If Dallas Had the Top Pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. . .
IF DALLAS HAD THE TOP PICK IN THE 2011 NFL DRAFT. . .
By Vince Grey
Let’s play a little “what if,” shall we? What if, when Tony Romo got hurt last season, Jon Kitna came in and soon got knocked out for the rest of the season himself? That hypothetical, along with the possible retainment of Wade Phillips, very well may have put Dallas in the No. 1 overall draft spot.
Let’s assume that’s the case. Who should they take? If I was running the draft, here are my top five, in order (assuming no trades).
- 1. Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
The top guy on my board is Dareus, and really, no one else is even close. This due in part to his talent, and in part to team needs at this time. In my view, Dareus has the highest “floor” of any top player in this draft, as well as a very, very high ceiling. He doesn’t appear to be as explosive as Ndamukong Suh, or even Nick Fairley, but he’s a very powerful 3-4 end who could slide to the nose without losing much.
There are no real character questions with Dareus, and he’s been basically injury free his entire career. Dareus would make the Cowboys’ defensive line much, much better almost instantly, giving opposing blockers a point of focus outside of Demarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff.
And, if we ever do the right thing and go back to a 4-3 scheme, Dareus would make one hell of a three-technique tackle. That scheme-diversity is why he’s the best player in this draft. I am generally opposed to trading up at the top end of the draft for anyone other than a sure-fire franchise quarterback, but I would at least consider it with Dareus if the price wasn’t too steep.
- 2. Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor
I view Taylor as an extremely safe pick who fills a strong need. He’s almost a “can’t miss” nose tackle, with the potential to be great. Another Haloti Ngata, if you will. Plus, he would allow Ratliff to move to what I feel is his more natural position of 3-4 defensive end, where his pass rush skills could really flourish. One pick, two key positions upgraded for the next few years. Win-win.
- 3. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
Here’s where it starts to get a little dicey. I like Von Miller a lot, but outside linebacker isn’t a position of great need. Plus, there are questions about how well he would fit in a 3-4 defense. In addition, none of the offensive line personnel blow me away. No Jonathan Ogden’s here that I can see.
Therefore, I would go with Fairley as my third choice. Fairley definitely has downside, as there are questions about his work ethic, as well as some concerns he was a one-year (maybe even one-game) wonder. Still, the man has a ton of talent, and at his best he would be a real force as a pass-rusher. Any of these top three players would solidify our defensive line, which would automatically upgrade our secondary.
- 4. Offensive Tackle–Anthony Castonzo (Boston College), Ben Ijalana (Villanova), Tyron Smith (USC)
Pick one. I like—but don’t love—all of these guys, and don’t see a whole lot of difference between the three, talent-wise. I have Castonzo by a small margin over the other two, but it’s really a toss up. I’m not quite as sold on Ijalana as JB, but I like that he’s a quality drive blocker as well as a guy who can pass protect. Smith worries me a bit because of his weight (as in a lack of it). The other two have at least 25 pounds on the guy and yet I can’t see much of a difference in the group’s overall quickness. Still, we need an offensive tackle in the worst way.
- 5. Cameron Jordan, DT, Cal
On pure talent, I think Peterson and Julio Jones are here, if not higher, but I’m totally opposed to taking defensive backs and receivers this high, so I’ll go with Jordan. He would be a somewhat small, but very quick 3-4 end. I think he would be a real asset to the defense for his high-effort play (something we lack at times), as well as pass-rush ability. There’s no question that’s something we desperately need from at least one of our ends. J.J. Watt is a guy who is growing on me and also an option here, but for now, I’ll take Jordan.