With the most exciting part of the offseason quickly approaching, I'm ready to start diving into draft guides, looking at YouTube highlights, and discussing the college pick 'em. Unfortunately, it's not as exciting as previous years because the 'Boys foolishly traded away a No. 1 and a No. 3 for Roy Williams.
Now, I believe Roy Williams can and will be an 80-90 catch, 1,100-1,300 yard, 8-12 TD receiver in the No. 1 role because he's very talented, but the price was clearly too high. But, of course, what else can you expect from Jerry Jones.
To start, lets identify the needs. As far as trying to find an immediate starter, well there really isn't a spot where a rookie is going to immediately start. By signing Keith Brooking, Igor Olshansky, and Gerald Sensabaugh, Dallas found reasonably priced players, who are starting caliber at the three holes in the starting lineup. Three solid signings I believe.
Brooking isn't what he used to be, but he still is a decent block shedder and a good tackler, which is what you need inside in the 3-4. He's a liability in coverage, but despite what the team says I think he's a two-down base package player who's there to play the run and cover small areas.
At worst, I see him no worse than Zach Thomas, who was passable as a starter. In fact, Brooking fits the system better because he's bigger and better at shedding blocks, whereas Zach Thomas was like Velcro when a blocker got to him.
I'm not too knowledgeable on Gerald Sensabaugh, since I've rarely seen him play since leaving UNC, but from what some Jacksonville fans have told me he was very improved last season in coverage and a solid supporter against the run.
He nabbed four picks, a good number for a safety, and four times as many as our safeties had combined last season. I do know he has the Combine record for vertical leap with 46 inches and he's a very good athlete, so automatically it should be better than Roy "Meatball" Williams or Keith "LOL WTF is coverage" Davis.
Olshansky is a tremendous signing IMO. A very good run stopper, with a very strong base and came at a very good price. He has experience with Wade's defense and he's probably about equal all-around to Chris Canty, who went to the Giants for a hell of a lot more money than he was worth. He may not rush the passer as well, but he's only marginally behind and stops the run better.
Brooking is 34 and has almost completely lost it though, and Sensabaugh is a one-year deal, so those clearly aren't long term fixes, unless the 25-year-old Sensabaugh plays great and earns a long term deal like Ken Hamlin did in 2007 (who, unfortunately, slacked off in 2008).
Thus, you can include ILB and safety (free or strong, Dallas sees them as interchangeable anyway) high in the list of needs with our first pick.
I would love to get a young tackle to develop before Flozell Adams is no longer capable (it may already be too late). Lump that with a high round need. A nose tackle capable of spelling Ratliff is a need now that Tank is rightfully gone.
Ideally, I would love to get a guy like Boston College's Ron Brace who can probably start right away at nose tackle, which would allow Dallas to flex Ratliff out to a more natural end position and put Marcus Spears's ass on the bench to be depth. Otherwise, this is a later round need.
If a receiver like Hakeem Nicks or Kenny Britt falls (doubtful) into striking range, I would move up for one of them. I like Miles Austin and believe he has a future, but he needs to prove he can stay off the injured list and keep developing. Regardless, Crayton's 30 and Hurd is a special teamer, so getting a guy who can be a No. 2 or No. 3 by next year is key.
I would like a versatile G/C combo guy since the depth there is weak. Montrae Holland is good depth, but Cory Proctor is awful and I can't believe Dallas intends to keep him. Ugh.
And last but not least, DRAFT A QUARTERBACK. This was the Ron Wolfe model, as Packers GM he drafted a quarterback every single year despite having Brett Favre. If the guy can develop into an NFL caliber quarterback, that is absolutely golden.
You'll either have a capable backup (obviously, as we saw with Brad Johnson, this is critical) or you have trade bait. Wolfe was able to find Mark Brunell (fifth round, later traded for a third and a fifth), Aaron Brooks (fourth round, later traded for a third rounder), and Matt Hasselbeck (sixth round, later was used in a trade with a seventh round pick for a third rounder and a seven spot move up in the first round). All guys the Packers were able to develop and get increased value for.
