The NFL Draft is less than three weeks away now, and what's more fun than reading mock drafts at this time of the year? The Dallas Cowboys have a couple of needs to address with this year's class and we all have players on our minds that we hope they draft. Who knows if any of those players will be any good.
Using Fanspeak's On the Clock Simulator, I attempted to take a realistic approach to the mock draft, without making any trades. For example, in the simulator Calvin Ridley was available in the second round. That isn't going to happen. Ridley is a top-20 player, so I didn't select him.
What you'll read below, is my best -- and only -- attempt at mocking the draft.
Feel free to mock me in the comment section.
I don't believe wide receiver is as big of a need for the Cowboys as many people do. They now have seven wide receivers under contract for the 2018 season. Now, a lot of things can change, but I believe they are set at the position and just need to figure out which five or six are going to be on the roster come week one.
Also, I don't believe there is a huge need at cornerback, given that they're running four deep there with the move of Byron Jones to the position. Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Anthony Brown pencil in as your top four, and Xavier Woods can also play some slot corner if needed. Aside from depth, they're set at corner.
19. Will Hernandez - Guard, UTEP
Will Hernandez fits an immediate need and is a favorite of Inside The Star draft analysts, Kevin Brady and Sean Martin. It came down to Hernandez and James Daniels from Iowa, and I went with the guy who has already built a rapport with the Dallas Cowboys OL.
He has a strength and nastiness that will fit right in with the rest of the DAL offensive line, and will immediately open holes for Ezekiel Elliott.
50. Leighton Vander Esch - Linebacker, Boise State
Projecting as a late-first rounder by some and a second rounder by others, I couldn't help but take Leighton Vander Esch as a player who could rotate in with Jaylon Smith day one, then take over for Sean Lee in 2019.
Other options I passed on were TE Dallas Goedert and WR James Washington. Taven Bryan was also available, but I felt the 3T spot was a bit crowded with David Irving and Maliek Collins to add another under tackle.
One of my favorites, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo from the University of Oklahoma, was also available, but seeing as how there is a greater need at LB than EDGE, I went that direction.
It also seems that many in the Draft Twitter community are lower on Obo than I am, which probably means I have some fan bias when it comes to the former Sooner.
81. Mark Andrews - Tight End, University of Oklahoma
Some will think that this is a waste of a pick, but it's time to begin finding the successor to Jason Witten, and Mark Andrews is that.
While at the moment seen as more of a "move tight end," Andrews can play in sub-packages while learning the finer points of blocking at the tight end position from a future Hall of Famer in Witten.
At Oklahoma, Andrews displayed really good hands and route running ability. His run after catch prowess led to many big gains for the Sooners as a favorite of Baker Mayfield. In three years at OU, he caught 22 touchdowns and averaged more than 15 yards a catch for his career.
The Dallas Cowboys like to use 12 personnel and with Andrews, they could motion him out to create mismatches and he's an excellent fit for Dallas as they continue to adopt more and more RPO concepts.
At 6'5", 254 lbs, he has the frame to become a good blocker and continue to be a red-zone weapon for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys.
116. DeShon Elliott - Safety, University of Texas
The Cowboys have been doing a nice job of revamping their secondary and DeShon Elliott can fit right in with their safety group. He had a nice 2017 with the Longhorns, picking off six passes and converting 8.5 tackles for loss.
With Woods and Jeff Heath manning the free safety positions, Elliott can begin to rotate in with Kavon Frazier as well as manning some TE coverage roles.
137. Shaquem Griffin - Linebacker, University of Central Florida
Linebacker Shaquem Griffin is a favorite of Draft analyst Kevin Turner from 105.3 The Fan, and he's got me convinced that Griffin is a guy I want on my team.
Like the Dallas Cowboys did a year ago at cornerback, I attacked the LB position given the health concerns of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith. Griffin can be a situational MIKE and WILL while also playing some special teams for you as well.
While he does have a disability that will limit him, effort will never be the issue with Griffin.
171. Deadrin Senat - Defensive Tackle, University of South Florida
Finally getting a chance to address the gaping hole at the 1T Nose Tackle spot, South Florida's Deadrin Senat's presence fills that hole.
While Vita Vea is the cream of the crop, Senat is no slouch himself.
I took him a bit higher than I should, but with only one fifth round selection and three in the sixth, I felt it was a justifiable reach for a guy who can push for snaps day one on the interior of the defensive line.
His senior season was pretty awesome. He had 66-combined tackles, 10.5 for loss and six sacks. He's rotating in on early downs right away and helps the run defense tremendously.
192. Nyheim Hines - Running Back, North Carolina State
Hines ran for 1,113 yards and 12 touchdowns while playing in the ACC. The only thing that limits him is his size. But he can be a chunk player on 10 touches a game and has some experience lining up as a wide receiver as he did his freshmen year. Before becoming the lead back, he averaged more than 12 yards per reception his first two seasons.
He's the guy you want giving Ezekiel Elliott a breather a couple series a game and on third downs.
193. Jeff Holland - EDGE, Auburn University
Jeff Holland fills a need for some depth at EDGE and comes out of a Power 5 Conference, like this team likes to draft. He was a productive player at Auburn who had 9.5 sacks in 2017 to go along with 12.5 tackles for loss.
He can come in and compete for snaps on the weakside of the defensive line while continuing to refine his game.
208. Joseph Noteboom - Tackle, Texas Christian University
Joseph Noteboom. I'm pretty much ready to move on from the Chaz Green experiment. Noteboom is Jonah Tuls 171st ranked player and someone who could be the swing tackle and provide some competition on the offensive line.
236. Dimitri Flowers - H-Back, University of Oklahoma
I grabbed another Sooner, Dimitri Flowers, here because he is probably one of the more underrated offensive players in the draft.
He's a great receiver for his size and can run the ball with fluidity. He can do a little lead blocking, but needs some work on that front. Flowers scored 17 rushing and receiving touchdowns over his final three seasons at OU, and averaged more than 16 yards per reception on 54 catches.
He's a chess piece that would allow Dallas to be really creative in their formations.
Imagine him and Ezekiel Elliott lined up in shotgun on either side of Dak Prescott and the RPO and route options you could have with those two guys.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Well, Cowboys Nation, there you have it. The Dallas Cowboys didn't ask me, but I gave it my best shot.
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.
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.
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