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.
A list of players with whom the Cowboys have conducted pre-draft visits (as of 3/29/10):
Taylor Price, WR, Ohio
Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU
Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
Navarro Bowman, LB, Penn State
Brandon Ghee, CB, Wake Forest
Sean Lee, LB, Penn State
John Conner, FB, Kentucky
A few weeks ago we examined offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s play-calling trends on 2nd down. Our results shocked us perhaps more than any we have gathered this offseason.
The graph to the left displays Garrett’s tendencies. Notice the disproportionate amount of times Garrett called a run play on 2nd down after a pass play, and vice verse. On 2nd and 3 to 7, for example, Garrett dialed up a run just 29.5 percent of the time following a run on 1st down. In the same exact situations, though, he called a run 76.5 percent of the time after 1st down passes.
Clearly a coordinator’s play-calling tendencies should not be based solely on the previous play-call (regardless of that play’s result). We concluded Garrett fell victim to the idea that “alternating creates randomization.” In his attempt to “mix it up,” Garrett actually became incredibly predictable with his calls. True randomness has no regard for previous happenings. As we have shown, however, Garrett allowed previous plays (not simply the result, but whether it was a run or a pass) to affect his current call.
After publishing that study, we received some criticism that our stats were meaningless without knowing the tendencies of other play-callers from around the league. These criticisms, though, are unjustified.
We are not simply analyzing the percentage of run or pass plays in certain situations. If that was the case, then yes, we would need to know league-wide tendencies to draw meaningful conclusions about Garrett’s own trends.
Instead, we are analyzing the percentage of runs/passes after a certain type of play. Let’s look again at the above graph. On 2nd and 3 to 7, Garrett was 2.95 times more likely to run after a 1st down pass than after a 1st down run. We are not critiquing how often Garrett called a run in general during those situations–that information is meaningless to us.
Since the down and distance on 2nd down is exactly the same regardless of the 1st down play-call, we would expect a truly random play-caller to dial up a run after a 1st down pass the same percentage of the time as after a 1st down run, regardless of what that specific percentage may be. Thus, it is the overall run/pass percentage that would require the knowledge of others’ play-calling tendencies to be meaningful, but not the percentage of runs/passes in a specific down and distance following a specific type of play.
Nonetheless, we were still curious as to the play-calling trends of other coordinators in similar situations. We had a feeling that, because humans perform so poorly in generating random sequences, we would see that others fall victim to the same fallacy as Garrett, i.e. that “mixing it up” will produce randomness.
Of course, it would be impossible for us to study film on every 2nd down play for every team for the entire 2009 season. Luckily, we came across similar statistics on AdvancedNFLStats.com (a tremendous site that we highly recommend). The numbers are listed just above.
The data consists of 14,384 plays, so the sample size is obviously large enough to draw meaningful conclusions. During those plays, teams ran approximately 50 percent of the time after a 1st down pass, but just 28 percent of the time after a 1st down run.
We contrasted these results with Garrett’s 2009 2nd down play-calls (shown to the left). Notice that Garrett calls a 2nd down run after a 1st down run at basically the exact same rate as other coordinators around the NFL. His 2nd down run ratio after a 1st down pass is also incredibly similar to the league-wide average (54.3 percent to approximately 50.0 percent).
So, is this evidence that Garrett is justified in his play-calling? Not at all. Remember, opposing offensive coordinators are not involved in a zero-sum game (meaning the success of one does not necessarily cause the failure of the other). Offensive coordinators around the league can collectively perform well, or collectively do poorly. In the case of 2nd down play calls, it is the latter.
Further, not all teams suffer from this randomization fallacy at the same rate. The Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, have done a tremendous job or randomizing their plays over the last few years (graph below). Notice that their 2nd down run/pass ratio is nearly the same after a 1st down run as it is after a 1st down pass. The closer these bars come to matching, the closer a team is to reaching the Nash equilibrium, and the more successful they will be on offense.