I'm a staunch believer in the best player available approach. To me, that means where need and value best meet. I don't want to reach for my biggest need when there's a much better player on the board for a lesser need or a potential need. Thus, here are some guys I like that could be around.
I'm going to assume Ron Brace, Louis Delmas, Sean Smith, Hakeem Nicks, and Kenny Britt are gone. Shame.
A guy I really do like, however, that could be available in this area is Alabama FS Rashad Johnson. Nick Saban, whose schemes are very complex, called him one of the smartest players he's ever coached. Some call him a coach on the field.
One thing the Cowboys sorely lack is intelligence in the back end. Hamlin did an OK job, but I love Johnson's instincts. He had 94 tackles and six interceptions in 2007 and 89 tackles/five picks in 2008 and was constantly near the ball when it went downfield. He's a solid tackler as well.
There were questions about his size and his athleticism, but after playing at 185 during the year, he bulked up to 203 for the Combine and still ran a 4.5, which was better than expected. At 5'11", he's not ideal height, but he'll be a solid find for the Cowboys in round two. Brian Robiskie is another good pick here, but I'll take Johnson over him.
The Cowboys select...FS Rashad Johnson, Alabama
We have the Browns' third round pick as a result of a trade in the 2007 draft, so it's pretty early.
The guy I really like here, if he reaches this point, is Jarron Gilbert, the DT out of San Jose State. He's a thick, athletic player who does well rushing the passer and routinely takes on two blockers and beats them. He's a guy who provides some much needed depth on that defensive line, and can perhaps maybe take the place of an underwhelming Marcus Spears.
Beef up that DL at pick 69.
Another guy that could be useful here is South Carolina OT Jamon Meredith or Florida WR Louis Murphy (yes, lol Florida receivers I know, but Murphy has potential).
The Cowboys select... DT/DE Jarron Gilbert, San Jose State
Dallas has two fourth rounds picks, and there is still plenty of talent in this round. Dallas has picks 97 and 113.
At pick 97, I'm looking for some depth along the OL. Hopefully, a little luck and a good interior lineman falls to our selection. A couple of guys I'm looking at include Kraig Urbik and Eric Wood. I would select either one, but if I had to choose it would be Eric Wood.
He's a three-time All-Conference player and a four-year starter at center, with very good strength and decent athleticism. He's looked good in workouts thus far this offseason and again is said to have a first rate football IQ.
For all the talent Andre Gurode has, he's about as dumb as a rock and can't snap a ball for his life. Wood can play center or guard in the pros, and intelligence and versatility is just what this line needs an infusion of.
For the second, fourth-round pick, one guy I think has big potential is ILB Jasper Brinkley. After starting early in his college career, he faced a season-ending knee injury and redshirted, then came back with less impact than he had before the injury.
However, he went to the Combine and proved he wasn't robbed of his athleticism, running a 4.67 in the 40 and a 35.5 inch vertical. He also has plenty of size (6'2", 252) and is an absolute thumper inside. The guy was a late first-early second round prospect before getting hurt, so getting him here is a good value and fits a need.
The Cowboys select... C/G Eric Wood, Louisville & ILB Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina
Again, Dallas has two selections in this round, No. 148 and No. 158. Keeping to form, I still want to beef up those lines. As I mentioned before, we need a guy who can spell Ratliff at the nose.
One guy that looks appealing is from a small school called Stillman, nose tackle Sammie Lee Hill. He has perfect size for playing a two gap at 6'2", 329. Despite this, he's surprisingly quick off the ball and gets into the backfield at a solid rate, racking up 29.5 TFL and 12 sacks over the past two seasons.
I think he's a good sleeper candidate and a guy who gives us some bulk inside when we take Ratliff out for a breath or even potentially flex him out to end on occasion as is being rumored.
