Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant has become a focal point of Cowboys’ draft discussions of late. The controversial pass-catcher recently visited Dallas and even dined with Jerry Jones (I wonder if his meal comes out of his potential signing bonus?).
Dallas has also set up visits with Ohio’s Taylor Price, LSU’s Brandon LaFell, and Illinois’ Arrelious Benn. This sudden spike in interest in wide receivers (after Jones claimed the team is set at the position) has some wondering: are the Cowboys truly interested in using an early-round draft selection on a wide receiver, or are they simply posturing as to conceal their true intentions?
Our guess is it is the latter. Jones says he has not yet given up on Roy Williams, and we believe him. There are a variety of other positions which are much weaker than wide receiver. Unless the Cowboys are attaining incredible value, we don’t see them taking a wide receiver in the first round.
The feature of this post, Georgia Tech WR Demaryius Thomas, is one of those players whose potential selection by Dallas could only become a reality if he is rated incredibly high on the team’s board–as in a top 15 player.
Could a player who broke his foot, has not worked out all offseason, and played in a triple option offense really be that high on Dallas’ board? We labeled him one our four ‘super-sleepers‘ for a reason. Watch the video below and judge for yourself.
At 6’3”, 229 pounds, Thomas has elite size to go with excellent speed. He has not worked out this offseason due to a broken foot, but his speed is evident on film (forward to 3:18 in the video below). While you always want an official time for a player, Thomas’ injury is one that should not affect his future play.
Playing in Georgia Tech’s triple option offense is the biggest knock on Thomas. He is a raw route-runner lacking experience running pro-style routes. However, the offense allowed him to become a superb blocker.
Thomas reminds us of Calvin Johnson in that, despite his huge frame, he has tremendous balance and body control. He is tough to press and, once downfield, attacks the ball. He is Larry Fitzgerald-esque in his ability to high-point the football and catch it with his hands. He can make some outrageous catches but also drops easy ones at times.
After the catch, Thomas is extremely dangerous. He doesn’t have elite quickness, but once he gets going it is extremely difficult to bring him down. He combines his great straight-line speed with a devastating stiff arm.
Overall, we absolutely love Thomas’ skill set. Although we don’t see wide receiver as a huge need for Dallas, we would not be too upset if Thomas was the pick in the first round due to the value we believe the Cowboys would be attaining.
Thomas has been projected to get selected as high as the 10th overall selection. This is unlikely, and we would rate his chance to drop to Dallas at 50/50. If the Cowboys grade Thomas as on-par with Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant (i.e. a top 10 talent), the value may be too good to pass up. Otherwise, expect the Cowboys to skip out on Thomas and select a player at a position of more immediate need.
Thus far in our draft analysis we have studied those players which are considered “likely” Cowboys draft picks–the Mike Iupati‘s, the Earl Thomas‘s, and the Maurkice Pouncey‘s. We have even taken a look at the “sleeper” candidates–the Brandon Graham‘s and the Kyle Wilson’s.
But could Dallas go completely off the radar? Might they select someone who will shock every Cowboys fan across the nation?
In this article, we will take a look at four “super-sleepers.” These are players not many people are projecting to go in the first round, much less to Dallas. If we have learned anything over the years concerning the draft, though, it is to expect the unexpected.
Rodger Saffold, OT, Indiana
The most likely of our “super-sleepers” is Indiana tackle Rodger Saffold. We see him as an extreme reach in the first round, but some analysts think he could slip into the back of it. There have even been a few mocks which have projected Saffold to Dallas.
Still, the left tackle is a long-shot to become a Cowboy. . .which is exactly why he made our list.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech
Thomas is a guy that has perplexed us by moving up draft boards despite having done absolutely nothing all offseason. The Cowboys have hosted Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant, so they may (or may not) be willing to select a wide receiver in the first round. Is Thomas high enough on their board to be considered a legitimate option?