Thus, the failures of other coordinators around the NFL do not justify the failures of Garrett. His success is independent of that of other offensive coordinators. As we wrote in our initial study of this topic, “If the Cowboys want to maximize the productivity of their potentially explosive offense, Garrett is the first person that needs to change. Unfortunately, if his play-calling does not become less predictable, neither will the team’s fate in the playoffs.”
We aren’t backing off from that statement.
- Eagles QB Donovan McNabb could be involved in a big-time trade.
- There is a lot of talk of Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant falling to the Cowboys’ 27th overall pick.
The ‘Boys playing cards
- Dallas could be a good draft away from a championship.
- Scout.com’s Draft Muncher is an excellent tool to uncover mock draft trends.
Rams’ GM Bill Devaney recently stated that St. Louis is trying to sign free safety O.J. Atogwe to a long-term deal. This might upset some Dallas fans, as there were rumors of Atogwe possibly signing with the Cowboys after the April draft.
We viewed Atogwe, who has picked off 15 passes over the last three seasons, to be a more realistic option to replace Ken Hamlin in 2009 than a rookie free safety. We discussed this possibility in a recent Mailbag.
The Rams have until June 1 before Atogwe becomes an unrestricted free agent. Other teams actually have the opportunity to sign Atogwe to an offer sheet now, but St. Louis has the right to match any offer up until that June 1 deadline.
If the Rams do sign Atogwe to a long-term deal in the near future, perhaps the Cowboys will place a higher priority on finding their free safety of the future in the draft (assuming they don’t think that player is already on the squad).
Quarterback is the most important position in all of sports, and below is our rating of all 32 (predicted) starting quarterbacks for 2010.
32. Brian Brohm, Buffalo Bills
Will Brohm win the starting job in Buffalo? It really doesn’t matter who starts for the Bills–they will be last on our list.
31. Jake Delhomme, Cleveland Browns
Delhomme was once a starting Super Bowl QB. Now the only way he will get back to a Super Bowl is to buy a ticket.
30. Bruce Gradkowski, Oakland Raiders
Although there are reports that Jamarcus Russell has changed his ways, we still believe Gradkowski gives Oakland the best chance to win.
29. Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers transitioned to a spread offense over the second half of last season and it served Smith quite well. Let’s see how he performs after an entire offseason in the system.
28. Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams
Bulger’s demise is a perfect example of what can happen to a quarterback with no offensive line.
27. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Bucs
Freeman showed poise and leadership in his rookie season, even leading Tampa Bay on a game-winning drive against Green Bay.
26. Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos
The Broncos have claimed that Orton will remain their starter, but he is on a short leash with Brady Quinn now waiting in the wings.
25. Matt Leinart, Arizona Cardinals
Leinart finally gets his chance to start, although he will have to hold off free agent acquisition Derek Anderson.
24. Jason Campbell, Washington Redskins
Judging Campbell’s ability is extremely difficult because of his porous offensive line. On a different team, who knows what he would do?
23. David Garrard, Jacksonville Jaguars
Garrard’s time as a starting NFL quarterback is slipping away. He needs to pray the Jags don’t select Tim Tebow. Perhaps he should just tell Tebow and he can relay the message directly to Jesus.
22. Matt Moore, Carolina Panthers
We have high expectations for Matt Moore. He is only this low on the list due to inexperience.
21. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs
2010 will be a defining year for Cassel. Is he a future NFL star or was he simply a one-hit wonder in New England?
20. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks
There is an outside chance Hasselbeck isn’t even the opening day starter, although Seattle will likely attempt to slowly incorporate Charlie Whitehurst into the lineup.
19. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
We didn’t like Stafford coming out of college in ’09, but he grew on us. His ability to play through pain against Cleveland was admirable.
18. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
When Mark Sanchez wasn’t busy eating hot dogs on the sideline during his rookie season, he enjoyed great success. The expectations for him this season are through the roof.
17. Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins
We may be in the minority, but we believe Henne has that ‘it’ factor. He is poised to have a big year in 2010.
16. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Cutler is so streaky that Chicago has no chance of going far in the playoffs (or even making it) unless he becomes more conservative.
15. Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles
McNabb is certainly talented, but he has yet to show that he can lead a team to a championship. A quarterback without leadership skills is just a passer.
14. Vince Young, Tennessee Titans
Young’s career has been a roller coaster thus far. Despite his off-field struggles, however, he usually just finds a way to win.
13. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
With a new arsenal of weapons outside, Flacco is poised to take a big step forward in 2010. We’ll see if he can handle the pressure.
12. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals
Carson has been quiet the past few years. His time is running out to prove he is a winner and not just a stat guy.
11. Matt Schaub, Houston Texans
Like Aaron Rodgers, Schaub has put up some huge numbers. To take his game to the next level, he must get Houston to the playoffs.
10. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Ryan came back to reality a bit in his second season after a stellar rookie campaign. Still, he is ahead of the pace for most third-year quarterbacks.
Note: There sure are a lot of “Matt’s” starting at QB in the NFL. This is the 7th, meaning over 20 percent of the league’s starting quarterbacks go by the moniker.
9. Eli Manning, New York Giants
If it was not for one magical season, fans would likely be calling for Eli’s head. He simply has not played at an elite level since losing Plaxico Burress.
8. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Who has the highest passer rating in NFL history? Joe Montana? Peyton Manning? It belongs to Rodgers, believe it or not.
7. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Romo gets a lot of heat, but he is just behind Rodgers with the fourth-highest passer rating in the history of the NFL. He will win a championship before his career is over.
6. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
We love the fire Rivers displays each and every week. The man played an entire game on a torn knee.
5. Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings
We expect a lot of harsh words for placing Favre so low on our list, but his offseason antics have just grown old.
4. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Times are tough for Roethlisberger right now, and his future in Pittsburgh may even be uncertain. On the field, though, he is a leader and a winner.
3. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Brees is on the top of the world right now. Let’s see how he and the Saints respond next season after tasting success.
2. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
Did Peyton need to win Super Bowl 44 to be considered one of the top two or three quarterbacks ever? Only time will tell, but his 9-9 postseason record is the difference between him and Brady.
1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
The Brady/Manning debate causes blood to boil, but there is really no debate in our minds. Brady is king.
Think we screwed up? Tell us why below.
We recently detailed the 2009 success of the Cowboys’ cornerbacks in our Grading the ‘Boys segment. Leading the pack was Mike Jenkins, who really took tremendous strides last season. The second-year player led the team in interceptions, pass deflections, completion percentage against, and yards-per-attempt against.
Surprising to some was how highly we graded Terence Newman (B+). Newman has been underrated for years, though, and last season he was finally healthy enough to perform well over the course of an entire 16-game schedule. Newman was thrown at on just 9.49 percent of plays, making him the least targeted cornerback on the team.
The success of Jenkins and Newman was not matched by nickel CB Orlando Scandrick. Scandrick, who began the season as a rotational starter, regressed in his second season in Dallas. He was actually one of the most targeted players in the league and yielded a pedestrian 62.9 percent of passes his way to be completed.
The difference between Jenkins and Scandrick doesn’t appear to be in their skill sets as much as it is in their minds. Jenkins gained confidence at a seemingly exponential rate as the 2009 season progressed. Scandrick, who was often in position to make a play, often displayed a bit of hesitation which ended up costing him by year’s end.
We believe Scandrick has the adequate physical tools and mindset to rebound nicely in 2010. Still, a team can never have enough talented cornerbacks. Thus, the Cowboys may be looking to bolster the position during the draft, perhaps even in the early rounds.
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah is a small-school cornerback out of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He is a personal favorite of ours not only because of his coverage, but also due to his electrifying return ability. The latter of these skills is the primary reason we view him as a target for Dallas (we rated a dominant return man as the team’s #1 draft need).
Owusu-Ansah is eerily similar to Cardinals’ CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. At 6’0”, 207 pounds, Owusu-Ansah has the requisite size to be solid in run support. He does not have the blazing speed of DRC (AOA ran a 4.47 at the Combine), but he may actually be a more versatile player.
