5 Defensive Ends Dallas Cowboys Should Consider in Draft

Jonathan Bales@thecowboystimesAnalyst IFebruary 19, 2014

5 Defensive Ends Dallas Cowboys Should Consider in Draft

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys are clearly in the market for a difference-making defensive end; veteran DeMarcus Ware is rapidly declining, and 2013 breakout player George Selvie is a No. 2 pass-rusher at best. In addition to defensive tackle, the 'Boys can help themselves most at defensive end in the draft.

    The key to finding value at any position is identifying predictors of success that other teams aren't valuing or at least aren't valuing enough. At the wide receiver position, for example, most NFL teams pay for speed when they should be more concerned with size. At quarterback, they seek height when it appears as though hand size is more important.

    At defensive end, a lot of teams seem to dismiss college production. They think they can spot talent with the "eye test," frequently overrating defensive ends who look the part but haven't gotten to the quarterback at a high rate.

    One of the traits that teams overvalue seems to be quickness. Certainly, being quicker is better for every player, but even more important is size. Overall, teams do indeed pay for one aspect of size in height. Height is indeed correlated with NFL success for defensive ends, but as with quarterbacks, that might just be because it's linked to another trait that matters more.

    For defensive ends, that characteristic is long arms.

    Even though many NFL organizations look at arm length, they're still acting as though height matters more. We continually see tall players with short arms get drafted ahead of short players with long arms. The latter type of prospect might actually offer the most value, since he possesses the trait that helps get to the passer (long arms) but not the one that shoots him up boards (height).

    In that way, not all lengths of arm are created equally. A 6'2" defensive end with 33-inch arms is better than a 6'5" end with the same arm length because the shorter player is more likely to fall (unnecessarily), thus offering value.

    Valuing both college production and arm length, here are five defensive end prospects that the Dallas Cowboys should consider in this year's draft.

Scott Crichton, Oregon State

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    Don Ryan/Associated Press

    College Production: 22.5 sacks, 51 tackles for loss in three seasons

    Height: 6'3"

    Arm Length: Unknown

    Projection: Early Second Round

    Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton is an interesting prospect. At 6'3", he is rumored to have good length for his height. That's the perfect combination when seeking value at defensive end. It will be really interesting to see how he measures up at the combine; if his arms check in at 33 inches or longer, that's a great sign.

    Crichton was also quite productive in college. Teams will look at sack totals, but tackles for loss are just as valuable. They represent the same sort of explosiveness to get into the backfield. Actually, when a defensive end has a ton of tackles for loss but a moderate amount of sacks, it could be a sign that he just got unlucky with bringing down the passer, which will improve in the future.

    The Cowboys would probably need to pick up Crichton in a trade down from the No. 16 overall pick.

Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    College Production: 26 sacks, 49.5 tackles for loss in four seasons

    Height: 6'4"

    Arm Length: Unknown

    Projection: Second Round

    Like Crichton, Texas' Jackson Jeffcoat is rumored to have "significant arm length." He won't drop because of his height, which is about average for a defensive end, but he still seems undervalued with a second-round projection.

    He had 26 sacks in four years at Texas, but he was quite dominant recently. He played only a handful of games in 2012, but in his last two full seasons, he averaged 18 tackles for loss and 10.25 sacks. 

    The Cowboys might be able to pick up Jeffcoat in the second round without moving up.

Marcus Smith, Louisville

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    College Production: 24 sacks, 32 tackles for loss in three seasons

    Height: 6'3"

    Arm Length: 33.25 inches

    Projection: Late Second/Early Third

    Louisville defensive end Marcus Smith had mixed results in college, struggling somewhat in 2012 before turning it on last season. You might prefer the other way around, as a lackluster final campaign would have dropped him down boards.

    He played only two full seasons, racking up just four sacks and seven tackles for loss two years ago before exploding for 14.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss in 2013. You'd like to see more consistent production, but the fact that he had a high number of both sacks and tackles for loss suggests he was as good as his final-year numbers suggest.

    Teams might be scared off by his lack of consistent production, which would make him a great value in the third round.

Kareem Martin, UNC

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    College Production: 19.5 sacks, 45.5 tackles for loss in four seasons

    Height: 6'6"

    Arm Length: 34.375 inches

    Projection: Late Second/Early Third

    UNC's Kareem Martin is a unique prospect. Although CBS Sports is projecting him to get selected in the third round, he has everything you'd like to see in an early-round pick.

    At 6'6", he won't drop due to a lack of height, and his arms are massive at well over 34 inches. If he's valued the same as any other 6'6" defensive end without consideration of his length, that will cause him to drop a little too far.

    Heading into the 2013 season, Martin had only eight career sacks. However, he totaled 15.5 tackles for loss in 2012, suggesting he was just unlucky to rack up only four sacks that year. With 11.5 sacks in 2013, he proved he can get to the passer.

Michael Sam, Missouri

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    L.G. Patterson/Associated Press

    College Production: 18.5 sacks, 32.5 tackles for loss in three seasons

    Height: 6'2"

    Arm Length: 33.25 inches

    Projection: Fourth Round

    Even before his announcement that he's gay, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam was shaping up to offer a lot of value. He's the sort of player who typically drops, but at just 6'2" with 33.25-inch arms, he has unusual length relative to his height.

    The major concern is that he wasn't all that productive until 2013; he had only seven sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss in two seasons heading into last year, when he posted 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. In that way, he's a similar prospect to Marcus Smith.