The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys 2011 Draft: Five Potential First Round Picks

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Jonathan Bales

With the Cowboys heading into Week 17 of the 2010 season, they are in position to acquire somewhere between (about) the sixth pick and 12th selection in the 2011 Draft.  In that area, they will undoubtedly be able to obtain a true impact player–someone who should start immediately.  Picking toward the latter portion of that range may actually be optimal for Dallas, as the requisite contract funds take a steep drop from the top of the round.

Predicting the Cowboys’ pick in 2011 will be far easier than it was this past draft due to their draft spot.  Further, the team’s primary needs (defensive end, inside linebacker, cornerback, safety, offensive line) weed out some of the prospects.

Without further ado, here are my initial picks for the Cowboys’ five most likely potential first round draft picks. . .

5.  Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal

Jordan is a bit smaller than the “prototypical” Cowboys defensive end (he’s 280 pounds), but the massive ends haven’t been working in Dallas anyway.  It’s time to acquire smaller, quicker playmakers across the board on defense, and that starts on the line.

Jordan has an incredible frame and strength, yet carries it well.  He is good in pursuit, able to shed blocks rather easily.  His experience in a 3-4 defense is always a plus.

With literally all of the team’s current defensive ends possibly on the way out (I predict they’ll retain only Jason Hatcher), Jordan would be an immediate starter for Dallas.

4.  Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Clayborn is a 4-3 defensive end in college, but he possess enough size (6’4”, 285 pounds) that he could stay at that spot in the Cowboys’ 3-4 defense.  He’s a high-motor player with great athleticism for his size.  He actually appears to have a frame which could add some bulk, meaning he could transition into a run-stuffing 3-4 end or even eventually kick inside to nose tackle.

3.  Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Peterson has it all.  He’s big (6’1”, 211 pounds), fast (probably a low 4.4 guy), and intelligent.  He has the skill set to fit into any system, excelling in both man and zone coverages.  He plays big in big games and possesses excellent ball skills–characteristics Dallas needs in a cornerback.

With Terence Newman getting old quickly and Mike Jenkins regressing in 2010, cornerback is a huge need for Dallas.  Orlando Scandrick played really well in the slot during the second half of the season, but it’s unclear if he could hold up outside as a starter.  Peterson’s presence would allow the Cowboys to possibly move Newman to free safety, giving the secondary a much-needed makeover.

2.  Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

The only reason I have Amukamara ranked ahead of Peterson is draftability:  I don’t see Peterson being available for Dallas no matter where they pick–he’s that good.  Amukamara is still an outstanding cornerback, excelling in press and zone coverages.  Despite being six pounds lighter than Peterson, he’s far more physical.  With the Cowboys likely to transition to more zone coverages in 2011, Amukamara could make sense.

1.  Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

Dareus is an absolute stud.  At 6’3”, 306 pounds, he possesses incredible athleticism.  His size is tremendous, yet he carries it very well–so well, in fact, that when you look at him, you see “oversized linebacker.”

Dareus is versatile enough to play all three defensive line positions for Dallas.  That sort of versatility would be extremely valuable.  Because of his size, I think Dareus’ primary position would be nose tackle.  If that’s the case, current Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff could move back to defensive end–a position that seems more suitable for him at this point in his career.

So how could Dareus fall to the Cowboys’ pick?  Well, there are some off-field concerns.  If Dallas is willing to overlook them, they could secure incredible value in the first round.

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20 Responses to Dallas Cowboys 2011 Draft: Five Potential First Round Picks

  1. Willis says:

    I like these picks. Peterson will probably be gone before we can pick, IMO top three. I’m wondering why you don’t have Fairley up there as he will, IMO, most likely be round after Peterson(draftability) and has graded out higher than Dareus recently.

    I always love upgrading the line, so I’m picking Fairley/Dareus, although Peterson/Amukamara come in a close second. I’m also considering the fact that we could get a new free safety in the second round or Jared Crick, who I think could be a steal there.