Owusu-Ansah was highly productive in college, albeit against DII talent. The major knock on him coming out is that he has not faced elite competition. How will he react when he gets beat? That basically never happened at IUP, so his ability to respond to adversity is a question mark at this point.
For Dallas, Owusu-Ansah would be an upgrade at both punt and kickoff returner. He displays great vision and has the strength to break tackles. His biggest weakness on returns is his propensity to use his superior athleticism to dance around before getting up-field. That will obviously not work in the NFL.
A possible concerning issue for Dallas is the fact that Owusu-Ansah is probably better suited to play outside than in the slot. If the team is interested in bringing someone in to compete with Scandrick, they may want to look elsewhere. However, this concern could easily be alleviated by playing Newman in the slot and Owusu-Ansah outside in nickel situations (assuming AOA beats out Scandrick).
AOA is steadily climbing draft boards just as Rodgers-Cromartie did two seasons ago. While he won’t be a first round selection, AOA figures to go somewhere in round two. In our opinion, he represents great value if he falls to Dallas at pick #59. We would rate the odds of this happening at about 50/50.
- The Cowboys are searching for offensive linemen to select in the first round.
- Tickets for the Cowboys’ first preseason game are on sale.
- Could the Cowboys trade out of the first round?
- Don’t forget Dallas had an opportunity to draft Brady Quinn, but passed due to their confidence in Romo.
- The Giants spoiled the Cowboys’ 2009 stadium opener. Dallas might return the favor in 2010.
In Parts I-III of our “Grading the ‘Boys” Series, we analyzed the production of the offensive line and running backs. We now swing over to the defense to critique the play of the Cowboys’ top three cornerbacks.
As is the case with every position in football, the success of the defensive backs is very dependent on the play of other positions, particularly those rushing the passer. Thus, it can become difficult when comparing CB’s from different teams because the efficiency of their respective pass-rushers is directly correlated to the cornerbacks’ own success.
It is easier to compare CB’s on the same team, particularly if they do not match up with specific receivers. This is the case on the Cowboys, as Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins generally play one side of the field regardless of where the opposition’s receivers line up.
Playing in the slot can be a bit different, and so we must be careful when comparing Orlando Scandrick’s stats with those of Newman and Jenkins. The percentage of snaps that Scandrick is targeted, for example, will be higher than the starting cornerbacks because he is on the field in all passing situations, but not necessarily on running downs.
Still, we can gather the numbers and effectively isolate a player’s success to the best of our ability. Below are the results of the Dallas cornerbacks’ 2009 play and the corresponding Dallas Cowboys Times grades.
- Chart Key: TA=Thrown At, Rec=Receptions Yielded, PD=Passes Defended, Yds/Att=Yards Per Attempt Thrown At
- The best stats are circled in blue, the worst in red.
- Some of the stats were provided by Pro Football Focus.
- The final chart details our own custom statistic, the Dallas Cowboys Times Pass Defense Rating. It incorporates the factors we believe are most valuable in evaluating the success of a cornerback. The amount of points a player scores in each category is less important than the difference between his score and the average score. For example, a point total of 20.0 in a category where the league average is 5.0 helps a player more than a score of 100.0 in a category whose league average is 90.0.
- The final grade is weighted 4:1 in terms of pass defense versus run defense.
- Terence Newman
Pass Defense: B+
So much has been made of Mike Jenkins’ progression in 2009 that people tend to forget how outstanding Terence Newman played. Newman’s health and ability to perform at his best was undoubtedly one of the primary reasons for the success of the Dallas defense.
Newman was the least targeted Cowboys’ cornerback in ’09, getting thrown at on just 9.49 percent of all snaps. This statistic is very representative of the way opposing coaches feel about a player. Newman may be underrated among general fans, but those in the league are very aware of his ability.
Newman recorded an impressive .728 passing yards allowed per snap, surpassed only slightly by Jenkins. The 7.66 yards-per-attempt against Newman was the worst of all three cornerbacks, but this could be due to the fact that quarterbacks do not generally test him. When Newman does get thrown at, there is a good bet his receiver is fairly open.
