As this past week moved along and we inched closer to the start of the NFL Draft, the fight for Ezekiel Elliott seemed like a lost one.
All signs seemed to point to Jalen Ramsey, that is, unless the Chargers snatched him first. Instead the Cowboys decided to sort of shock the world with their selection of Elliott at #4 overall with Ramsey still available.
It is easy to get excited about the selection of Zeke. Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and now Zeke Elliott with that incredible Offensive Line in front of them gives this offense a chance to win each and every week.
Of course, there are some detractors who came out of the woodwork last night to give their two-cents on the Cowboys selection.
The main argument against the pick seems to be that which was shared by CBS Sports NFL writer Pete Prisco. They argue that while Zeke is a fantastic player, and this offense has now added another dangerous element, 4th overall was too early to select a Running Back. Especially considering the Cowboys more pressing defensive needs.
Elliott Grade: D. Like the player. Hate the position.
As excited and as hyped as I am to see Zeke in the Star this season, I have to admit that I had shared some similar doubts with people like Prisco. At first, I questioned why we would want to pass up on a game-changing type defensive player, like Jalen Ramsey, for just a Running Back. Why, when the Cowboys were able to net a top 10 rushing offense with Darren McFadden as their leading rusher, would they suddenly "overvalue" the position and grab one in the top 5.
The simple answer I have come to is that, Zeke is much more than just a Running Back.
Offensively, Ezekiel Elliott adds a whole new dimension.
You might think its a dimension we haven't seen since 2014 with DeMarco Murray, but you would be wrong. It goes back even farther than Murray. Zeke is a much more complete back right now than Murray ever was, even during the 2014 season.
At 6 foot 225 pounds, Elliott possesses more quickness, toughness, better vision, and better footwork than Murray. In addition, Elliott's ability as a pass catcher gives him the versatility to be used on every down, no matter the circumstance. Zeke also shows a willingness to block, something that can not be taught. He is far and away the best pass blocking back in this draft class.
Elliott is a dynamic talent at Running Back, one the Cowboys haven't had since Emmitt Smith, and he will add a whole new dimension to this already dangerous offense.
What makes him worth the #4 pick, however, is how he improves all phases of the game.
I know it may sound odd at first, but drafting Running Back Ezekiel Elliott does improve our suspect defensive unit.
Once the weather gets cold and the games seem to matter more, we always hear the same saying; "When you go on the road, you pack your defense and your running game." Zeke gives the opportunity to do both.
In 2014, during the Cowboys 12-4 run, they ran 182 more plays than their opponents. During last years nightmarish 4-12 campaign, the Cowboys ran 82 fewer plays than their opponents did, and their overall number of plays went down by 145 plays. On top of that, the Cowboys ran 508 rushing plays in 2014, to only 408 in 2015.
What does this all mean? For starters, less plays run by your offense means more plays with your defense on the field. When you put this defense on the field for more plays, and more time, you start to see them break down, give up points, and lose games.
The lack of takeaways and big defensive plays can, to an extent, be drawn back to the offenses' inability to make plays themselves. Their inability to stay on the field and sustain drives substantially hurt the defense over time.
The best example I have for this would be the Green Bay game a season ago. The Cowboys offense sputtered all game long, suffering 3-and-out after 3-and-out and scoring only one touchdown all game. It was absolutely brutal to watch.
Defensively, after a rough first quarter, Dallas played rather well. They held the Packers to just 14 points until the final 5 minutes of the 4th quarter. But, after a while, the defense just simply broke down, and let up 14 more points during those last 5 minutes.
Ezekiel Elliott gives the Cowboys a chance to improve on this deficiency. He gives the Cowboys a chance to run those extra 50-100 plays, and keep the defense fresh for as long as possible. He gives the Cowboys the opportunity to utilize their 2014 winning formula, but to do so with an even better back than they had during that season.
So, when #TeamZeke wins, we all win. Even defensively.
Report: Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch Visiting Cowboys
As the 2018 NFL Draft draws closer, teams are beginning to hold their official visits with prospects of their own choosing. The Cowboys have already met with a few different prospects thus far, and they've reportedly added a linebacker to that list this week.
Multiple reports are saying the Cowboys will meet with Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch this week, adding him to the list of 30 potential visits.
BoiseState LB Leighton Vander Esch will be a pre-draft visitor for the #Cowboys. Add him to your list of 30, per Tony Pauline.
