After the dust settled on the 2016 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys received mixed reactions from fans and critics alike.
Many detractors pointed to the obvious right away -- the team's largest flaws didn't seem to be addressed. Rather than select defensive play makers in the early rounds who could provide an immediate impact, the team's first two picks were spent on a running back and a luxury pick of Jaylon Smith, who will miss all of 2016 due to a severe knee injury.
Then came the rest of the offseason from hell.
Suspensions and injuries plagued the team, crippling what was already presumed to be an underwhelming defensive unit. The backup quarterback position wasn't directly addressed with a veteran free agent until Kellen Moore went down with an injury, and many didn't seem to view Dak Prescott as a franchise guy. His fourth round draft selection indicated that.
Many began to view the Dallas offseason as one of the team's worst in recent memory. When Tony Romo went down with another significant injury, all hope seemed to be lost.
Fast forward to week six of the NFL season and things couldn't be better.
The Cowboys are 4-1, and all of a sudden a serious early contender in the NFC. The team is much more than just an early surprise.
It may be premature, but the 2016 draft class deserves much of the credit. Just how great is this draft group, and where can they potentially rank in the franchise's history? As of now, this class has the potential to be near the top when all is said and done.
Whenever a team lands a potential franchise quarterback, their draft class immediately gains significant credibility. Just look at both the 1964 and 1989 drafts for the Cowboys, both of which are easily the best in franchise history. Roger Staubach was selected in the 10th round and Troy Aikman was selected with the first overall pick in their respective years.
It doesn't matter how you get there, as long as the franchise quarterback is taken at some point.
In a QB driven league, landing a franchise guy is something that needs to be celebrated and heralded. Landing him in the fourth round is an even greater franchise achievement. Through five games, Dak Prescott appears to be an absolute steal, and the real deal.
Ezekiel Elliott is playing like the slam dunk that NFL scouts thought he would be. Offensive Rookie of The Year looks even more realistic than it did in the offseason as Zeke leads the league in rushing through five weeks. The Cowboys couldn't miss on a guy like Elliott, and even his high pick of fourth overall doesn't have many second guessing anymore.
But it doesn't just start and end with the two young offensive stars. Alone, landing both Prescott and Elliott make this draft class elite, but it has potential to go much further than that. The second round selection of Jaylon Smith could pan out down the stretch, and turn out to be a great defensive steal. He was graded by some as literally the
number one overall talent in the draft.
The thought of Dallas landing three first round talents in a single draft (Elliott, Prescott, Smith) gives me chills. But Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown cannot be overlooked either.
Brown has filled in formidably right away for an injured Orlando Scandrick, which is incredible considering his 6th round selection. Collins appears to be contributing on a very unknown defensive line as well. Add a healthy Charles Tapper into the mix down the stretch, and you could be looking at one of the most special draft classes to come through Dallas in a very long time.
Is it too early to call the 2016 Dallas Cowboys draft class one of the franchise's best? Where will this class of players be in a few years? Let us know by commenting below.
Report: Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch Visiting Cowboys
As the 2018 NFL Draft draws closer, teams are beginning to hold their official visits with prospects of their own choosing. The Cowboys have already met with a few different prospects thus far, and they've reportedly added a linebacker to that list this week.
Multiple reports are saying the Cowboys will meet with Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch this week, adding him to the list of 30 potential visits.
BoiseState LB Leighton Vander Esch will be a pre-draft visitor for the #Cowboys. Add him to your list of 30, per Tony Pauline.
Vander Esch is a bit of a controversial prospect in the draft world. As I've stated before, he tested like a freak athletically, and his combine profile alone would put him in the discussion on day one. The problems I have with Vander Esch have nothing to do with his athleticism, however, and everything to do with his actual football-playing ability.
On film, I see a player who struggles to get off blocks and will have trouble finding a home with the Cowboys. Still, I wouldn't mind the Cowboys drafting Vander Esch - that pick cannot come in the first round though.
