7 Names Every Dallas Cowboys Fan Should Know Ahead of 2014 NFL Draft
With the 2014 NFL draft less than a month away, teams are determining which prospects they’re realistically selecting. The majority of free agents have been signed, so teams should know exactly whom they’re targeting come May’s draft.
The Dallas Cowboys have a clearer agenda compared to a lot of teams, having only a few positions of dire need. Most of these positions come on the defensive side: along the line and in the secondary.
On the offensive side of the ball, Dallas should be taking a receiver somewhere and have the potential to draft the quarterback of the future. However, with owner and GM Jerry Jones calling the shots, no one’s ever too sure which direction it will go.
Although there is plenty of time for circumstances to change, let’s take a look at seven prospects Cowboys fans need to know before the draft.
DE Kony Ealy
The Cowboys will be looking to upgrade their defensive line more than anything else in this year’s draft. Both the tackle and end positions could use assistance. With the one defensive end spot opposite George Selvie really up in the air, I’ll put it as the most important need.
Missouri’s Kony Ealy is extremely athletic and would provide the perfect rush off the edge. He’s got plenty of strength and has excellent hands to get separation from blockers.
Ealy is a first-round projection, but he should be available when Dallas selects at No. 16. Depending on who else is available, the former Tiger is absolutely a potential pick for the Cowboys.
DE Anthony Barr
Another option at defensive end is UCLA’s Anthony Barr. Although he played more of an outside linebacker role in college, he can easily make the transition to a 4-3 end.
Like Ealy, he’s a very good athlete and it shows in every game. He’s fast around the outside and can be a consistent disruption in the backfield. Barr isn’t as strong against the run as other prospects, but he has plenty of room to improve since he only started playing defense in 2012.
He’s a great fit for Dallas and would be an immediate starter. The Cowboys need to replace DeMarcus Ware’s sack production and Barr would be a solid choice.
DT Aaron Donald
If Dallas decides to take the route of an interior defensive lineman, Aaron Donald is their guy. The signing of Henry Melton was substantial, but the depth behind Nick Hayden is minimal at best.
Donald is a very talented player who faced double teams steadily in his college career. He’s got an explosive first step and can drive opponents backwards with good leverage.
The former Pitt Panther is ranked as the top tackle in the draft and deserves to be. Donald won the Lombardi Award for the nation’s top lineman and will be an instant asset to whoever lands him.
DT Timmy Jernigan
School: Florida State
The next best option at the tackle spot is FSU’s Timmy Jernigan. If the first three on this list aren’t available, look for Jones to be interested in the former Seminole.
Jernigan has good movement for someone his size. He’s got quality footwork and uses it to his advantage to split gaps. He also utilizes his hands actively, which helps him move blockers at will.
The Cowboys would be pleased to land a player like Jernigan. He might not start immediately for Rod Marinelli’s defense, however, he would provide depth and youth to a struggling unit.
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
I truly believe Dallas needs the most help along the defensive front. However, if no one of value is there at No. 16, the Cowboys could solidify their secondary with a true starting safety.
The draft’s best safety is Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He’s a smart and decisive playmaker, who has the ability to change a game. He has good awareness and can contribute against the pass and the run.
Dallas has yet to have a dynamic duo at the safety position for years. It’s not its biggest need in the first round, but if available, Clinton-Dix paired with Barry Church could be great.
S Calvin Pryor
The other safety with first-round skill is Louisville’s Calvin Pryor. He’s slightly smaller than Clinton-Dix, but he packs plenty of power in his game.
Pryor has really good vision that he uses to scan the field and finish on open-field tackles. Despite his physicality, the safety has incredible ball skills, too. He’s shown the ability to extend above receivers to break up passes.
Just like Clinton-Dix, Pryor would be someone to jump right to the top of the depth chart. With his talent, he could really have an impact on a secondary that struggled in 2013.
WR Kelvin Benjamin
School: Florida State
Because I don’t see a scenario where Dallas takes a wide receiver in the first round, here’s a guy who could potentially last through the second round. Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin is a physical monster who will be someone to reckon with in the NFL.
Despite being ranked only the sixth receiver in the draft, per CBS Sports, I think Benjamin has more upside than just about everyone. He has an impressive wingspan and will provide an ideal red-zone threat for any quarterback. Last season he recorded 14 touchdowns for a championship team.
Dallas needs an additional weapon at receiver after losing Miles Austin in free agency. Dez Bryant is a star, but he needs someone to draw the attention away from him. Benjamin would give the Cowboys one of the best young receiving corps in the league.