We are officially in the offseason, which means it is draft and free agency season. Over the next few weeks, there will be a lot of talk and preparation for the start of the NFL's free agency period starting March 13th. Probably the thing that gets people more excited is the NFL draft.
Google mock drafts, and you will find countless reports and attempts at analyzing what could happen when the 32 teams go on the clock come April.
With the Dallas Cowboys not owning a first round pick in this year's draft, the projections get even more complicated as they'll have to see 57 players go off the board before making their choice at number 58. So much can change between now and then that attempting to figure out who the Cowboys will take is a really difficult exercise.
What I want to do, is look at who has recently been mocked to the Dallas Cowboys.
Charles Omenihu, DT, Texas
In Easterling's most recent four round mock draft, he sent the Dallas Cowboys some interior defensive line help. As shown by the Cowboys loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round of the playoffs, they could use the help.
As a senior, Omenihu recorded 9.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss to go with his 45 total tackles. To be that productive along the interior in the pass happy, spread heavy Big 12 is a huge accomplishment. He looks to have the size that Dallas could slot in as a 3-technique defensive tackle at 6-6 275. His length would cause a lot of problems on the interior.
Gerald Willis, DT, Miami
In this seven round mock draft simulation by Draftek, they find the Dallas Cowboys an interior defensive lineman as well in the form of Gerald Willis of Miami. Here's what their Dallas Cowboys analyst "Long Ball" had to say about Willis.
"Gerald Willis displayed flashes at Miami: explosive first step, utilization of hands and power in swim move, relentless pursuit with straight-line speed to chase plays down from the back side, and physicality in his tackling technique. Areas that need improvement: staying low to play with leverage, consistency with hand placement, and mental recognition of blocking. Off-the-field issues led to a transfer from Florida and he took a year off in 2017 while at Miami. I don't know if this will "Red Flag" him on the Dallas board, but if it does, I know the Cowboys visited with DT's DeMarcus Christmas (Florida State) and Greg Gaines (Washington) during the Senior Bowl."
Long Ball - Draftek
Willis was only a one-year player at Miami, but came up with a nice senior season where he racked up four sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He's likely a raw player that needs some refining, but with Rod Marinelli around he could bring out the best in a player that has the size to be disruptive on the interior.
Renell Wren, DT, Arizona State
Dane Brugler over at The Athletic is also thinking interior defensive line for the Cowboys as he projected Renell Wren from Arizona State University to your Dallas Cowboys. Here's what he had to say:
"With David Irving an afterthought and Maliek Collins entering the final year of his deal, defensive tackle is likely to be high on Dallas’ early round wish list."
Dane Brugler - The Athletic
Like Omenihu, Wren is big at 6-6, but comes in more than 20 pounds heavier than the Texas product. His size makes him more of a run stuffing 1-technique defensive tackle spot for the Cowboys and should help their interior rush and run defense, which would make life easier on Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esh at the second level.
He wasn't nearly as productive as Omenihu, as he never had more than 1.5 sacks in a season at Arizona State.
Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford
Luke Easterling of The Draft Wire put together a three-round mock draft back in the middle of January and sent the Dallas Cowboys a tight end in the form of Stanford product Kaden Smith. Smith caught 47 passes for 637 yards and two touchdowns in 2018 after catching 23 passes for 414 yards and five touchdowns in 2017. He averaged 15 yards per reception in his two-year career at Stanford. Those numbers on the surface may not look very impressive, but remember that Stanford is one of the more run-heavy teams in college football, which means fewer opportunities for their pass catchers.
Like former teammate now Dallas Cowboys Tight End Dalton Schultz, Smith will come into the NFL with a more well-rounded game than many other college tight ends. He would have been asked to be a blocker pretty regularly in Stanford's offense, which gives him a leg up in adapting to the NFL game.
Tight end is going to be a popular selection for those doing mock drafts for the Dallas Cowboys as it's a position that has a some potential in Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz, but is by no means solidified. It's an excellent draft to take a tight end as there are usable options as late as the fifth round in this year's group.
Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M
Another mock draft and another tight end. This time it's Aggie Tight End Jace Sternberger being mocked to the Dallas Cowboys at 58 by Chad Reuter of NFL.com.
Sternberger is becoming one of my favorite tight ends in the class. Sternberger looks strong and able to run good routes, especially down field. He is a big play threat that averaged 17.3 yards per reception this season for the Aggies. He caught 48 passes for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Reuter references the absence of Jason Witten in the Cowboys passing game and that certainly made a difference. However, we saw how much could be improved with the addition of Amari Cooper.
Reuter's three round mock provides another pass catching option in the third round to the Cowboys, though this one is less exciting.
Oshane Ximenes, DE, Old Dominion
In his two round mock draft released earlier in the week, Ben Standig of NBC Sports had the Cowboys selecting Defensive End Oshane Ximenes from Old Dominion. Standig cites the looming free agency of DeMarcus Lawrence and likely departure of David Irving -- though we know Irving to be more of a tackle -- as his reasons for using the 58th pick in the draft on an edge rusher.
We know that DeMarcus Lawrence is going to be back. Combine that with the emergence of Randy Gregory in the 2019 season and it makes defensive end much less of a priority in the draft.
It's an interesting use of the Cowboys first selection in the 2019 NFL Draft with DeMarcus Lawrence set to return and the emergence of Randy Gregory.
Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
Over at SB Nation, they continued the trend with the Dallas Cowboys selecting defense first in the second round in the form of Mississippi State Safety Johnathan Abram. Here's what Dan Kadar had to say about the player.
