The first 100 picks of the 2014 NFL Draft are in the books, but the talent well is far from dry in this deep class.
The bulk of NFL rosters are built in the final four rounds of the draft, where teams can find future starters or fill spots on special teams. Many picks won’t pan out, but the NFL is filled with third-day success stories, just ask Tom Brady, Jared Allen and the countless number of other examples.
Here is a look at the Top-10 players still available entering the fourth round today:
POST-DRAFT PRESS CONFERENCE: DeMarcus Lawrence will help Dallas Cowboys bolster defensive trenches | Secret Call from War Room | 2nd round NFL Draft 2014
IRVING — A Dallas Cowboys team that patiently sat and let talent come to them to open the 2014 NFL Draft took a much different approach on the second night.
While the selection of guard Zack Martin in the first round was hailed as a sound approach, it increased the urgency to come out of Friday night’s proceedings with a defensive lineman who could make an immediate impact.
The Dallas Cowboys wasted no time addressing what owner Jerry Jones called an acute need. The team jumped from the middle of the second round to take Boise State defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence at No. 34.
“This was a need pick,” Jones said. “The need to have a player that either could put some pressure on the outside or a unique complement, give us two players that have to be blocked.
“He was the only one left on the board we saw that could draw two blocks. The question, in my mind, was just how much you pay for it.”
The team traded its second- and third-round picks (Nos. 47 and 78) to Washington to jump up 13 spots to select Lawrence. Washington responded by taking Stanford linebacker Trent Murphy and Nebraska guard Spencer Long with the two picks.
The Cowboys could have held those picks and had their choice of defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan or left defensive ends Kony Ealy or Scott Crichton in the third round. Defensive tackle Will Sutton and defensive end Kareem Martin were still available in the third round after Long was taken by Washington.
All of those players visited Valley Ranch and would have addressed the team’s defensive line deficiencies.
But none of those players line up at right defensive end. The Dallas Cowboys had Lawrence rated as the third-best pass rushing end in this draft behind Jadeveon Clowney and Anthony Barr. They gave him a first-round grade as a pass rusher and a high second-round grade overall.
That’s why they were willing to give up a third-round pick to acquire him, a price chief operating officer Stephen Jones concedes is higher than the draft value chart states.
“We really like him,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s a right end candidate for us. There are only a handful of right end guys in this draft. We felt like we needed to come up with an impact player in the front seven in this draft, and those impact players are high. They are the first- and second-round players.
“He’s got very good pass rush ability. He has a quick get-off. He can bend. He shows that he can get after the quarterback and make plays when you combine his sacks and tackles for loss. He’s just a very productive player over a two-year career over there in Boise.”
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is an advocate. The Dallas Cowboys need him to provide the edge rush that was lacking last season.
“What we’re looking for is somebody that has first and foremost natural pass rushing instinct,” Jerry Jones said. “Not necessarily speed. Speed alone doesn’t get it. It’s got to be somebody that has a knack of bending, maybe a way a couple of techniques.
“Rod is high on this guy. Real high on this guy.”
Jones notes the irony of replacing one DeMarcus (Ware) with another. Lawrence isn’t as fast as Ware. But he’s stronger.
“It’s unfair to compare players,” Garrett said. “That’s not what we’re in the business of doing. We want to choose players who are our kinds of guys.
“He was the guy on the board who best did that for us. This was a way to improve in the front seven.”
No one expects Lawrence to come in and duplicate the kind of production Ware gave the Cowboys before his release this off-season. But Lawrence knows the comparisons are inevitable.
“I know it’s some big shoes to fill, but I’m going to work my butt off,” Lawrence said. “I’m going to do all I can to become the best and fill their shoes.
“I’m my own Demarcus. I don’t like this trying to be nobody else. I’m going to be me.
“I’m going to do it well.”
Courtesy: David Moore | DMN staff
IN THE KNOW
DeMarcus Lawrence | Position: Defensive end | College: Boise State
Pick: No. 34 overall (second pick in the second round) | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 251
Notable: Lawrence, one of the Dallas Cowboys predraft visitors, is an exceptional athlete who projects to be a right defensive end, replacing seven-time Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware. In two seasons at Boise State, Lawrence recorded 20 sacks and 34 tackles for loss. Following high school, he played one season at Butler Community College, where he finished with 12 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. The Cowboys had Lawrence ranked as the third pass rusher on the their board, Jerry Jones said.
Quote: Lawrence on filling DeMarcus Ware’s shoes: “I know it’s some big shoes to fill, but I’m going to work my butt off and give it my all. I’m going to do all I can to become the best and fill those shoes.”
Courtesy: Jon Machota | DMN staff
Related Videos …
2nd/3rd Round Post-Draft Press Conference | 16:45 | Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Jason Garrett discuss their move to trade up and selection of DeMarcus Lawrence, defensive end from Boise State. (Watch | Listen)
MEET YOUR NEW DRAFT PICK: Pro scouting report on Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence | 2nd round NFL Draft 2014
Name: DeMarcus Lawrence | Position: Defensive End | College: Boise State
Height/Weight: 6-3/251 | Age: 21
Honors: Lawrence was named first-team All-Mountain West during both of his seasons as a starter for Boise State. He was named second-team All-America and first-team All-Jayhawk Conference during one season as a starter for Butler Community College.
Key stat: The impetus for Lawrence’s decision to enter the NFL draft was probably the fact that he lived in the opposing backfield last fall. He finished the 2013 season with 10.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss for the Broncos.
How He Helps the Cowboys: Add Lawrence to the long list of pass rush prospects on the Dallas Cowboys radar. He would have to bulk up to join the defensive line rotation, but he could bring valuable depth to the defensive end spot. Lawrence probably isn’t rated as highly as other defensive end prospects we’ve profiled in this series, but the key is his availability. Top pass rushers like Jadeveon Clowney and Anthony Barr don’t figure to be in the Cowboys pick range at No. 16 overall, but Lawrence could potentially be had with their No. 47 pick. It’s doubtful he’d be a Day 1 starter, but he could blossom into a valuable pass rusher.
Scout’s Take: Plays with nice initial quickness. Uses a quick arm over move to get up the field. Will see him get double teamed at times but would like to see him disengage just a tick quicker. When he is one-on-one does a much better shedding the tackle and finding the ball. When he gets up the field, he can quickly retrace his steps. Will work to the edge and can get around the corner quickly. Will fight to work down the line.
Nice balance to chase the ball, plays on his feet. Will bounce off blockers. Will sometimes play as a standup guy. Has some initial pop with his hands. Had a tackle for loss on inside slant. Can get low to the ground to run around the corner. Works hard inside to get to the ball. Will chase to make play, can avoids blocks and burst to the ball. Shoved tackle out of way to shed for a tackle for loss against Utah St. Will try and spin to free himself, very active. Plays with a burst from the backside, quick off the ground, will rally to play. Used hands to shed. Really went after the ball.
Can hurry down the line. Held up at point. Can leverage the tackle, will fire his hands inside. Has some strength when he tackles. Oregon St tackle, tackled him on inside move. Can really run when it comes to chasing the ball, big fan of his ability to sharpen that corner. Plays that right end position that is key in this scheme. Like him a lot.
Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Former NFL Scout
Related videos …
DeMarcus Lawrence Combine Workout
Watch Boise State DL DeMarcus Lawrence work out at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine.
(Watch | No MP3)
DeMarcus Lawrence’s First Interview As A Cowboy
DeMarcus Lawrence: I’m Going To Put On A Show
THE COW-BOISE ARE BACK: Dallas Cowboys trade up and rope sack-artist DE DeMarcus Lawrence | NFL Draft 2014 – 2nd Round
IRVING, Texas – The wait wasn’t nearly as long or agonizing on Day 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft.
The Dallas Cowboys got in on the second round action early by trading their 47th overall pick and their No. 78 pick to Washington for the No. 34 overall pick. They used the selection on Boise State defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.
The pick fills an obvious need for a right defensive end, vacated this spring by a sack artist of the same name – DeMarcus Ware. At 6-2, 251 pounds, Lawrence has been projected as a fit in several different schemes, but it’s evident Dallas will use him as a down defensive end.
Lawrence was a first-team All-Mountain West selection both of his seasons as a starter for the Broncos. He made a habit of getting into opponents’ backfields, as he finished the 2013 season with 10.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss.
Before landing at Boise State, Lawrence was a junior college standout at Butler Community College in 2011. He led Butler as a redshirt freshman with 27 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. He had one season of eligibility remaining at Boise State when he declared for the draft.
This is the third Boise State defender the Dallas Cowboys have taken in recent seasons. Orlando Scandrick was selected in the fifth round, No. 143 overall, in 2008, and Tyrone Crawford was taken in the third round, No. 81 overall, in 2012.
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys had Lawrence ranked as third best defensive end
IRVING, Texas – Two days before the draft, Jerry Jones had no problems admitting his desire to “replace Ware” in this year’s draft.
Today, Jones and the Dallas Cowboys definitely replaced their “DeMarcus.” Only time will tell if he can fill the void of DeMarcus Ware.
But Boise State pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence will certainly get the chance after the Cowboys made a bold move in the second round, moving up from 47th overall to 34th in a trade with the Redskins, who also received Dallas’ third-round pick. So on a night that was supposed to be a four-hour trek of Day 2 in the NFL draft, it lasted about 15 minutes before Lawrence was picked, ending the Cowboys night rather early.
According to the Cowboys, who admit they have several needs they’d like to address, yielding a third-round pick to land Lawrence was worth it, simply because it fills a need.
Dallas Cowboys director of player personnel Stephen Jones even admitted they might have overpaid for the 34th pick, but did so with the fear of losing Lawrence, whom the Cowboys had rated as the third pass-rusher on their board behind Jadaveon Clowney and Anthony Barr.
