NFL Draft 2013: Breaking Down Matt Miller's Dallas Cowboys 1st Round Pick

Jason HenryCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2013

Jan 7, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide nose guard Jesse Williams (54) prior to the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2013 BCS Championship game at Sun Life Stadium. Alabama won 42-14.  Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we know where the Cowboys are headed on defense and Monte Kiffin was hired as defensive coordinator, we should have a better idea of what type of player the ‘Boys are looking for in the first round.

Last week, I reviewed the Cowboys first-round pick according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper. Kiper went guard for Dallas, stating that the Cowboys should select North Carolina offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper.

If that pick holds, it would turn out to be solid for Dallas. Cooper earned a myriad of honors in 2012 and will give the Cowboys another young offensive lineman to build around.

The Cowboys are light at the guard position, and adding Cooper will give them stability and consistency.

But no mock draft is the same.

Bleacher Report’s own Matt Miller released his pre-Super Bowl mock draft a few days ago, and he goes defense for Dallas. Miller thinks the Cowboys should select Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams with the 18th pick.

The Cowboys are preparing to switch from a 3-4 defensive set to a 4-3 alignment, and that may call for different players.


Defensive Fit

According to Miller, his reasoning for selecting Williams would be to make-up in size for what current nose tackle Jay Ratliff lacks.

What Ratliff lacks in size and strength, he makes up for in technique and quickness off the ball. The Cowboys need someone to balance that out—someone with the strength to command and control double-teams while being able to split the gap and rush the quarterback.

I can’t disagree with drafting a player like Williams.

He is big—6’3” and 320 pounds—and would definitely take up some space up front. But team owner Jerry Jones has indicated that he envisions defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford to play next to Ratliff.

Crawford is a lot smaller than Ratliff, only 285 pounds, yet his size would be a plus in Kiffin’s system. Because his defensive scheme is based on speed over size, he prefers his three-technique lineman to be smaller.  

Crawford was just drafted in 2012 and has not been given a true opportunity to prove himself. I’m not sure that Jones would want to pick Williams just to see if he will fit when he wants to try Crawford out alongside Ratliff.


Pass Rush Skills

Williams is very versatile as he played pretty much every position along the Alabama defensive line. So if needed, he could probably fill-in for Jason Hatcher or Jay Ratliff on the ends.  

How he rushes the passer will not show up on the stat line. He recorded just one sack in 2012, and that came against Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel when the Tide lost to the Aggies last November.

What concerns me a little about Williams is that he isn’t highly developed as a pass rusher.

He needs to expand his pass-rush moves and stay focused on the line pre-snap. Williams will not grab a bunch of sacks or even head toward double-digit numbers. However, he does have potential to disrupt the pocket and knock his fair share of balls down at the line.

Flushing RGIII out of the pocket or stopping Eli Manning on third down by swatting one of his passes could serve as a drive killer or game saver for Dallas.

I don’t believe the Cowboys will go with Williams at 18. The defensive line is in better shape than the offensive line or the secondary, so I could see Jones going after Kiper’s pick of Cooper at guard or even selecting another linebacker.

On the surface, Williams would be a good addition due to his versatility. I’m just not sure he would be the smartest selection for Dallas in the first round.



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