Jerry Hughes, DE/OLB, TCU
Hughes is a talented pash-rusher who could very well sneak into the back of the first round. Is he an option for Dallas? Most say no, and out initial reaction is the same.
However, Wade Phillips loves outside linebacker depth (of which Dallas has little). We have also been pushing the notion of Brandon Graham to Dallas, so why not Hughes? He has no chance of dropping to the back of the second round, so don’t count him out.
Chris Cook, CB/FS, Virginia
The “sleepiest” (sleepiest?) of sleepers on our list is Virginia’s Chris Cook. Cook has soared up boards since the Combine, where he recorded the longest broad jump of any player and displayed supreme overall athleticism.
Dallas is in the market for a play-making free safety, so a safety that also has the ability to play cornerback fits the bill. We have a feeling fans would be furious if the Cowboys selected Cook, but he appears to be an excellent fit in the team’s system, so we wouldn’t be extremely shocked to see it happen.
What are your thoughts on our list? Which under-the-radar players do you think the Cowboys could select in the first round?
Yesterday we detailed why we believe that fans should continue to support wide receiver Roy Williams. He will battle for his job in camp, and during that time we will find out what sort of fight and determination he truly has within him. This season will determine the path of the rest of Williams’ career. Is he a champion? Only time will tell.
Should Williams step up in camp, he will be the Cowboys’ 2010 starting wide receiver opposite Miles Austin. We are so sure of this fact that we have purposely avoided discussing first round receiver Dez Bryant because, well, we just don’t see him as a legitimate option for Dallas. Bryant is simply too talented to fall to the Cowboys’ 27th pick on April 22 (even though we brought up the possibility in a hypothetical scenario).
Further, the Cowboys have so much money tied up in the wide receiver position (we are including Austin’s future deal) that paying another WR big-time money makes little cents (cents. . .get it?).
Dallas is also excited about the future prospects of Kevin Ogletree. The second-year man out of Virginia has turned heads within the organization. Will it be enough to win a starting job in 2010? Drafting Dez Bryant would do nothing less than give Ogletree little opportunity to play for the next five years. Who knows. . .perhaps the answer to the team’s perceived wide receiver woes is already on the roster?
Nonetheless, there are more immediate needs than WR. Yes, we all want Williams to play up to his potential, but we feel fully confident telling you that the Cowboys will not draft a wide receiver in the early rounds of this draft unless he is a dynamic return man, i.e. Cincinnati WR Mardy Gilyard.
Because Dallas is hosting Bryant, though, and because we can all dream, Bryant is the feature in this edition of our Cowboys “Potential Draft Picks” Series.
Bryant is an absolute beast. There is simply no other way to put it. He is ranked No. 10 in our latest Big Board, and he is only that low due to concerns about his attitude and work ethic.
Bryant is a bit of a mystery to us. He does bone-headed things like show up to his Pro Day with no cleats or (allegedly) arrive late to games. However, one look at the guy lets you know he is a hard-worker. Everybody knows Bryant can play–the question teams must answer will be how much he loves football.
On the field, we are confident in saying Bryant is every bit as talented as Larry Fitzgerald when he left Pitt. That is a gigantic statement, but this kid has gigantic game. His game tape and production are off the charts. He displays top-notch hands and run after the catch ability.
We loved Michael Crabtree coming out of Texas Tech last year, and we will tell you there is really no comparing him to Bryant. Bryant is superior in every aspect of the game–he runs better routes and is even more dangerous once he gets his hands on the ball.
Bryant recorded varying forty times at his Pro Day–from 4.52 (which he ran twice) to 4.68. We are unconcerned about that number. He plays as fast as any receiver in this class and we have yet to see him get caught from behind.
Again, every concern about Bryant is an off-field issue. If he can prove he has the requisite attitude and work ethic to succeed in the NFL, there is simply no way he drops to the Cowboys.
