The Dallas Cowboys look toward the 2012 NFL draft with much to be optimistic about. With a strong, young core of players, America’s Team should be able to bolster some vital holes and easily catapult themselves into the conversation for the NFC East crown.
While the Cowboys will likely address their biggest needs in the earlier rounds of the draft, there are always diamonds to be found in the rough during the later rounds of the process.
Much of the Cowboys’ success has not been very recent, but former seventh-round draft pick Jay Ratliff is a prime example of the talent capable of being discovered late in the draft.
Jerry Jones and company will be searching for those hidden gems that could turn out to be the draft’s biggest sleepers. Here are eight late-round prospects that would look great with the Dallas Cowboys.
At 6’1” and 310 pounds, Chapman has desirable size for an NFL nose tackle and utilizes it to the best of his ability. He is a lethal, violent defender to block and comparable with the best prospects in the 2012 NFL draft against the run.
A torn ACL during his senior season appears to have many draft pundits concerned, giving Chapman the possibility of going anywhere between the second and fifth rounds. Should Chapman fall as far as the fifth round, the Cowboys would be foolish to pass him up.
The national champions have a lot of prospects who could be key contributors in the NFL. Cornerback DeQuan Menzie is another who may be a good fit with the Dallas Cowboys.
According to CBSSports.com, Menzie is a versatile corner with the capability to line up inside and outside on opposing receivers. He has good bulk, enabling him to be a physical defender at the line of scrimmage.
With the addition of Brandon Carr this offseason, the Cowboys are not hurting at the cornerback position, but added depth would be a positive move in the later rounds of the draft.
Arkansas’ Jake Bequette, a defensive end in college, is an interesting 3-4 outside linebacker project for the Dallas Cowboys. With Anthony Spencer and Victor Butler on the depth chart, the Cowboys would have time to groom Bequette into the player he has the potential to be.
The Cowboys need another pass-rusher on their defense and there are few better than Bequette. He boasts great speed (a 4.82 40-time at the combine) and strength to explode through the line of scrimmage and get after the quarterback.
The Razorback standout recorded 23.5 sacks as a four-year starter.
Ryan Van Bergen presents another option as a successful pass-rusher during his tenure with the Michigan Wolverines.
At 6’5” and 290 pounds, Van Bergen has great size for a 3-4 defensive end. He excelled for the Wolverines, leading them in sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (12.5) in 2011.
Van Bergen can be a steal who could fall as far as the seventh round for the Cowboys. He would add valuable depth with the possibility of being a key contributor down the line.
With the departure of Martellus Bennett and the spread of two-tight end sets throughout the NFL, Michigan State’s Brian Linthicum would be a smart late-round consideration by Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys.
Linthicum is a capable all-around tight end with above-average hands, according to CBSSports.com.
Jason Witten is an elite tight end whose production could rise with a player of Linthicum’s caliber lifting some focus from him.
The former Spartan garnered Second Team All-Big Ten honors with a stellar senior campaign, catching 31 passes for 364 yards. Though he could bulk up some, Linthicum is a quality blocker who would benefit from seeing immediate playing time as a member of the Cowboys’ high-powered offense.
The Dallas Cowboys have talented players at the wide receiver position but could benefit from some added depth. Although Arkansas’ Jarius Wright does not appear to be a future No. 1 in the NFL, he has shown flashes of potential throughout his collegiate career.
He does not possess desired NFL size at 5’10”, 182 pounds, but he makes up for it with phenomenal speed off the line of scrimmage. He shows good quickness in and out of cuts and knows how to create separation between him and his defender.
His appearance will not get him much attention, according to CBSSports.com, but his ability and reliable hands should lure the Cowboys in the later rounds of the draft.
Former Oklahoma Sooner James Hanna first earned attention this offseason while showcasing his blinding speed at the NFL combine, posting a time of 4.49 in the 40-yard dash—best amongst tight end prospects.
With Martellus Bennett gone and a void to be filled at the second tight end position, Hanna could be the man for the job. The Second Team All-Big 12 stud obviously has the speed teams are seeking in athletic tight ends these days, but he also has the size to go with it.
At 6’4” and 252 pounds, Hanna is a big target for his quarterback and creates an easy mismatch for linebackers and slower safeties down the field.
While the downside is that Hanna is a rather inept route runner and blocker, both are things he can strive to improve on at the next level. The upside of a player of his caliber is too easy to pass up for this late-round prospect.
You have to love what Tommy Streeter can bring to an already-explosive offensive unit like the Dallas Cowboys.
The Miami product is a huge target with wheels that make offensive coordinators salivate. Streeter was one of the fastest players at the combine, posting a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash. His 6’5”, 219-pound frame draws comparisons to the NFL’s premier big-bodied receivers.
Streeter has the tools to be a threat down the field as well as in the red zone and would make for a lethal combination with the Cowboys’ Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. His abilities would give them a receiving corps comparable to that of the 2011 New York Giants.
Streeter is still quite raw, having produced very little during his tenure with Miami. As a result, the Cowboys should be able to land the young prospect as late as the sixth round.