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.
With so much attention being placed on the Wonderlic exam, we want to address the importance of intelligence in football. First, let’s take a look at some interesting Wonderlic scores (the highest attainable score is 50):
Dan Marino- 15
Ben Watson- 48
Vince Young- 15
Michael Vick- 20
Kevin Curtis- 48
Matt Leinart- 35
Drew Henson- 42
Donovan McNabb- 14
Terry Bradshaw- 15
Jim Kelly- 15
Randall Cunningham- 15
Ryan Leaf- 27
Steve McNair- 15
Jason Garrett- 36
Troy Aikman- 29
Clearly a high Wonderlic score is not a golden ticket to future NFL success, while a low one is not necessarily indicative of future failures. Except in the case of McNabb. 14. Nice.
But how important is true intelligence, apart from a standardized test result, in becoming a successful NFL player? We would argue that more important than being intelligent is being able to translate one’s intelligence to the football field. Dan Marino’s Wonderlic score of 15 obviously left something to be desired, but he certainly had “football smarts.”
Going hand-in-hand with intelligence is player conduct. When analyzing character, teams not only search through a player’s history of conduct, but also attempt to determine if he is intelligent enough to stay out of trouble in the future.
Two contrasting example of this are Randy Moss and Ryan Leaf. Moss slipped in the 1998 Draft due to concerns about his character (as Cowboys fans know all too well). However, Moss has used his intelligence to (generally) avoid trouble since entering the league. In fact, Moss was voted one of the smartest players in the entire NFL by his peers.
On the other end of the spectrum is Leaf, whose struggles are well-documented. Leaf didn’t fail in the NFL because of a lack of talent, though, but rather because he was a headcase. Despite scoring a 27 on the Wonderlic (a fairly good score), Leaf was one of the dumbest players we can remember. He did not translate his intelligence into becoming a better football player.
The key for teams is not only to decipher players’ intelligence, but also their ability to implement those smarts into improving on the field. For the Cowboys, it could mean the difference between either drafting or missing out on this year’s Randy Moss.
“I think I can be one of the all-time greats. It’s part of the system. I think the Cowboys are a great fit for me. The system has to change for me to produce. There’s some things they have to do on the coaching side of the ball to make me . . . fit into the system. It’s not just all on the player. There’s different things that have to be done to put me in a position to make those plays.”
Which Cowboys player, current or former, would you initially guess uttered these words?
These are the thoughts of none other than the Cowboys second-string (perhaps soon third-string) tight end, Martellus Bennett. You can view the full sit-down conversation with Bennett below.
Quite the statement for a player fresh off of a 15 catch season. But are Bennett’s struggles really due to the Cowboys’ coaches? Are his limited opportunities the result of their ignorance or, perhaps, Bennett’s own incompetence?
In an attempt to possibly light a fire under the now third-year tight end’s, well, end, owner Jerry Jones said this after the 2009 season:
“There’s a big difference in the ‘down to business’ of those two guys (referring to Bennett and Anthony Spencer). Spencer has been down to business since he walked in the door. Bennett can get down to business. I know that he can. We all see what a tremendous weapon he is and can be. His blocking is really as impressive as his ability to be a big target for Romo.
I’m confident he sees that. He is extremely smart. He can get it. I think ‘focus’ would be the word. He will get a lot more tweets if he is a big-time ballplayer than he will just off of his creative ability.”
Jerry hit the nail right on the head. As of now, Bennett seems more focused on making music and getting on Twitter than learning the playbook.
But, to Bennett’s credit, Mr. Jones was also correct about his blocking ability. It is difficult to quantify run-blocking stats for a tight end, but the Cowboys appeared to flourish when running outside to Bennett’s side. Our numbers indicate the ‘Boys backs galloped for a gaudy 6.5 yards-per-carry when running behind the former Texas A&M standout.
Our film study also shows Bennett also allowed just one sack and four quarterback pressures on the season, despite staying in to block on pass plays quite often.
Still, Bennett’s on-field production has not coincided with his off-field attitude. Of course confidence is a necessity in any successful football player, but questioning the offensive scheme is a pretty big “no-no” for someone with 35 career receptions.