Bryant could go as high as the top 10 (Buffalo?). Even if some teams are scared off by Bryant’s perceived attitude problem, we just cannot see him dropping passed New England’s 22nd selection.
Would Jerry Jones trade up if Bryant makes his way into the 20’s? Perhaps we will get the opportunity to find out.
We hear it all the time when discussing Ole Miss athlete Dexter McCluster.
“He’s too slow.”
“He’s too small.”
“The Cowboys already have three running backs.”
The first two complaints are legitimate concerns which NFL teams will have to factor into their grade for McCluster (although he proved his speed at his Pro Day and football is quickly becoming a ‘small man’s game’).
However, the last criticism (and that which we hear most often from fans) is unjustified. Yes, McCluster can play running back and Dallas is loaded at the position.
Contrary to popular opinion, we don’t think the Cowboys should trade or release any of their backs. So how would there possibly be room for McCluster? Because any return man as potentially devastating to the opposition as McCluster can and should make the roster regardless of their position.
Would you like your return man to play a position where he can have a huge impact? Sure. Last time we checked, though, there aren’t too many left tackles returning kickoffs (now wait…does Raiders returner Gary Russell count?).
Further, McCluster can have a huge impact at positions other than running back. Remember, he is a tremendous slot receiver with the potential to take the ball to the house every time he touches it. The NFL is evolving in such a way that these smaller, quicker players are becoming in vogue. McCluster is nearly the same weight of DeSean Jackson when he was drafted.
In a way, McCluster’s offensive prowess is a bonus for the Cowboys. The team was so unsatisfied with Patrick Crayton’s return ability last year that they signed return specialist Allen Rossum at one point. Rossum of course got injured on his first touch, but the point is that any player who figures to contribute on offense or defense will instantly be providing more than Dallas had planned for Rossum.
Who would you rather have on your team: an aging return specialist or a dynamic athlete will sensational return ability who can play the slot, run specialty plays (Wildcat, end-arounds), and even handle a few carries a game?
In Part I of this segment, we profiled the soon-to-be rookie offensive players we think will become the cream of the crop in the NFL. Now we take a look at the defense.
DT: Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska), Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma)
This was really a no-brainer. The top two defensive tackle prospects are head and shoulders above the others. They both have the talent to play in either a 4-3 or a 3-4.
Sleeper: Jared Odrick (Penn State)
No one seems to be mentioning Odrick as a potential Cowboys’ draft selection–except us. If he can overcome some character concerns (which we believe are unjustified), he can cash in his ticket as a Pro Bowl player.
DE/OLB: Brandon Graham (Michigan), Sergio Kindle (Texas)
Graham is a personal favorite of ours because of his ability to not only rush the passer, but also effectively halt the run. He is probably a better fit for Dallas’ scheme than Kindle. Both players will likely be taken before the 27th pick.
Sleeper: Jason Worilds (Virginia Tech)
Worilds is our #44 overall player, but he could move up even further. He had the best 10-yard split of any defensive end at the Combine.
ILB: Rolando McClain (Alabama), Brandon Spikes (Florida)
Despite all of the criticism Spikes is receiving, we still look at him as having first round game tape. What else really matters? We view both him and McClain as better fits in a 3-4 scheme where they will have to participate less in sideline-to-sideline pursuit.
Sleeper: Micah Johnson (Kentucky)
Another 3-4 guy, Johnson’s forty time, like Spikes, was atrocious. However, if he checks out medically, he is worth a risk late in the draft due to his athleticism and play-making ability.
CB: Kyle Wilson (Boise State), Devin McCourty (Rutgers)
Wilson and McCourty just look the part. They have tremendous hips and fluidity, and both will also help you out in the return game. McCourty’s size and speed may even give him the highest upside of any CB in this class.
Again, another cornerback who can return punts and kickoffs. It is AOA’s combination of size and speed that we love though. He will have to show teams he is capable of playing with the big boys.
