It's draft week. Thursday is football Christmas, and it's practically here. The NFL Draft is finally upon us. After months of athletic and positional testing, meetings, rumors, trades, and even more rumors, we finally get to the part that makes the NFL offseason the best in any sport in the world.
The NFL Draft.
Nothing in the offseasons of the MLB, NBA, or NHL gets fans as excited and as hopeful about their team's prospects than the NFL Draft does for its fans. And to be honest, it may generate more buzz than some of those other sports during their regular season.
Think about it, how long have we the fans been talking about the draft? For some, it's always draft season. Many watch NCAA football with eyes toward their professional team as well. Some, like our very own Kevin Brady and Sean Martin, never stop scouting for the NFL Draft.
This time of year can change the fortune of a franchise for the next 15 years.
Teams picking at the top like the Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets are desperate to find their version of Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. When was the last time either of those teams had a franchise quarterback? I can't think of one.
Other teams, like the New England Patriots, are already contenders and what they do in the draft can solidify their place in the playoffs come January.
The Dallas Cowboys come into it knowing they can make their team better than it was the year prior. Though there are areas of concern, the Cowboys and every other team know that if they can find three or four guys to come in and make year-one contributions, it can really help further their team.
The Cowboys, unlike the Browns, are much closer to the New England end of the contention spectrum and need to add just a couple of pieces to put their team in a position to make the playoffs and contend for a Super Bowl.
But for every team, this is the time of year to sell hope to your fan base.
The New York Jets may not make the playoffs in 2018, and we know they won't win the division as long as Tom Brady is around, but they can take a significant step this season if the cards fall right and they get the quarterback they want.
It's a perfect year to be a quarterback-needy team. There are five guys who scouts, both in the media and in front offices, are seeing as potential franchise quarterbacks. Throw in Mason Rudolph, who is the forgotten man in this deep quarterback class, and you have the makings of the next crop of franchise signal callers.
The NFL Draft is upon us. Last season is over. What happened doesn't matter. One draft can change the fortune of your franchise for a decade.
We didn't know what we had when the Dallas Cowboys drafted Dak Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. It's rare for a franchise to go from one franchise signal caller to another without a few years of quarterback purgatory. Remember after Troy Aikman went down in 2000?
The cornucopia of bad quarterbacking that followed made us feel like we'd never find a franchise quarterback again. That was until UDFA Tony Romo finally broke through in the middle of the 2006 season.
That's how important the 2016 draft was. The team was able to smoothly transition from Tony Romo to Dak Prescott, win 13 games and earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. If not for Cowboys-Killer Aaron Rodgers, they quite possibly make it to the NFC Championship that season. Then who knows what happens.
Include Maliek Collins, Jaylon Smith, Kavon Frazier, Anthony Brown, and Ezekiel Elliott and they were able to find six guys who have been contributors for this team in their first couple of seasons, and the 2016 draft was huge for this franchise. That's what a good draft can mean for your favorite franchise.
Conversely, a bad draft can set a team back for a long time.
The Denver Broncos are still trying to recover from the Josh McDaniels' selection of Tim Tebow in the first round in 2010. Eight years later they still have yet to find a franchise signal caller. Sure they were able to win a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning, but they are back to the bottom of the league and drafting fifth overall this season because they don't have a quarterback worthy of that All-World defense.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The NFL Draft is an amazing time of year and it's been fun preparing with each of you in Cowboys Nation. There's no telling which draft-eligible players will be wearing The Star this training camp, but we know the Dallas Cowboys have really found their stride when it comes to the draft.
I hope everyone has a good time this week as you watch the 2018 NFL Draft. There's no other sporting event quite like it.
Cowboys Draft Target: Kentucky CB Lonnie Johnson Jr.
Since Kris Richard has taken over the back-end of the Dallas Cowboys defense, they have clearly shown a bias towards a "type" of cornerback. Richard, looking to build this Dallas unit in a similar form to his Seattle teams, has prioritized long corners both in height and arm length.
As his responsibilities within the organization increase, it's only fair to expect Kris Richard to have more say in who the Cowboys' defense acquires in terms of talent. This means we should anticipate more defensive backs who fit his type, such as Kentucky Wildcats cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr.
