Dallas Cowboys Day 3 2014 NFL Draft Primer

Alex Hall@@AlexKHallCorrespondent IIIMay 10, 2014

Dallas Cowboys Day 3 2014 NFL Draft Primer

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys have made strides to improve both their offense and defense and have plenty of picks in Day 3 to continue that trend.

    With only two new additions to the roster, Dallas will need to make the most of its picks in Rounds 4-7. With eight selections left, Day 3 is going to be a busy one for the Cowboys war room.

    Big D will add more players to the roster before Day 3 concludes. Let's take a look at what the experts are saying, recap Dallas' picks so far and forecast which guys could don the star on Saturday.

Day 2 Recap and Analysis

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    Much to the surprise of Dallas fans, the Cowboys didn't address their needs on their No. 32 defense from a season ago. Instead, they once again invested a first-round pick in the offensive line, taking tackle Zack Martin.

    The disappointment that some might have felt for their team for ignoring the defense ended quickly on Day 2. The Cowboys traded up to Washington’s No. 34 overall pick to take defensive end Demarcus Lawrence.

    The move cost Dallas its third-round selection, but he was worth the price. Dallas’ defensive line lost so much veteran talent when Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware left town. The Boise State product represents an effort to rebuild defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s front four, and Lawrence is a great one at that.

    He led the Mountain West Conference in tackles for loss (20.5) and sacks (10.5) last season. He saw such success not only due to his ability to power through blockers but also to use his quickness to move around them. With Marinelli as his coordinator, Lawrence has the potential to become a solid starter at defensive end for years to come.

    Expect the Cowboys to continue rebuilding their defense on Day 3.

Updated Needs for Dallas

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    Gus Ruelas/Associated Press

    Dallas has addressed two big needs on its roster already in this draft, but there is still plenty of work to do. The defense still needs more than a few rookies to come in and fix some obvious holes.

    The offensive side has fewer issues but needs role players at certain positions. Here are the Cowboys’ biggest position needs heading into Day 3 of the draft, ranked by order of importance.


    Defensive Tackle

    Henry Melton was the biggest signing of the offseason on Valley Ranch, but he’s going to need help. He needs a partner to help him get to the quarterback and blow up running plays in the interior of the defensive line.

    Defensive tackle is Dallas’ biggest need, but the draft doesn't feature a ton of big-name prospects left at the position. It would be a bit of a shock if the team doesn't address DT in Round 4.



    With second-year player J.J. Wilcox, Matt Johnson and Jeff Heath on the roster, safety isn’t the top need, but it’s a big one nonetheless. Wilcox lost his starting job to Heath last season, and Johnson has never been in a regular-season game due to injuries. The starting safety gig opposite Barry Church is wide open, and more competition is needed for those three players.


    Wide Receiver

    2013 third-rounder Terrance Williams burst onto the scene last season when he totaled 736 receiving yards and five touchdowns. That performance is promising, but with Miles Austin gone, Dallas needs another wide receiver to take his spot.

    Dez Bryant and Williams are the clear No. 1 and No. 2 starters, but this team needs a reliable slot receiver. Tony Romo loves receiving options who can move the chains like Jason Witten and Austin. This draft still has several promising receivers who are looking for a home, and Dallas would be wise to take one of them.



    Jerry Jones has told anyone who will listen about his love for Romo but can’t ignore the fact No. 9 is now 34 years old and coming off two straight offseasons with back surgeries. It’s time to find his heir and have him ride the bench until the franchise quarterback hangs up his cleats.

    Just because the Cowboys resisted taking Johnny Manziel in the first round doesn’t mean they don’t realize quarterback might be a smart position to address on Day 3.


    Running Back

    Dallas let Phillip Tanner leave town this free-agency period and needs someone to fill his roster spot. Joseph Randle averaged just three yards per carry as a rookie in 2013. Lance Dunbar showed some real promise in limited time but hasn’t been given the chance to showcase his talent on a consistent basis.

    These two players could use a rookie to push them during training camp as they battle it out for the backup running back position.

Top Day 3 Targets

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Even after losing their third-round pick, the Cowboys still have plenty of picks and almost as many needs. With Day 2 in the books, here are some of the top names that will be discussed in the Dallas war room.