“He was the last guy we really had in terms of the right-end spot,” Stephen Jones said. “We knew we might have to give up a little more than maybe the charts read out. That happens sometimes when you want a guy and we really wanted this guy. We didn’t want to lose him. We worked through the deal. We sweetened the pot a little bit and got the deal done.”
Lawrence was one of the 30 players to visit the Cowboys’ facility in Valley Ranch back in April. In fact, he met up with Tyrone Crawford, who left Boise State the year before Lawrence.
“I felt like the Cowboys liked me a lot, but in the draft you never know where they’re going to go,” Lawrence said. “I’m just thanking God for everything and thanking Jerry [Jones] and the staff for trusting me.”
The Dallas Cowboys had some interest in both Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy and Lawrence, who had the edge because of his ability to play the right side, while Ealy’s position isn’t as clear, with the potential to play left or right end, and maybe even inside at tackle.
“There are only a handful of right-end guys in this draft. We felt like we needed to get an impact player in this draft,” Jason Garrett said. “He’s got very good pass-rush ability. He can bend and get to the quarterback and make plays. We think a lot of him as a player. The skill-set he brings in. There are a lot of defensive end in the draft but only a few in this draft that can play the right end.”
Obviously, the natural comparison between Lawrence and Ware is inevitable because of the names and position. But owner/GM Jerry Jones said the two are different in how they attack offensive tackles en route to the quarterback.
“What we’re looking for is somebody that has, first and foremost, natural pass-rushing instinct,” Jones said. “Not necessarily speed – speed doesn’t get it alone. It’s got to be somebody that just has a knack, a bending, a certain way to maybe a couple techniques. Rod (Marinelli) is high on this guy, I mean real high on this guy.”
After two days of the draft, the Dallas Cowboys have added Notre Dame guard Zack Martin, who will likely step right in on the right side and now Lawrence, who has the chance to compete for a starting job as well.
“After the first two picks we wanted to end up with a starter and a player that could really impact rather than not impact on both fronts – offensive line and defensive line,” Jerry Jones said. “We had various combinations there. We obviously were probably thinking defense first and offense second. We basically have ended up with certainly one of the three options that we had, and we probably addressed a more acute position as a pass rusher then what we were going to do with ‘Willie’ (weakside) if we drafted a linebacker there. So we probably got a better fit here.”
By losing the third-round pick, the Cowboys end Day 2 with just two players instead of three, and currently drops their overall draft-pick total to 10.
Tomorrow (Saturday), the Dallas Cowboys have a pick in the fourth and fifth-rounds and do not have a sixth, before finishing off the seventh round with six picks. Three of those are compensatory picks and are not eligible to be traded.
POST-DRAFT PRESS CONFERENCE: Zack Martin will help Dallas Cowboys bolster offensive trenches | Secret Call from War Room | 1st round NFL Draft 2014
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys could’ve grabbed the most polarizing, high-profile quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft. Instead, they protected the franchise quarterback that Johnny Manziel would have sat behind to start his career.
Tony Romo can breathe a little easier coming off back surgery knowing the Cowboys stayed put with the No. 16 pick and continued to bolster the offensive line, selecting Notre Dame’s Zack Martin.
“It means everything,” Martin said. “I couldn’t be happier to come down to Dallas and be a part of the great organization, this great storied organization. I’m very excited to come down there and start competing.”
Martin, a 52-game starter in college, gives Dallas three first-round picks on the offensive line and adds another youthful piece to a completely revamped part of the team. A part of the team considered a weakness a few years ago is now rebuilt with Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Martin.
Head coach Jason Garrett said the best teams in the league can control the line of scrimmage by building their infrastructure. He believes the Cowboys have done that with their recent first-round picks.
“We had a great start with that by drafting Tyron Smith, added to that last year by drafting Travis Frederick,” Garrett said. “We feel like Zack Martin’s in the same mold of those kinds of guys. We just think he’s a darn good football player. We evaluated him against some of the other guys all across our draft board. He consistently came up as one of the best players in this draft.”
That doesn’t mean the Cowboys refused to listen to offers.
Each team gets 10 minutes to make their selection in the first round, and Jones said the Cowboys spent around eight or nine minutes evaluating offers on the phone.
At first, Jones described them more as “semi-offers.” He came back to say there were technically some firm offers, but none the Cowboys were willing to bite on. Eventually, Jones and the Cowboys decided to add to their strong presence on the line with Martin.
He’s the third first-round pick the Cowboys have used on an offensive lineman in the past four years, and his ability to play both guard and tackle gives Dallas options now and in the future.He’ll begin his career as a guard, according to Garrett.
For Martin to start on the interior, he’ll have to beat out one of last year’s starters in Mackenzy Bernadeau or Ronald Leary. Garrett didn’t want to declare whether Martin will begin as a right or left guard, but believes he has the instincts and intellect to play across the line.
Martin, a tackle at Notre Dame, demonstrated his ability to bump inside with ease at the Senior Bowl.
“A lot of people argue he can play all five spots on the offensive line,” Garrett said. “So, initially we’ll give him a chance to work inside as an offensive guard and see how he holds up there.”
After last year’s struggles on defense, that side of the ball’s been hailed as the priority heading into the draft. But many of the Cowboys’ prime targets fell off the board prior to the selection, including Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, UCLA pass rusher Anthony Barr and Ohio State outside linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Jones said those three defenders, along with Martin, were their top targeted players at No. 16.
All the safeties in the draft were still on the board when the Cowboys picked, as well as the most dazzling quarterback prospect on the board. Speculation started to build as Manziel, a player some believed would be too intriguing for the Dallas Cowboys to pass on, began to fall down the board.
But Jones and the Cowboys didn’t want a quarterback.
Jones said Romo, by contract and the Cowboys commitment, will be the quarterback in Dallas for years to come.
“There’s no way any quarterback comes in here and beats out Tony Romo,” Jones said. “We were strong in the quarterback position, in our minds. The fact that Martin was there mitigated any consideration of a lot of things.”
That doesn’t mean Manziel’s presence at No. 16 didn’t come as a bit of a surprise.
“I was surprised, yes,” Jones said. “But what I was even more surprised is the fact that he was there didn’t bring on a bonanza of offers that would have given us, maybe, more options. I was also surprised, frankly, that we had the option to take Martin.”
As the draft shifts to Day 2 and the second and third rounds, the biggest needs remain on defense. Jones wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of another offensive pick, but after finishing last in the league on defense, he admitted the team needs a defensive player more than an offensive player.
Garrett’s also aware of the needs, but he’s glad the Cowboys were able to snag Martin.
“You want to address your needs, but you want to address your needs with the best players available,” Garrett said. “We felt like we did that today.”
MEET YOUR NEW DRAFT PICK: Pro scouting reports on Dallas Cowboys OL Zack Martin | 1st round NFL Draft 2014
Name: Zack Martin | Position: Offensive Tackle/Guard | College: Notre Dame
Height/Weight: 6-4/308 | Age: 23
Honors: Martin was named a team captain his final two seasons and helped pave the way as the starting left tackle for the Irish to reach the BCS national championship game in 2012. He was named the MVP of the Pinstripe Bowl in 2013 and was on the Lombardi Award Watch List and Outland Trophy Watch List beginning all the way back in 2011.
Key stat: The Notre Dame lineman started all 52 games from 2010 to 2013, primarily as the left tackle, setting a new team record among offensive linemen. Despite his stability on the left side of the line for the Irish, some believe he still has the ability to bump inside at the next level.
How He Helps the Cowboys: While the focus heading into this draft and free agency will undoubtedly be on the other side of the line, the Cowboys could still use some help and depth on the inside of their offensive line. The upside with Martin is he has the flexibility to be used inside or outside. If the Cowboys want him to play guard, they can utilize him there until they believe he’s ready to take on the best pass rushers in the game as an offensive tackle.
MEET YOUR NEW DALLAS COWBOY: America’s Team takes “Midwestern Mauler” over “Mini-Manziel” | Notre Dame OT/OG Zack Martin picked at Sweet Sixteen | NFL Draft 2014
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys had a chance to pick the highest profiled player in the 2014 NFL Draft.
But instead, with the 16th overall pick, the Cowboys committed to the offensive line for the third time in four years. Dallas selected Notre Dame’s versatile OT/OG Zack Martin, the first guard taken in the draft.
By doing so, Dallas passed on Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback who has been projected to go anywhere from the top three picks to even later in the first round.
Martin (6-4, 308) is expected to play guard right away but could perhaps move out to offensive tackle and even center, if needed.
He started 52 consecutive games for the Fighting Irish, winning MVP honors in the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl. Martin was on several Watch Lists including the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy.
In 2011, the Dallas Cowboys drafted Tyron Smith with the ninth overall pick becoming the first offensive lineman taken in the first round since 1981. Last year, the Cowboys took Travis Frederick with the 31st pick in the draft.
Dallas Cowboys select Zack Martin with Sweet Sixteen pick | The Dallas Cowboys select Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Video courtesy of NFL Network. (Watch | No Audio)
POINT AND COUNTERPOINT: Kyle Orton’s status should alter QB draft plans | With or without Orton, drafting QB isn’t crucial
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys need to know about Kyle Orton’s future before next Thursday.
That’s not a request or a threat from the team, it should just be more of a courtesy on Orton’s part as the Cowboys prepare for the 2014 NFL Draft and decide whether or not to select a quarterback.
SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect C.J. Mosley | NFL Draft 2014
Linebacker C.J. Mosley | College: Alabama | Height/Weight: 6-2 / 234 | Age: 21
Honors: Butkus Award winner in 2013 as nation’s top linebacker. Took home SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and was a first-team All-American and All-SEC pick in 2012 & 2013. To wrap up his junior season, Mosley earned Defensive MVP honors in the 2013 BCS national championship game vs. Notre Dame, recording eight tackles. He was voted a freshman All-American in 2010.
Key stat: Played in 51 of 53 games in his four-year career in the rugged SEC. His only two games he missed – in 2011 of his sophomore year – occurred from a dislocated elbow injury midway through the year.
Where He’s Projected: His projection is tricky because of his medical history. While he’s only missed two games, he’s got plenty of bumps and bruises, including a shoulder injury that prevented him from participating in every drill at the combine. Mosley is still considered a mid- to late-first round pick. There is a good shot he’d be sitting there for the Cowboys at No. 16.
How He Helps the Cowboys: An established, heady linebacker that knows how to get to the football would be useful for all defenses, no matter if it’s a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. Mosley has the instincts to play middle linebacker but would likely be better suited for the outside right now. He’d help the Cowboys if he could come right in and be healthy enough to start. However, there’s no guarantees he’d beat out Bruce Carter, or even the promising young backers such as Kyle Wilber and DeVonte Holloman. But Mosley has plenty of talent and with a linebacker corps that has been hit hard by the injury bug, especially to middle linebacker Sean Lee, acquiring playmaking depth here would be a great asset.
Scout’s Take: Mosley is one of those players you need to keep an eye on for the Dallas Cowboys in this draft. His grade on the board will most likely allow him to be available when it comes time to select.
Physically, he is an impressive player in regards to his ability to take on blocks, disengage and finish the play. H keeps his feet active, and is wrap-up tackler – he gets his man on the ground with force. He’s more than willing to step up and take the fullback on in the hole. Has the awareness and vision to work down the line. Does a nice job of getting to the ball once he sees it — will play around blocks and can avoid men on the ground.
Tends to use his shoulder more than his hands to play off blocks, which is surprising because of the issues he has had with his shoulder. Reads then attacks the ball. Can knife through inside. Physical in the hole. Will step up and make the play. Has a feel for how to make plays at the point of attack. Does not get knocked back. Reads the quarterback’s eyes in his drop. Can tackle big backs in space, no problem.
Importantly for the Cowboys, Mosley has a feel for how to rush the passer. He will retrace his steps when he rushes the passer to get back to the ball. More power than technique here. Good to read in the flat and react. Can get in the throwing lanes and knock the ball down.
Another key for the Cowboys is that Mosley shows the awareness to play in pass coverage. Nice change of direction in his game. Doesn’t struggle in movement, despite his size. Doesn’t give up on the play, and he will play off the block and chase the ball. Had problems with his balance in the Texas A&M game.
I think he’d most likely play as a Mike or Sam linebacker in this scheme. I believe he could cover well enough to play in the middle of the defense. More explosive than he is quick or fast – the type of guy that can be a load at the point when taking on blocks. Has a nose for the ball and can finish. Is the best middle linebacker in the draft. Of course, you have to know that he has an injury history. No doubt that he is a first round talent. Was the backbone of a nationally-ranked defense and is the type of talent that you plug in and play with. — Bryan Broaddus
SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix | NFL Draft 2014
Safety Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix | College: Alabama | Height/Weight: 6-1/208 | Age: 21
Honors: As a junior starter in 2013, Clinton-Dix was one of the consensus best defenders in the nation. His 46 tackles and two interceptions earned him first-team All-SEC and All-American honors, despite serving a two-game suspension during the season. He also earned SEC and national championship rings as a member of Alabama’s 2011 and 2012 championship squads.
Key stat: Clinton-Dix’s abilities in coverage have drawn praise, as many scouts consider him a center fielder-type safety. Although he managed just two picks in 2013, he did intercept five balls during his junior campaign.
Where He’s Projected: Depending on who you ask, Clinton-Dix is either the best or second-best safety in this draft – coupled with Louisville’s Calvin Pryor. Both players are considered locks to go in the first round, and the drop off to the next-best safety after them looks considerable. It’s a pretty safe bet Clinton-Dix won’t last too far past the middle of the first round – if he makes it that far.
How He Helps the Cowboys: The play of rookie safeties J.J. Wilcox and Jeff Heath wasn’t exactly inspiring for anyone that watched the Cowboys last fall. It’s true that both players were rookies, and it’s also true that the Cowboys just spent a third round pick on Wilcox. There’s still a common opinion that this team doesn’t have a good cover guy among its safeties. A player as talented as Clinton-Dix would have to be considered a good bet to vie for a starting spot, despite his shortcomings.
Scout’s Take: Like all defenders in Nick Saban’s Alabama scheme, this guy is not afraid to mix it up. He’ll come forward to force the run — a downhill player that will get to the ball.
He has shown at times that he doesn’t take great angles, and that will put him in some awkward positions. But when he does take the correct path, he will wrap the ball carrier up – and I have also seen him use a block down tackle or low tackle in space.
Clinton-Dix is one of those players that will hustle to chase the play — no matter where the ball is, he is going to be running. He will throw his body around, and he showed the ability to take on blocks off the edge and work to the ball.
He has some Barry Church in him, in the sense that he will try and go for the strip to try and cause a turnover. He can separate the ball with a big hit and is not afraid to light the ball carrier up. In the same way, he will play down in the box and get in the middle of the action.
Clinton-Dix does a nice job of reacting to the ball in front of him. When he sees it, he goes after it – he can pedal, plant and come forward.
One of his strengths in coverage is his awareness in getting to the flat. He reads the backs and tight ends in routes. In Alabama’s game tape against Texas A&M, he did his best to come off the hash to defend a ball along the sideline. He tried to get there but arrived a step late. You don’t see him put in many situations where he has to cover, but he plays like he has smarts and awareness. He did show better range in A&M game than any of the other ones.
I respect his game because of how physical he can be at times. And if you’ll remember, a similar Alabama safety that Tampa took named Mark Barron wasn’t put in many coverage situations while in college.
He will no doubt need some experience here. I see him more as a strong safety than as a free in this scheme. — Bryan Broaddus
SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect Louis Nix III | NFL Draft 2014
Defensive Tackle Louis Nix III | College: Notre Dame | Height/Weight: 6-2/331 | Age: 22
Honors: Nix was named first-team All-Independent for three straight seasons, from 2011-13.
Key stat: Unusual for a defensive tackle, Nix led all defensive linemen in tackles during Notre Dame’s 2012 run to the BCS Championship Game. He recorded 50 tackles in 13 appearances — 11 of them starts. In 2013, he finished third among defensive linemen with just 27 tackles, though he appeared in just eight games.
Where He’s Projected: To get a gauge on where Nix will go, you have to consider the type of scheme being used by the teams looking at him. He is widely considered one of the top three or four defensive tackles in this draft, but most agree he fits best as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense — his college position. Because of that, his role within a defense seems likely to influence his draft positioning. All of that said, he looks like a likely first or early second round pick.
How He Helps the Cowboys: There’s no doubt the Cowboys could use the help at the defensive tackle position, but it’s not clear how much that pertains to Nix. His likely position in Rod Marinelli’s defense would likely be a one-technique defensive tackle, while the Cowboys would prefer to add another three-technique. Still, if Dallas does wind up selecting the Notre Dame product, Nix has proven plenty capable of being disruptive. He managed 9.5 tackles for loss in his final two seasons at nose tackle for the Fighting Irish.
Scout’s Take: This is a large, thick player — a hard guy to move off the line, who is able to get a push with power. Nix can hold the point of attack and knock the blocker off balance with his shot. He will chase down the line, he doesn’t just stay in one spot. Impressively for a guy his size, he can avoid the low block, but he doesn’t possess many, if any, pass rush moves.
What Nix can do is fight through double-team blocks — he plays like a two-gap nose tackle in the way he reads the play. Overall, he doesn’t play with his hands as consistently as I would have liked, but he played better in later games.
He has surprising lateral quickness, and he’s been used on twist stunts — but I didn’t see the quickness to get around the corner for him to do that all the time. He needs better pass rush moves, but he has shown a good quick-arm move that he used effectively against USC. And he will try to make back door plays.
I feel like his best position would be as a 3-4 nose tackle, but he is active enough to maybe consider trying him as a one-technique defensive tackle in this 4-3 defense. — Bryan Broaddus
The Dallas Cowboys aim to improve their roster through the draft. With the 16th pick, the team hopes to select a player that will be an immediate contributor and help the Cowboys for years to come. Here is a look at a prospect who may make sense for Dallas:
Kony Ealy | Position: Defensive End | School: Missouri | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 273
What he’s done: Overshadowed by teammate Michael Sam in recent months, Kony Ealy performed well in his final season at Missouri. He was a first-team All-SEC selection after collecting 9 ½ sacks and 14 ½ tackles for loss in 2013. He also led Missouri with 16 quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles. Ealy opted to forgo his senior season after his strong performance as a junior. At the NFL combine, Ealy didn’t wow scouts or coaches. He completed the 40-yard dash in 4.92 seconds and did 22 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press. He did produce the best time among defensive ends in the three-cone drill, showing agility.
Why he makes sense for the Cowboys: With the departure of DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys are in the market for a defensive end who can be a reliable impact player. George Selvie performed well last season, but it’s not clear yet whether he can sustain that level of productivity. New acquisition Jeremy Mincey, has a similarly spotty track record. With the Cowboys unable to lure Jared Allen to Dallas, they still have a need for a defensive end. Ealy, who proved an able pass rusher in the nation’s toughest conference, may be just what the Dallas Cowboys are looking for as they try to fill the mammoth void left by Ware.
