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NFL Draft

Star Defensive Talent Falls to Cowboys in Latest Round of Mock Drafts

Sean Martin

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Star Defensive Talent Falls to Cowboys in Latest Round of Mock Drafts 1

Last week, I kicked off a weekly series here at Inside The Star, leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Supplementing our own draft coverage with a look at prospects the national media has landing in Dallas should give Cowboys Nation a better understanding of the scenarios that exist with the Cowboys holding the 19th overall pick.

Michigan DT Maurice Hurst remains a frequently mocked player for the Cowboys, as the top 3T available in this draft was Bleacher Report's pick for Dallas last week.

With the NFL Scouting Combine being the next major event on the draft schedule, pre-Combine mock drafts continue to feature the Dallas Cowboys landing significant talent on defense.

CBS Sports: Derwin James, S - Florida State

R.J. White's unconventional mock draft was too good to pass up on this week, as he projected a trade for every first round pick. While the Cowboys would of course get better value out of drafting Derwin James 19th overall, White has them coming up to pick #12 for the versatile Florida State defender.

"James gives them a stud who can play closer to the line of scrimmage, and he has the size and physicality to match up with the division's great tight ends in coverage."

Staff Writer Kevin Brady scouted Derwin James recently at Slant Sports, also projecting how the defensive chess piece would fit in a new-look Cowboys secondary.

Analysis:

The Cowboys hitting on a play making safety to start off their draft would be a home run. Between now and April, the hype for new passing game coordinator Kris Richard will only grow, as the Cowboys expect even bigger things out of last year's rookies Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, and Xavier Woods.

Adding an instinctive player like James to roam around with the rest of this young and athletic secondary could truly turn the Cowboys' secondary into one of the NFL's best. Derwin James would instantly improve this team's rushing defense with his ability to sniff out plays and tackle in space, as well as the looks they can provide in coverage - seamlessly playing back against the pass with range and length.

Star Defensive Talent Falls to Cowboys in Latest Round of Mock Drafts

Draft Wire: Denzel Ward, CB - Ohio State

Analysis:

While drafting an elite safety like Derwin James would make a ton of sense for the Cowboys, adding another cornerback to this team in the first round would likely go against their belief that first-round picks must step in and start right away.

Awuzie and Lewis already project as second-year starters at CB, along with Anthony Brown and potentially even Byron Jones.

Should the Cowboys feel the need for another starting CB, Ward would be an outstanding fit. A tough-to-run-away-from defender with above average athleticism and speed, Ward may just be the missing piece for Dallas to truly lock down opposing passing offenses in 2018 and beyond.

Drafttek: Roquan Smith, LB - Georgia

With the Georgia Bulldogs playing for the National Championship this season, Roquan Smith is a player getting plenty of early hype as a top LB prospect.

Drafttek's Long Ball writes:

"Jaylon Smith is a beginning of a youth movement in the LB corps and he displayed promise in 2017. Smith (Roquan) would be an excellent continuance of that movement, as demonstrated by his sideline-to-sideline range."

Analysis:

The Cowboys' vision of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith lining up alongside each other at linebacker may finally come true in 2018, but a better contingency plan is needed behind the 31-year old Lee.

Roquan Smith, a long shot to reach the Cowboys' first round pick, would be much more than just a backup plan. With the ability to play all three LB positions, Smith could contribute right away at MIKE or SAM in certain defensive packages.

Projecting best as a WILL, where Smith masterfully puts all of his traits on full display to find the football and finish, Smith should be looked at as a future replacement for Sean Lee if he ends up in the silver and blue.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

After two weeks of this ongoing series, six different defenders have been mocked to the Dallas Cowboys by various national outlets. Nearly every player's ranking is set to change following the Combine, but for now you get a sense of the talent that the Cowboys have to choose from in the 2018 draft class.

With no pressing need for a new starter at any position on defense, these mock drafts have addressed all three levels of Rod Marinelli's group - with secondary players making an appearance this week.

Derwin James, Denzel Ward, and Roquan Smith would all make their presence felt early and often should the Cowboys come calling.

Tell us what you think about "Star Defensive Talent Falls to Cowboys in Latest Round of Mock Drafts" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Pleasant NJ, no we're not how you think we are. Host of "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. You may @ me: @SeanMartinNFL.

NFL Draft

Sean’s Scout: Florida DT Taven Bryan A Disruptive Target for Cowboys

Sean Martin

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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.

Bryan2 - Streamable

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"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.

Bryan1 - Streamable

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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.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Florida DT Taven Bryan A Disruptive Target for Cowboys" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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NFL Draft

2018 NFL Draft: How Early Should Cowboys Consider Tight End?

Sean Martin

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Looking on the Bright Side of an Ugly Dallas Cowboys Loss
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Geoff Swaim

Dallas Cowboys TE 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.

Tell us what you think about "2018 NFL Draft: How Early Should Cowboys Consider Tight End?" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!


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NFL Draft

The 1 Player Cowboys Should Consider Trading Up For

Kevin Brady

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1

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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