus Bowser, LB/DE, Houston
Bowser reminds you of the things Dallas liked in Randy Gregory two years ago. He has explosive physical ability but needs to work on his body and technique to become a consistent pass-rushing threat. The raw talent is there, though, and worth the 28th pick.
13. Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas St.
Like Bowser, Williams is a great athlete who needs to get coached up to really blossom as a pass rusher. He's the kind of physical specimen that a coach like Rod Marinelli would just love to get his hands on.
14. Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
While he has more name value than some of the guys I just listed, Taco doesn't seem like much of a pass rusher. He could be a strong-side DE for the next decade but the Cowboys already have that in David Irving or DeMarcus Lawrence. I'd rather they get a true edge rusher, but can see why Charlton would appeal with Lawrence potentially on the way out.
15. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
The consensus #2 corner after Lattimore, Humphrey has nice size and athleticism. There are concerns about his man play but he is expected to be great in zone, which the Cowboys use a lot of. He should have more value to Dallas than other teams.
16. Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama
While a Top-5 player in this class, Allen just doesn't fit the Cowboys biggest needs. Still, if he dropped to 28, they would have to strongly consider him on sheer talent. Allen and Maliek Collins could form a DT duo for the next decade.
17. Adoree Jackson, CB, USC
The picture above shows a major reason why Dallas may want Jackson over other corners. He is a dangerous return man and could even be used on some offensive plays. While the Cowboys really need more size from their next cornerback, Jackson's ability and versatility could be too good of a package to pass on.
18. Kevin King, CB, Washington
Speaking of size, King is 6'3" and the most physically intriguing corner in the class. He may have trouble early on in tight man coverage but could be dangerous eating up space in zone, which suits the Cowboys well.
19. Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU
The opposite of King, White is on the small side but is a great man defender. He could be a great replacement in the slot for Orlando Scandrick, who is potentially a cap casualty in the next season or two. In 2017 he could easily contend to be one of the team's top three corners.
20. Jordan Ross, WR, Washington
The new King of the 40-Yard-Dash, this speedster can be used in any offense. Ross would have more value than Mike Williams or Corey Davis for Dallas as he could be immediately used for his unique athletic gifts, plus what he could offer in the return game. With so many top defensive guys off the board, it wouldn't be wrong to use the pick on receiver.
21. David Njoku, TE, Miami
While not quite as dynamic as O.J. Howard, Njoku is an exceptional TE prospect and would be tough to pass up at #28. Athletic and already a solid blocker, he could be immediately useful as a second TE and has the potential to start for many years to come.
22. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Williams and Corey Davis would be much higher if the Cowboys hadn't brought back Terrance Williams, but that move negated much of the need at WR. Still, Dallas wasn't really in a big need for a receiver when they drafted Dez Bryant in 2008. Sometimes you just can't pass on talent and Williams has that in spades. He could push for the WR2 job now and eventually replace Bryant in the top spot.
23. Corey Davis, WR, W. Michigan
See everything I just said about Williams. The only reason I like Williams a little more is that he's a little taller and more of an endzone threat, which is big for a Dallas team that relies on the run to move up and down the field. Still, Davis' route-running is superior and he could easily wind up the better player of the two.
24. Malik McDowell, DE/DT, Michigan St.
McDowell has the size to play inside and the athleticism to be a big strong-side end like a Julius Peppers or Mario Williams. The questions about him are motor and locker room impact; he's apparently not the most likable fellow. Still, the physical gifts are obvious.
25. Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA
I like Moreau way more than some. He has great physical tools and plenty of room to develop. He may be a reach to some but I'd rather have his upside at #28 than any of the remaining players.
26. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
A potentially elite LB talent, Foster could provide immediate insurance to Jaylon Smith's health and an eventual replacement for Sean Lee. He can rotate with both of them in the nickel scheme and would likely walk in with better coverage talent than Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson, or any of the Cowboys' other linebackers.
27. Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio St.
The current issue with a rape accusation may push Conley out of the first few rounds completely, but you know NFL teams are doing their homework. As long as they feel good about his legal future, Conley could easily be drafted tonight.
28. Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
Big, physical corner who fits the mold of what you've seen from the Seahawks in recent years. Wilson might wind up at safety before long if he doesn't improve some of his man coverage techniques. Plenty of talent, though, regardless of which position he plays.
29. Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
A good athlete and coverage guy but has some major concerns with his tackling. That's not good in Cover 2 and is why he's at the bottom of all the corners on my board.
30. Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
Dallas could form an all-Huskies duo with former college teammates Melifonwu and Byron Jones. Listed at 6'4" and over 220 lbs while running a 4.4, Obi is a textbook "physical specimen." I've longed for one of these tall safeties since the days of Pat Watkins and maybe my dream will finally come true.
31. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Our first offensive lineman, Robinson stands out to me because he could be an elite guard or right tackle. He may be lacking some of the quickness and technique needed to take on to pass rusher on the left side, but Robinson would more than replace Doug Free as a superior run blocker. You could also consider playing him at guard and using La'el Collins at right tackle; whoever fits the positions best.
32. Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
Davis could be an immediate upgrade as the SAM linebacker and has the coverage skills to play nickel. As already mentioned with Reuben Foster, Dallas can feel okay about adding a LB with the concerns on Jaylon Smith and the eventual need to replace Sean Lee.
33. Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
A true coverage LB, Cunningham would be a lesser version of Foster but still a great talent to add to the group. He would immediately be the primary backup for Sean Lee on the weak side.
34. Garret Bolles, OT, Utah
35. Ryan Ramcyzk, OT, Wisconsin
You can really flip a coin between these two. What you like more about one over the other comes down to specific team preferences and I can't really say is clearly better. Either should be a long-time starter at offensive tackle.
36. Jabril Peppers, LB/S, Michigan
If Peppers falls to the 60th pick then I'm not sure what I'd want Dallas to do. He's a playmaker and I don't mind his position uncertainty all that much. I'd love him as a box safety and a coverage LB in passing downs. Where I'm worried is the other times when he needs to be a true cover safety. If he can't do that, is a utility player really worth a 2nd-round pick?
37. Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown St.
The next tier of pass rushers would be decent but ultimately disappointing in the second round. Rivers has the potential to become a good rotation pass rusher but would need work.
38. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
Lawson reminds me of a poor man's Anthony Spencer. He could become a solid pass rusher on the left side as long as there's an attention-grabber playing on the other end. Unfortunately, Dallas is still looking for that catalytic guy in this draft.
39. Curtis Samuel, WR, Ohio St.
Offering much of the same explosive potential as John Ross, Samuel would be a useful offensive weapon worthy of a 2nd-round pick. He also has return man potential and that gives him the value bump to appear on this list.
40. Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland
While part of me loathes the idea of another 2nd-round pick going to the TE position, Shaheen is physical freak who would have a year, at least, to develop and learn from one of the best to ever play the position. He's the only remaining TE prospect who think Dallas should consider. After Shaeen, I'd just stick with the current roster and see what happens.
Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?
The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.
But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.
Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.
Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.
First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.
On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.
What about the rest of the class?
Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.
After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.
How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?
One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.
Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.
But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.
Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.
Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.
Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.
One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.
In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.
Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?
Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.
The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.
Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.
Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.
For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.
Why Cowboys Nation Should Feel Better About Leighton Vander Esch
A week ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell walked out to the stage at AT&T Stadium to announce the Dallas Cowboys first pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. For the second consecutive year, a large portion of Cowboys Nation was not pretty happy about the player America's Team had drafted in the first day of the Draft.
Boise State's Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has become one of the main debates among Cowboys fans right now and will continue to be one at least until the season starts. Some are fine with the decision the front office made and some simply don't view Vander Esch as a first round talent.
Naturally, taking Leighton in the first round has been widely compared to the team's last first round pick: Taco Charlton.
Both of these selections resulted in fans all around the world complaining and criticizing the selections since they both seemed like a reach, arguing that they could've gotten better players at other positions.
But fans shouldn't be so quick to compare the Charlton and Vander Esch selections, because they really aren't that similar. Sure, most of the media and Draft fans didn't consider any of these players worthy of a first round pick, but that doesn't mean both players were ranked similarly in the Cowboys' draft board.
Defensive End Taco Charlton, despite showing some very promising flashes towards the end of the year, wasn't able to become a starter at any point during his rookie season. Hopefully he develops into one next season. But when you're talking about first-round picks, being a solid starter at the end of the season at the latest is a very usual expectation.
Possibly what made the Taco pick hurt even more, is the fact that the front office didn't even consider him a first-round talent. Although he was drafted to wear the Star with the 28th overall pick, he wasn't their guy.
The #Cowboys had three first-round grades on DEs, but Taco Charlton wasn't one of them.
With Leighton Vander Esch, the same can't be said. The Cowboys knew he was their guy and that they were going to take him, regardless of the situation. For many weeks we wondered about just every scenario the team might face when they were on the clock.
What if DE Harold Landry is available? What if Calvin Ridley is still on the board? What if Derwin James slides, would they trade up?
For the front office, there was quite a lot of talent to choose from at 19 (not to mention James did slide out of the top 15), but they still took Leighton Vander Esch, even with Landry and Ridley on the board. We might disagree with the pick. We might not think the Boise State's product should've been taken so early. That's completely fine.
But Cowboys Nation should be happy knowing that this was the guy they wanted all along. Maybe if Derwin James hadn't been drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers with the 17th pick, Dallas would have still taken Vander Esch.
"If the Cowboys traded up a few spots in the first round, I believe it would have been to ensure they got Vander Esch, not get James or Edmunds." Dane Brugler on the Cowboys' approach to the Draft.
For now, it's time to root for the Dallas Cowboys' new rookie. Vander Esch will provide a special factor to this defense and has the potential to become a very good starter down the road. Playing side by side with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith will certainly help his development and turn him into an impact player soon.
At the end of the day, it takes years to properly evaluate how a draft pick turned out in the NFL. There are first round players who turn out to be complete busts just like there are sixth or seventh round players that go on to become superstars in the league.
The Dallas Cowboys did a hell of a job addressing their needs throughout the Draft this year and there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about this year's draft picks. Leighton Vander Esch is without a doubt, one of them.
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