S: Eric Berry (Tennessee), Earl Thomas (Texas)
Fairly standard selections here. Berry and Thomas are simply the two best safeties in this draft–hands down.
Sleeper: Major Wright (Florida)
Wright has been slowly crawling up draft boards, even reaching the top five safeties in NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock’s rankings. Is his centerfield ball-hawking ability enough to make up for his poor tackling? Wright is a high risk/high reward selection.
With the 2010 Draft approaching quickly, we know a lot of you cannot seem to acquire enough draft-related information and predictions. Today, we are detailing which prospects from this class will wind up being considered the best at their position once their careers are all said and done. In Part I, we take a look at those players on the offensive side of the ball.
QB: Tim Tebow (Florida)
Tebow seems to polarize analysts and fans like no player we’ve ever seen. Yes, his mechanics are off and he isn’t your “prototypical” NFL quarterback, but we know he is going to work as hard as he possibly can to succeed.
Sleeper: Jarrett Brown (West Virginia)
Brown may have the strongest arm in this draft. He has the skill set of Jamarcus Russell without the poor attitude.
RB: C.J. Spiller (Clemson)
People will argue that Spiller will never be an every-down back in the NFL, but who is anymore? He is lightning in a bottle, reminiscent of another C.J. who was drafted two years ago.
Sleeper: Lonyae Miller (Fresno State)
Never heard of Miller? He was Ryan Mathews backup at Fresno State. At 221 pounds, he ran a 4.43 and posted 26 reps at the Combine.
WR: Dez Bryant (Oklahoma State), Arrelious Benn (Illinois), Demaryius Thomas (Georgia Tech)
Notice all three wide receivers we listed have prototypical size and speed (perhaps with the exception of Bryant’s long speed). The dominant wide receivers over the last decade generally tend to be of this body-type. Our favorite: Demaryius Thomas.
Sleeper: Dezmon Briscoe (Kansas), Mardy Gilyard (Cincinnati)
Briscoe is another huge pass-catcher, but Gilyard is undersized–a likely slot receiver at the next level. Both recorded poor forty times at the Combine, likely causing their stock to slip.
TE: Jimmy Graham (The U)
We aren’t nearly as thrilled about this tight end class as some other people. We are low on Jermaine Gresham, Aaron Hernandez, and Dorin Dickerson. Graham may just be more athletic than all three.
Sleeper: Tony Moeaki (Iowa)
Moeaki is a late-round prospect, but watch out for this guy. At his Pro Day, he recorded a 4.68 forty and a 36.5 inch vertical, all at 245 pounds.
OT: Russell Okung (Oklahoma State), Trent Williams (Oklahoma)
Due to the Cowboys’ likely interest in an offensive tackle, we have studied a lot of tape of the top prospects. Okung and Williams stand out as having the most consistent film of any we’ve seen.
Sleeper: Vladimir Ducasse (UMass)
We love Ducasse. His versatility to play possibly four (or even more) positions should vault him up draft boards. We wouldn’t be surprised to see him go in the early second round.
OG: Mike Iupati (Idaho), Jon Asamoah (Illinois)
Iupati will have to overcome a tendency to hold defenders, but he can also be dominant at times. Asamoah may actually be a more likely prospect for Dallas later in the draft, assuming Iupati doesn’t drop to the 27th selection.
Sleeper: Marshall Newhouse (TCU)
Newhouse has been rising up boards since the Senior Bowl. He has the sort of size (326 pounds) Dallas covets in their linemen.
C: Maurkice Pouncey (Florida)
Sleeper: Matt Tennant (Boston College)
Tennant doesn’t display the versatility of Pouncey, but he could be an option in the later rounds for the Cowboys.
Mel Kiper thinks Florida C/G Maurkice Pouncey and Texas S Earl Thomas are rising, which cannot be good news for Dallas if true. However, Kiper believes Rutgers OT Anthony Davis could drop to the back of the first round. It would be difficult for the Cowboys to pass on a top-tier tackle at pick 27.