  2. Willis says:

    let me rephrase, I would take Peterson, Fairley, Amukamara, Dareus

  3. john coleman says:

    Peterson will be gone, but he is deserving. Amukamara was torched by Blackmon and lacks top end speed to play man against say Desean Jackson. Bottomline is that I haven’t warmed to him yet. How about a little breakdown of Amukamara against good WRs. I know it’s in you. Clayborn seems to get upfield, but the tape I’ve seen is void of him making plays. I think his teammate Ballard is his equal. He makes plays on the same tape. So the question becomes, Is Clayborn helping Ballard or is Ballard helping Clayborn? As a footnote to that, I’m leery of Big Ten players in general. Let’s see that leaves Dareus. I haven’t watched him specifically, but in the Bama games I’ve seen he didn’t jump out at me. So for now, I’m saying at our pick(7th or 8th) as of now, it would be too high for Dareus.

    FOR THE RECORD- Set this in stone, unless we move up for Luck or Peterson , I’m for moving down. I’m really for moving down period. I believe the value in this draft is in the 2nd and 3rd rds. Prospects at all positions are available: Ballard, Crick, Watt, Ellis-DE/DT, Cannon, Franklin, Ziemba-OL, D.Williams,J.Smith, Dowling, Harris,Carter, Carmichael-CB/S, McCarthy, Irving,Sturdivant, Matthews?-ILB. So moving down to the 20′s and getting a 2nd rd or out of the 1st and getting a 2nd and a 3rd is what I would advocate. In the 1st we move down and continue to do so until the right guy is sitting there.
    Where/Who has the best prospect info? I like CBS but they don’t have underclassmen in yet.
    To all be careful as a lot of the prospect rankings date back to around the 2010 draft, and only a few are up to date.

  4. john coleman says:

    JB, How do you go about rating players with conference as a consideration?

    As an example, I give SEC players a little higher grade in general. The thought is that they play better competition week in and week out. Teams like Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, and South Carolina can beat anybody on a given week.
    That is also the reason I’m leery of Big Ten players. I think Ohio St. is overrated every year and the Big Ten keeps them looking good. I mean Michigan is several years removed from being a serious contender. Who else is a for real team.
    Am I in left field?

  5. john coleman says:

    How about Bowers and Quinn?

  6. Willis says:

    JC, I would love to trade down and possibly do what Denver did last year, grabbing two first round picks. I thought it was a great strategy, except Josh McDaniels skipped signing Dez(thank god) and grabbed Tebow in the first round which, while it may pan out, IMO lost a lot of value as they probably could have gotten him in the second round had they really wanted him.

    If that is the case perhaps we could get Carimi, Heyward and possibly Brandon Harris if he declares. Even if we get three guys who can come in and start, I think we are going to need a big free agent signing.

  7. VINCE GREY says:

    If we’re in the top 5, I’d probably be into trading down a bit as well, but only if we feel the guy we want isn’t worth that high a pick. To me, top five picks are reserved for QB’s, superstar DL, and all-world LT’s. Every other position? Wait.

    Personally, I’d rather see us get an extra 2nd plus maybe another 3-4-5 or two than another 1st.

    I think bringing in another defensive coaching staff, an AGGRESSIVE one, would be the number one fix of the D.

  8. Willis–I did have Fairley in the mix but I think he has a far greater chance of dropping than Dareus. I know Dareus has character concerns and both players are versatile, but players with Dareus’ skill set tend to not drop (forget Dez Bryant). If he checks out for Dallas, I really think he’ll be targeted.

    John–I would also prefer to move down. Willis’ idea of moving down, then possibly back up, is awesome. If the Cowboys could secure two impact players without yielding later picks, that would be ideal. And I’ll look into that Amukamara study for you!

  9. John–I think it is too difficult to factor conference into a grade. There are way too many moving parts. Certain conferences are definitely better than others, but I think you have to go solely off of what you see on tape. I think you can factor a prospect’s specific opponent into the mix (CB vs. WR, for example), but even that gets tricky due to a limited sample size. People have down games. One game you might see Terence Newman shut down DeSean, the next he gets burned. If you were to grade Newman based on just one game because of the opponent, it would be unfair. I think the entire sample of a player’s games, regardless of conference, is most important. Now if a player consistently dominates players in a known powerhouse conference, that’s certainly a positive.

    And Bowers was a consideration for this list, but I don’t think Quinn will really be an option. He’s only 270 pounds–too small to play on the line, and I don’t think Dallas will take a project OLB in the first round. I’d say the chances of taking Quinn are next to zero.

  10. Vince–Agree totally on your analysis of the defense. There are certainly holes, but the biggest problem is the staff, IMO.