    1. Ed Reynolds

    The safety out of Stanford would be a solid pick for the Cowboys to kick off Day 3. He plays a position that Dallas must address and plays it well. At 6'2", 205 pounds, he has a solid build and is physical in coverage and when tackling the ball-carrier.


    2. Deandre Coleman

    Coleman has the ideal size for a defensive tackle at 6'5", 314 pounds. He understands how to use the power that comes with that frame and get into the backfield.

    Defensive tackle is Dallas' biggest need left to address in this draft. Coleman and Nick Hayden could work nicely opposite Henry Melton.


    3. AJ McCarron

    The top-tier quarterbacks are already off the board, but McCarron is one of the better options in that second tier. He comes from a pro-style system and was coached by one of college football's best in Nick Saban.

    His mechanics don't need much tweaking at all, which has to make Wade Wilson and Jason Garrett happy. The two former quarterbacks could turn McCarron into a starter or fine backup over time.


    4. Josh Brown

    Dallas should probably address wide receiver before the later rounds, but if they don't, Brown is a name to watch. His 5'10" height isn't fantastic, but he makes up for it with his speed. He was also a punt and kick returner in college, which gives him special teams value as well.


    5. Prince Shembo

    Linebacker is a position that could be and likely will be addressed on Day 3. Adding Martin's former teammate in Prince Shembo has to be a consideration for the Cowboys.

    He had 46 tackles, five sacks and five tackles for loss in his senior season. He was an anchor for the Irish defense and could be a fine role player for the Cowboys.


    6. Tyler Gaffney

    Gaffney is a projected sixth-round pick, but if he falls to the seventh, Dallas has to consider adding him for depth at running back. The Stanford product can be elusive or truck through would-be tacklers, depending on the situation.

    He understands how to keep his feet moving and gain as many yards as he can before the play is over. He is a scrappy kind of running back who could provide a nice challenge for Randle and Dunbar.


    7. Mike Davis

    Another wide receiver prospect that the Cowboys must know well is former Longhorn Davis. He is a homegrown talent who has the ability to catch the deep ball and fly past defenders. There's no question he could use some coaching up, but he has some fine raw talent for Garrett's staff to work with.

What the Experts Are Saying

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    USA TODAY Sports

    It doesn't take an expert to figure out the Cowboys will have defense on the mind on Day 3. That being said, Dallas needs to address more than one side of the football, especially with its plethora of seventh-round picks. Let's take a look at whom the experts think Dallas will be targeting in Rounds 4-7.


    Matt Miller: Shaquelle Evans

    The Cowboys could be tempted to go wide receiver in the fourth round, but it’s tougher to see after they traded their third-rounder. Evans is a fine receiving prospect considering his 6’1”, 213-pound frame and his 4.40 40-yard dash time at the 2014 NFL combine, per CBS Sports.

    There’s a lot to like about his route running too, which is what Dallas is likely looking for in a slot receiver. Receiver isn’t the team’s biggest need in the fourth round, but Evans could be too big a temptation to ignore.


    Peter Schrager: Kendall James

    Dallas could address cornerback but should wait until the seventh round. James could still be on the board by that time, but Fox Sports' Schrager thinks Dallas will take him in the fifth. This position just isn't a pressing enough need for the 'Boys to address in the middle rounds.


    Bryan Broaddus: Kevin Pierre-Louis

    It’s interesting that Broaddus thinks the ‘Boys will go linebacker and take BC product Pierre-Louis in the fifth round. One could argue that linebacker is a need for the Cowboys after seeing the injury bug plague their corps in recent years.

    If some of Dallas’ more coveted defensive tackles or safeties are gone by the time the team picks in the fifth, this would be a fine selection. The Cowboys need depth at linebacker, and there’s a role for him in specific situations if he develops.

4 Predictions for Day 3

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    Dallas has proved in recent years, including this year, that it is one of the hardest to predict teams in the draft. That being said, here are some possible moves and picks that Dallas could pull off on Day 3.


    Dallas trades up in fourth round

    The Cowboys moved up in the second round to take Lawrence, and they'll likely go a similar route in the fourth. With more than a few seventh-round selections to use as trade bait, Jones could easily find a way to move up.

    If the price is right, moving up in the fourth would help ease the cost of losing the third-rounder for Lawrence.


