Draft Needs: Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys made a bold move by trading into the top 10, but they got a great deal from the Rams and have now solidified their most glaring weakness on defense.

Normally I’m critical of teams that trade up as far as the Cowboys, but only because of the price tag associated with climbing into the top 10. The Cowboys, however, were able to hang on to their 2013 1st-round pick, the usual asking price for such a blockbuster trade.

The selection of Morris Claiborne immediately solidifies what was the Cowboys most glaring weakness entering the offseason. Claiborne should make an immediate impact, and should be considered an early candidate for defensive rookie of the year. Due to the free agent acquisition of Brandon Carr, Claiborne will be the No. 2 corner, which will put him in favorable matchups and allow him to develop, rather than being thrown into the fire as he would have in Tampa Bay or Minnesota.

Tyrone Crawford may have been a slight reach in the 3rd round, but the Cowboys needed to address the depth at defensive end. He’s a prototypical 3-4 end and should be given an opportunity to compete for playing time with Jason Hatcher and Kenyon Coleman.

The selection of Kyle Wilber was definitely a reach and didn’t address an immediate are of concern.

Matt Johnson is a developmental prospect and a significant reach in the 4th round. He’ll primarily play on special teams early in his career and be groomed to play strong safety down the road. He clearly has the size/athleticism combination, but probably would have still been on the board in the 5th or 6th round.

I love the selection of Danny Coale in the 5th round. His upside is limited due to his lack of speed and overall athleticism, but he is a classic possession receiver who should be able to contribute as the 3rd or 4th option, even as a rookie.

James Hanna rose up draft boards with an impressive combine workout, but his lack of production in college raises some concern. A player with his raw skills should have been able to find a role at Oklahoma, an offense which has a role found roles for athletic tight ends like Jermaine Gresham in the  past. That said, the risk/reward is definitely in the Cowboys favor in the 6th round.

Caleb McSurdy has a decent chance to make the final roster cuts due to the Cowboys lack of depth at inside linebacker. There’s a chance he could beat out Bruce Carter if he impresses in training camp.

Overall, this draft was all about the addition of Claiborne. The Cowboys clearly view him as one of the missing pieces to their championship run. The trade was an aggressive move, but one that could prove to be well worth the risk if he lives up to expectations.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Cowboys, Draft Grades - 2012 Comments Off

1st Round Winners: Dallas Cowboys

I typically don’t praise teams that trade up as far as the Dallas Cowboys, but I have to give them credit for addressing a glaring need with the best player at the position.

By adding Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys have completely overhauled their secondary and now have, at least on paper, the look of a top-10 defense. The Cowboys did part with their 2nd round pick, but with relatively few holes to fill, they could afford to come away with just one elite player in the first two rounds.

Claiborne will be an instant-impact cornerback, especially since he’ll typically be matched up with opponents No. 2 receivers.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Cowboys Comments Off

Dallas Cowboys select Morris Claiborne, Grade A

I absolutely love this trade for both teams.

The Dallas Cowboys now have one the game’s best duos at cornerback in Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr. Claiborne is arguably more NFL-ready than Patrick Peterson was a year ago (at least in terms of coverage) and will make an immediate impact in Dallas.

As for the trade, I’m ok with teams trading up for players when they believe they’re one or two pieces away from contention. The Cowboys have overhauled their secondary this offseason, fixing the only glaring weakness on the roster.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Cowboys 1 Comment

Draft Needs: Dallas Cowboys

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Dallas Cowboys [full archive here].

Season Recap: I don’t know really what to say. Nothing has really changed in Dallas…Every year there is a bit of preseason hype, but every year Dallas somehow manages to shoot themselves in the foot. Maybe this year is different? I doubt it.

Team Needs:
1. Defensive Tackle: Dallas needs an impact player next to Jay Ratliff, who is one of the most underrated players in the league. Michael Brockers is one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in this draft, and could be a solid fit.

2. Safety: Gerald Sensabaugh is set at free safety, but there remains a weakness next to him. Brodney Pool was signed, but he really isn’t that good. Mark Barron will be the selection if available. George Iloka, Harrison Smith, and Markelle Martin are the next best safeties.

3. Center: It seemed like every week there were snap miscommunications between Romo and Phil Costa. That’s unacceptable in the NFL. Michael Brewster and Phillip Blake are players that will be available in the middle rounds.

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Cowboys, Draft Needs - 2012 Comments Off

Rob Ryan wants Cowboys to upgrade secondary

It’s no secret that the Dallas Cowboys need to upgrade their secondary, and Rob Ryan wholeheartedly agrees.

