5 2014 NFL Draft Prospects Guaranteed to Interest Dallas Cowboys
Considering how bad the Dallas defense was in 2013, it's obvious that side of the ball needs the most help in this year's draft. The Cowboys need to get young, talented players to plug in and put last year's woes behind them defensively.
The offense could certainly use a bit of depth, but make no mistake, this year's draft will be a defensive-minded one for Big D.
Let's take a look at five players that are surely being scouted down on Valley Ranch.
OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor
CBS Sports ranks Cyril Richardson as the top guard in this year's draft class. While Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary did better than expected, neither are the future at guard for the Cowboys.
Dallas had good luck with its 2013 selection from Baylor in Terrance Williams and have a geographical advantage in scouting the Texas school.
Richardson stands at 6'5" and 340 pounds, the perfect throwback lineman frame the Cowboys have always loved. The former Bear proved to be a true force in the running game, constantly making holes for his backs like Lache Seastrunk.
He also had experience playing left tackle during his three years as a starter at Baylor. There are few better traits for a lineman than knowing how to utilize an intimidating frame and having versatility.
DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
Jay Ratliff is gone. Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher could very well be gone in free agency this offseason, too. The defensive line has quickly become Dallas' biggest weakness.
Kony Ealy is a towering 6'5" and an All-SEC selection this past season. He was an anchor on the Tigers' defense last year and totaled 14 sacks in 38 games overall for Mizzou.
Dallas would likely need to spend its first-round pick on Ealy, but there's plenty of reason to. He knows how to get to the quarterback, and he flies around the field in general.
Ealy is a big, strong defensive end that would be a great building block for a Cowboys line that has and could lose some real talent before the 2014 season. The team needs a player like Ealy to come in and make an impact from the first snap of his rookie season and continue to do so for years down the road.
FS Dontae Johnson, North Carolina State
There's no other way to say it, the Cowboys' secondary underperformed in 2013. Dallas ranked No. 30 overall against the pass and saw Morris Claiborne lose his starting cornerback job at one point.
With the likes of Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox and Jeff Heath roaming around at safety last year, it was clear depth needed to be added to this position as well. North Carolina State's Dontae Johnson has experience at both cornerback and safety, spending his senior season playing the former.
Johnson was a reliable option for the Wolf Pack, regardless of what position he lined up in during his time with the program.
The best part about Johnson for Dallas though is that he won't likely hear his name called until the last few rounds of the draft. If for some reason he doesn't work out, it's not like the Cowboys burned a crucial pick on him.
Considering that Dallas could use some cheap, versatile depth in the secondary after last season's woes, Johnson could easily be a late-flier pick.
DE Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
A bit of a lesser-known name compared to Kony Ealy, Bernardrick McKinney has arguably just as much upside as the Missouri product.
Bleacher Report's own NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller thinks that the Cowboys will take McKinney in the first round in his latest mock draft. Miller cites his ability to make plays in the backfield as one of the main reasons Dallas will take him in the middle of the first.
Historically, the Cowboys have been known to draft players from lesser-known schools. DeMarcus Ware came out of Troy. Last year's draft picks in Gavin Escobar and J.J. Wilcox came out of San Diego State and Georgia Southern respectively.
McKinney is a player that has certainly been scouted and heavily discussed by the Cowboys. He is a phenomenal pass-rusher, and that's something Dallas desperately needs. Ware had just six sacks all last season, and he ranked third on the team in that category.
For the same reasons that Ealy would be a fine pick for Dallas, McKinney would fit right in as well. The Cowboys are likely going to lose Anthony Spencer and/or Jason Hatcher this offseason. McKinney would help cushion the blow of both or either players and could become a staple pass-rusher in Dallas.
It's time to invest in the defensive line after years of putting money into the secondary.
QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Johnny Manziel has polarized the college football world the last two seasons, and he's also a hometown boy. How could Dallas not be interested in Johnny Football?
His 6'0" frame and questions of durability are certainly question marks. Those drawbacks might not be enough to hold back owner Jerry Jones, who has to see dollar signs when looking at the A&M product.
The Cowboys would certainly ensure some extra attention if they addressed their quarterback needs by drafting Manziel. Jones loves him some extra publicity, and it's probably time that his team starts grooming a young quarterback anyways.
Manziel has money and promise written all over him, and that has to intrigue Dallas.