The Dallas Cowboys will be making some important draft picks in April. A couple of these players will be difference makers once they put on a Cowboys uniform. At least a few of the Cowboys draft picks will be starters on day one.
The Cowboys could be looking at some big names from big-name programs. Many of these players have been closely watched since their freshman year. Some might have been starters for three or four years.
Another possible route for the Cowboys would be to take a shot at an unknown player from a non-Division I-A program. Many would question the wisdom of picking a player from such a program since that player would have faced inferior competition. Still, a few of these players have real talent and real NFL potential.
The Cowboys have capitalized on non-Division I-A talent before, taking such players as Dexter Coakley out of Appalachian State and Larry Allen out of Sonoma State.
Who could be the next Cowboys standout from a non-Division I-A program?
Read along for a few possibilities.
Amini Silatolu is the best non-Division I-A prospect in the draft. Silatolu, who played left tackle at Midwestern State, is a solid guard prospect.
The Tracy, Calif., native is big (6'4" and 311 pounds) and possesses a hardiness that few would see coming from a guy who played Division II ball. He's an attacking blocker in the running game who holds no prisoners. He'll throw off pass rushers, too. Also, he possesses the quickness to perform pull and trap blocks and block for bubble screens.
The Cowboys would surely love to be able to harness the aggression and blocking acumen of this hard working big guy. Projecting into the third round, Silatolu would be a good pick if the Cowboys don't grab a lineman in the first two rounds.
Akiem Hicks is an intriguing prospect out of the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. Hicks had originally planned to go to LSU, but recruiting flags caused him to wince at the situation and go north. In 2011, Hicks had 20.5 tackles and four tackles for loss, earning a spot on the CIS All-Canada first team.
Hicks (6'5" and 315 pounds) is a big, tough defensive lineman with huge hands. He has a great burst off the line and solid short-range quickness. Also, he has the strength to shed blockers. One of his major strengths is his ability to make plays in space.
Hicks, who projects into the fifth round, would fit in well as an end in Cowboys 3-4 scheme.
Shawn Loiseau was an outstanding inside linebacker at Division II Merrimack. Loiseau was a two-time Northeast 10 Defensive Player of the Year. In 2011, Loiseau earned a Division II All-American nod after collecting 121 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
His size (6'0" and 244 pounds) is average, but he's an intelligent player. Loiseau has great instincts and is terrific at reading plays. While his 4.85 40-yard dash time isn't the best, Loiseau has an explosive first step. He has strong hands and is a strong tackler.
Projected into the seventh round, Loiseau would fit in well on special teams to start his career. He plays hard and can make plays. Also, he would be a good depth addition at linebacker.