The DC Times

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

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys 2011 Draft Grades: Did ‘Boys Find Value?

Jonathan Bales

I posted a few articles on my thoughts regarding the Cowboys’ first three draft selections, but this will be my initial analysis of their late-round picks.  After a tremendous start to the draft and a questionable second day, I think the Cowboys found some really talented young players today in rounds four through seven.  Here are my grades. . .

Round 1: Tyron Smith, OT, USC

In my initial article on the selection of Smith, I stated how I see him as the future of offensive tackles in the NFL.  His athleticism and upside are incredible, and his versatility will be valuable to Dallas.  I know some of you aren’t as high on Smith as me (he was No. 6 overall on my board), but I think he has legit Pro Bowl potential.  He will be a left tackle sooner rather than later.

Grade: A

Round 2: Bruce Carter, LB, UNC

I was actually going to give this selection a “D,” but Carter’s potential versatility bumps him up a bit.  Despite what others are saying, I can’t see how the ‘Boys drafted Carter to start as anything other than an inside linebacker.  He has versatility to move outside in certain situations, but after watching more tape of him, it’s clear he does not possess the pass-rush repertoire to make a immediate impact as an edge-rusher.  With players like Ben Ijalana, Brandon Harris and Marvin Austin still on the board, I thought the Cowboys missed this one.

Here is my scouting report on Bruce Carter.

Grade: C-

Round 3:  DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma

Let me be clear that I like Murray’s overall ability.  From my scouting report on Murray:

Murray has solid agility and start-and-stop ability.  His quickness and long speed are both really, really good.  He ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the Combine and he really does possess home run ability.  While I don’t like the timing of the pick, I think there are only a few runners in this draft who are better for Dallas than Murray.  He’s an insurance policy against a Felix Jones injury, which was really an underrated “hole” for the ‘Boys.

Murray is a really good back with a skill set I covet.  The problem is there were a lot of really good backs on the board at the time: Pitt’s Dion Lewis, Eastern Washington’s Taiwan Jones, Miami’s Graig Cooper, Oklahoma State’s Kendall Hunter and Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers.  Why not wait until, say, the fifth round to grab Lewis and take Kenrick Ellis in the third?

Grade: C+

Round 4: David Arkin, OG, Missouri State

The theme of the Cowboys’ 2011 draft was selecting hard workers.  Arkin is an extremely hard worker who excels in pass protection.  I’ve stated before that I think the talent gap between Division I-A and Division 1-AA (or Division II) players is shrinking, meaning selecting small-school players can often hold value for teams.

Clearly I don’t know a ton about Arkin’s game and I need to find some tape, but I do know he’s a very smart individual with tremendous quickness.  Simply for being a small-school player who excels in pass protection at a position of need, I will give this pick a solid grade.

Grade: B

Round 5: Josh Thomas, CB, Buffalo

You guys are going to end up loving this pick.  Mark my words: Thomas is going to be a starting cornerback in the NFL.  He has average size (5’10”, 191 pounds) but good speed (4.4-flat).  Most importantly, he has some of the most fluid hips I have ever seen.  His fluidity and change-of-direction are exceptional.  He played a lot of zone coverage at Buffalo, but I think he has all the tools to be effective in man coverage at the next level.   He needs to work on his press, but the skill set is there guys.

Again, this is another high-character guy who will work his tail off.  Jerry Jones has sometimes been criticized for dedicating entire drafts to one trait (the “special teams draft” of 2009, for example).  A “high-character, hard-working class,” though, is fine by me.

Grade: A-

Round 6:  Dwayne Harris, WR, East Carolina

Many of you are not going to like this pick as much as me.  Wide receiver is not an area of need for the Cowboys and Dwayne Harris probably wasn’t on your radar.  Harris is a Wes Welker-esque player, however, in that he is not very fast (4.55 speed), but his quickness, hands, and run-after-catch ability are all excellent.  With the ball in his hands, Harris is agile and very difficult to bring down in the open field.  He also has return ability, making him the third draftee in the Cowboys’ draft class to possess such a skill.

Harris’ largest weakness in my view is sub-par route-running.  A large majority of his receptions at East Carolina came on screens.  If he can learn to run a few intermediate routes well, however, I think he can be a future asset in the slot for the Cowboys.

Grade: B+

Round 7A:  Shaun Chapas, FB, Georgia

I have mixed opinions on this pick.  In the seventh round, you aren’t going to find an immediate impact player.  So why not take one with high upside?  That isn’t Chapas.  Fullback Chris Gronkowski wasn’t great in 2010, but how about just not putting a fullback on the field at all?  It would sure solve the play-calling problems from “Double Tight I.”