The Cowboys rid themselves of someone who questioned authority last season in Terrell Owens. But with all that has been made of T.O.’s locker room destruction, we would argue he is actually a better teammate than Bennett.
First, he produced. Even in his last year in Dallas– a “down year”– Owens hauled in 10 touchdown passes. Bennett had zero last season.
Second, and more importantly, Owens practiced as hard as anyone on the team. As much as T.O. was ridiculed, he never let his off-field attitude pollute his tremendous on-field effort. That does not appear to be the case for Bennett, at least not currently.
So what should the Cowboys do with Martellus?
Cut him? Not going to happen, nor should it.
Trade him? That boat may have already sailed. Cincinnati reportedly offered a first round selection last year for Bennett. The team might be happy to get a third for him now.
Of course, the future of Bennett is linked to the organization’s feelings on John Phillips. As we detailed in our Phillips v. Deon Anderson study, the second-year tight end was a bit over-matched in the run game. Further, having three solid tight ends is a must for a team that runs Double Tight formations more than anyone in the league.
Thus, the Cowboys are likely to stick with Bennett for at least another year and pray they can obtain his undivided focus. If Bennett can get ‘down to business’ and cash in his ticket, the sky is the limit.
He certainly has the potential to be one of the all-time greats.
Just ask him.
Yesterday, we detailed the “winners” of the NFL Combine. Today, we analyze those players who may have substantially hurt their draft stock.
Ole Miss RB/WR Dexter McCluster
We think McCluster’s poor performance at the Combine is a bit over-hyped. Yes, he ran a 4.58 forty, but he showed explosion with a 37.5 inch vertical. In addition, McCulster also proved he has been working out with an incredible 20 bench press reps at just 165 pounds. McCluster certainly plays faster than he timed, so we think he will bring excellent value to any team that selects him.
Central Michigan QB Dan Lefevour
With so many quarterbacks not working out at the Combine, Lefevour had a shot to move up boards. He likely would have been the best signal-caller participating in drills. Instead, he chose to only work out at his Pro Day, displaying a lack of competitiveness which will hurt his draft stock.
Kansas WR Dezmon Briscoe
Briscoe was a guy not many people were high on pre-Combine, yet we had him ranked as our #21 overall prospect. We knew he would have a sub-par forty (4.61), but his nine bench press reps call his work ethic into question. We still love his body control and ball skills, but Briscoe will likely slide down boards into the third or fourth round.
Gilyard, a player most were expecting to run in the 4.40 range, posted just a 4.56 forty. In a way, this could help the Cowboys a lot, as Gilyard could easily drop to the back of the second round (after pre-Combine rumors of him jumping into the back of the first). We knew Gilyard plays fast and brings tremendous upside in the return game.
Like Gilyard, Shipley’s poor Combine performance could help the Cowboys. In addition to a 4.57 forty, Shipley also looked shaky in position drills. We have watched enough tape on him, though, to know what Shipley brings to the table. Instead of using their second round pick on Shipley, there is now a chance Dallas could grab him with their third.
LSU OT Ciron Black
We are not worried about Black’s numbers as much as what we saw in the drills. He looked slow, stiff, and out of shape. Black bent over at the waist instead of the knees, displaying poor form and an overall lack of athleticism. He could easily drop to the late rounds of the draft.
Johnson’s 4.99 forty was by far the worst of any linebacker (there was only one other player above 4.90). We were surprised by this result perhaps more than any at the entire Combine. Johnson displays good sideline-to-sideline speed on tape, so it is possible he was not completely healthy. We still like him as an option for Dallas at inside linebacker, but he would likely only be a two-down linebacker.
Michigan CB Donovan Warren
Donovan Warren had a shot of being the third cornerback taken in the 2010 draft. That is unrealistic now, as Warren displayed inadequate speed (4.59) and poor strength (12 reps). A cover two team might jump on him, but he is not a fit for Dallas’ scheme on defense.