Interestingly, Kiper says Florida LB Brandon Spikes will fall into the 5th or 6th round. We think the kid has first round-esque game tape. He is the anti-Taylor Mays–a player who works out poorly but can just play football. He could represent the greatest value of any player in the draft should he fall into day three.
The combination of Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer probably makes the Cowboys’ outside linebacker position the strongest on the team (in terms of the starters). We are all a-ware (no pun intended…okay it was intended) of Ware’s dominance. His 12 sacks were sub-par for him (although he still ranked third in the league among OLB’s), but his 17 quarterback hits were fourth in the NFL among all players.
A major factor in the success of the Dallas’ defense in 2009 was due to the emergence of Spencer, who finally became a pass-rushing force. After a slow start, Spencer racked up seven sacks and 26 quarterback hits (the latter led the entire NFL). Don’t forget that 3-4 outside linebackers must occasionally drop into coverage.
Spencer also tallied 56 tackles–the most of any 3-4 OLB in the NFL and 22 more than Ware. His ability to consistently plug the run makes his pass-rush totals all the more impressive.
With such dominating starters outside, could the Cowboys really address the OLB position in the first round of this year’s draft? The answer will be determined by the organization’s thoughts on second-year players Brandon Williams and Victor Butler.
Butler showed flashes in limited time last season, but he is currently more of a pass-rush specialist than a full-time player. Williams is a giant question mark as he lost the entire 2009 season to injury.
Consequently, the Cowboys are a bit thin (or at least questionable) behind Ware and Spencer. Remember that coach Wade Phillips loves drafting OLB’s, and he even went as far as to claim that it is the strongest position in this year’s crop of rookies.
Thus, don’t count out the team drafting a DE/OLB in round one if they determine the pick to hold excellent value. Michigan’s Brandon Graham, who made our “Elite Eight,” could be that player.
Graham, a 6’1”, 268 pound college defensive end, is widely considered a potential 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. Graham’s stock has been rising since he tore up the Senior Bowl. He carried that success into the Combine with a 4.69 forty-yard dash and 31 reps on the bench press.
Graham reminds us of Spencer when he came out of Purdue. Both players are pass-rushing monsters but, just as importantly, they are equally stout against the run. For this reason, Graham will be an every-down player in the NFL, whether it’s as a 4-3 DE or a 3-4 OLB.
He uses his combination of speed and strength to pressure the quarterback with a variety of moves. He maintains great balance and leverage when rushing, which he needs due to his short arms (just 30 inches). He needs to improve his ability to not let offensive tackles get their hands into his body.
There are questions about Graham’s ability to drop into coverage. Although he is fairly quick in short areas, he is more of a “straight ahead” player and may not be able to effectively get into his drop. He can sometimes display tight hips (although so did Spencer). He could have tremendous value to a 3-4 team if he is able to display proper coverage technique.
We have Graham going No. 12 to the Miami Dolphins in our latest mock draft, although that is higher than most. It is unlikely he will fall to the Cowboys’ selection, but crazier things have happened. Although the team has bigger concerns than outside linebacker, it will be interesting to see what they decide to do should a top-tier player at a “non-need” position unexpectedly drop.
For the sake of argument (and because we still have a month until the draft), we wanted to take a look at a “nightmare” draft for the Dallas Cowboys–the worst possible combination of 26 players taken before their selection. This could provide us with a clearer understanding of what sort of player the Cowboys could secure should everything go haywire.
Players sure to be gone
Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
Joe Haden, CB, Florida
Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
Jason Pierre- Paul, DE, USF
Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee
Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
Cowboys’ options that could be gone (each player given a 1-10 chance of being available)
Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State (4)
Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State (3)
Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers (3)
Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland (6)
Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan (4)
Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas (4)
Highest players left on our board
Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
Morgan is an excellent talent, but he may not fit the Cowboys’ scheme. What would the team do if a top-tier player who does not fit their style of play drops to pick No. 27?