On the flip side, you upgrade a “starting” position.  Chapas is a good lead blocker who could certainly help the Cowboys in short-yardage situations.  He will make the team ahead of Gronkowski, in my opinion.  Good player at a position of little value.

Grade: C

Round 7B:  Bill Nagy, C, Wisconsin

Upgrading the interior line was obviously a priority for Dallas.  The idea is fine, but why not take a player with higher upside?  Nagy played his first game at center in 2010 and played in just three games in 2009 due to injury.

Grade:  C-

—————————————-

Overall Dallas Cowboys 2011 Draft Grade: C+

The average of the Cowboys’ eight picks turns out to be 82.3 percent, but I’m dropping the grade to a “C” because I think they missed on two crucial selections in the second and third rounds.  It isn’t that Bruce Carter and DeMarco Murray are bad players, but rather that the options still on the board, at least in my view, appeared superior.  It still remains to be seen how both players are implemented.

The main points I will take away from this draft are:

1) The Cowboys drafted primarily for value over need.  I’ve explained in the past why selecting the best player available can be disadvantageous to a team.

2) DeMarco Murray’s presence seals Marion Barber’s fate in Dallas.  Let’s hope the same is true of Marc Colombo (Tyron Smith), and even Keith Brooking (Bruce Carter).

3) The ‘Boys emphasized hard-working, high-character players in this draft, which is great.  This may be a draft class that appears poor in 2011 but turns out to be solid in a few years, as many of the prospects seem like the type to work as hard as possible to become great.  Every single one of these players has the potential to be a Sean Lee-like worker and leader.

4) The Cowboys are clearly confident they can acquire a starting free safety in free agency.  With the weakness of this draft class, I think passing on a safety was fine.

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Select Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray in Third Round

Jonathan Bales

After a somewhat questionable pick in the second round, the Cowboys continued the trend in the third round by selecting Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray.  Although I predicted the ‘Boys would grab a running back at some point during this draft, I figured it would come on day three.  While I do like Murray, the depth at the running back position made me believe Dallas would hold off on drafting one.  Players like Pitt’s Dion Lewis, Eastern Washington’s Taiwan Jones, Miami’s Graig Cooper, Oklahoma State’s Kendall Hunter and Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers were all available and all represent value in later rounds I find equal or superior to Murray in the third.

Again, the Cowboys must have jumped on a player who was rated so highly on their board that they could not pass.  Let me say that while I do really like Murray’s game, I don’t agree that his value was tremendous in the third round.  I had him rated as the No. 64 overall player on my 2011 Big Board. You would think the ‘Boys would have liked at least one of the running backs I listed above, all of whom they could possibly secure in the fourth round or later.

Let’s take a look at some of Murray’s tape. . .

Scouting Report

Murray has solid agility and start-and-stop ability.  His quickness and long speed are both really, really good.  He ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the Combine and he really does possess home run ability.  While I don’t like the timing of the pick, I think there are only a few runners in this draft who are better for Dallas than Murray.  He’s an insurance policy against a Felix Jones injury, which was really an underrated “hole” for the ‘Boys.

If you haven’t done so yet, check out Murray’s career numbers.  I don’t look at stats when I look at film because 1) they could potentially cloud my judgment and 2) I don’t particularly care.  At the running back position, though, you always want to see a guy produce no matter the circumstances.  Murray had a ridiculous 63 total touchdowns in his career and, more important to me, 157 career receptions (including 71 alone in 2010).  Running backs must be able to catch the ball nowadays, and Murray is a natural receiver.

Murray is a continuation of what appears to be a revised draft plan for the Cowboys.  He’s a versatile player who will be especially helpful in the passing game.  Tyron Smith is a versatile player who will be especially helpful in the passing game.  Bruce Carter is a versatile player who will be especially useful in the passing game.  See a trend?

Murray’s vision is solid and he makes very quick decisions with the football.  You won’t see Murray dancing in the backfield.  He isn’t great after contact, however, and his legs sometimes die after he gets hit.  He isn’t particularly effective in short-yardage situations either.  Due to his upright running style and carelessness with the football, I think he could be prone to fumbles at the next level.

A major reason I think the ‘Boys had Murray rated so highly is that he has value as a returner.  The Cowboys don’t want Dez Bryant on returns again and it’s unclear what Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and Bryan McCann can do, so Murray’s return ability could be useful as soon as 2011.