    Dallas moves down in the fifth round

    While the Cowboys would be happily deal some seventh-round picks, they need to draft as many guys as they can as well. If they can pull off the deal to move up in the fourth, it could cost them a few selections in the seventh.

    Moving down in the fifth round could bring back some seventh-round picks and help even out the fourth-round trade.


    Running back isn't addressed until the seventh round

    This isn't exactly a bold prediction, but it is a likely scenario. The Cowboys need a defensive tackle and safety before they address running back. With only two picks left before the seventh round, don't expect any rusher to tempt Dallas before then.


    Cowboys take a quarterback in the fourth or fifth round

    Unless quarterback is addressed in the middle rounds, there's no reason to bother at the position until next season. The Dallas brass likely feels the same way, and there are too many good names to pass up this year.

    While it's possible the Cowboys could wait a year to take Romo's heir, they must realize the position needs to be addressed.  

Updated Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    With Martin and Lawrence in the fold, Dallas can cross two big needs of its laundry list. With eight picks left in the draft, the Cowboys will be busy on Day 3. Here's a look at what to expect from Big D before the 2014 NFL draft comes to a close. This mock draft does not take possible trades into consideration.


    Round 4, Pick No. 119: AJ McCarron

    Dallas has more immediate needs, specifically on defense, to address before quarterback. That being said, the fourth round is the team's last chance to get one of this draft's better prospects. McCarron isn't exactly Andrew Luck, but he has promise nonetheless. Giving Garrett and Wilson a few years to work with Romo's heir would be a smart choice by the Cowboys, and McCarron is arguably the best QB left.


    Round 5, Pick No. 158: Deandre Coleman

    Waiting until the fifth round for a defensive tackle wouldn't be one of Dallas' smarter draft moves this year. Then again, the 'Boys can always wait until next year to get their big-name prospect at the position. In the meantime, Coleman and veteran Hayden have the potential to be serviceable enough for 16 games. 

    Coleman knows how to utilize his big frame and possesses impressive strength. He's not a plug-in starter by any means, but Marinelli will find a way to get the most out of the California product.


    Round 7, Pick No. 229: Mike Davis

    If the Cowboys want to grab a prospect at wide receiver, they should do so once on the clock in the seventh round. They have too many other needs to address before getting to the position, but WRs are tempting to every team this late in the draft.

    Dallas should have one of the more in-depth scouting reports on Davis since he went to Texas. It would be surprising if the team went in another direction at pick No. 229.


    Round 7, Pick No. 231: Kendall James

    James isn't the most well-known cornerback due to playing his college ball in Maine. That doesn't mean he's not worth a shot in the seventh, however. Dallas needs to add depth at this position, and Morris Claiborne had to worry a few coaches with his disappointing 2013 campaign.

    Consider James an insurance policy in case injuries plague the cornerback depth chart.


    Round 7, Pick No. 238: Denicos Allen

    Dallas will likely take a linebacker if for no other reason than fear of injuries. Both Bruce Carter and Sean Lee have missed playing time the past two seasons. Allen probably won't ever become an NFL starter, but his explosiveness and decision making are impressive. The Cowboys could find a use for the former Spartan on defense or special teams.


    Round 7, Pick No. 248: Gabe Ikard

    Travis Frederick performed well at center in his rookie season, and Ryan Cook was a solid backup, but the position could still use a bit of depth. Ikard could help provide a challenge for Cook in training camp and allow the latter to focus on being a backup guard. Center isn't a huge need, but Dallas has the picks to look in other directions during the seventh round.


    Round 7, Pick No. 251: Ryan Groy

    Even if Martin ends up playing at guard, the position could still use more backups. Cook and Chris DeGeare are the team's only options at guard if Mackenzy Bernadeau or Ronald Leary goes down. Groy would be a fine insurance policy, regardless of what Dallas does with Martin.


    Round 7, Pick No. 254: Alfred Blue

    It is very possible the Cowboys address running back before their final pick, but if they don't, Blue would be a nice way to end the draft. The LSU product has impressive speed and can contribute in the passing game. Dallas could use a running back who has soft hands and make plays as a receiver for when DeMarco Murray is not on the field. Blue is as good a pick as any this late in the draft.