5 Under-the-Radar Options for Dallas Cowboys in First Round of 2014 NFL Draft

Jonathan BalesAnalyst IApril 17, 2014

5 Under-the-Radar Options for Dallas Cowboys in First Round of 2014 NFL Draft

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    Michael Conroy

    The Dallas Cowboys selected two under-the-radar players in center Travis Frederick and tight end Gavin Escobar to begin last year’s draft, and there’s certainly a strong possibility they go off of the map again in 2014.

    That’s particularly true because there doesn’t seem to be much of a consensus on who might interest Dallas in the first round. Sure, Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald might fall to the ‘Boys, but they could just as easily go in a direction no one is envisioning.

    We’ve all seen the mock drafts with Donald, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Kony Ealy coming to Dallas, but who are the most probable “surprise” potential picks for the Cowboys?

Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

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    It’s pretty unlikely that Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans will still be on the board when the Cowboys are on the clock in the mid-first. He’s a 6’5”, 231-pound receiver with 4.53 speed and a 37-inch vertical. That alone makes him a rare prospect athletically, but he was also productive in college; in his two years at A&M, Evans, totaled 151 catches for 2,499 yards and 17 scores.

    However, if we see a run on quarterbacks and Evans drops, the Cowboys should strongly consider him. Is wide receiver the Cowboys’ most pressing need? No, but it’s not like the team couldn’t benefit (significantly) from an upgrade. Second-year Terrance Williams is a fine No. 2 option, but he doesn’t have the dominant No. 1 build or skill set to truly take pressure off of Dez Bryant.

    Further, selecting Evans (or another wide receiver with No. 1 ability) really helps the Cowboys at two positions. Evans would be an upgrade over Williams, but Williams would stay on the field, moving into the slot and allowing Dallas to keep Cole Beasley on the sideline.

    Other wide receiver options include Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews and Penn State’s Allen Robinson if the Cowboys choose to trade down in the first.

Dee Ford, DE, Auburn

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    Of the players listed here, Auburn defensive end Dee Ford has been the one linked to Dallas most often. However, it’s not like he’s an extremely popular choice for the ‘Boys. One trait appears to make Ford an unlikely candidate for Dallas: size. At just 252 pounds, Ford doesn’t have the prototypical build that Rod Marinelli wants in a 4-3 defensive end.

    The bigger concern to me is a lack of production at a "normal" college age. Ford stayed at Auburn for five years and didn’t really produce until his redshirt senior season in 2013. Before that, his career-high in sacks was only six and his career-best in tackles-for-loss was just 6.5. It's always concerning when a player can't dominate college competition until he's older than the other players.

    Nonetheless, the Cowboys are pretty desperate for a defensive end, meaning they could very well convince themselves into Ford or another second-tier pass-rusher.

Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State

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    Lenny Ignelzi

    Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence is widely considered a second or even third-round prospect. CBS Sports has him ranked higher than most, and he’s still just No. 48 overall on their big board.

    When you study Lawrence, though, it’s not really clear why he isn’t being considered with the big boys. Yes, he played at a relatively small school, but he was also ultra-productive with 20 sacks and 34 tackles-for-loss in the past two seasons.

    Lawrence isn’t blazing fast, but he has the length that allows NFL pass-rushers to flourish—with 33.75-inch arms at just 6’3”, Lawrence has the exact sort of build that typically leads to value for NFL teams. If he gets selected anywhere after the first round, he’ll be a steal.

    The Cowboys probably won’t draft Lawrence at No. 16, but there would be bigger surprises than the team trading down and grabbing a player like Lawrence in the back of the first.

Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA

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    UCLA’s Anthony Barr is an extremely talented football player who could very well get selected in the top 10. Thus, the reason he’s on here isn’t because it would be a surprise if Dallas drafts him if he’s available, but rather that most view Barr dropping to the mid-first as an improbable occurrence. Thus he’s not getting linked to Dallas just because most people don’t think he’ll be available.

    One reason Barr could drop, however, is that he doesn’t necessarily have a clear-cut position. Will he be a true 4-3 defensive end? Is he a standup 3-4 outside linebacker? Will he be a pass-rushing 4-3 outside linebacker in the mold of Denver’s Von Miller?

    NFL teams like versatility, but they don’t like when a player doesn’t clearly fit into their rigid schemes. They should really be searching for talented players and then altering the scheme around them, which would allow those willing to take a “chance” on hybrid players like Barr to acquire value.

C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

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    Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is clearly a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but he hasn’t stayed on the field. His health is likely to improve from simple regression toward the mean, i.e. he’s likely to be “luckier” with health than he has in the past, regardless of whether or not he’s injury-prone.

    However, Dallas might want to take every precaution to keep Lee healthy. One option is to move him to outside linebacker. That would only be possible if they bring in an immediate starter at the “Mike” position, which Alabama’s C.J. Mosley could be.

    Linebacker isn’t considered a vital position in a 4-3 scheme, but the ‘Boys could be lured by the idea of starting Lee, Mosley and Bruce Carter at one time. That could aid the Cowboys’ run-stopping efforts, allowing the defensive ends to rush up the field immediately following the snap to get a better jump, even on most run downs.