Alex Dunlap of the Austin Chronicle caught up with Ryan at the Senior Bowl, and asked the Cowboys defensive coordinator who he was focused on: “I’m only looking at DBs. Nothing else. DBs.”

Dunlap went on to say that Ryan has a particular interest in Leonard Johnson, a cornerback from Iowa State who could be an option in the 2nd or 3rd round.

It’s tough to say just how much say Ryan has in the Cowboys draft plans, but if he’s this blunt about their needs to the media, it’s safe to assume he’s going to be hounding Jerry Jones over the next few months about the issue.

The problem the Cowboys have, however, is that they may be stuck in no-mans land in the 1st round if they hope to address their secondary at that point. Dre Kirkpatrick [scouting report] would be an obvious target, but could be off the board by pick No. 14. There are a number of potential late 1st-round cornerback prospects, but anyone other than Kirkpatrick or Morris Claiborne would be a significant reach unless the Cowboys were to trade back.

There is one other name to keep on eye on, however: Janoris Jenkins [scouting report]. Based purely on talent, Jenkins is a top-15 prosect and would be a great fit in Dallas’ secondary. But most teams will drop him, or completely remove him, from their draft boards due to character issues.

Jerry Jones has shown a willingness to consider troubled-but-talented prospects in the past. He recently drafted Dez Bryant in the 1st round, when many others had dismissed him for off-field issues. And he’s made similar moves in free agency (Pacman Jones, Terrell Owens, etc).

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Cowboys 3 Comments

2011 Draft Grades: Dallas Cowboys

This wasn’t the most exciting draft in Dallas Cowboys history, but I like the way they addressed their biggest needs while still getting players who had good value at each slot. It was a smart, safe draft which should immediately improve their team.

Tyron Smith isn’t your typical top-10 pick in the sense that he isn’t nearly as polished as most highly routed prospects. However, he makes a lot of sense for the Cowboys. They desperately needed to upgrade the offensive line and Smith was the top prospect in this class.

I really like Bruce Carter, but I’m not sure how he fits into the scheme in Dallas. He’s probably too small to be a traditional 3-4 outside linebacker, however, he is at his best when used as a speed rusher off the edge. Rob Ryan may need to get creative to best use his abilities.

The selection of DeMarco Murray likely ends the Marion Barber era in Dallas. There’s no need to carry four quality running backs, and Barber is probably the odd man out. Murray has the potential to be a starter and could see significant playing time this season if he impresses early.

David Arkin is a nice developmental prospect. The 4th round may have been a bit early, but he’ll provide valuable depth at both guard and tackle.

I like Josh Thomas in the 5th round, but it would have been nice to see the Cowboys add a cornerback earlier in the draft. Every defensive back on the roster underperformed in 2010 and some immediate help would have been nice. Thomas is more of a developmental prospect, who probably does more on special teams than at cornerback this year.

Dwayne Harris could contribute as a slot receiver immediately. The top three receivers are set, but there is definitely room for another contributor in the rotation.

Shawn Chapas will compete with Chris Gronkowski for the starting fullback job. The loser likely gets cut.

Bill Nagy is a tough run blocker who could win a job as the backup center. In time, he could develop into a starter. The Cowboys interior line is getting up there in age, so Nagy should be ready to step into a starting role should the injury bug bite the Cowboys this year.

Despite their record in 2010, the Cowboys can compete this year if healthy and this draft class definitely will help. Tyron Smith should start immediately, and Carter and Murray will both contribute in various roles. They probably didn’t land 3 to 4 long-term starters, but they improved the team for the short run and added a number of nice pieces who can contribute in reserve roles.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Cowboys, Draft Grades - 2011 Comments Off

Will Rackley drawing interest from nine teams

Rackley is one of the top small-school prospects

According to Josh Buchanan of Lehigh offensive lineman Will Rackley is lining up a number of visits and private workouts.

He’ll be one of the busiest prospects over the next month, as he meets with the Browns, Cowboys, Rams, Chiefs, Dolphins, Lions, Jaguars, Patriots and Jets.

Rackley played left tackle in college but is probably best suited for guard at the next level. That said, his potential versatility certainly gives his stock an extra boost.