A common knock on Terence throughout his entire career has been his inability to make a play on the ball. It is a valid criticism, as Newman logged just three interceptions last season, and we see it as his biggest weakness. The largest difference between Newman and Jenkins in ’09 was this ability to make big plays. Nonetheless, Newman is almost always in position, which surely aids his teammates in their quest to force turnovers.
The statistic which we value most, our own Pass Defense Rating (below), has Newman ranked slightly behind Jenkins in terms of 2009 pass defense efficiency. Newman checked in with 236.39 points. In comparison, Darrelle Revis, the most dominant pass defender by far last season, recorded 336.38 points.
Run Defense: A-
The most underrated component of Newman’s game is his willingness to stop the run. He recorded the most tackles and missed the least of any cornerback on the team last season. In fact, his 8.5 percent missed tackle percentage was one of the best in the league.
- Mike Jenkins
Pass Defense: A-
No player on Dallas took as big a leap forward in 2009 as Mike Jenkins. Jenkins, remember, began the season in a rotation with Orlando Scandrick as the Cowboys’ starting cornerback. His play soon justified his stay in the starting lineup.
Jenkins gave up a completion on just 49.1 percent of passes thrown his way, leading the team. He also led all three CB’s in yards-per-attempt, yards-per-snap, pass deflections, and, most importantly, interceptions (six).
Because interceptions can sometimes be fluky and vary greatly from year to year, we do not put an extreme emphasis on them in our custom Pass Defense Rating. Despite this, Jenkins led the team with 267.96 points. Rankings among teammates, more so than among competitors, are very accurate because teammates deal with the same pass rush and game situations.
While we would rate Newman’s ability to purely cover as equivalent or superior to Jenkins’, the former USF cornerback gets the better grade because of his increased play-making ability.
Run Defense: C+
Jenkins was ridiculed for dodging a tackle against the Giants in his rookie season, and it was obvious he placed emphasis on improving his run support in 2009. Still, this part of Jenkins’ game needs work. He recorded less tackles than Scandrick despite playing significantly more snaps. He also missed 14.6 percent of all tackles he attempted. This is not horrendous, but it can certainly improve. Newman has proven that run support is more about “want to” than being physically-imposing.
- Orlando Scandrick
Pass Defense: C
Scandrick took a step back in 2009. The fact that he even had a chance to start this season after being drafted in the fifth round in 2008 is a testament to how well he played in his rookie season.
In ’09, however, Scandrick was one of the most targeted defensive backs in the NFL (13.91 percent of all snaps). Despite this and giving up completions on 62.9 percent of passes his way, Scandrick did a good job of limiting the yards-per-attempt to just 6.83 (Jenkins was only slightly better at 6.71).
Scandrick tallied only 151.90 points in our Pass Defense Rating, though, because of his high target rate and inability to make plays on the ball.
The problem with Scandrick was not that he was out of position or got beat a lot. As we watched the film, it was apparent Scandrick’s speed and quickness allowed him to cover well, but, for whatever reason, he got outplayed once the ball was in the air.
Thus, his number one offseason priority may be working to get his head turned around in coverage to locate the ball, then subsequently using his athleticism to make a play.
Run Defense: B-
Scandrick is slight of frame, but he doesn’t get manhandled in the run game. He actually recorded three more tackles than Jenkins This number could be inflated, however, because Scandrick lined up closer to the ball-carrier and also gave up a significant number of completions where he was able to immediately make a tackle.
Still, Scandrick had a lower percentage of missed tackles than Jenkins. Tackling from the nickel position is generally more difficult than it is for a cornerback lined up out wide because a nickel cornerback is in the open field and does not have the ability to utilize the sideline as an extra defender.
Final Cornerback Rankings
1. Mike Jenkins: 89.8 (A-)
2. Terence Newman: 88.2 (B+)
3. Orlando Scandrick: 76.6 (C)
So where do the Cowboys go from here concerning the cornerback position? It is obvious they are highly talented on the outside with Newman and Jenkins, but should they upgrade the nickel spot?
