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.
Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Why Cowboys Nation Should Feel Better About Leighton Vander Esch
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.
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.
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