We have Spikes rated higher than most. He would be a reach if the Cowboys used their first selection on him (not because of his talent, but because of his value to other teams).
We just profiled McCourty and we really love his skill set. Not many people would be thrilled with selecting a cornerback in the first round, but McCourty’s return ability might make it worth the investment.
Jahvid Best, RB, California
Best is obviously not a legitimate option for the Cowboys.
Price is another player most do not believe can fit well into a 3-4 defense. We believe he could make the transition to the five-technique though, so it will be interesting to see what Dallas does if Price is the best player left on their board.
Great range and a natural fit in the Dallas D, but he is a reach at pick No. 27.
DeMaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech
We really don’t think the Cowboys will address the wide receiver position early in the draft.
The Cowboys have had Mays in for a visit and are apparently growing fond of the under-achieving USC star. Let’s hope Mays does not drop to the Cowboys’ selection.
Roger Saffold, OT, Indiana
We think Saffold would be a huge first round reach, but the idea of him being drafted that high is picking up steam. What will Dallas do if all of the top tackles are gone? Could Saffold be an option?
If the draft unfolds as above, we think the Cowboys will select. . . Taylor Mays. The team’s need at safety is overstated, but it is large enough that the Cowboys will select Mays if they have him rated as a top-tier player.
We would select. . . Derrick Morgan. Morgan is the highest-rated player left on our board and the Cowboys are in a position to select the best player available. We believe his athleticism would allow for a smooth transition to 3-4 OLB.
What do you think? Which player would you choose in this “nightmare” draft scenario?
In the Elite Eight of our Cowboys draft pick March Madness, we narrowed the field of potential selections to just four. Unlike the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight featured no upsets. And now for the Final Four and Championship.
Remember, match-up “winners” are not necessarily the best choice for Dallas, but those which we consider most likely among the two.
- The Cowboys are in a bit of a pickle in that they need an upgrade at left tackle, but depth at guard. Do they address the tackle position that currently has good depth with Adams, Free, Colombo, and Brewster? Or do they take an interior linemen who will likely sit behind Gurode, Kosier, and Davis in 2010 simply for depth purposes? If they select the latter in the first round of the upcoming draft, expect it to be either Iupati or Pouncey. In a bit of a shocker, we are going with Pouncey due to his versatility and a higher probability of being available.
- Winner: 5 Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida
11 Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
- We really like both of these players as options for Dallas. Both Wilson and Odrick are a bit under-the-radar, but we believe they would be good fits in Dallas. The Cowboys are pretty solid at cornerback, but Wilson’s return ability increases his value. Odrick was a DT at Penn State but would transition to the five-technique (defensive end) for Dallas. Ultimately, we see Odrick as a more likely selection due to the abundance of top-notch returners that Dallas could secure later in the draft.
- Winner: 2 Jared Odrick, DT/DE, Penn State
- Perhaps surprising to some is the notable absence of both a safety and an offensive tackle in our Championship (and even in our Final Four). Dallas could certainly benefit from upgrades at both positions, but we just do not see the value being there at pick #27. At this point, we see the most likely selection at each spot being USF safety Nate Allen and Maryland tackle Bruce Campbell. We believe both Pouncey and Odrick represent better value than either of those prospects.
- With the 27th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select. . . . . Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida!
We had Pouncey as the Cowboys’ selection in our latest Cowboys-only Mock Draft. In that mock, we said: “A lot of mocks have Idaho guard Mike Iupati as the Cowboys’ selection at #27, but we believe they will value the versatility of Pouncey. If Iupati is still on the board, it will be interesting to see who Dallas has rated higher. Some scouts believe Pouncey is a top 15 talent. He would likely come in and be the immediate backup to both starting guards and center Andre Gurode.”
Dallas missed out on a versatile lineman they coveted last season in Oregon’s Max Unger. History will not repeat itself in 2010.