How ‘bout a quick look?
Making A Case For Kony Ealy
SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect Aaron Donald | NFL Draft 2014
IRVING, Texas – Aaron Donald doesn’t pay much attention to the pre-draft hype, but his mother sure does.
“She’s pretty much looking at Google every day. So every day she says ‘This team says they’re going to draft you this time,’” Donald said. “I’m like, ‘Mom, just don’t look at that. None of that matters until your name gets called.’ But that’s what she does.”
Donald’s mother has that in common with thousands of others, mainly Dallas Cowboys fans, who are bound to be intrigued by the defensive tackle’s visit to Valley Ranch on Monday morning. The All-American from Pitt has been strongly linked to the Cowboys as the possible No. 16 pick since the draft process started, and his selection as one of the team’s 30 pre-draft visitors will do nothing to quell that.
The Cowboys are the third – and at this point final – team Donald has visited with this spring. With his highly-publicized work at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine behind him, Donald said this last bit of draft preparation will ready him for what comes after he is finally picked.
“I’m just staying in the weight room, conditioning, staying in shape – just getting football-ready now,” he said. “It’s been a grind, but I’m just making sure I’m ready for whenever I get picked and drafted so I can be ready for what’s about to come.”
What’s about to come is likely a lofty first-round draft status. Plenty of people think Donald will be unavailable by the time the Cowboys pick at the midpoint of the first round. If that’s the case, he can look back to his eye-catching Combine, as well his decorated college career, as the reasons why.
Donald rose from an unheralded high school recruit with just three scholarship offers to an All-Everything star for Pittsburgh. He capped off his career last fall by winning the Bronko Nagurski Award, the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Outland Trophy and the Rotary Lombardi Award, in addition to first-team All-America and All-ACC selections.
If some weren’t convinced by his on-field performance, he showed up at the Combine and dazzled with a 4.68 40-yard dash, best among defensive tackles, 35 reps on the bench press, second-best among defensive linemen, and remarkable aptitude in the agility drills.
“They want to see that this guy can do what he does on a football field, but they want to see how you move outside the pads and things like that,” Donald said. “It ain’t nothing but football drills. It’s nothing to be worried about or nervous about – you just have to go out there and do it.”
There’s bound to be those that still doubt him, as Donald’s 6-0, 288-pound frame hardly looks like that of a defensive stalwart. If the accolades don’t sway people, though, he said he’ll let his play speak for itself.
“There’s probably people that are still going to doubt you. It is what it is – I’m still going to go out there and play football the way I do and still have passion for the game the way I do,” he said. “All I can do is keep playing football the way I’ve been playing.”
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli doesn’t sound like someone who needs convincing. Donald is well-familiar with Marinelli’s history of coaching elite defensive tackles, and it seems like a safe bet he’d love a chance to pair the youngster with the Cowboys’ newly-signed Pro Bowler in Henry Melton.
“I had the opportunity to talk to him a couple times at the Combine, I talked to him last night and I talked to him today,” Donald said. “He’s a great coach, and just talking to him and looking in his eyes – the way he talks, he’s got a passion for the game of football and he loves the game of football.
“He loves doing what he does, so that’s a coach I’d love to play for and learn from. Knowing he coached guys like Warren Sapp, that just gets you excited just knowing he’s got history and is one of the best to do it. If I was able to play for Coach Marinelli that would be a blessing, but we’re going to see.”
He’s going to see soon, as a matter of fact. It feels like an eternity since Donald first turned heads in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl, but the NFL draft is now a matter of weeks away. As one of this year’s top prospects, he was invited to watch the proceedings from Radio City Music Hall in New York, but he opted to watch from home with his family.
Home brings an interesting dynamic to the story. As a native of Pittsburgh and a childhood Steelers fan, Donald has heard plenty about that rivalry, as the Cowboys and Steelers have faced off in three Super Bowls.
“I wasn’t born yet when the big rivalry with the Steelers and Dallas started, but you always hear about it getting ready for the draft,” he said. “Everybody in Pittsburgh is saying ‘I hope you don’t go to Dallas.’”
Much like his mom’s reports, Donald said he isn’t paying much attention to that talk, though. With time winding down until the big day, he’s focused on the final destination – of which, he said, Dallas is as good as any.
“I’m like ‘I’ll go to any team that wants me,’ and Dallas is a team I’d love to play for,” Donald said. “Getting coached by Coach Marinelli, one of the best to ever do it — he coached Hall of Fame guys, so I know he can get me to that level I want to play at. I want to be great, and I feel like he can help me do that.”
How ‘bout a quick look?
Making A Case For Aaron Donald
SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: Dallas Cowboys first-round NFL Draft Prospect Anthony Barr | NFL Draft 2014
IRVING, Texas – Former UCLA standout pass rusher Anthony Barr was two years old when the L.A. Raiders moved back to Oakland and the L.A. Rams moved to St. Louis.
Barr, whose father and other family members played football at Notre Dame, was born in South Bend, Ind., but grew up and attended high school in Los Angeles, without a professional team to pull for in the area.
He watched a lot of the Denver Broncos as a kid in the ‘90s, growing up a fan of John Elway and Terrell Davis. But he didn’t have one “go-to team,” as he put it, and another squad was also on the dial.
“It was always CBS and Fox were the two channels we got out on the West Coast,” Barr recalled. “So Dallas was always on Fox, and I watched them pretty frequently.”
After years of watching the Dallas Cowboys, Barr, a highly sought-after high school running back turned college running back turned standout linebacker and likely first-round pick in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft, could wind up being the second former running back on the Cowboys’ defensive line if he joins Henry Melton in Dallas.
Barring a trade, which is always a possibility with the Cowboys, Barr would have to fall out of the top 10 for that to happen. But he wouldn’t be offended or disappointed if that occurs and he ends up a Cowboy.
“There’s pros and cons to every team and everywhere you go, but if I were a Cowboy, that would be really a blessing, truly a dream come true – a team I watched growing up,” Barr said. “It would just be surreal. I would be really appreciative to be here.”
Barr, who spent his first two years at running back at UCLA before transitioning to 3-4 outside linebacker and racking up 23.5 sacks in just two seasons at the new position, is among the Dallas Cowboys 30 pre-draft visitors.
The Cowboys will have a decision to make if they take Barr, who’s not used to playing in a 4-3 system with his hand on the ground. Barr led the Bruins with 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in his first year at outside linebacker in 2012 and did so once again last year with 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss in 2013.
He’s demonstrated tremendous burst and quickness around the edge, but the Cowboys’ defensive scheme would be new for him. The defensive coaches could make him an outside linebacker, or they could groom him into a defensive end.
Barr said he thinks he can play and produce at either position, as long as he gets an opportunity. He said he’s not sure what he’d be better suited for, considering he’s never played in that 4-3 system, and that as long as he’s on the field, he doesn’t mind the position.
But based on Barr’s visit with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, it seems likely he’ll be joining the position group that the former defensive line coach taught last year.
“I spoke with him at length today,” Barr said. “He showed me a lot of tape of (Julius) Peppers and Simeon Rice and (Warren) Sapp, so I think he wants me playing that defensive right end position to go after the quarterback, and that’s something I’m all for.”
Marinelli always refers to his defensive linemen as “rush men,” with the main goal to get up the field as fast as possible. After years of having to read, react and diagnose at linebacker, he’d get the chance to use his skillset as an explosive pass rusher in a new way in Dallas. That’s a situation that excites Barr, who said there’s nothing better than sacking and knocking down the quarterback.
“That’s something I take pride in the last couple years, it’s something I enjoy doing,” Barr said. “So If I’m asked to do that, I’ll be very happy to do it.”
While Barr’s best trait on the field might be his quickness around the edge, he believes his best trait he’ll bring to a team is in the locker room. The former running back brings with him a load of confidence after finally breaking out following the position switch.
“I make those around me better, I believe,” Barr said. “I think being average is something I’ve been before, and I don’t really want to go back to doing that. I think I can excel my game and those around me, and I’m a competitor. I’m a hate-losing, love-to-win kind of guy. Those two things kind of jump out to me.”
It can be an exhaustive process for a potential first-round pick to go through all the scenarios in his head of potential landing spots. Barr said it’s hard not think about where he’ll end up, but he tries not to since he’s already put in most of the work. For now, he’ll sit back and enjoy the pre-draft process and trips, including the one to see the Cowboys this week.
Barr’s trip to Dallas was a first, having visited San Antonio, Houston and El Paso, but never the home of the Cowboys.
He’s used to visiting with plenty of teams given his first-round talent, but speaking with coaches and the familiar faces around the NFL doesn’t get old to Barr, particularly in Dallas.
“If you coach in the NFL, obviously you’re going to get some respect right off the bat,” Barr said. “But these guys that I’ve watched growing up and coaching, it’s just real humbling to speak with these guys. I met Jerry Jones last night, and I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t even talk at first, like, ‘This is Jerry Jones.’ It was a pretty cool experience, so these guys get my respect right off the bat.”
If he falls to No. 16, that cool experience in Dallas may just the first of many for Barr, who could wind up on the same line as Melton and on the same defense as J.J. Wilcox. That would make three former running backs and possible defensive starters in Dallas defying the notion that offensive players don’t like to hit.
“I don’t know whoever said that,” Barr said with a slight grin. “We’re doing all right for ourselves.”
How ‘bout a quick look?
ORLANDO – The Dallas Cowboys saw their 2014 draft pick total jump from eight players to 11 with one announcement Monday by the NFL.
The league awarded three compensatory picks to the Cowboys – all in the seventh round, giving the Cowboys six in the final round, although those three new picks cannot be traded.