Based on the amount of interest in Rackley he is starting to look like a pretty safe bet to go in the first three rounds. A team like the Cleveland Browns, who could use help at both right guard and right tackle would be a good fit. The St. Louis Rams, who desperately need to upgrade their interior line would also make sense.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Browns, Chiefs, Cowboys, Dolphins, Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Patriots, Rams Comments Off

Draft Needs: Dallas Cowboys

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Dallas Cowboys. [full archive here].

Season Recap – Like most seasons, the Cowboys were heavily favored to contend for the Super Bowl, but things quickly got out of hand. Tony Romo broke his clavicle in week six and the team slumped to a 0-8 record. Wade Phillips was fired at mid-season and the team was handed over to Jason Garrett. Garrett, who has been a popular coaching candidate the past couple seasons, got more fight out the team and managed to finish the year on a 5-3 record. Owner Jerry Jones saw enough and hired Garrett to become the permanent head coach. Dallas finished the year ranked 7th in total offense, but 31st in points allowed. Dallas needs to improve their defense if they intend on being included in the “preseason favorites” talks again.

1. Cornerback – Terrence Newman lost a step last season, and at 32 don’t expect him to gain it back. Mike Jenkins basically took the season off but that attitude won’t fly with new coach Jason Garrett. Jenkins needs to get back to his 2009 form, and the Cowboys need to get an upgrade across from him. Prince Amukamara has been linked to the Cowboys in many mock drafts, but I expect Amukamara to go before the Cowboys. Dallas could make a trade up for Peterson or Amukamara, or they could reach a bit for Jimmy Smith at #9. Read more

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Cowboys, Draft Needs - 2011 1 Comment

Cowboys targeting Cam Newton?

Jerry Jones has always been conservative when it comes to quarterbacks.

He hasn’t taken a quarterback in the 1st round since Aikman. He hasn’t overpaid for free agents, typically settling for relatively cheap veterans such as Drew Bledsoe and Vinny Testaverde. And he allowed Bill Parcells’ staff to develop Tony Romo.

But all that might change.

Jones admitted that the Cowboys will speak to Cam Newton at the combine.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise. As one of the most talented players in the draft, and one with lots of question marks, he’s going to speak to number of teams – many of which may never speak to him again.

Newton, however, seems to think the Cowboys may have a more serious interest. When asked about the Cowboys interest in him he responded: “Jerry Jones, man he knows how to get hold of me, let’s just say that.”

I’m hesitant to read into anything anyone says this time of year, because most of its nothing but B.S., but this comment has me intrigued. Has Jerry Jones really spoken with Newton on multiple occasions as that quote seems to suggest? If so, it would seem to indicate a very serious interest on the part of the Cowboys.

Taking a quarterback in the 1st-round would be a curious move, considering the Cowboys are not far from being a playoff caliber football team again. However, they are the Cowboys and Jerry Jones marches to the beat of his own drum. I’ve been saying all offseason that Newton will only be a 1st-round pick if an owner falls in love with him and Jones is certainly on the short list of guys who may make that decision for his franchise.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Cowboys 1 Comment

Cowboys targeting a cornerback in the draft?

Tony Pauline of passed along an interesting rumor in his blog the other day.

According to his sources two of the Cowboys early targets in the draft are cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Brandon Harris.

In order to get Peterson they would need to move up – probably into the top three – which the source acknowledges. Their interest in Harris, however, is somewhat unclear.

For the sake of Cowboys fans, I really hope the source meant they would target him in the 2nd round and not with the 9th overall pick in the draft. Harris is talented, but far too inconsistent. I also question his ability to match up against bigger, more physical receivers. In Miami’s bowl game, Harris looked helpless when matched up against Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd.

That said, I would fully endorse the Cowboys trading up for Peterson or taking Harris in the 2nd round. They need to upgrade the secondary and taking a corner in one of the first two rounds is probably the best way to do so.

2008 1st-round pick Mike Jenkins looks like a bust and Terrence Newman is clearly regressing.

You could even make a case that no cornerback was less reliable than Jenkins this past season. According to Jenkins ranked dead last in the NFL with an average of 11.2 yards allowed per target. Newman wasn’t far behind, allowing 9.3 yards per target – 8th worst in the league.

As we get closer to the draft I suspect rumors surrounding the Cowboys interest in Peterson to heat up. He is a potentially elite cornerback and Jerry Jones is one of the few draft decision makers out there that doesn’t hesitate to take a defensive back early. In his career in Dallas he’s already taken two DBs in the top 10 (Newman and Roy Williams) and two others in the 1st round (Jenkins and Kevin Smith).

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Cowboys 3 Comments