"The Cowboys might not have a first-round pick this year, but Abram has the traits of one. He loves to crack receivers coming over the middle and is aggressive coming up to play the run."
Dan Kadar - SB Nation
Safety is certainly an area where the Dallas Cowboys could improve. Despite some playmaking and otherwise solid play from Jeff Heath, they need to look to upgrade that position. They'll have a chance to do so in free agency with names like Earl Thomas, Landon Collins, Tre Boston, and Tyrann Mathieu available, but if they don't go that route, Abram sounds like a good fit to play with Xavier Woods who is more the free safety type.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
With this NFL Draft being so loaded with defensive lineman and tight end, it's very likely that is where the Cowboys will look to allocate one of their first couple of picks. Depending on what happens with Wide Receiver Cole Beasley in free agency, you could see wide receiver move up the position needs rankings. If they're able to get him to return, it would become unlikely that the Cowboys would use pick number 58 on a wide receiver.
We still have nearly three months till the NFL Draft and it's already shaping up to be another nice April for the Dallas Cowboys.
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.
Pre-Combine Position Rankings: Sorting Out The Tight Ends
It's pretty much universally agreed that the Dallas Cowboys have a need for a starting tight end, particularly one who can stretch the field as a receiving threat.
Despite not having a first round pick, this class should give the Cowboys an opportunity to add tight end talent to their roster through the NFL Draft.
Will that be TE1 talent, though? Or will it just be another replacement-level tight end on a roster which already seems full of them?
Let's get into my top 5 tight ends of this 2019 class, and see what they could potentially bring to the Cowboys this season and beyond.
1. TJ Hockenson, Iowa
The clear TE1 in this class is TJ Hockenson. The 2018 John Mackey Award winner earned his way to the top of this list with his versatility, lining up in-line and as a slot receiver for Iowa during his college career.
At 6'5" 243 pounds, Hockenson looks like he was made in a tight-end producing lab, and he has the athleticism and ability to maximize his build.
In the run game TJ Hockenson is a good blocker, showcasing excellent effort and competitiveness through his blocks. A technical route runner with good hands, a plus-catch radius, and legitimate yards-after-catch ability, Hockenson has a chance to be the very first offensive skill player off the board this Spring.
2. Noah Fant, Iowa
Hockenson's teammate at Iowa, Noah Fant, comes in at number two on my tight end rankings. While Hockenson is the more well-rounded of the two players, Fant certainly has more athletic upside. I expect him to test better than Hockenson will at the combine, and has the receiving skills to be a real threat at the next level.
Noah Fant fits the bill for a modern NFL tight end, flexing out wide and threatening defenses vertically with his receiving ability. A long player with good route running ability and speed, Fant is able to create separation against defensive backs in a variety of ways.
Fant is far from a one-trick pony, and would be an excellent addition to a Cowboys offense which is yearning for this type of flex-threat from the tight end position.
Unfortunately, he won't last anywhere near 58th overall.
3. Irv Smith Jr., Alabama
Can I interest you in a tight end who averaged 16.3 yards per catch and scored 7 touchdowns last season? If so, meet Alabama's Irv Smith Jr.
Smith is the number three tight end on my board entering the combine, and I really don't expect him to drop whatsoever in the coming months. Smith is an athletic player who runs good routes and offers excellent run blocking ability. He's not as refined as Hockenson nor as athletic/explosive as Fant, but he combines the in-line and flex abilities of the two to a certain extent.
Smith is the first somewhat-plausible target for the Cowboys on this list, though I'd still be surprised if he lasted until 58th overall.
4. Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M
Jace Sternberger came out of nowhere last season at Texas A&M. Relatively unknown before the 2018 season, Sternberger finished the year with 800+ yards and 10 touchdowns on 48 catches, and earned All-American honors for his production.
Now he has a chance to be a second round pick in the 2019 draft, and is finding himself mocked to the Cowboys by many major draft media outlets. Sternberger fits the prototype of the modern receiving tight end, with better speed and hands than most others in his class. Though he is still raw in many areas, his upside is intriguing, and there's no doubt he's a pretty good player as is.
Like the first three, it's hard to imagine I will move Sternbeger any lower than fourth in this class, and he is a legitimate option for the Cowboys 58th overall.
5. Isaac Nauta, Georgia
While the first four tight ends on this list will make their money with their passing game production, Georgia's Isaac Nauta looks like more of an old-school run blocker. Nauta is right up there with any tight end in this class in terms of blocking, and would be an immediate contributor to the Cowboys' run game in that area.
He's still growing in multiple areas as a receiver, however, such as his route running and yards-after-catch ability. Still, I think Nauta is much better as a receiver than his college production would suggest. He, like others in that talented Georgia offense, got lost in the shuffle a bit, and didn't get the number of targets he could have seen elsewhere.
There's a real possibility Nauta is available at 58 when the Cowboys pick, and I wouldn't be surprised if he were the pick either.
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Will Cowboys OT La’el Collins Be a 2019 Salary Cap Casualty?
Dallas Cowboys6 days ago
3 Free Agent Targets for the Dallas Cowboys Offense
Player News2 weeks ago
A Lot Had to Happen for Amari Cooper to Join the Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
2019 Player Watch: Cowboys Should Keep an eye on Kyle Rudolph’s Situation
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Will Cowboys S Jeff Heath Be a 2019 Salary Cap Casualty?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Will Cowboys WR Terrance Williams Be a 2019 Salary Cap Casualty?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
5 Pre-draft Moves Cowboys Should Consider Making in Free Agency
Star Blog1 week ago
3 Uncertainties Surrounding The Cowboys Offseason