With the No. 158, I would like to get a receiver into the mix. Someone who has field stretching speed, like Ole Miss WR Mike Wallace. While he wasn't overly productive for the Rebels, the guy has pure, unteachable speed.
With Miles Austin being the only real deep threat on the team, we could use a guy like Mike Wallace to back the safeties up. He led the SEC in yards per catch the past two years with 18.8 in '07 and 20.1 in 2008, so he's proven he has the ability to get deep against the top collegiate competition. He's also a very good return man, which can be another role he could fill in Dallas.
Behind and even including Roy Williams, the receivers in Dallas are littered with injury and talent question marks. Can Miles Austin or Sam Hurd or Isaiah Stanback stay healthy? Can Stanback transition to WR? Can Patrick Crayton finally run faster than linebackers? Will Roy Williams be a good No. 1? etc...
The Cowboys select... NT Sammie Lee Hill, Stillman & WR Mike Wallace, Ole Miss
Dallas has only one sixth-rounder as a result of the RW11 trade (which we got ripped off for, BTW) when they had two. Again, theme of the day is line, line, line!
Yes, our backups suck that bad that I wouldn't be opposed to taking three offensive linemen in this draft. I think TJ Lang is a sleeper, but he seems to be rising at this point, well beyond this point.
So I go back to the small school, and pull out OT Joel Bell. Bell has solid bulk and a very good frame with 34 inch arms at 6'7", but his athleticism is his most impressive attribute.
He has very good feet (probably the result of growing up in Croatia and Egypt as a soccer and basketball player) and is a good blocker in space at the second level. He's also has a lot accomplishments under his belt, a three-time all-conference player who won the league's award for top blocker. A late round potential sleeper.
The Cowboys select... OT Joel Bell, Furman
Not going into too much detail because guessing at this point who's left is a crapshoot. Dallas has two seventh round picks, one coming as a result of the RW11 trade. Of course, as I ranted about it, I would have to go after a quarterback.
One guy who's been overlooked I believe is Todd Boeckman from Ohio State. While Boeckman has plenty of warts and lost his job to freshman phenom Terrelle Pryor, Boeckman has enticing potential.
He has franchise QB size (6'5", 240), and a very powerful arm, capable of throwing tight deep passes. He's also more athletic than expected, posting a 4.76 and 31" at his pro day.
While he might not be very good under pressure and be prone to bad decisions, he is a guy who took a team to the BCS national title game and wasn't completely terrible in his time as a starter. Selecting this late, you can do worse than Todd Boeckman.
Else, the secondary is thin after the trade of Anthony Henry and while the top three are good. Alan Ball could use competition and there's been talk of him moving to safety anyway.
A couple of guys I think look intriguing include Womapo Osaisai and Lardarius Webb, both fast, athletic guys, but they'll probably be long gone by this point.
I believe Don Carey would be a nice grab here if he lasts. He has good speed, running an official 4.54 at the Combine, and is a pretty good tackler. He is a potential depth increasing pick, who can help out on special teams.
The Cowboys select... QB Todd Boeckman, Ohio State and CB Don Carey, Norfolk State
- FS Rashad Johnson, Alabama
- DT/DE Jarron Gilbert, San Jose State
- C/G Eric Wood, Louisville
- ILB Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina
- NT Sammie Lee Hill, Stillman
- WR Mike Wallace, Ole Miss
- OT Joel Bell, Furman
- QB Todd Boeckman, Ohio State
- CB Don Carey, Norfolk State
In my opinion, this would be a solid follow up to last year's very good draft where we hit on five of our six selections. Obviously, with comp picks and trading, the draft won't end up like this, but it's a solid look at what direction I believe the Cowboys should go.
With nine picks (possibly 11 with comp picks), if we hit on even half of them we're stocking our depth good. All nine players are good value I believe, if they all wind up lasting this long.