You can also bet that Marion Barber is finished in Dallas, which is a nice feeling.

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys LB Bruce Carter Scouting Report

Jonathan Bales

In my post on my initial reactions to the Bruce Carter selection, I noted that if the Cowboys envision Carter as an edge-rusher, I think they could have found value at a position of greater need.  One of the reasons for that is my high opinion concerning the Cowboys’ current outside linebacker corps.  I graded the position as the Cowboys’ second-strongest and gave the following grades to DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer and Victor Butler:

1. DeMarcus Ware: A (94.0)

  • 2009 Grade: A (94.0)

2.  Victor Butler: B+ (89.8)

  • 2009 Grade: C (76.0)

3.  Anthony Spencer: B (84.6)

  • 2009 Grade: A- (92.0)

The idea that Spencer had a “horrible” year is absurd.  He played average but most of the media criticized him because of incredibly high expectations.  He still had 11 more tackles than Ware.

Butler is one of my favorite players on the team and I think he has potential to be a very, very solid all-around outside linebacker.  His run defense improved immensely, and his rush off the edge is elite at times.  Butler actually recorded a quarterback pressure on 11.8 percent of rushes last season–greater than Ware’s 11.0 percent.  And no, that wasn’t because Butler played on only passing downs since his 39.5 percent of snaps against the run was highest of any outside linebacker.

I explained why people should hold off on thinking Carter will stay at outside linebacker in Dallas, and all of the above pushes me to believe the Cowboys envision Carter as an inside linebacker with pass-rush versatility.  I can’t say that makes me agree with the pick, but it certainly softens the blow.  I would have been fine with Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson, whose skill set is similar to that of Carter.  The ‘Boys simply had Carter rated where I had Wilson.

After watching as much readily-available film of Carter as possible, here is my more in-depth scouting report. . .

Scouting Report

At just 241 pounds, Carter will have to put on some weight if he is truly set to be an outside linebacker in Dallas.  More likely is that he will stay at inside linebacker for awhile, with Rob Ryan finding creative ways to utilize Carter’s skill set.  Against the run, Carter takes very good angles.  He uses “inside-out” leverage, using the sideline as help when possible.  He will sometimes use the ”wrong” shoulder to take on blockers, allowing the ball-carrier to find a cut-back lane.  His overall play recognition is solid, though, and he seems to diagnose screens particularly well.

Others argue that Carter is weak in coverage, but I think he will be fine.  He kind of reminds me of Bradie James in pass coverage in that he does not always seem totally natural, but he uses his skills well to get the job done.  He has lots of experience in zone coverage in particular.  In my opinion, the Tar Heels really utilized Carter poorly, dropping him into coverage far too often and not developing his pass rush.  This has led to a very weak pass-rush repertoire.  He has some upside as a rusher or blitzer from the inside position, but he is raw.

Carter seems a bit robotic and stiff-hipped at times, despite his incredible athleticism.  Whereas a player like Sean Lee last season lacked some athleticism but played “instinctually,” I am afraid Carter is the opposite.  I need to watch more tape, but he sometimes appears to be thinking too much or sticking to exactly his assignment instead of reading, reacting, and making a football play.

The major issue I have with the selection of Carter is that he is unlikely to make a major contribution right away.  He won’t start at either linebacker spot, so he will be relegated primary to special teams duty in his rookie season.  Carter did block six kicks at UNC, so he has some value there.  Still, special teams ability isn’t really on the top of my priority list in the second round.

Overall, Carter is a good kid and a hard worker who should improve in Dallas.  If you are less than thrilled with this selection and need positive spin, remember that Carter has very good athleticism, tremendous upside, and potential versatility.  Or, just look at the 22-second mark against LSU.

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Draft UNC OLB Bruce Carter in Second Round

Jonathan Bales

In what was clearly a value-based move, the Dallas Cowboys selected UNC outside linebacker Bruce Carter with the 40th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.  It is unclear if the Cowboys envision Carter as an inside or outside linebacker at this point (or both), but it is obvious Carter was very high on their board.  Outside linebacker was hardly a need position (I rated it the Cowboys’ second-strongest position in my 2010 Position Grades), and although inside linebacker figured to be a need within a few years, there appeared to be more pressing ones (cornerback, safety and defensive end, among others).

Carter is a highly-talented player who could have been a top-15 pick had he not suffered a torn ACL in November.  He underwent reconstructive surgery in December, and all reports indicate he will be ready for training camp.  At 6’3”, 241 pounds, Carter is said to run somewhere in the 4.5 range.

