Dallas Cowboys: If Ratliff Is Released, Who Should Dallas Draft to Replace Him?

Jason Henry@thenprojectCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2013

Dallas Cowboys: If Ratliff Is Released, Who Should Dallas Draft to Replace Him?

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    Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated yesterday morning in Grapevine, Texas.

    Ratliff was reportedly returning from an outing with a friend when he was pulled over for suspicion of drunk driving.

    This incident comes not three months after reserve nose tackle Josh Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter after the car that he was driving crashed, killing teammate Jerry Brown. 

    As of Wednesday night, there has been no official talk out of the Cowboys organization about releasing Ratliff. This situation is still fresh, and Ratliff has yet to face trail or retribution from the National Football League for his actions.

    In the interim, I believe it is fair to speculate on his future with the franchise. Ratliff’s 2012 campaign was cut short by a sports hernia injury, and his production has been on the decline the past few years.

    Should Dallas decide to release Ratliff, and eat his $7 million cap hit in 2013, where should the Cowboys turn for his replacement?

    Yesterday, I gave review of Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller’s first round draft pick for the Cowboys. He thinks Dallas should pick Alabama defensive lineman Jesse Williams. I believe the Cowboys would be best served to go with UNC offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper instead.

    Since news broke of Ratliff’s arrest, and his career in Dallas is potentially in danger, the Williams pick doesn’t look so bad now.

    Williams is 17 pounds heavier than Ratliff, and would play opposite Tyrone Crawford as the 1-techninque lineman in new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s scheme.

    Outside of Williams, who should the Cowboys look toward to replace Ratliff?

    Here are five defensive tackles that should be on the Cowboys radar.

Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina

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    Williams is comparable in measurables to Alabama's Jesse Williams. They both are 320 pounds and have pretty much the same height.

    Another thing they have in common is the same last name and ability to rush the passer.

    Both Williams can disrupt the pocket and eventually get to the quarterback, but have trouble finishing and creating the sack.

    If the Cowboys keep a nose tackle or defensive lineman on the radar for the first round, they should take a hard look at this Williams out of North Carolina.

    He has a great combination of size and quickness to play one-technique and defended the run really well in college.

Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State

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    Hankins is about 15 pounds up on both Williams’ at about the same height.

    To give an idea of Hankins' size, his weight is comparable to former Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Gilbert Brown, a player who was nicknamed “the gravedigger” during his days in the NFL.

    Hankins is a decent pass rusher as he only attacks the quarterback with one move. If Dallas looks to replace Ratliff’s sack production, it will take a little while for Hankins to build up to that level.

    But he’s good against the run and will plug plenty of the large run holes along the Cowboys defensive line.

Kawann Short, DT, Purdue

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    Short’s weight ranges anywhere from 310 to 325. The official athletic website for Purdue has him at 315 while ESPN shows 325.

    At any rate, Short has the best pass rushing ability out of every lineman listed. He can bull rush and use the swim or club move to get the defender out of the way to bring the quarterback down. 

    Short also has really good durability as the only major injury I could find was an ankle sprain in December of 2012.

    Because he’s projected to go in the second or third round of April's draft, the Cowboys could go offensive and defensive line in the first two rounds to fill out holes missing on both sides of the ball.

    Short could be a good fit in Monte Kiffin’s scheme.

Abry Jones, DL, Georgia

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    Jones is projected to a mid-to-late round pick in April's selection ceremony, but what may give pause to Dallas picking him is an ankle injury that kept him out of action for two months, and how some teams see him as a five-technique defensive end. 

    I still like his ability to play inside due to his long arms and power to handle large interior lineman.

    Out of the other four, Jones is probably a long-shot. I like his potential and his versatility, but I doubt the Cowboys head in his direction.

Cory Grissom, DT, South Florida

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    From a superficial perspective, Grissom would seem to fit well. He's lighter than the aforementioned linemen and is closer to the size of Kiffin's star lineman in Tampa, Warren Sapp.

    He's 313 pounds and stands at 6'1."

    If he plays the one-technique, he can occupy a double team and has the right quickness to shed a blocker and chase the quarterback.

    Ratliff was an undersized nose tackle in the Cowboys 3-4 who was sometimes gobbled up by larger centers, but he was still able to slide away from defenders and wrestle the quarterback to the ground.

    Grissom is not a sack specialist, but has great upside to morph into a good pass rusher.

    The good thing about Grissom is that he's expected to be a low round pick, so he is a potential steal.



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