Florida CB Joe Haden
How bad was Joe Haden’s Combine? He went from a consensus top ten pick to possibly losing his status as the first cornerback taken to Boise State’s Kyle Wilson. One scout we talked to actually said Haden could drop to the back of the first round because elite corners must have either size or speed, and Haden showed neither. If he somehow dropped to pick #27, Dallas would have to take a long look at him despite no immediate need at cornerback.
Nebraska S Larry Asante
Larry Asante is in the mix with Morgan Burnett, Nate Allen, Chad Jones, and Reshad Jones to be the fourth safety off the board come April. He may have dropped to the back of that pack after his Tuesday workout running a 4.63, posting just 14 reps, and exhibiting poor hips and change of direction in position drills.
LSU S Chad Jones
Chad Jones ran nearly as poorly as Asante (4.57), but at least Jones is 15 pounds heavier. However, at 230 pounds, Jones’ nine bench press reps are pathetic. His size and lack of speed make him an unrealistic option for Dallas.
1. The emergence of Anthony Spencer
Anthony Spencer’s play in 2009 was undoubtedly the number one reason Dallas was able to maintain the second-ranked defense in the league. His seven sacks do not do him justice, as he was creating havoc in the backfield from week one. Once the first sack came, the rest followed in bunches.
Perhaps just as important as sacks is quarterback hits. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Spencer was first among all linebackers in the NFL in quarterback hits with 26. In comparison, Demarcus Ware was second with just 17. Statistically, Spencer got in position to obtain a lot more sacks than he did. Expect his sack total to possibly double in 2010.
Further, Spencer is perhaps the best outside linebacker in the league versus the run. He led all 3-4 outside linebackers in tackles with 56. Spencer’s ability to stop the run goes unappreciated by most of those analyzing his success in 2009, but it is nearly as important as his sacks.
Bringing in Julius Peppers would create a multitude of problems. With the money he would receive, he would have to start over Spencer. But is he even an upgrade? We would argue not. He would be a downgrade against the run, and any increase in sacks that Peppers would bring would be negated by the fact that the team would be setting back Spencer, one of the league’s up-and-coming stars.
Those who know the team know that Spencer broke out in 2009, but we expect him to really break out next season. In fact, we would go as far as to say that we would be surprised if he does not make the Pro Bowl.
2. His age
Peppers is 30-years old. That certainly isn’t too old to make plays, but when taking into consideration who he is replacing, the move just does not make sense. Again, the team would be setting back the development of a younger player who may not even be a downgrade. It is better to allow a young player to gain experience than to make a mistake, both in talent evaluation and financially, on an older player.
3. Ability to sign other players
The NFL’s new Final Eight plan limits the Cowboys’ ability to sign free agents this offseason. In fact, the team is only allowed to obtain one big-money guy, meaning Peppers would force Dallas to upgrade all of the other need areas through the draft. The draft is certainly the primary tool through which teams can improve, but immediate impacts generally come from free agents, and there are certainly positions which could benefit from a free agent signing more than outside linebacker.
4. No 3-4 experience
Speaking of outside linebacker, it is a position that Julius Peppers have never even played. He is a 4-3 defensive end. Although Peppers claimed last season he was interested in playing outside linebacker for a 3-4 team, it is a task in which he has never taken part.
That is not to say that Peppers doesn’t have the tools or ability to make the transition, but why take the chance? Peppers is nearly 30 pounds heavier than Spencer. This would certainly limit his ability to drop into coverage effectively, another task he has not performed on a consistent basis.
5. Brandon Williams and Victor Butler
Williams and Butler, two rookie selections from last season, are the current backups at outside linebacker. While you would like a bit more experience behind Ware and Spencer, at a certain point you just have to give the young guys a shot. Who knows where the Cowboys would have finished last season had Miles Austin not been given a chance to perform.
Williams was injured in ’09, but Butler showed some signs of being an effective pass rush specialist. He needs to add bulk, but there may be some situations where he could be counted on to come in and hold down the fort while Ware or Spencer get a breather.
Further, if the team does want to upgrade the backup spot, there are certainly more logical options than adding a 30-year old 4-3 defensive end who will command a huge contract.