So why does Lonnie Johnson fit the mold of what Kris Richard tends to look for? Well, for starters, he is 6'3" and 206 lbs with 32 1/4" arms. He's a long corner with excellent size and the trait profile which indicates he could be the perfect candidate to play cornerback in Dallas.
But while he might look great on paper, the tape is always the most important factor for evaluating and projecting talent. And, for Johnson, the tape isn't all-that great. Despite his length, Johnson struggled mightily in press-man coverage at Kentucky. Too often he is late or ineffective with his hands, leaving him susceptible to being blown by by the opposing receiver. He often loses balance due to poor footwork, and is rather average with his hips and quick change of direction.
Where Johnson was his best in college was in zone coverage, playing his deep third of Kentucky's cover-three look. Rarely did he allow receivers behind him in zone coverage, and displayed good instincts when deciding whether to jump routes or play more conservatively when playing in that deep third. He was not nearly as comfortable underneath, and Kentucky didn't ask him to play in that role too often. Because of how big he is, Johnson is able to contest at the catch point regularly, yet he only deflected 9 passes in 2 years.
What gives me the most hope for Lonnie Johnson as a prospect (besides his length) is his Senior Bowl performance. Johnson impressed daily at the Senior Bowl, looking more comfortable in man coverage and playing much better in his press technique.
Was this Johnson becoming more comfortable over time and a sign of things to come at the next level, or was it an anomaly that we shouldn't read too much into? The answer to that question is up to the individual teams, but his combine performance will play a huge role in how those teams answer.
As I've discussed already, Lonnie Johnson Jr. fits what Kris Richard tends to look for in his cornerbacks. He is long, tall, and relatively athletic, making him a clay piece for a coach like Richard to develop.
The question is, however, how much development can really occur? The highs for Johnson are rather high when he maximizes his natural abilities on the field. But too often he is sloppy in technique, or looks lost in man coverage. Whether or not Richard can "fix" Johnson completely may never be seen, but teams (especially this one) could fall in love with him as a prospect for what he can become if it all comes together.
Cowboys Draft Target: Oklahoma Sooners RB Rodney Anderson
NAME: Rodney Anderson
CONFERENCE: Big 12
POSITION: Running Back
CLASS: RS Junior
JERSEY: No. 24
RECRUITMENT RATING: 4-star
Rodney Anderson || 2017-18 Highlights ᴴᴰ || Oklahoma Like, Comment, and Subscribe for More! Follow my Instagram: @szhighlights Songs: - "Don't Know Me" by Trae Tha Truth - "Better Days" by Trae Tha Truth I do not own any of these highlights or music clips.
Before we get into the player, we should really try to get to know Rodney Anderson the person. He attended Katy High School in Katy, Texas, one of the powerhouse HS football programs in the state. He was a four-star recruit who received offers from Auburn, Baylor, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma. He originally committed to Texas A&M, but changed his mind and decided to go to Oklahoma instead. He had an up-and-down career on the football field at Oklahoma because of injuries, but did graduate with a degree in Arts and Sciences in May 2018 and is pursuing his Master's in Human Relations.
Rodney Anderson has the ideal size and athleticism to become a featured back in the NFL. He shows good patience and vision on film to allow his offensive lineman to secure their blocks before sticking his foot in the ground and exploding through the hole. He runs behind his pads and shows good strength, loose hips, and balance to run through arm tackles. More than capable of picking up those "dirty yards" and is surprisingly slippery as a runner in the open field.
Anderson is capable of playing in a power scheme or a zone heavy scheme like the Dallas Cowboys deploy. He has been featured in a number of rushing concepts including gap/power, read action, and power sweeps. His talent also carries over to the passing game. He possesses soft hands and looks natural catching the ball both out of the backfield and down the field as a receiver. Solid in pass protection, but this is an area of his game where he can improve.
The biggest negative about Rodney Anderson is his injury history at Oklahoma. He is basically a one-year wonder because of three separate season-ending injuries, but bad things happen in three so maybe that's behind him. Durability will be a question mark entering the NFL though.