The NFL gave the Cowboys the picks for the free-agent losses of Kenyon Coleman, Mike Jenkins, Victor Butler and John Phillips, while only acquiring Justin Durant in free agency.
The Cowboys picked up a seventh-rounder in early September in a trade with Kansas City for Edgar Jones, but lost their sixth-rounder. The Cowboys added a seventh-rounder from Chicago for Dante Rosario, giving them three sevenths, including their own, before Monday’s additions.
The sixth-round pick they acquired from San Diego for Sean Lissemore was traded away to Indianapolis for Caesar Rayford.
The Cowboys do not have a sixth-round pick because of their trade to acquire Edgar Jones. However, if they covet a player in that round, it seems likely they have some firepower in the
seventh to move up. The Cowboys picked up two seventh-round picks in September trades for Sean Lissemore and Dante Rosario with San Diego and Chicago, respectively.
Although they didn’t have a pick in the final round last year, seventh-round picks have been good for the Cowboys in the past. Jay Ratliff (2005) was a seventh-rounder who made four Pro Bowls. Patrick Crayton, Jacques Reeves and Nate Jones all made the team in 2004 after being seventh-round picks and played multiple years.
However last year, the only seventh-round picks on the Cowboys’ roster were not drafted by Dallas –George Selvie and Mackenzy Bernadeau.
The Cowboys have one draft pick in each of the first five rounds, including the 16th overall pick in the first round. The club has not picked 16th since 1961 when they took E.J. Holub, an offensive lineman who eventually went to the AFL and never played for the Cowboys.
2014 NFL DRAFT ORDER: Official round-by-round order including the compensatory draft picks awarded by the league
The official round-by-round order for the 2014 NFL Draft, including the 32 compensatory picks awarded to 13 different teams:
1. Houston Texans
1 (33). Houston Texans
1 (65). Houston Texans
1 (101). Houston Texans
1 (141). Houston Texans
1 (177). Houston Texans
1 (216). Houston Texans
Compensatory picks cannot be traded
PHOTO: Larry Allen (Dallas, Round 2, Pick No. 46 overall, 1994)
Larry Allen is the only compensatory draft pick in the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame. He had quite a career in the NFL, starting 197 of 203 games and making 11 Pro Bowls and seven All-Pro teams. He was voted to both the NFL’s 1990s and 2000s All-Decade Teams.
A total of 32 compensatory choices in the 2014 NFL Draft have been awarded to 13 teams.
Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks. The number of picks a team receives equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four.
The 2014 NFL Draft takes place on May 8 to 10, and will be televised live on NFL Network.
Here are the teams receiving compensatory picks this year, with the round and overall number of each pick:
Atlanta Falcons: 4th round (139), 7th round (253, 255)
Baltimore Ravens: 3rd round (99), 4th round (134, 138), 5th round (175)
Cincinnati Bengals: 6th round (212), 7th round (252)
Dallas Cowboys: 7th round (248, 251, 254)
Detroit Lions: 4th round (133, 136)
Green Bay Packers: 3rd round (98), 5th round (176)
Houston Texans: 4th round (135), 6th round (211), 7th round (256)
New England Patriots: 4th round (140)
New York Giants: 5th round (174)
New York Jets: 4th round (137), 6th round (209, 210, 213)
Pittsburgh Steelers: 3rd round (97), 5th round (173), 6th round (215)
San Francisco 49ers: 3rd round (100)
St. Louis Rams: 6th round (214), 7th round (249, 250)
Compensatory free agents lost and signed by the clubs that will receive compensatory picks in 2014:
Atlanta Falcons: Lost: Brent Grimes, Luke McCown (did not qualify), Christopher Owens, Will Svitek, Vance Walker. Signed: Osi Umenyiora. Baltimore Ravens: Lost: Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, Ed Reed, Cary Williams. Signed: None. Cincinnati Bengals: Lost: Josh Brown, Bruce Gradkowski, Manny Lawson, Brian Leonard (did not qualify), Pat Sims, Dan Skuta. Signed: Josh Johnson, Mike Pollak, Alex Smith. Dallas Cowboys: Lost: Victor Butler, Kenyon Coleman, Mike Jenkins, John Phillips. Signed: Justin Durant. Detroit Lions: Lost: Cliff Avril, Gosder Cherilus, Justin Durant, Drayton Florence, Sammie Lee Hill. Signed: Reggie Bush, Jason Jones, Glover Quin. Green Bay Packers: Lost: Greg Jennings, Erik Walden. Signed: None. Houston Texans: Lost: Alan Ball, Connor Barwin, James Casey, Justin Forsett, Donnie Jones, Glover Quin. Signed: Greg Jones, Shane Lechler, Ed Reed. New England Patriots: Lost: Patrick Chung, Donald Thomas, Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead. Signed: Danny Amendola, Isaac Sopoaga, Will Svitek. New York Giants: Lost: Martellus Bennett, Chase Blackburn, Domenik Hixon, Osi Umenyiora. Signed: Josh Brown, Ryan Mundy, Brandon Myers. New York Jets: Lost: Yeremiah Bell, Mike DeVito, Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller, LaRon Landry, Matt Slauson. Signed: Antwan Barnes, Mike Goodson. Pittsburgh Steelers: Lost: Keenan Lewis, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Mundy, Mike Wallace. Signed: Bruce Gradkowski. San Francisco 49ers: Lost: Ted Ginn, Dashon Goldson, Ricky Jean Francois, Isaac Sopoaga, Delanie Walker. Signed: Craig Dahl, Phil Dawson, Glenn Dorsey, Dan Skuta. St. Louis Rams: Lost: Danny Amendola, Craig Dahl, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Gibson, Robert Turner. Signed: Jared Cook, Jake Long.
ROAD TO 2014 NFL DRAFT: Dallas Cowboys win coin toss for 16th pick | League’s pecking order officially set
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys won the No. 16 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft following a coin flip with the Baltimore Ravens.
Team officials held the coin toss at the NFL Scouting Combine, which began Wednesday morning in Indianapolis, Ind.
The decision gives Dallas a pick in the top half of the first round for the third time in four years — the Cowboys held the ninth overall selection in 2011 and the No. 14 pick in 2012 before trading up to take Morris Claiborne.
Having lost the coin toss, the Ravens will pick No. 17 overall.
Both clubs finished the 2013 season with 8-8 records, but a tiebreaker was needed to determine their draft order. In addition to owning the same records, the teams also had identical strengths of schedule.
The final draft order for the 2014 NFL Draft is now set:
2. St. Louis (from Washington)
7. Tampa Bay
12. New York Giants
13. St. Louis
18. New York Jets
21. Green Bay
23. Kansas City
25. San Diego
26. Cleveland (from Indianapolis)
27. New Orleans
29. New England
30. San Francisco
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys NFL Draft coin-flip win a sign of flipping the 2013 script
IRVING, Texas – Hey, maybe 2014 will be a different story, right?
We’ve already seen one trend bucked, and it happened in Indianapolis of all places: This team won a coin flip – stop the presses!
Last year the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t win a coin flip to save their lives.
For something that is supposed to be 50-50, this team was anything but average when it came to flipping a coin. The Cowboys won just three coin flips all last year. And after the Nov. 3 game against the Vikings at home when they won the toss, the Cowboys didn’t win another pregame coin toss over the last seven weeks.
It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the game. Not really, although sometimes it’s nice to have the decision on taking the ball now or in the second half. But if you’re better than your opponent, it doesn’t matter.
This coin toss the Cowboys won in Indianapolis is rather significant, giving the club the 16th pick in the draft over the Ravens, who will select 17th in the first round.
You might say that picking 16 or 17 doesn’t matter much because it’s still in the middle of the first round. And that’s true. However, don’t forget who is running the show and what he likes to do when he gets in that War Room. Jerry Jones becomes “Trader Jerry” when he’s in there and having the 16th pick.
Point values vary when you’re looking at draft charts. Teams often have different values but for the most part, the difference between the 16th and 17th pick is around 50 points, and that’s the equivalent of a late fourth-round pick.
But I went a little deeper into the difference of 16 vs. 17 with this scenario.
Let’s say the Cardinals (20th pick) wanted to move up a few spots. If the Cowboys picked 17, they’d get a high-fourth round pick by swapping picks with Arizona. But at 16, they’ll likely receive a mid-third round pick. Obviously the two teams would have to throw in other picks to even it out since Arizona wouldn’t have a high-fourth, but you get the picture.
Now, history shows picking 17 is better for the Dallas Cowboys, who selected both Mel Renfro and Emmitt Smith at No. 17. They also got Kevin Brooks and Kevin Smith.
The only time they’ve ever selected No. 16 occurred in 1961, when they picked lineman E.J. Holub, who never played for the Cowboys because he chose to play in the AFL with the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs franchise. Holub is now in the Chiefs’ Hall of Fame.
None of that stuff really matters now. All that matters is how the Dallas Cowboys handle this No. 16 pick.
ROAD TO 2014 NFL DRAFT: Dallas Cowboys can’t let an elite offensive lineman on their draft board slip past them | Dallas Cowboys Draft 2014
The Dallas Cowboys used a first round pick on an offensive lineman twice in the last three years and it’s possible they could make it three in four years. Yes, the defensive line is the biggest area of concern, but the Cowboys can’t let an elite guard or tackle slip past if they’re the top player on their board. The top o-linemen in this class are Auburn’s Greg Robinson, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan. All three should be gone by the time the Cowboys are on the clock. But here’s 10 offensive linemen that could be available for the Dallas Cowboys throughout the first few rounds.
Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame – Doug Free could be a free agent at the end of the 2014 season. Draft Zack Martin (pictured) in May and the Dallas Cowboys could have a bookend to pair with Tyron Smith for a long time.
Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia – A solid starter for UVA over the last three seasons. The 6-6, 325-pound right tackle as seen his stock rise into the first round.
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama – Another elite tackle option. One of the top rated prospects coming out of high school, Kouandjio has been Alabama’s full-time starter at left tackle the last two seasons.
Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee – If you want experience, this is your guy. James has started a school record 49 games at Tennessee. He is projected to play right tackle in the NFL.
Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee – He played left tackle for the Vols but might be better suited for the right side in the NFL. Richardson has started all 24 games over the last two seasons.
Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State – He has played guard and tackle in college but projects to be a right tackle in the NFL. Mewhort played in 49 consecutive games for Ohio State, starting the final 39.
Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami – He could be a steal in the second or third round. Henderson’s stock has slipped since telling teams at the Senior Bowl that his suspensions at Miami were because of marijuana use.
Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State – He’s considered by some to be the top offensive guard available in the draft. Gabe Jackson (pictured) could quickly upgrade one of the interior line spots for the Dallas Cowboys.
Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor – A Fort Worth kid who was a two-time All-American, Richardson was a three-year starter for the Baylor Bears. He should come off the board in the second or third round.
David Yankey, OG, Stanford – A two-time All-American that has experience playing left tackle and left guard. He projects as a guard in the NFL and should be among the first few players at that position selected in May.
Follow the Dallas Cowboys Draft 2014 and 2014 NFL Draft Prospects right here on The Boys Are Back website …
IRVING, Texas – It’s never too early in today’s NFL to start making wild conjectures about the draft.
Mock drafts pop up every week after the Super Bowl ends from a variety of sources, providing different names and opinions regarding which players will end up with specific teams. It’s only February, so these will get tinkered with throughout the offseason as draft experts learn more and more about each player.
Many of those mock drafts have the Dallas Cowboys landing a defensive lineman, which is understandable given their health at the spot and the pending free agency of Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer.
With that in mind, here’s a compiled Top-10 list of the most common names of potential Dallas Cowboys first-round picks.
1) Aaron Donald, Pitt, DT – Probably the most popular choice for the Dallas Cowboys so far, Donald’s quickness and ability to push the pocket and get up field quickly makes him a popular choice in the middle of the first round for Dallas. His lack of height may scare some teams away, but his dominant week at the Senior Bowl and ability to play in a 4-3 defense should attract the Cowboys.
2) Kony Ealy, Missouri, DE – His size at 6-5, 275 pounds means gives him the frame to be a dominant force off the edge. His ability to move inside and outside could also give him some versatility in this 4-3 scheme. If the Cowboys take Ealy, the consensus seems to be that he hasn’t reached his potential and may need some time to develop and tap into that, but the ceiling is high here because of his athleticism.
3) Calvin Pryor, Louisville, S – If the Cowboys don’t look to the line, Pryor could be the next best choice. He’s got a ton of range and maintains his aggression with the ball in the air. He can cover, and he could be the perfect cover safety to pair with Barry Church, whose ability near the line of scrimmage could be tapped into more fully. But Pryor can still lay the wood.
4) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama, S – The Crimson Tide defensive back might be the best all-around safety in the class. He had two picks in 2014 and may not rack up interceptions like an Ed Reed type, but he can bring the boom as well as any safety in the class, as most Alabama safeties are known to do. The Cowboys’ shouldn’t have much of an issue with their safeties attacking the line of scrimmage if Clinton-Dix pans out.
5) Louis Nix, Notre Dame, DT – Nix may not fall into the typical mold the Cowboys use on the defensive line and may fit more as a nose tackle for a 3-4 team at 6-2, 345 pounds. He might have trouble keeping his weight down to where he can be a mobile defensive tackle that gets up the field the way Rod Marinelli likes. But the Cowboys could take the chance, in which case he’d fill in as the new 1-technique in Dallas.
6) Timmy Jernigan, FSU, DT – The lasting image of Timmy Jernigan is going to be him watching, out of breath, on the sideline during crunch time of this year’s national championship game. It was a damning moment for what is otherwise considered one of this draft’s brightest defensive linemen. Jernigan notched 63 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last year.
7) Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota, DT – Hageman certainly stands out from a physical aspect, as he tips the scale at 6-6, 311 pounds. The first-team All-Big Ten selection was one of the standout defensive tackles at this year’s Senior Bowl, along with Donald. Conventional wisdom says Hageman could fit with the Cowboys as an oversized three technique tackle, similar to Jason Hatcher.
8) Dee Ford, Auburn, DE – Ford was another Senior Bowl standout, as he followed his 10.5-sack season at Auburn with a promising showing in Mobile, Ala. Ford is a bit undersized for a 4-3 defensive end, at 6-2, 240 pounds, but he makes up for it with speed. It raises the question of whether he’ll be used in the NFL as a down lineman or a pass rushing linebacker.
9) Zack Martin, Notre Dame, OT – A somewhat surprising target, considering the Cowboys just spent a high draft pick on Travis Frederick. Martin was fantastic at the Senior Bowl as an offensive tackle, though some think he projects as a guard at the next level. Depending on who else is available, the Cowboys could opt to shore up their offensive line for the foreseeable future with another high pick.
10) C.J. Mosley, Alabama, LB – The latest in a long line of dominant Alabama linebackers, Mosley finished the 2013 season with 108 tackles and nine tackles for loss. He was the heart and soul of a dominant Crimson Tide defense, averaging eight tackles per game. One problem is that he plays middle linebacker, the same spot as Sean Lee, but the Dallas Cowboys could surely find a place to use him.
Derek Carr, Fresno State, QB – Probably the most polished of the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl last month, Carr is following in his brother David’s footsteps to
the NFL. Carr showed some experience and poise in working with other players and media at Senior Bowl practices that showcased his leadership potential. Most agree he isn’t the top quarterback prospect in this draft, but he still figures to be selected early.
Much has been said and made of Missouri DE/OLB Michael Sam in the past few days. This article focuses solely on what he brings to the field on gameday.
Michael Sam – Missouri – #52 – 6’ 1” – 260 lbs – 4.74
Games Studied: Oklahoma State, Auburn, Texas A&M, Georgia
Sam plays as a defensive end in their scheme and will usually line up on the left side. He worked as an outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl but played as an end during the game.
He shows some initial quickness off the snap and can be a tough guy to block on the move. That said, he doesn’t have much change of direction and is more of a straight line rusher. He will use his hands as he closes down the line and plays with outstanding effort. Sam will try and spin to free himself off blocks and can win matchups with this first move. Often, he will slap hands down to rush and work around a low block and will use his arm over a move inside.
There are times where he will lose the ball on his rush. He had game saving sack in the Cotton Bowl that caused a fumble to seal game. He beat the offensive tackle to the outside, then sharpened the corner to get there. There were also times where he gave ground in the running game. Sam would get wide and does a much better job of playing assignment to find the ball on the read option.
He can retrace his steps and work back to the ball. He fought the fullback block with his hands and worked back to the play. He can play a low block and kept his balance, but didn’t finish with a tackle.
He has trouble when he gets pinned inside and will miss tackles on the move. I have seen him get in position, then bounce off and can cause problems when he gets to the edge. If he doesn’t, then he plays like another guy. He had a sack against Georgia on an inside charge – a nice, quick move that beat the offensive tackle. On the next play, he had a move around the edge and was able to knock the ball out of Aaron Murray’s hand on the play.
He picked up a fumble and ran 20 yards for a touchdown against Georgia. He is one of those players that is not for everyone. If a 3-4 team would draft him, I believe he would be played as a strongside linebacker, but during the Senior Bowl, he didn’t look comfortable at all.
He does have the ability to rush the passer, but he might not be an every down player so you may use him just on third downs. I did not see him slide inside as a nickel rusher, and he is more disruptive when he is on the move.
He will struggle when he gets hooked on blocks in the running game. His effort is outstanding, but he needs to win on first move which at times he has shown the ability to do.
As of today’s date, Michael Sam is ranked #110 overall and the #11th ranked DE available.
Rated as the No. 75 defensive recruit in the country by ESPN coming out of Hitchcock, Texas, Sam played on both sides of the trenches in high school.
He redshirted in 2009 before entering the rotation the following season and producing 24 tackles, including 7.0 for loss, to go with 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Sam was again a rotation player as a redshirt sophomore, finishing with 29 tackles, including 3.0 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. He started nine of 12 games in 2012 and finished four on the team with 7.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
Sam was named the co-SEC Defensive Player of the year as a senior after leading the conference in both sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (18.0) during the regular season. He joined Jeff Gaylord (1981) as the only Missouri Tigers to win conference defensive player of the year honors. He also was a unanimous first-team All-SEC pick by the Associated Press, and first team by the coaches.
Sam certainly has the production against top competition to intrigue scouts. He’s very quick off the snap, showing the ability to attack off the edge as well as the burst to penetrate through gaps.
At 6-feet-2, 255 pounds, Sam could earn the dreaded ‘tweener label from scouts who may see him as too short for defensive end and a project as a stand-up outside linebacker, pushing the productive defender into the second or even third round.
STRENGTHS: Sports a compact, well-developed frame. Very good initial quickness to explode past offensive tackles and apply pressure on the quarterback.
Uses his natural leverage advantage well, keeping his legs driving to overpower much bigger opponents on the bull-rush, while also mixing in effective rip and club moves to keep blockers’ hands off his chest. Accelerates smoothly and closes in a flash, showing good power for the knockdown and technique to wrap securely.
Considering his size, Sam is surprisingly effective in run defense. Can slip gaps due to his quickness to penetrate and make a big play behind the line of scrimmage and shows good power, knee bend to anchor and create a pile when run at. Good awareness, quickness and balance to recognize and defeat cut-blocks.