6. Poor attitude and takes plays off
The Cowboys just finished ridding themselves of players they deemed distractions in the locker room (T.O., Tank Johnson, Pacman Jones). Why bring in a player who is known for having a poor attitude? Although we think team chemistry is somewhat overrated, the team obviously placed an emphasis on it last offseason so there is no reason to mess with that now.
More important than his off-field attitude is Peppers’ on-field play. We are in no way doubting his skill set, but there have been rumblings of Peppers taking plays off. While we have not watched enough film on him to say for sure, the fact that former teammates of the Panthers’ star have called him out is discouraging.
Overall, replacing a young player who is a key component of the Dallas defense with an aging veteran who has never played in a 3-4 defense and is known to not give 100 percent just isn’t an option for the Cowboys.
Amidst reports that Randy Moss could be headed to Dallas (albeit from the biggest “gossip magazine” in sports, ESPN), we will detail six reasons why signing Randy Moss would be disastrous for the Dallas Cowboys.
1. He will want too much money.
If Dallas trades for Moss, it is likely that he would want a new contract. With $45 million invested in Roy Williams and a Miles Austin long-term deal evident, there would just be too much money tied up in one position. Even without a salary cap in 2010, teams are hesitant to overspend (yes, even Jerry) because of the current economy and the uncertainty of future NFL economics.
If Moss was to be brought in for just this season with no long-term extension given, it would still be a poor fit for of the following reasons.
2. It will stunt the growth of Kevin Ogletree.
Ogletree showed signs of greatness last season. He displayed good hands, above-average route-running ability, and tremendous explosiveness after the catch. Ogletree’s opportunities were very limited in 2009 and would be all but non-existent with the addition of Moss. In much the same way that Dallas saw Miles Austin’s talent after the release of Terrell Owens, the only way to discover Ogletree’s worth is to give him a shot.
3. His addition could force Sam Hurd off the team.
It is possible that the Cowboys could cut Roy Williams if they brought in Moss, but it is unlikely due to Williams’ contract. The team would have to eat $11 million to let Williams walk and then still have to pay Moss.
More likely, the addition of Moss would spell the end of Sam Hurd’s tenure in Dallas. It is possible the organization would keep six wide receivers, but with three of them not on special teams (Moss, Austin, Williams) and the team likely to use two roster spots on kickers, retaining six wide receivers would leave the squad dangerously thin at other positions.
Thus, adding Moss would result in either a lack of depth at other positions or the loss of one of the team’s best special team players.
4. He is old.
Moss is 33 years old. Enough said.
5. He dogs it.
A lot was made of Moss’ performance against the Jets in 2009 where he was called out for dogging it. We watched the film of that game to see for ourselves, and we can guarantee that Moss played no differently than usual– because he always dogs it.
People can say all they want about T.O., but at least you knew he was going to do everything possible to prepare himself for both practice and games. His effort made our own players better, and we would even credit much of the success of the cornerbacks in 2009 to the fact that they faced Terrell Owens in practice everyday the prior season (longer for Newman).
The same cannot be said for Moss. He does not practice hard, and he does not consistently play hard in games. His sub-par route-running on plays he knows are not designed for him makes it harder for teammates to get open. When a free safety notices Moss not running full-speed, for example, he can shade another wide receiver and make it more difficult for the offense to complete a pass to anyone.
Overall, we would call Moss’ lack of effort and poor attitude on the field much more of a distraction than Terrell Owens ever was in Dallas.
6. He wouldn’t take a back seat to Miles Austin.
We are a bit surprised at some fans’ yearning for “a legitimate number one receiver” when the team has already found it. Miles Austin is the real deal. He is phenomenally talented, works hard, and has the attitude which will allow him to continue to improve.
If Randy Moss joined the ‘Boys, who would be the top dog at receiver? It should be Austin, but we find it hard to believe Moss would really be fine being the second option. He already dogs it as the focal point of the Patriots’ offense. Imagine what he might do as the number two guy.
Ultimately, the risks and downsides of signing Randy Moss far outweigh any possible reward. Some may argue that, at the very least, the team would be better in 2010. We disagree. Signing Moss would create authority issues at wide receiver that could not only backfire massively this season, but would also set the team back in future years.