His vision is sometimes questionable, especially on inside and outside zone reads. Has a tendency to to try to bounce runs to the outside too often or cut back too quickly. Shows good explosiveness, but only average burst through the hole. Seems to have adequate long speed on tape, but is 40 yard dash time will be heavily scrutinized if he's able to run at the NFL Scouting Combine.
In the passing game he needs to improve his route running and pass protection if he wants to be a three-down back in the NFL. The talent is there, just not the production and consistency. Will also have to prove he can be productive against stacked boxes at the next level since he rarely saw any in college due to Oklahoma's spread offense.
If the Dallas Cowboys are looking for a running back capable of being a featured back in the NFL, while also spelling Ezekiel Elliott from time to time, then Rodney Anderson is there guy. His combination of power, balance, explosiveness, and scheme diversity could come in handy as their RB2. Not only would he provide a good insurance policy if the unthinkable were to happen to Zeke, but he could take over if they decide not to give No. 21 a contract extension.
There is a lot to like about Rodney Anderson's game and his ability to contribute in the running and passing game, but he is not by any means a clean prospect. Despite his immense talent, his injury history and lack of consistency in college is bothersome. But, as a mid-round pick the reward far outweighs the risks. Paired with Elliott, the Cowboys could have a formidable one-two punch in their backfield and could pound opposing defenses into submission.
Cowboys Draft Target: South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel
Our search for a new pass catcher for the Cowboys in this years' draft class continues, this time with a wide receiver.
South Carolina's Deebo Samuel put himself on the map with a strong Sophomore season, but fell off a bit due to a severe leg injury early in 2017. After a strong 2018 campaign, and an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, Samuel has played himself back into early Day Two draft discussions.
I don't know that anyone "won" Senior Bowl week more than Deebo Samuel did this January. Samuel, who had to deal with some poor quarterback play throughout his college career, didn't get much of a break in that department either at the Senior Bowl. But, he did show out every day at practice, and seemed to go viral on Twitter at least once a day.
During his actual collegiate season, Samuel finished with 882 yards and 11 touchdowns on 62 catches, solid production especially coming off an injury and playing in a limited offense. Initially in the NFL, Samuel is going to make his money in the slot. He's a shifty yet explosive receiver type than can quickly beat defenders with his speed. He's not the speedster than someone like Marquise Brown is, but he is explosive enough in his own right, especially in terms of short-area quickness.
Samuel isn't someone who will go up and grab the ball consistently, or even make up for inaccurate throws as often as some others might be able to. But he does have reliable hands, and his ability to get open quickly and create separation should give someone like Dak Prescott easy windows to find him in for completions.
What makes Deebo Samuel so fun for me to watch, though, is his ability after the catch. Despite his lack of size, Samuel is tough as nails, and rarely defers out of bounds or avoids contact. He's built well enough to withstand that contact as well, and when he gets free, he's hard to catch and bring down.
Drafting Deebo Samuel 58th overall would be a heck of a haul for the Dallas Cowboys. In need of another playmaker in the passing game, the Cowboys could make immediate use of Samuel's talents in 2019, specifically as a slot receiver.
As has been mentioned ad nauseam, it seems unlikely that Cole Beasley will be returning to the team this season, which makes the need for a slot wide-out that much greater. Samuel has big play ability from the slot already, and has traits which project him to potentially work outside as well. If he tests well enough at the combine, reps on the outside could very well be in his future.
Samuel should be on every Cowboys fans' shortlist of draft targets in the second round this year.
Star Blog2 days ago
Acquiring Brown Will Give Dallas Twin Turbo Terrors
Player News2 weeks ago
A Lot Had to Happen for Amari Cooper to Join the Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
3 Free Agent Targets for the Dallas Cowboys Offense
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
2019 Player Watch: Cowboys Should Keep an eye on Kyle Rudolph’s Situation
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Will Cowboys S Jeff Heath Be a 2019 Salary Cap Casualty?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
How Does LB Joe Thomas Fit Into Dallas Cowboys’ 2019 Plans?
Star Blog2 weeks ago
3 Uncertainties Surrounding The Cowboys Offseason
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Cowboys C Travis Frederick Provides Update on Recovery, 2019 Return