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NFL Draft

This Late Round Linebacker Could Be a Steal for the Dallas Cowboys

John Williams

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Late Round Linebacker Could Be a Steal for the Dallas Cowboys

In all of the discussions covering the NFL draft, linebacker hasn't really been discussed as much of a need, and for good reason. The Nerve. Who knew a nerve could get so much play in the media? With the optimism that Jaylon Smith is set to make his NFL debut in 2017, the linebacker position hasn't been talked about much this offseason.

The Cowboys actually have a pretty good group there:

That's a versatile, solid group. Not great, but solid, and it provides a lot of special teams snaps between Hitchens, Wilson, and Wilber. So, not surprisingly, linebacker isn't a priority for this team, and I don't think it should be.

That being said, there is a linebacker that will likely be available in the sixth round that could provide more depth and a knack for making plays on the football.

University of Oklahoma Linebacker, Jordan Evans.

He's been sort of the forgotten man coming into the draft out of OU with players like Joe Mixon, Dede Westbrook, and Samaje Perine stealing the headlines (for a variety of reasons), but Jordan Evans could be an instant playmaker who could fit in a variety of situations for the Dallas Cowboys.

You can read Jordan Evans' bio from SoonerSports.com here. Here's a draft profile from the Crimson and Cream Machine, and one from Lance Zierlein at NFL.com.

A few statistical notes on Evans:

  • Started 36 of 37 games his final three seasons at OU.
  • During his senior season he racked up 98 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss, four interceptions (which he returned for 145 yards - 36.25 yards per return), 3.5 sacks, and eight pass breakups.
  • His four interceptions tied him for 26th in the NCAA.
  • He was tied with potential first round defensive backs Cordrea Tankersley, Gareon Conley, Teez Tabor, and Marshon Lattimore.
  • Those four interceptions led the Sooners in 2016.
  • Of his four interceptions, he returned two for touchdowns, including one for 80 yards.
  • First team All-Big 12 in 2016.
  • Second Team All-Big 12 in 2015.
  • Academic All-Big 12 honors in 2014.

As someone who watched a lot of OU football over the last several years, I noticed something that is probably the strength of Jordan Evans. He shows an innate ability to be around the football in the passing game. He shows good awareness in his zone drops and is able to match up with tight ends.

But, there are reasons that a lot of analysts have him available after the fifth round.

I believe that his tape is hurt by several factors that also contributed to Charles Tapper being a fourth round pick; scheme and the offensive nature of the big 12.

He is a versatile linebacker who would be an excellent addition for the Cowboys nickel scheme.

He played light at 233 in a pass-heavy Big 12 Conference, but could add some weight to his 6'2" frame to play the strong side for the Cowboys. His ability to play coverage could open up opportunities for Jaylon Smith to line up on the EDGE and rush or send Orlando Scandrick from the slot on the blitz more often.

The Dallas Cowboys have shown a penchant for drafting linebackers.

In Jason Garrett's six drafts since taking over as head coach in 2011, the Cowboys have selected nine linebackers. At least one in every draft. Those selections have been made throughout the draft (aside from the first round).

If they continue to follow that trend of drafting a linebacker, Evans could be a steal in the sixth round.


I didn't start out as a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quickly as I could. I grew up a Joe Montana fan when he was with the 49ers and followed him to the Chiefs, until we moved to Texas. I've now been a Fan of the Boys since the Dark Days of the Post-Aikman, Pre-Romo era of abysmal quarterback play, now relishing in more than a decade of franchise quarterbacking for America's Team.

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3 Comments
  • Randy Martin

    I have to admit , I’ve been studying the players in the draft pretty hard with a focus on need and surprised I haven’t heard his name come up. I know LB has not been a great need but I think it’s a quiet need (based on what happens with Jaylon Smith) . Those are pretty solid numbers. He’s a bit light but not that light. Sounds like a consideration but I haven’t seen his tape.

    • John Williams

      To be honest I forgot about him a bit too until I was doing some mock drafts on Fanspeak.com. He kept coming up as a possibility n the 6th round. If they are looking at drafting a linebacker to add depth, he could be a great addition for the team. Played mostly in the middle, but has the athletic ability to learn the outside as well. I think his best attribute to the team would be to line up in the nickel with Sean Lee and cover the middle of the field. Most of his INTs and PBUs came as he dropped into his zone. Has good instincts in zone coverage, something I think that Anthony Hitchens is lacking a bit.

    • John Williams

      To be honest, I’m not really one that studies tape, just remember from watching OU during the season. Was always around the football when it was thrown into his zone, which was a lot.

      His best attribute in the NFL will be in his zone pass coverage. I think it’s elite. I think he has good instincts for being around the ball and anticipating where the quarterback is looking to go with the football.

      He is a bit limited in the run game, but also doesn’t have a ton of work against it coming from the big 12.

      I think he would be best suited as s nickel line backer where he can drop into the middle zone. He may be no more than depth for the Cowboys, but I think his passing game anticipation would be an upgrade over Hitchens.

NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?

Kevin Brady

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2018 NFL Combine: 3 LBs Who Impressed
Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

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.

Cowboys Land Small School WR In Latest PFF Mock Draft

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 1: DUPLICATE***Colorado State Rams wide receiver Michael Gallup (4) picks up a few yards after catch as Colorado Buffaloes defensive back Isaiah Oliver (26) comes in for the tackle during the first quarter on September 1, 2017 in Denver, Colorado at Sports Authority Field. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post)

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.


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NFL Draft

Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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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.

Cowboys en Español: Dallas Selecciona a Vander Esch, ¿Quién Sigue?

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?

Dallas Cowboys Add Depth on Day 3, Building Future with Young Starters 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.

Tell me what you think about "Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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NFL Draft

Why Cowboys Nation Should Feel Better About Leighton Vander Esch

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Why Cowboys Nation Should Feel Better About Leighton Vander Esch
Loren Orr / Getty Images

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.

Drew Davison on Twitter

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.

Tell me what you think about "Why Cowboys Nation Should Feel Better About Leighton Vander Esch" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


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