  11. Nate says:

    scratch Jordan unless we trade down and insert Fairley

  12. Colin says:

    How unlucky are we that the year that we are in position to draft a game changing free safety ,the position that we need the most (and the position we needed most for most of the last decade) the isnt one rated there.

  13. craig kocay says:

    I would think getting peterson (which I believe will be off the board) would mean converting him to safety like rolle was due to his size. Either way he would be a great pick, and an obvious upgrade at either role.

    I dont believe that it would be impossible for fairley to drop to us, especially if a few qbs (newton locker/mallet and luck) come off the board surprisingly early.

    On a side note, you discussed (and many of us have agreed) that it would be wise (especially if some of the big names get selected before us) that the cowboys would be wise to trade down. I would love to see everyones opinion on some second late first/early second talent that would fit nicely (eg sherrod, carimi, costanza, crick, moore) similar to what mr coleman was doing.

    great work jb

    Lastly would anybody really be happy if we did not get fairley dar prince or peterson and did not trade down? I would be upset if we did not grab one of these four in our original spot

  14. starred4life says:

    Now that you know we’ll be picking in the 9th spot, wanna try to call the player?

    More than a couple of teams ahead of us should pick QB’s. That should leave us with a top 4 or 5 (non-QB) pick.
    Also, if those teams forego the QB pick, a premier name QB could fall to us, we might be able to find a trading partner. With Minnesota, maybe Miami, and Jacksonville possibly looking to upgrade the QB position they might feel the need to swap with us, because Washington picks right after us and they might fear that Shanahan is waiting to snatch up the player they covet.
    Will be interesting. We should get someone good. We need to have a solid draft.

  15. moses says:

    First round is relatively straight forward. All of the candidates that you listed are exceptional players. All should be hits. It is the later rounds that make or break you.
    I think it is going to take a lot of good scouting and smart drafting to get a good class of rookies.
    I think we did well to get Dez. I thought we should have gone OT in the 2nd instead of ILB with Lee. There was a lot of talent on the table at that point.
    think that Jones was looking for the HR in the draft, the surprise pick that wowed everyone. Like a batter that looks for the HR all of the time, you tend to strike out a lot.
    Whatever we miss on, we need to be prepared to look at free agency or practice squad or trades to shore up the holes.
    That is what makes the draft so important. You need to hit otherwise you pay a lot more in trades and free agency.

  16. Omar says:

    JB, there’s quite a few teams with really awful quarterbacks in the top five. Da’quan Bowers seems to be able to take that 1/1 rank from Andrew Luck. Nick Fairley is another guy who could go high, and you just know AJ Green will be a top five pick too. If the other QBs (Gabbert, Mallett, Newton, and Locker) get lots of hype they could go earlier than they’re currently slotted and leaving Dallas Patrick Peterson.

  17. Colin–Things can change, but I think you’re right that Dallas won’t be looking safety at No. 9.

    Craig–I would love to drop into the late first area and grab some extra picks. I will get back to you on some late-first prospects within a few days, as those guys are likely to be the same as who I would project Dallas to take in the early second anyway.

    Starred–Excellent point about Washington drafting behind Dallas. Their need for a QB should made Dallas’ pick quite valuable, meaning I see a trade down as the most likely scenario. It’s also nice that the No. 9 pick isn’t so valuable and the contract won’t be so large that teams will be afraid to move up.

    Omar–Even in your scenario, I can’t see any way Peterson drops to Dallas. Unless Amukamara jumps him on people’s boards, I don’t see eight teams passing on a blue chip CB.

  18. Omar says:

    JB, I agree that it’s unlikely but there’s a long history of plenty of teams doing something stupid in the first round. I could easily see someone jumping at the large number of top shelf QBs or WRs out there instead of a QB. If Mark Ingram has a good workout he might sneak in there too, Peterson’s a top five talent in the draft, but we’ve seen NFL teams do far stupider things.

  19. Omar–There’s certainly an opportunity, so let’s just cross our fingers. PP will be a playmaker whether he stays at CB or moves to FS.

  20. s jones says:

    Got to pull strings to get Petersen and move Newman to free safety unless we trade him and get a solid defender.Its time to get hardcore players on D and compete with the afc mentality of Defense.I think the young prospects Dallas brought in late can compete for potential end and Lb spots.Kenwin Cummings is a beast .Followed him in college he is verstile from end to lb.Amazin strength.

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