Dear Mr. Jones,
As I mentioned in the last letter, I believe this is the most important off-season for the team in the last 10 years and probably for the next five at least. Given the age of Romo and the makeup of this team, it is entirely possible this offseason may define your legacy. This team's current nucleus may be your last good shot to win the title.
I am writing these letters because I want you to be remembered as a successful owner/GM in your own right who managed to capture another Super Bowl before retiring rather than how Dallas fans paint you today—as an arrogant owner who ran off Jimmy Jones and never sniffed another Super Bowl after Jimmy's talent reserves were exhausted.
I thought we'd take a look at first-round options in this letter.
Local radio stations are have suggested there is a short list of players the Cowboys seem to be focused on as candidates in the first round.
Most of the local media suggest you have moved on from Stanford guard David DeCastro and now says the list of candidates you are considering likely consist of:
4-3 DT/3-4 DE Michael Brockers, LSU
4-3 DE/3-4 OLB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
SS Mark Barron, Alabama (allegedly your personal favorite)
4-3 DT/ 3-4 DE Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State
NT Dontari Poe, Memphis
While I admit to being intrigued by Barron too, as a former defensive lineman, the list frankly is an immensely uninspiring one to me.
There are a lot of guys who sound like they could be busts on this list.
The only good part of this list is that Texas A&M's project QB Ryan Tannehill is not also being talked about by the media to make it a grand slam of two-to-three year projects. With the exception of Barron, to me they all have the look of a potential wasted first-round pick for this team.
When looking at an ability to finish a pass rush, in my opinion collegiate sack numbers don't lie. You either have the burst to finish or you don't.
(Now that said, a closing burst is only part of the picture. I also acknowledge players also have to have the talent to compete at an NFL level too. Some small school players with substandard talent for the pros have good sack numbers too.)
Looking at this team from a glass-half-full perspective, the team is near Super Bowl contention. Viewing it that way, you should be looking for draftees who are ready to play and deliver the maximum bang to this roster in your Tony Romo Superbowl window—the next two to three years.
Drafting linemen who have talent but haven't shown the ability to break the 10-sack threshold at the college level is not going to help a team this close to Super Bowl contention.
I look at this list and am depressed. I see a bunch of Marcus Spears clones. Young projects. You don't need to be drafting guys to teach how to play at the NFL level or who need a few years in the weightroom or need a lot of coaching to even be contributors.
I am going to talk about the six guys on the list and eight more who I would argue should. I will also note what jumps out to me about each as a fan when I read the scouting reports online and hear the discussions on DFW sports radio.
Now I am not a scout. I haven't broken down game after game of these players. Some of the 14 players I only know from highlights I have seen. With that limitation it makes more sense for me to seek out experts. With that in mind I've tried to largely suppress my personal analysis of their play and to rely more on the consensus of those scouting reports I have found online.
These profiles are only meant focus on red flags as well as major positive and negative attributes, not as actual scouting reports. If readers want scouting reports, several will be linked for each prospect though.
I hope this may lead you to take a second look at your own scouting reports on these players and maybe open your eyes to some other options as you complete your draft board.
(And, by the way, as I mentioned last time, I am still all about picking up another first-round pick AND trading up a bit with our current picks.)