Vander Esch is a long, rangy, and athletic linebacker who is at his best playing laterally and tracking down plays. As a blitzer, Vander Esch has some rather clear issues. He often runs directly into blocks and is unable to shed at the point of attack. I also don't think he is as instinctual a player as some of the other linebackers in this class, such as BYU's Fred Warner or Alabama's Rashaan Evans.
The way things are looking, however, Vander Esch is going to be a first round pick. And if not, he'll almost certainly be a top 50 pick. I wouldn't be very comfortable taking him at 19, and I'd have to think twice before even taking him at 50 for that matter.
2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott
With more pressing needs on offense at guard and wide receiver, and defensively at DE or LB, the Cowboys' concerning lack of proven ability at safety has taken a backseat in this offseason's roster build. With the expectation that new Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard will elevate the play of the entire Cowboys' secondary, the team is doing their due diligence on safeties available in the 2018 NFL Draft - starting with Texas' DeShon Elliott.
It appears Texas S DeShon Elliott is visiting the #Cowboys today
With 63 tackles and six interceptions in his final season at Texas, Elliott took full advantage of being a starter in the Big 12 for the first time in his career, flying onto the NFL Draft scene.
Elliott is a well-balanced, average athlete with the upside to be targeted late in April's draft and make a difference.
If they had to play a game tomorrow, the Cowboys would be rolling with Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier at safety.
Finding an expanded role this season for Frazier should be a priority in Dallas, as should supplementing Heath and Woods with additional talent. DeShon Elliott would fit this group well, along with the Cowboys' scheme, given his range and disruptive ability.
Should Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and now Byron Jones help the Cowboys reach their full potential at CB, the Cowboys safeties will not be tested in single coverage up the field often. This is an area that Elliott was exploited in at Texas plenty of times, performing better as a true free safety or second-level player.
Continuing to add young talent at the right price is key to the Cowboys' ongoing rebuild on defense, now visiting with a local safety prospect that should be available to them in the later rounds. Texas' DeShon Elliott is officially a name to consider come draft week in Dallas.
Cowboys Draft: PSU WR DaeSean Hamilton Fits Cowboys’ “Type”
Last week, I detailed what the Cowboys tend to look for when drafting a wide receiver. In terms of a combine profile, Dallas clearly has a "type" of wide-out they like to target.
The Cowboys certainly need to upgrade their receiving corps, but with the plethora of other holes to fill, they may not be able to do so until the 3rd or 4th round. Luckily for the Cowboys, there is at least one receiver which both fits their profile and should be available early on day three.
That player is Penn State wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton.
Working on something for @InsideTheStarDC... here's the height, weight, 40 time, and 3 cone for every WR DAL has taken since 2010.
First, let's re-examine what the Cowboys like to look for. As you can see from the above graphic, the Cowboys draft targets all seem to fit a similar profile. If we treat Dez Bryant as their "ideal" draft pick, the trends become even clearer. Dallas wants to find a wide-out who is about 6'1" 205 pounds, runs nearly a 4.5 40 yard dash, and about a 6.9 three come time.
DeaSean Hamilton, coincidentally, is 6'1" 203 pounds, ran a 4.47 40 yard dash at the Penn State pro day, and ran a 6.84 three cone at the combine. Penn State's all time receptions leader stole the show at the 2018 Senior Bowl, putting all of "Draft Twitter" on notice to his talent.
An efficient and smooth route runner, Hamilton looks natural coming in and out of breaks, creating separation with his precise routes. The Cowboys don't have many receivers on their roster who can win with their route running, and adding a player like Hamilton would greatly help third year quarterback Dak Prescott moving forward.
With the ability to play in the slot, as well as potentially being a Z receiver for the Cowboys and a replacement for Terrance Williams, Hamilton would be an excellent draft target in the third or fourth round. And, keeping in mind how nicely he fits their typical draft profile, I'd expect Dallas to target Hamilton during the 2018 NFL Draft.
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