The 2018 Senior Bowl is now behind us, as the draft process pushes on toward the NFL Scouting Combine. Another great week from Mobile, Alabama produced a 45-16 victory on Saturday for the South squad.
The great thing about the Senior Bowl is that it's played early enough in this process for scouts and draft analysts to see players they haven't yet studied. Players that put themselves on the national radar in front of hundreds of scouts and writers will have the draft community returning home from Mobile rushing to get to the tape.
After watching this game and following along with the practices earlier in the week, here are three players Cowboys Nation should familiarize themselves with as potential targets for the Dallas Cowboys in April.
OL Alex Cappa, Humboldt State
It's often the small school players who can help themselves the most at the Senior Bowl, and this was the case for Humboldt State Lineman Alex Cappa. Playing Division II football for the Lumberjacks, Cappa was an offensive tackle in college who likely found his next home at guard this week.
They're moving Alex Cappa all over the offensive line today. He's now at right guard. Has also played left guard and left tackle.
This type of flexibility is exactly what the Cowboys need to add depth to their offensive line, as are the tenaciousness and edge Cappa plays with on every snap. Measuring in at 6055 (6' 5 5/8") with an arm length of 33 1/8", Cappa started off his week well in shorts and a t-shirt in front of scouts... then the pads came on.
In Saturday's game, Cappa's raw strength stood out to me. The punch he plays with in his hands is outstanding, and suits him well at guard. Cappa plays with terrific balance and a light base that allows him to get movement up the field.
The Cowboys may very well prioritize adding another offensive lineman in the draft as early as their 19th overall pick. With a lot of offseason left until Dallas hosts the 2018 Draft though, a positive outlook on Left Tackle Tyron Smith and a new contract for Left Guard Jonathan Cooper could push the need for OL depth down the board.
Likely waiting for them in the second or even third round will be Alex Cappa, who did nothing but help his draft stock at the Senior Bowl.
WR D.J. Chark, LSU
ITS Staff Writer Brian Martin already profiled Chark as a potential Cowboys draft target a few weeks ago here at Inside The Star. With five catches for a game-high 160 receiving yards, and a 75-yard touchdown in the Senior Bowl, Chark and the rest of the wide receivers in Mobile proved how deep this class of pass catchers is.
This, from Brian's report, shows why he would be a nice fit with the Cowboys:
"Chark has strong, reliable hands and a large catch radius. He’s a solid route runner, but could stand to improve in this area once he’s in the NFL. He has the speed to take the top off of defenses and also used that speed on jet sweeps and reverses. He also wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work in the blocking game, showing pretty good technique."
The Cowboys' need for an overhaul at wide receiver has been one of the team's hottest topics this offseason. The amount of talent that's available throughout this draft would deter me adding a WR to this roster in the first round, as both outside starters, Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams, are already under contract -- along with Cole Beasley.
Chark could be the perfect target for the 50th overall pick, a 6025 (6' 2 5/8") receiver with 9 1/4" hands that effortlessly caught the ball down field all week.
@LSUfootball WR D.J. Chark gets loose on a deep ball from Virginia QB Kurt Benkert. #SeniorBowl https://t.co/aPa0InjAIv
Hindered by poor quarterback play in college at LSU, the traits are there -- along with the Senior Bowl production -- for Chark to rise up draft boards and become a solid starter as a Z-receiver to start his NFL career.
DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
Few players came into the Senior Bowl with as much buzz as UTSA pass rusher Marcus Davenport, who was already on many Cowboys' fans radar. For those following the draft closely, you've likely heard that Davenport would be a long shot to make it to the Cowboys' first pick, followed by overblown reactions to some of his practice struggles this week.
In that report, you'll see that I made sure to mention how raw of a prospect DE Marcus Davenport is. This is a key piece of figuring out this player that was apparently lost to many members of the media covering the action from Mobile.
Consistently rushing with his hand in the ground for the first time ever (playing in a two-point stance at UTSA), while receiving NFL level coaching, Davenport improved with each day of practice heading into yesterday's game.
Flashing on a number of rushes in the actual Senior Bowl, Davenport closed out his week with a sack of Baker Mayfield, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
All 6057 (6' 5 7/8") of Marcus Davenport would look great in silver and blue.
Not locking himself into the top-15 picks with this week's performance -- however much you choose to believe that narrative -- could be just what the Cowboys need to land their next fearsome pass rusher opposite DeMarcus Lawrence.
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With draft season now in full swing, be sure to click over to Slant Sports for further scouting coverage. I will continue to highlight draft targets for the Dallas Cowboys right here at Inside The Star as their full reports go up at Slant Sports.
Sean’s Scout: Florida DT Taven Bryan A Disruptive Target for Cowboys
By now you know that the Dallas Cowboys have not prioritized the defensive tackle position at the Draft in some time, a point made prominent with the amount of talent available at DT in this 2018 class.
Despite not being as high on him as most, Florida's Taven Bryan would fit what the Cowboys are doing defensively under Rod Marinelli very well. Bryan is a disruptive player at the 3T position, where the Cowboys currently have a decision to make on RFA David Irving.
Even if Irving and Maliek Collins are back in the fold for 2018, Taven Bryan would be a great addition to this front seven - thanks to his raw athleticism and motor.
Let's take a closer look at how Bryan fits the Cowboys' defense.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
"Bryan excels at not giving his man much of a blocking surface area – playing with good pad level and impressive bend for a DT."
This film clip and quote comes from my full scouting report on Florida's Taven Bryan at Slant Sports. Far from a finished product, Bryan shoots gaps and beats guards off of the line with ease. This is a player with rare traits at the 3T position, bending well while playing with enough strength throughout his entire frame.
"Using a smooth upper body paired with quick footwork and burst, Bryan is frequently shooting gaps to finish in the backfield."