In our opinion, Scandrick has the ability to significantly improve his performance in 2010. It is quite apparent that he is very close to taking that next step. The most important aspect of his success will be gaining experience. With experience comes knowledge, and with knowledge comes success.
Sometimes it appeared as though Scandrick was a bit hesitant on the field in ’09, and the knowledge he will gain from more experience will allow him to “stop thinking” and let his natural ability take over. There is no doubt that he has the requisite talent to be an incredible cover corner.
We could also see the Cowboys addressing the position during the middle or late rounds of the draft. One player we are very high on is Alabama CB Javier Arenas. Arenas primary role in Dallas would be as a return man, but he could also push Scandrick for the nickel spot. Perhaps a little competition is just what Orlando needs to thrive in 2010.
In versions 1.0 and 2.0 of our Cowboys Mock Drafts, we had the team selecting Penn State DT/DE Jared Odrick and USC OT Charles Brown, respectively. While we would still guess Odrick will be the pick if forced to select today, drafts can take wild twists as the result of just one event.
In this version our our Cowboys Mock Draft, we will describe a path the Cowboys may take if they happen to sign an offensive tackle before April 22 (Marcus McNeil or Jared Gaither, for example).
Round 1- Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida
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.
Round 2- Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida
Spikes’ size makes him a candidate to play inside in a 3-4. Keith Brooking and Bradie James played well last year, but the Cowboys must soon look for their replacements (particularly for Brooking). We still think a play-making return man is an option here, but because players such as Mardy Gilyard, Dexter McCluster, and Jordan Shipley had such poor 40-yard dash times, the Cowboys may be able to wait a round to grab someone.
FYI: Despite these first two selections, no, we are not Gators fans.
Round 3- Eric Norwood, LB, South Carolina
To play devil’s advocate, we have assumed the Cowboys do not see any return man at this point as providing great value. So which direction does the team go? Jerry Jones said the Cowboys will take the best player available at each position, and we really like South Carolina LB Eric Norwood.
A lot of fans will be disappointed in yet another linebacker, but we all know what a key position the edge rusher is in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme . As we detailed in our profile of Eric Norwood, he is a an excellent pass-rusher who should transition nicely to OLB. Further, we are not sure Dallas is convinced they have proper depth behind starters Ware and Spencer (Curtis Johnson, Victor Butler and Brandon Williams).
Round 4- Jordan Shipley, WR, Texas
The Cowboys’ patience in this particular mock draft pays off, as Texas WR Jordan Shipley is still on the board. Shipley would come in and become the starting punt and kickoff returner, and also compete with Patrick Crayton in the slot. We see Shipley as an early second round talent, but his 4.57 at the Combine will surely drop his stock. Still, Shipley plays much faster than his time and displays excellent quickness and body control.
Round 6- Kurt Coleman, FS, Ohio State
Dallas may or may not upgrade the safety position before this spot, but we still maintain that the Cowboys’ brass is more comfortable with what they have at the position than fans. Despite interest from other clubs in Gerald Sensabaugh, the Cowboys remain likely to lock him up long-term. Ken Hamlin struggled last season, but members of the organization like what they have in second-year man Michael Hamlin.
Coleman is a small, ball-hawk type safety which the Cowboys lack right now. He would be a project, but worth the risk at this point.
Round 7- Arthur Jones, DT/DE, Syracuse
The importance the Cowboys place on the defensive end position is reliant on the futures of Spears, Bowen, and Hatcher. The second round tenders placed on all three players means the latter two are not going anywhere in 2010. Spears, however, could garner some interest from other 3-4 teams. We detailed what Dallas might do with him here.
If the likely scenario of all three defensive ends remaining on the team comes to fruition, the Cowboys may look at a late-round prospect like Syracuse’s Arthur Jones. Jones is a talented athlete who may drop this far due to knee surgery he underwent in November of last season.