Occasionally asked to drop back in this scheme, showing awareness and at least fair fluidity. Active defender who searches the ball and pursues with passion.
WEAKNESSES: Not quite the sum of his parts due to size and flexibility limitations. Does not possess ideal length and therefore, struggles to separate from blockers once engaged. Impressive burst upfield is mitigated by average core flexibility, limiting his ability to turn the corner in one fluid motion.
Only occasionally asked to drop into coverage in this scheme, making his conversion to outside linebacker a true projection, especially given his average ability to change directions.
COMPARES TO: Elvis Dumervil, OLB, Baltimore Ravens – Few undersized pass rushers are capable of beating the odds like Dumervil but he’s the model optimists will point to in projecting Sam to the NFL. Like Dumervil, Sam has an explosive burst and is more powerful than his relatively short frame might suggest.
–Rob Rang (1/7/14
IRVING, Texas – The comparisons will follow Jimmy Garoppolo everywhere he goes.
They started at Eastern Illinois and will undeniably continue when he gets selected in the 2014 NFL Draft out of his specific college and at his specific position. But he’s not bothered when people link or associate him with Tony Romo.
“He set the standard,” Garoppolo said. “It’s up to us and the Eastern quarterbacks and all of the guys who go through there to live to that standard, really. That’s what I tried to do when I was there. There’s a benchmark set.”
Garoppolo doesn’t shy away from that challenge. He accepts, embraces and basks in it. He wants those expectations placed upon him and doesn’t find them unfair.
“I want to live up to that. I want to surpass that, really,” Garoppolo said. “Every quarterback should have that mindset. You want to be the best. You want to go win Super Bowls.”
He’s got to get drafted before he can do any of that, and he’s putting himself in the best position to do so by being as visible as he can to as many eyes as possible. Garoppolo played in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 18, where he was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player, going 9-for-14 with 100 yards and a touchdown in limited action before heading over to Mobile, Ala., for Senior Bowl practices the following week.
The most important part of that Senior Bowl week might have been the practice time, where he worked with NFL coaches (Watch short video) and fielded questions from most teams, scouts and media members. Inevitably, some involved Romo.
Garoppolo won the Walter Payton Award in 2013 after throwing for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns and left college with 13,156 passing yards and 118 passing touchdowns in his career. The only other player to win the esteemed award from Eastern Illinois? That would be Romo, who finished his career as the school and conference all-time leader with 85 touchdown passes.
But most of the previous school passing records, once held mostly by Romo and current Saints head coach Sean Payton, now belong to Garoppolo, who set a school record with seven touchdown passes in a win against Illinois State in 2013.
“The surprising thing is Coach Payton actually had more records than Tony Romo, so a lot of people don’t know that, but yeah, a little fun fact for you,” said Garoppolo, who still respects Romo and what the Cowboys’ quarterback’s done for the school tremendously.
He said he’s been asked about a million questions about Romo throughout his career, particularly toward the end when the NFL became more and more of a likelihood, and he continues to answer those questions similarly.
“At first it was pretty cool, now I just kind of expect it,” Garoppolo said. “It’s fun. It’s a great comparison. He’s a very successful NFL quarterback, and that’s what I’m trying to be, so it’s nice to have that kind of comparison.
“The quarterback tradition at Eastern is very well known. I’m just trying to keep it going really and take it to the next level.”
Garoppolo’s all for putting Eastern Illinois on the map, which his famous quarterback predecessors did before and he’s doing now.
“All the publicity Eastern can get – we’re in the middle of Illinois, not too much people live there – it’s nice to get that little extra publicity,” Garoppolo said. “Every little bit counts. It’s a good stepping stone for Eastern, really.”
Before Garoppolo can get anywhere near the level of a Payton or a Romo, though, he’s got a long road ahead to prove himself as an NFL quarterback. He said he’s got to get used to the NFL footwork – the three, five and seven step drops – considering his offense in college didn’t ask much of that from him. He said Eastern Illinois ran the Baylor offense with a focus on fast tempo.
Garoppolo’s open to starting immediately or waiting and getting tutored, depending on when he gets picked. Regardless of when he starts, he knows what he can provide for his future team.
“They’re getting a very passionate, hard-working quarterback – some guy who’s going to be the CEO of the company and lead by example,” Garoppolo said. “The quarterback’s always asked to set the example on and off the field, and I think I do a good job of that.”
He’s been all over the place since his record senior season ended, but he said it was an easy decision to go to the Senior Bowl and not pass that opportunity up. He wants to face the best players and get compared to the best players around him, just as he has with the star quarterbacks who previously attended his school.
Don’t expect a breather for Garoppolo any time soon as he prepares for the biggest year of his life.
“I don’t think I’m going to get one,” Garoppolo said. “After this, I’m going to go back to LA and start training again for the Combine and then the Combine comes and Pro Day comes. It’s a process, but I knew what I was getting into and I’m having fun with it.”
ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT: Dallas Cowboys 2014 Mock Draft 1.0 | Analyzing the Dallas Cowboys position
The 2014 NFL Draft order is not yet official. Selections Nos. 21-32 are determined by the results of the playoffs. A coin flip between the Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys will determine picks No. 16 and No. 17. Please note, the Ravens are penciled in to draft a wide receiver. If that works out, It could actually benefit the Dallas Cowboys (financially) to pick below them.
How might the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft shake out? The debate starts right at the top with several prospects in contention to become the first player selected on May 8 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Let’s take a stab at projecting the first round.
Let’s run through this particular NFL Mock Draft (expect a variety of mock drafts from reputable sources in the coming months).
My contention, shared with many others, is that this should be remembered as the Dallas Cowboys Trenches Draft. Overall, the Dallas Cowboys have numerous weapons offensively in the key “” positions …. anchored by Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, returner Dwayne Harris, clutch Dan Bailey, and emerging players such as Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Gavin Escobar, and speedy Lance Dunbar showing promise. Sure, an argument could be made that the Cowboys need depth at running back and possibly another wide receiver. I’m ok with a lower round back or receiver being taken if the staff is confident enough to pull that trigger. Personally, I believe the ‘boys have plenty of weapons offensively … and if properly coordinated should continue to be a Top 10 ranked unit in the NFL.
If I’m sitting in the Dallas Cowboys war room on May 8, 2014 and the top ranked offensive linemen (guard) falls into my lap, I’m likely drafting him. In that scenario, I spend the rest of the 2014 NFL Draft on the defense. My reasoning is this. If the Cowboys have a dominate young offensive line, the defense will also benefit from extended drives and less pressure because the Dallas offense is scoring and building leads. If that standout, difference-making guard is sitting there … he’s mine. He’s suiting up at right guard with Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Ronald Leary, and redemption seeking Doug Free. Next draft, I’m placing a promising right tackle is on my wish list to compete against Free and push backups Jeremy Parnell and Darrion Weems
The overwhelming flaw in the Dallas Cowboys roster is on the defense, particularly along the front seven. That issue has been beaten to death, so let’s move on and take a look at the most glaring needs.
Defensive tackles, defensive ends, linebackers and a Kiffin prototype safety.
If the draft plays out as illustrated above, let’s get in the head of Jerry Jones and cover the options. Check out the #17 picks predicted in this mock draft:
Two analysts predict the Dallas Cowboys will select FS Calvin Pryor, while the other two are split between DE Kony Ealy and S Ha Ha Clinton Dix. Let’s get familiar with each player:
CALVIN PRYOR | FS | LOUISVILLE | 6’ 2” | 208 lbs
Calvin Pryor might be the most physical football player in the entire draft. Against the run, he is very quick to diagnose and he explodes to the alley. He takes correct angles and he doesn’t need to gear down before securing the tackle. He uncoils his hips on contact and he’s produced several impressive hits this season. Against the pass, he has the instincts and ball skills to play over the top, and he has enough speed/agility to match up in man coverage. He’s a complete safety.
#29 Overall | #2 Position (behind Clinton-Dix #15 Overall | #1 Position)
Perceived value: Predicted to fall to #22 (Eagles) by two analysts. Could the Cowboys trade down a few spots to #21 and still pick him up? If so, that could translate into ammunition in later rounds to move up or pick up additional talent.
KONY EALY | DE | MISSOURI | 6’ 5” | 275 lbs.
Kony Ealy is a versatile, athletic player with strong production (9.5 sacks, 14.5 TFL, three FF in 2013). He lines up all along the defensive line and will also stand up at times on the outside. Against the run, he uses his quickness to penetrate and is very disruptive. He flashes the ability to violently stack and shed blocks, but there are other times when he gets washed down the line of scrimmage. As a pass rusher, he creates pressure with a slap/swim move as well as a club/rip move. When he’s lined up on the outside, he shows the ability to convert speed to power. He has the athleticism to drop in coverage and might be best suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
The top DE in the 2013 NFL Draft is widely believed to be Jadeveon Clowney from South Carolina. Many think he’ll be the top overall pick (Texans) … or as low as #4 (Browns).
#11 Overall | #2 Position (behind Clowney #2 Overall | #1 Position)
Perceived value: Predicted to fall to #27 (Saints) or #31 (Broncos) by two analyst and slide completely out of the first round by the other. Could the Cowboys trade down a few spots to #26 and still pick him up? That would be reminiscent of last years move to pickup Frederick at the bottom of the first round and get the extra 3rd round draft pick (used to draft WR Williams). As of this date, its hard to believe Dallas would be targeting Ealy as their first overall pick.
HA HA CLINTON-DIX | S | ALABAMA | 6’ 1” | 208 lbs.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has the versatility to play the high or low safety. He has the physicality to be a box run defender and the athleticism to roam the deep middle. He’s picked off a total of seven passes during the last two seasons. His ability to cover athletic tight ends will be a huge asset at the next level.
