Dallas Cowboys: 10 College Football Prospects for Cowboys Fans to Watch
I know that the regular season has not even started yet, we have no idea how players are going to develop and we certainly don’t know what next season's needs are going to be.
It’s fun to predict who are going to be good players in college and even more fun to identify those players beforehand. This allows us as Cowboys fans to keep an eye on them and be a little more informed of some of the good prospects out there for our team.
I’ve highlighted 10 prospects who I think will fit what the Cowboys are looking for next year. It’s important to remember that it is still early and players' values will likely change.
So without further ado...
Jarvis Jones, OLB, UGA
Jarvis Jones is the premier outside linebacker in college football right now in my opinion. Many consider Jones a pass rush specialist who has exceptional explosion off the line of scrimmage. He has great instincts and a great bull rush.
However, Jones is much more than that. He is efficient in everything he does. He has a great motor and excellent instincts that constantly put him around the ball. He can make open field tackles and utilizes excellent technique. He is also known as a power hitter who can force turnovers.
Jones does have his deficiencies; he has trouble shedding blocks against more physical offensive linemen and needs to enhance his tools for pass rushing. Besides those two things he is an excellent outside linebacker who can rush the passer very well and still be effective in the run game.
How he fits:
Jones would fit immediately as the replacement to Anthony Spencer. He would be able to supplement Spencer’s production and add to it significant pass rush numbers. I think his fit with the Cowboys would be ideal.
Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
Barrett Jones is a key cog to the Crimson Tide’s offensive production. In the last two years they produced two highly touted NFL caliber backs in Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. Those two players owe a great deal to Barrett Jones.
Jones is a versatile lineman who is able to play every position on the offensive line. He is strong and utilizes exceptional technique in his game. Everything from his hand placement to his footwork to the use of his hands is flawless. He has faced a plethora of NFL caliber linemen (Marcel Dareus in practice, Michael Brockers) with a great deal of success.
If there is a knock on Jones’ game, it’s his ability to handle speed rushers. Really, though, this is knit-picking because he isn’t consistently beat. He’s a four-year player with tons of experience.
How he fits:
The Cowboys have a lot of questions on their line and Barrett Jones could fill voids in so many areas. Some believe he’d be best suited to play center and that makes him even more appealing. The Cowboys struck gold with Tyron Smith and I think the success rate for offensive linemen in the first round is very good and worth looking at.
Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
Mingo is one of those flex players who can be effective anywhere. For LSU he is their secret weapon. They are able to utilize him anywhere on the field to create mismatches and it’s rare he doesn’t produce.
Mingo possesses elite speed and athleticism. Most impressive is his ability to close on players in the open field. Mingo is strictly an edge rusher; in my opinion, his production drops significantly when moved to an interior line position. He is a better athlete than Jarvis Jones but not quite as polished.
What Mingo lacks to me is strength and size. He will be a top defensive talent this year but could be straight dominant if he could get a little stronger and increase his pass-rushing repertoire.
How he fits:
The Cowboys have been harping on the importance of an improved pass rush. With drafting Mingo they’d get that. They might lose some of the production on rushing downs but he would surely be an improvement over Anthony Spencer in the pass rushing department.
Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Now, this is a different pick for me. I am what you might call a “Romo-Lover.” By that I mean that I believe that Romo is the leader of this team and will be for a few more years.
However, I’m also a fan of the “get a good value” plan. Landry Jones is a very solid quarterback who is likely to fall well into the second round this year because of a solid quarterback class.
Jones is a strong-armed pocket passer with elite accuracy. He understands the game well and reads defenses exceptionally well. He is a student of the game, consistently getting better and learning to be more efficient. He’ll pick defenses apart with time and really has a great resume when considering his ability, leadership and experience.
The one thing Jones doesn’t have is good mobility. He will be a pure pocket passer but would get to learn against a very good defense and one of the best pass rushers of all time. You can’t expect Jones to bring the improvisational skills that Romo does, but he might be a more polished passer when things are said and done.
How he fits:
Jones would give the Cowboys the young NFL ready quarterback that they really need. He would have 3-4 years to learn from one of the best quarterbacks in the league and against one of the best defenses in the league. This would be a smart organizational move to take away any rough quarterback transition when Romo is done.
T.J. McDonald, S, USC
McDonald is a lot like current Cowboy Gerald Sensabaugh in the fact that he’s extremely versatile. McDonald is the star of the Trojans defense and has been a headache for a lot of offensive coordinators. For those who play NBA 2K you could classify him as a “stat sheet stuffer extraordinaire.”
As I said, McDonald is versatile. He can interchange as a strong safety and a free safety. He has exceptional range because of his great speed and instincts. He can match up one-on-one if needed and it’s rare that you see him beat outright in coverage. He’s smart, strong and big. He’s ideal if you’re looking for a safety to build a team around.
McDonald is truly NFL ready. I had him mocked to the Cowboys last year when I thought he was going to enter the NFL draft. He is without any major weakness and will be a great player at the next level.
How he fits:
Even if Barry Church works out (which I think he will) the position isn’t exactly loaded with talent. Gerald Sensabaugh is underrated but he is deficient in pass coverage in speed situations. McDonald could offer competition in case Matt Johnson can’t get healthy next season. It would be a lot of fun to watch.