Vander Esch is a bit of a controversial prospect in the draft world. As I've stated before, he tested like a freak athletically, and his combine profile alone would put him in the discussion on day one. The problems I have with Vander Esch have nothing to do with his athleticism, however, and everything to do with his actual football-playing ability.
On film, I see a player who struggles to get off blocks and will have trouble finding a home with the Cowboys. Still, I wouldn't mind the Cowboys drafting Vander Esch - that pick cannot come in the first round though.
Vander Esch is a long, rangy, and athletic linebacker who is at his best playing laterally and tracking down plays. As a blitzer, Vander Esch has some rather clear issues. He often runs directly into blocks and is unable to shed at the point of attack. I also don't think he is as instinctual a player as some of the other linebackers in this class, such as BYU's Fred Warner or Alabama's Rashaan Evans.
The way things are looking, however, Vander Esch is going to be a first round pick. And if not, he'll almost certainly be a top 50 pick. I wouldn't be very comfortable taking him at 19, and I'd have to think twice before even taking him at 50 for that matter.
2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott
With more pressing needs on offense at guard and wide receiver, and defensively at DE or LB, the Cowboys' concerning lack of proven ability at safety has taken a backseat in this offseason's roster build. With the expectation that new Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard will elevate the play of the entire Cowboys' secondary, the team is doing their due diligence on safeties available in the 2018 NFL Draft - starting with Texas' DeShon Elliott.
It appears Texas S DeShon Elliott is visiting the #Cowboys today
With 63 tackles and six interceptions in his final season at Texas, Elliott took full advantage of being a starter in the Big 12 for the first time in his career, flying onto the NFL Draft scene.
Elliott is a well-balanced, average athlete with the upside to be targeted late in April's draft and make a difference.
If they had to play a game tomorrow, the Cowboys would be rolling with Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier at safety.
Finding an expanded role this season for Frazier should be a priority in Dallas, as should supplementing Heath and Woods with additional talent. DeShon Elliott would fit this group well, along with the Cowboys' scheme, given his range and disruptive ability.
Should Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and now Byron Jones help the Cowboys reach their full potential at CB, the Cowboys safeties will not be tested in single coverage up the field often. This is an area that Elliott was exploited in at Texas plenty of times, performing better as a true free safety or second-level player.
Continuing to add young talent at the right price is key to the Cowboys' ongoing rebuild on defense, now visiting with a local safety prospect that should be available to them in the later rounds. Texas' DeShon Elliott is officially a name to consider come draft week in Dallas.
Cowboys Draft: PSU WR DaeSean Hamilton Fits Cowboys’ “Type”
Last week, I detailed what the Cowboys tend to look for when drafting a wide receiver. In terms of a combine profile, Dallas clearly has a "type" of wide-out they like to target.
The Cowboys certainly need to upgrade their receiving corps, but with the plethora of other holes to fill, they may not be able to do so until the 3rd or 4th round. Luckily for the Cowboys, there is at least one receiver which both fits their profile and should be available early on day three.
That player is Penn State wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton.
Working on something for @InsideTheStarDC... here's the height, weight, 40 time, and 3 cone for every WR DAL has taken since 2010.
First, let's re-examine what the Cowboys like to look for. As you can see from the above graphic, the Cowboys draft targets all seem to fit a similar profile. If we treat Dez Bryant as their "ideal" draft pick, the trends become even clearer. Dallas wants to find a wide-out who is about 6'1" 205 pounds, runs nearly a 4.5 40 yard dash, and about a 6.9 three come time.
DeaSean Hamilton, coincidentally, is 6'1" 203 pounds, ran a 4.47 40 yard dash at the Penn State pro day, and ran a 6.84 three cone at the combine. Penn State's all time receptions leader stole the show at the 2018 Senior Bowl, putting all of "Draft Twitter" on notice to his talent.
An efficient and smooth route runner, Hamilton looks natural coming in and out of breaks, creating separation with his precise routes. The Cowboys don't have many receivers on their roster who can win with their route running, and adding a player like Hamilton would greatly help third year quarterback Dak Prescott moving forward.
With the ability to play in the slot, as well as potentially being a Z receiver for the Cowboys and a replacement for Terrance Williams, Hamilton would be an excellent draft target in the third or fourth round. And, keeping in mind how nicely he fits their typical draft profile, I'd expect Dallas to target Hamilton during the 2018 NFL Draft.
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