When I watched Taven Bryan, I was reminded of current Cowboys DT Maliek Collins in 2016. As a rookie, Collins played the penetrating 3T spot with similar burst and power.
With the Cowboys now preferring Collins at the 1T position, Bryan could fill in on day one as an interior force with the upside to become one of the league's best match up weapons up front.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
Unless a blocker across from Bryan works quickly into his frame, this is a player that is going to generate push and flow to the football with elite speed and balance.
"Taven Bryan allows his frame to be controlled too often, effectively getting washed out of any play where his blocker can squat against the speed rush and shoot their hands inside on Bryan."
Cowboys Defensive End DeMarcus Lawrence proved that he is the "alpha" of this defensive line in 2017. Building this unit around Lawrence will yield positive results for the Cowboys, especially if they can find a long-term 3T to play alongside him.
One with as high of a ceiling as Taven Bryan becomes an intriguing option, especially considering the Cowboys' ability to play him in a rotation early in his career.
"Unleashing Taven Bryan as a gap-shooting 3T DT is the best way to see this prospect reach his ceiling..."
The Cowboys' 19th overall pick may be a bit rich for Taven Bryan, but this is a prospect to look for in the second round, where Dallas holds the 50th overall pick. A second round DT on my 2018 NFL Draft Board, Bryan should outplay his draft status regardless of the pick if put in the right situation to use traits that would greatly help the Dallas Cowboys.
2018 NFL Draft: How Early Should Cowboys Consider Tight End?
With Tight End Jason Witten set to enter his 16th season for the Dallas Cowboys, it has become an annual offseason tradition to discuss the team's need for young talent at TE. In a down year for the entire Cowboys offense, Witten caught the fewest passes (63) he has since 2003 - his rookie year.
Since 2003, the Cowboys have drafted seven tight ends, most of which suffering the same fate in Dallas. Playing behind the future first-ballot Hall of Fame TE in Witten, the only players that have sustained any success behind him remain current tight ends James Hanna and Geoff Swaim.
A sixth and seventh round pick respectively, Hanna and Swaim don't exactly excite anyone expecting the Cowboys to upgrade their passing game in 2018 and beyond for Quarterback Dak Prescott.
For all of the buzz about the Cowboys using their current 19th overall pick on a WR (a decision I would be against), where is the ideal spot in this draft to target a TE?
This year's draft class at TE is a top-heavy one, with some big time pass catchers available at the top of it. If the Cowboys are serious about adding a legitimate middle-of-the-field threat on offense, they could consider the likes of Dallas Goedert, Mike Gesicki, or Ian Thomas with the 50th overall pick in the second round.
Of course, Cowboys Nation continues to hold out hope for Rico Gathers to revolutionize the TE position in Dallas as their last pick in the 2016 draft, but the Baylor basketball convert has done little to prove he's motivated to rise up the depth chart anytime soon.
Doug Nussmeier is the Cowboys' third TE coach in as many seasons, joining the staff for 2018 with no previous experience in this coaching role specifically. Nussmeier does bring extensive experience alongside Cowboys OC Scott Linehan, as well as nine years as an OC himself with Fresno State, Washington, Alabama, Michigan, and Florida.
It is safe to say that Nussmeier understands the importance of the TE position for a QB, especially a young one like Prescott - who has inconsistently used Jason Witten as the "security blanket" he became known as under Tony Romo.
If recent draft history holds up, the Cowboys will wait until the later rounds to possibly address tight end. The impact a top player from this class could immediately have in Dallas needs to be considered though, making TE an intriguing draft need as early as the second or third rounds.
The 1 Player Cowboys Should Consider Trading Up For
The Dallas Cowboys enter the 2018 NFL Draft needing help in multiple areas. Of course, they could use new blood on the interior of their defensive line, in their linebacker corps, and in their receiver room. Their most important need to fill in the first round, however, seems to be left guard.
If the Cowboys could find an immediate starter at left guard, a dominant player who can function as an effective run blocker and allow Dak Prescott to trust his left side once again, their offense would be back in business. We typically think of the Cowboys offense, and their line in particular, as a strength. But down the stretch in 2017 that simply wasn't the case.
As I've discussed before, there should be realistic options available with the 19th overall selection, particularly Georgia guard Isiah Wynn. There is one player in this NFL Draft class they should consider moving up for if the price is right, though.
That player is Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson.
Make no mistake, Quenton Nelson is the best prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft class. He is a massive, yet athletic interior offensive lineman who cemented himself as the best guard in college football during his senior season with the Fighting Irish.
Nelson plays with an edge that you love from offensive linemen, especially from those you will be asking to run block often. He doesn't just open holes, he embarrasses defensive tackles. He doesn't just smartly use body positioning and footwork, he finishes his blocks and snatches souls. Plus, he shows the athleticism and agility to get to the second level to seal off linebackers.
Quenton Nelson works well in pass protection as well. Often labeled a weakness in his game coming out of high school, Nelson has shown vast improvements in his footwork, awareness, and balance in his pass set while at Notre Dame. He would be a day one starter in Dallas, and would take the Cowboys' offensive line back to their 2014-2016 form.
But how realistic is it that the Cowboys would move up for Nelson?
Well, not very realistic at all. In fact, I'd say it's more likely the Cowboys move back to take Will Hernandez or Isaiah Wynn than it is they give away future assets in such a Day Two-rich draft. If, for some reason, Quenton Nelson falls to around the 12th overall pick however, there could be an opening for the Cowboys to come up and snag him.
I don't condone trading up often whatsoever, but Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson leads a very short list of players I'd move up for if I were the Cowboys. Trading up for a guard seems like flawed logic, but considering the importance and impact he would have for this team, Quenton Nelson is well worth it.
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