Khaled Holmes, C, USC
AFRO HOLMES! Holmes has probably the sweetest Afro in all of college football. On a more serious note, Holmes NEEDS to be watched this season. He will be protecting Matt Barkley and the Trojans dangerous running game. He is considered a second round pick but has top-15 potential.
Holmes is a pass protector extraordinaire. He’s quick with his feet and great with blitz pickups. He understands the game well and is never found being lazy. If he has no main assignment he quickly identifies a double team to engage in.
As a run blocker Holmes is mobile and quick into the second level. It would be nice if he could be more explosive and powerful in his blocks. Holmes is a great athlete who plays in one of the NFL’s most needed positions. There is a lot of potential with this young man.
How he fits:
Well, I can’t believe I’m explaining this at this point, but the Cowboys are in desperate need for a young talented center. You can’t be successful if your quarterback is on his butt the whole game or the ball is going over his head.
Johnathan Hankins, DT, OSU
One major cry from Cowboys fans is that the Cowboys needed a gap-filling defensive tackle. The main idea being that this would allow Jay Ratliff to move to defensive end. Johnathan Hankins would be that type of player. At 6'4" and 325lbs, Hankins is an absolute monster.
Hankins is a great run defender who uses his overwhelming size to dominate the line of scrimmage. He’s not what I would consider fast but maintains enough acceleration to be able to close the gap between ball carriers when they are in his vicinity. Hankins has also been utilized in multiple defensive scheme alignments and has been effective in multiple gap assignments.
To me, Hankins really needs to improve his ability as a pass rusher. He isn’t fast and doesn’t really rack up stats. He does push and collapse the pocket but he isn’t going to net you a lot of sacks per se.
How he fits:
The Cowboys have revamped their defense and Hankins would be a perfect defensive tackle of the future. He is dominant in the running game and could become an elite defensive tackle with good coaching and a good attitude.
Eric Reid, S, LSU
Many consider Reid to be a better safety than previously mentioned T.J. McDonald. I strongly disagree with that assessment. However, that doesn’t mean that Reid isn’t good. He is VERY good. I think sometimes the hype comes from playing at LSU which has garnered a lot of attention for it’s production of defensive backs there lately. Reid would be exceptional value if he were available in the second round.
If I had to describe Reid in one word it would be “instinctive.” He is a balanced safety that has above average ability as both a run defender and coverage safety. To me, Reid is more of a power type safety who could crowd the box and be effective against the run. He’s good in pursuit and isn’t a liability in coverage.
Reid is another player that has very limited deficiencies. I just don’t know he’s elite in any particular skill area. I think he projects a very good safety who could start at the next level with coaching and determination.
How he fits:
Again, the safety position isn’t as set as we’d like it to be. Barry Church and Gerald Sensabaugh are holding it down but we need to feel more comfortable with them to completely dismiss the safety need.
William Gholston, DE, Michigan St.
This is a confusing case for me. I like Gholston a lot but he is more of a 4-3 end. My reasoning for selecting him has to do with the complex multiple-D the Cowboys run and the idea that Gholston would be able to play a flex position to create mismatches. Gholston is a tough young man who racks up incredible stats for a defensive lineman.
Gholston is a freak athlete who happens to play defensive line. He is fast and strong and has been disruptive against opposing offenses. He is effective in every facet of the game. He can be a productive pass rusher and can be productive stopping the run. Gholston is exceptional at shedding blocks and has gotten consistently better throughout his college career. He is still improving his basic techniques but hasn’t been any less productive because of technical mistakes.
Gholston is a man who many believe to have character issues because of a suspension he suffered from punching Michigan’s Taylor Lewan. I think that might be a little over-analyzed though.
In football-related deficiencies, Gholston has been seen over-pursuing players and displaying poor tackling techniques.
How he fits:
Gholston would have to put on some weight (approximately 10 lbs) to be able to be an effective 3-4 end. I think he could make the transition and be a solid rotational player. I don’t think you take him unless he falls to the bottom second or 3rd rounds though.
Travis Frederick, OG, Wisconsin
If I’m drafting a lineman, I’m looking at these Midwest colleges that consistently breed mean powerhouses. Frederick meets that stereotype easily. Frederick is the lead blocker for Montee Ball and was instrumental in helping the Heisman campaigns of both Russell Wilson and Montee Ball.
Frederick is 6'4" and 338lbs and every bit of that is a mean blocker. He is a strong run blocker who is powerful and punishing. Frederick harnesses surprising mobility and is very good at pulling or getting to the next level. He is in the mold of players like Kevin Zeitler or John Moffitt.
Frederick needs to improve his pass blocking, especially against speed rushers. He is powerful and big and can sometimes be a little slow trying to beat some of the faster finesse pass rushers.
Frederick, to me, projects as an immediate starter in balanced or run-heavy offensive schemes.
How he fits:
One thing the Cowboys haven’t had in a long time is an offensive lineman with a mean streak. Some nastiness could be a really great thing for this team. I’m not sold on Livings or Bernadeau as a long-term option. If I had to be honest, I would be very happy with Ronald Leary and Travis Frederick holding down the line in the future.