DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH POST DRAFT: Dallas Cowboys scramble to sign priority undrafted free agents | 2014 NFL Draft Prospects
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys added more pieces in the hours and minutes following the conclusion of the 2014 NFL Draft than they did in the three days of the actual event.
No time can be wasted as teams attempt to sign priority undrafted prospects, and the quicker all the players can arrive, the better.
“It’s really pretty interesting logistically…we didn’t know who we drafted until two hours ago,” head coach Jason Garrett said immediately after the draft. “Now we go through the process, what’re the rules of the school, have you finished your exam, have you graduated, you guys on trimester system…We just felt like it’s important to get those guys in here, if we can, to have three bonus days with them before we go into that minicamp next weekend.”
First-round pick Zack Martin and fifth-round pick Devin Street were both at Valley Ranch on Monday. Garrett said fourth-round pick Anthony Hitchens had exams Monday and Tuesday and would arrive after those, while he expected second-round pick Demarcus Lawrence today (Thursday).
“The benefit is simply getting in a meeting room,” Garrett said. “We start there, introduce stuff to them, then on Tuesday and Thursday, they’ll go out with our veteran players on the field, they’ll get an orientation to our strength and conditioning program. These days are valuable. If you have time with them, 45 minutes in the morning, an hour and a half in the afternoon, a couple-three days, you can really learn a lot of football in a short period of time, and we feel like our rookie minicamp will be so much better as a result of that.”
Garrett said with a week in between the draft and the rookie minicamp, players arriving early can be three or four days ahead of where they would be otherwise before taking the field. Coaches also get a better idea of where the player is at physically.
The conditioning of rookies generally pales in comparison to the veterans, who’ve been in the Dallas Cowboys offseason program.
“That’s something we’ve got to be really careful about, really on Tuesday when they go out with our veteran players,” Garrett said. “Our veteran players have been here, and they’re working out and they’re in shape and they’re in our program, so we feel like it’s important to acclimate them to that, but we have to do it very carefully to make sure they’re ready to handle the work.”
The days leading into the rookie minicamp can be valuable. And while it may be unfair, coaches and personnel evaluators may be less inclined to bring in undrafted players with extenuating circumstances forcing them to arrive late.
“I think it impacts that, because it’s always so tight,” Garrett said. “There’s usually a couple guys you’re thinking about, and if the logistics are right with one guy and everything else is even, you’ll probably take that guy. But for the most part, you’re trying to take the best guys, and you can kind of work your way through some of those situations.”
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:
PICKIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: Your 2014 Dallas Cowboys Draft Guide | NFL Prospect Rankings: Defense | Special Feature
Defensively, the Dallas Cowboys are in a “trenches transition” going into the 2014-2015 NFL season. If everyone stays healthy, the free agency losses (and gains) from the offseason could be somewhat manageable … assuming the draft goes well and DeMarcus Ware’s productivity can be filled by a committee of blue-collar Marinelli-Men.
SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: True Blue fans also preparing for the Dallas Cowboys 2014 NFL Draft | NFL Draft 2014 | Special Feature
The Dallas Cowboys 2014 NFL Draft is now only 11 days away. We want True Blue Dallas Cowboys fans even more prepared for the upcoming draft than your average fan around the league. This article also introduces Dallas Cowboys players and coaches. These interviews and features shows a personal side to some of these key people in the Dallas Cowboys organization.
Take time to view The Blitz television series and latest Dallas Cowboys Draft shows on your PC or phone. All of the (much smaller) audio files can be downloaded to your computer or phone and listened to at will.
SITTIN’ AT SWEET SIXTEEN: NFL Draft prospects may help address needs at offensive guard and center | Dallas Cowboys Draft 2014
As the 2014 NFL Draft approaches on May 8-10, we’ll analyze every position, including the Dallas Cowboys needs and which players might be targeted with their 11 picks. Today features options regarding the offensive guards and centers.
WAR ROOM SNEAK PREVIEWS: Annual NFL Pre-Draft visits are a window into most of the Dallas Cowboys recent draft picks
IRVING, Texas — In the coming weeks you will hear about NFL teams bringing in college players from around the country for the annual pre-draft visits. Each club is allowed to bring 30 players into their complex up until the week before the actual NFL draft.
These players will have the opportunity to visit with the front office and coaching staff for group or one-on-one meetings, tour the complex and take a physical if necessary. The clubs are not allowed to work these players out unless it is that player’s hometown, or if the school they attended is in the metro area of that team’s complex.
Earlier in the year, teams had the opportunity to visit with most these players for just fifteen minutes while they were in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine. During these official visits, the clubs are allowed to keep the players overnight and then meet with them the entire next day if necessary.
In the case of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett and Will McClay, along with the coaches and scouts will be able to interact with these players in a more comfortable setting. They can sit down and watch game tape with the players, as well as test them on X’s and O’s to see their ability to retain information.
Coaches always welcome the opportunity to sit down with players and see what makes them tick. There were numerous times in my experiences preparing for a draft where a coach did or did not like what he heard from a player in one of the pre-draft visits.
I remember an example from Randy Moss’ pre-draft visit to Valley Ranch. The wide receivers coach at the time, Dwain Painter, brought up in a final draft meeting with Jerry Jones that he was turned off by Moss and his attitude. That feedback ultimately affected Jones’ decision not to draft him.
In these pre-draft visits you will hear about names like Aaron Donald and Kony Ealy, who are likely first round picks. But there will be other names on these visits that will be considerations much later in the draft. Maybe these players didn’t have a chance to go to the Combine and the club needs a physical on them before the draft. During this period, this is where you will see those physicals take place.
Along with the annual Dallas Day, these pre-draft visits are vital to working toward building the final draft board that the Cowboys will use. Impressions good or bad will shape that board and ultimately shape this team. As we start to bring you news of who is visiting Valley Ranch, pay close attention who they are because trust me, other teams around the league sure are.
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys’ pre-draft visits headlined by top defenders
To get a clearer understanding who the Dallas Cowboys might take with their 16th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, keep an eye on who their bring in for pre-draft visits, starting today and running through Wednesday.
The Cowboys are allowed to bring in 30 top prospects for national visits and considering the names reportedly already here or on the invite list for the up close and personal meet and greet, targeting the defense is the obvious focal point.
Many of the prospects came in Sunday night.
The expected visitors include Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald (pictured above), Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, Boise State defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, Arizona State defensive end Davon Coleman, Southeast Louisiana State defensive tackle Jerrod Black, Northwest Missouri cornerback Brandon Dixon, Northern Illinois strong safety Jimmie Ward.
These visits are important considering that DeMarcus Ware in 2005 and Morris Claiborne in 2012 were the only top picks taken by the Dallas Cowboys in the past nine drafts who didn’t make pre-draft visits to the team’s Valley Ranch headquarters.
Travis Frederick in 13, Tyron Smith in 2011, Dez Bryant in 2010, Jason Williams in in 2009, Felix Jones in 2008, Anthony Spencer in 2007 and Bobby Carpenter in 2006 were among the pre-draft visitors the year they were taking first by the Dallas Cowboys.
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
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