Jerry Jones has made some solid moves to improve the Dallas Cowboys on defense through free agency. He's signed Brandon Carr and Dan Connor, among others. Still, he has players to acquire to boost the defense through the draft.
Jones has an array of players to look at to help the team on defense in the middle rounds. A number of these players could start from opening week. Some of them could develop into starters, while contributing on special teams to start.
Following is a list of players who could be Cowboys draft picks and become solid aids for the defense.
Demario Davis was a standout outside linebacker at Arkansas State. He was a two-time All-Sun Belt first-team selection.
Davis demonstrated a good ability to make plays. He had 22.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and four interceptions at Arkansas State. In 2009, he took an interception 75 yards for a touchdown.
Davis is fast, having run a 4.61 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
He’s great at tracking ball carriers and making solid tackles.
The Cowboys shouldn’t overlook the playmaking ability of Davis, who projects to be a third-round pick.
Trevor Guyton of California is an interesting defensive end prospect who looks to be picked up in the fourth round. Guyton doesn’t have incredible speed or strength. He doesn’t have the playmaking ability that some players have, nor does he have the potential to rack up numerous sacks.
However, he does have some likable qualities. Guyton is an end-to-end player. He can go after ball carriers from sideline to sideline or downfield. Also, he can make strong tackles.
While Guyton doesn’t have great strength, he has the functional strength to handle blockers.
Also, Guyton is durable, having started 41 straight games for the Bears.
Guyton’s talent level doesn’t make him a great pass rusher, but he could serve the Cowboys as a defensive end who holds up tackles on the strong side as DeMarcus Ware goes in for the sack.
When people look at defensive end Akiem Hicks of Regina, they surely think he should have been an SEC star. Hicks could have been, but controversy surrounding his recruitment by LSU drove him to leave the Tigers and head north of the border.
Hicks, who projects to the fifth round, has the look of a big school standout. He big (6’5” and 315 pounds) and has huge hands. His sharp off the snap and shows good short-range quickness.
In 2011, Hicks had 20.5 tackles and four for loss.
His playmaking ability and his size would make him a great fit for the Cowboys’ 3-4 defense.
Duke Ihenacho is a small school strong safety with big school swagger. The former San Jose State dynamo has great playmaking ability. In 2011, he had four tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries, including one returned for a touchdown. In 2008, he returned two interceptions for touchdowns.
Ihenacho, who projects to the fourth or fifth round, has nice size at 6’1” and 210 pounds. He has great hands and great ball skills.
Ihenacho certainly made his mark in the Western Athletic Conference, becoming the first San Jose State player to make the All-WAC first team three times.
Ihenacho’s playmaking ability would be a welcome addition to a Cowboys secondary that was often lacking in that department.
The Cowboys will need to tighten up the cornerback group in the draft. Jamell Fleming of Oklahoma would be a good pick to add depth at that position.
Like Duke Ihenacho, Fleming has solid playmaking ability, and he’s done it against big-time competition. In 2010, Fleming had 14 pass deflections and five interceptions. He followed that up with 10 pass deflections and two interceptions in 2011.
Also, Fleming swoops in on ball carriers to try to strip the ball.
At 5’11” and 188 pounds, Fleming is small. He makes up for his small stature with his length, physicality and quickness. Big receivers shouldn’t overlook Fleming’s ability to jam guys at the line of scrimmage. His short-range quickness gives him great ability to lock down on possession receivers.
Fleming, who projects to the fourth round, could be helpful in the Cowboys’ restart at cornerback.