Clinton-Dix is the top ranked safety in this years draft.
#15 Overall | #1 Position
Perceived value: In this mock draft, he’s predicted to fall to #21 (Packers) or #11 (Titans) or #15 (Steelers) by the other three analysts. If this is Kiffin’s guy, should the Cowboys move up to #10 or let fate decide if he falls into their laps?
What is your opinion? Comments always welcome!
ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT: Senior Bowl 2014 | NFL Draft Prospects showcased in today’s game on NFL Network
Future stars of the NFL will hit the field in Mobile, Ala. for the 2014 Reese’s Senior Bowl at 3:00 this afternoon. Check out the pro football talent scouted by the Cowboys and imagine how some of these young men might fit on the Dallas Cowboys 2014-2015 roster.
Last year’s Senior Bowl class produced a whopping 10 first-rounders, three top-five selections and the No. 1 overall pick.
1. Injuries forced many top prospects to pass on the Senior Bowl: Top talents like Michigan OT Taylor Lewan and UCLA LB Anthony Barr were among the 19 invited players that weren’t healthy enough to participate.
2. Nine invited prospects made a “business” decision to stay at home: Alabama QB AJ McCarron made headlines prior to the week when he announced he would pass on the Senior Bowl opportunity on the advice of his agent. He wasn’t the only player to make that choice. Top prospects C.J. Mosley and Khalil Mack were among the other healthy prospects that elected to pass on the Senior Bowl experience.
3. The upcoming draft will feature a record number of underclassmen: This Senior Bowl crop will be competing for draft positioning with one of the most talented underclassmen groups we’ve seen in a few years.
While there likely won’t be any top-10 picks to emerge from this year’s game, don’t be surprised if six players hear their name called in the first round of the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft.
1. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame #70): He was outstanding all week long. He has enough athleticism to play tackle, but he has Pro Bowl potential as a guard.
2. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: His combination of quickness and power was a matchup nightmare for opposing offensive lineman. He doesn’t have ideal size, but he held up well in the team and run periods.
3. Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia: He has ideal size and quick feet. He’s not a great knee bender, but he held up well in 1-on-1 pass-rush drills. He creates a lot of space in the run game.
4. Ra’Shede Hagemen, DT, Minnesota: He had an up-and-down week, but he flashed enough to keep his name in the first-round conversation. He’s a size/speed freak with a huge upside.
5. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: He was the best quarterback in Mobile, and teams that met with him really like what they heard. He has a big arm and he was accurate throughout the week.
6. Dee Ford, DE, Auburn: He was the most explosive edge rusher throughout the week. Most teams I’ve spoken with have him rated as a second-round prospect, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he snuck into the bottom of the first round because of his pass-rush skills.
Odds and ends
Best position group: Offensive line
Worst position group: Running back
Stock on the rise: Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State
Stock on the decline: Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
Wildcard player: Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami
Three to imagine in a Dallas Cowboys jersey
The Reese’s Senior Bowl is regarded as the crown jewel of the college all-star season, with elite prospects dotting the rosters at every position. Given the importance scouts place on the performance of players in highly competitive matchups, the practice week and game tape provide the answers to many of the questions evaluators have about the top prospects in the 2014 class. With that in mind, here are three guys with a lot riding on their performance this weekend:
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, #99 Minnesota (photo above)
It’s hard to find a talented interior defender blessed with Hageman’s size and athletic gifts. Measuring 6-foot-6, 311 pounds, Hageman glides across the field like a gazelle, yet flashes explosive strength and power at the point of attack. While scouts are certainly fascinated by his physical tools and unlimited potential, Hageman’s marginal production and inconsistent motor keep him from rating as an elite prospect at the point. Now, Hageman has changed the perception of his game by dominating the competition in practice this week, but scouts need to see him take it to another level when the lights come on to solidify his standing as a mid-to-late first-round selection.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
The league is trending toward bigger corners on the perimeter after watching the Seattle Seahawks make their way to Super Bowl XLVIII behind a physically imposing secondary that features long, rangy athletes on the outside. Jean-Baptiste is a former wide receiver turned cornerback with impressive physical dimensions (6-3, 220) and ball skills. He has been the top cornerback in attendance, displaying a refined game that is ideally suited to play in a scheme that features press-man coverage extensively. Although Jean-Baptiste has made a strong case to be in the discussion as a borderline Day 1 selection, a spectacular performance in the game could send the Nebraska star flying up the charts.
Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn (photo above)
Scouts pay close attention to players who dominate the practice week at the Senior Bowl. Ford has not only thrashed opponents in drills, he has produced a number of disruptive plays that would qualify as game changers at the next level. Although he flashed that kind of potential occasionally at Auburn, no one expected him to destroy the competition with his speed, burst and athleticism off the edge. In doing so, Ford has convinced several scouts and coaches that his skills translate well to the NFL as a designated pass rusher. If Ford can continue to display the quickness, burst and rush skills in the game that he has shown throughout the week, Ford will be one of the fastest risers up the charts heading into the combine.
Two quarterbacks to watch
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The NFL scouting community has been buzzing about Carr’s potential as a franchise quarterback since his emergence as a standout playmaker the past two seasons. He has lit up the Mountain West Conference for 9,086 yards and 87 touchdowns against only 15 interceptions. Most impressively, he has displayed a lively arm to match his superb athleticism and improvisational skills. Yet, some scouts still question his poise and composure within a muddied pocket. This was one of his biggest flaws discovered in his 2012 tape (junior season), and it reappeared in a disappointing showing against USC in the Las Vegas Bowl. With another opportunity to show his wares against a squad with NFL-caliber players at every turn, Carr needs to show scouts that he can deliver pinpoint throws with defenders in close proximity. In addition, he must show coaches that he has the poise to work through his progressions to find an open receiver with the pocket crumbling around him. If he can withstand the pressure, while making a few accurate throws downfield, Carr could leave the Senior Bowl rated as the top senior quarterback in the draft.
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
There are some scouts who believe Thomas is better suited to play tight end at the next level, but his combination of size and arm talent makes him too enticing to disregard as a quarterback. Thomas has enjoyed an up-and-down week of practice, but his flashes have been impressive enough to keep his name in the mix as a developmental quarterback prospect. With the NFL ushering in a new wave of athletic quarterbacks, Thomas’ performance in the game could significantly impact his chances of getting a legitimate shot to play his preferred position as a pro.
ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT: Senior Bowl 2014 | NFC Championship Game should help steer 2014 Dallas Cowboys draft
Most of the Dallas Cowboys brass arrived in Mobile, Ala. for the 2014 Senior Bowl on Monday.
We’d like to think Jerry Jones and the team’s front-office personnel was watching closely when the 49ers and Seahawks slugged it out for the NFC Championship the night before.
During the game, it was pretty clear what needs to be done in the upcoming draft and even free agency.
Actually, it has been clear to everyone just by watching the Dallas Cowboys 2013 regular season.
This team needs Dee-fense. And plenty of it.
It’s not just because they were the worst in the NFL and worst in team history. Those are reasons enough to go draft defense in the first three to four rounds. This team needs a defensive tackle, a pass-rusher, an outside linebacker and a safety. And a good cornerback wouldn’t hurt either – you can never have too many.
After watching the 49ers and Seahawks it was very clear that the Cowboys have plenty of offense to win a Super Bowl. Sure, there are some natural improvements that need to be made, but that’s with any team.
The direction the offensive line is going is very positive and the running game went from a liability early in the year, to average by the middle of the season to pretty much becoming a team-strength by seasons’ end.
People love what the 49ers and Seahawks did to get young, athletic and cheap (for now) quarterbacks. But they can do that because they’ve got a defense and running game to lean on.
Russell Wilson is a good, young quarterback, but he fell into the perfect situation for him. I don’t think he could go win the game if he was on the Bucs or the Browns or even the Cowboys. Russell Wilson had the No. 1 defense in the NFL on the other side. Imagine if he had the worst.
Ask yourself if you’d rather have Wilson and the Cowboys’ team or Romo and the Seahawks’ team. Do the same with the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick. That one might actually be a little different because there are some fans who wouldn’t mind seeing Kaepernick in Dallas.
Either way, the point is that if those teams can get to the Super Bowl – or really close – with that type of offense, the Dallas Cowboys can do that as well.
Just give them some help on defense.
Those defenses are nasty. The only thing nasty about the Dallas Cowboys defense is the stats and the yards it gives up.
The front four of the 49ers or Seahawks, you’ll see brute strength that seems missing with other squads, particularly this one here in Dallas. You don’t see arms and triceps like you see with those teams and players.
That was a very physical football game and we knew it would be. Jason Pierre-Paul said something about blood being shed in the Cowboys-Giants game back in late November. But that one had nothing on this past battle between the 49ers and Seahawks, which has arguably become the best rival in football right now.
The Cowboys are going to keep all of their defensive assistants. That’s what’s coming out of Mobile this week at the 2014 Senior Bowl.
Monte Kiffin is returning for his second year, at least give him some help. You can draft defense in the first three picks, if not four or five and you’d be OK.
The only exception I could see to that is taking an offensive guard in the first round. That would be the only position to consider with that 16th or 17th pick. Guards have good value there and you’ve seen the benefits of taking Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick early and really building something from the ground up.
Dallas can get by with Ron Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau, and maybe Brian Waters if he decides to come back. But you can’t get by with plucking guys off their couch and into the defensive-line rotation.
If Sunday’s game in Seattle showed us anything, it’s that defense really does win championships – at least conference ones. But it also showed this offense is plenty good enough to win.