Clearly an athlete, but how will the ‘Boys employ him?  Although others are reporting Carter will be another pass-rush option for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, I’m not so sure.  Current outside linebacker Victor Butler, who people deemed as a “pass rush specialist” coming out of college due to his small stature, is 246 pounds.  Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware are both in the 260 range.  Carter’s weight is closer to that of the guys inside (Sean Lee is 242, Bradie James is 245 and Keith Brooking is 246).  I certainly don’t think Carter’s weight alone should rule him out as an edge-rusher (many of you know I often favor small, quick players to “thumpers”), but the idea that Carter will automatically stay at outside linebacker seems unfounded.

Perhaps Carter’s potential versatility to play both inside and outside was a selling point for Dallas.  If that’s the case, I agree with the idea, as Carter will have two chances to succeed.  However, with players like Brandon Harris, Ben Ijalana, and Carter’s UNC teammate Marvin Austin still on the board, I think the Cowboys could have still found plenty of value at a position of greater need.

I have posted a few of Carter’s videos below, and I will have a more in-depth scouting report coming later.

By Jonathan Bales

Tyron Smith: “The Cowboys want me to play left tackle.”

Jonathan Bales

In Tyron Smith’s conference call with the Dallas media, he said the Cowboys told him they want him to be their left tackle of the future.  It seemed as though the Cowboys drafted Smith to play right tackle, at least in 2011, but Smith’s answer may have raised some questions.  There is no doubt that Smith’s body type and skill set are probably a better fit for the left side of the line, but he did play right tackle at USC.  Plus, Doug Free, despite a few struggles, played fairly well at left tackle in 2010.

But don’t rule out the possibility of Smith and Free “switching” positions, even as soon as this season.  Remember that Free played well on the right side in limited action in 2009.  With Smith’s size and athleticism, it isn’t unreasonable to think that the Cowboys want to get him to the left side as soon as possible, even if it means moving Free back to right tackle.

Personally, I think Smith has All-Pro ability on either side of the line, but his future is at left tackle.  I really believe he has the potential to be one of the best left tackles in the league.  Let’s take a look at some more of his game film. . .

I think the Cowboys should play Smith at right tackle in 2011.  He is comfortable there now, and it will give him time to get acclimated to the NFL before moving to the more difficult left tackle position in subsequent years.  That’s not to say that Free is not or should not be part of the Cowboys’ plans in 2012 and beyond.  He’s a very capable offensive tackle who could become one of the best in the league. . .on the right side.

By Jonathan Bales

Who should Cowboys select in second round?

Jonathan Bales

The Cowboys did as everyone expected and addressed the offensive line in the first round by selecting USC’s Tyron Smith.  My initial reactions are all positive, and I can tell you now I will give the selection an “A” in my post-draft grades.  But who should the ‘Boys be targeting in the second round tomorrow night?  Well, here are the top players left from my personal Big Board, along with their original rankings. . .

9. Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
11. Benjamin Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova
16. Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
21. Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois
22. Marvin Austin, DT, UNC
25. Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
26. Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
27. Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois
30. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
31. Taiwan Jones, RB, Eastern Washington
33. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
34. DaQuan Bowers, DE, Clemson
35. Aaron Williams, S, Texas
36. Titus Young, WR, Boise State
37. Marcus Gilchrist, FS, Clemson
38. Graig Cooper, RB, Miami
39. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA
40. Chris Culliver, FS, South Carolina
41. Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada
43. Dion Lewis, RB, Pitt***
44. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
45. Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton
46. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
47. Rodney Hudson, G, FSU
48. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
49. William Rackley, G, Lehigh
51. Curtis Brown, CB, Texas

You can see there are plenty of talented players left on the board.  Ijalana, Harris, Austin, Williams and Moore all play positions of major need for Dallas (I’m thinking of Ijalana at guard).  Here are a few things to watch tomorrow night with the Cowboys’ 40th overall selection:

  • If Ijalana is still on the board, will the team’s first-round selection of Tyron Smith force them to pass on Ijalana?  Even though the Villanova lineman could potentially kick inside to guard, the ‘Boys probably want to address defense next.
  • Will the Cowboys select a player at a position that is not immediate need simply because of value?  Justin Houston, Martez Wilson, Akeem Ayers and Brooks Reed are all unlikely, but still names to watch.
  • Will the Cowboys view either Marvin Austin or Stephen Paea as potential 3-4 nose tackles?  I still think the defense could benefit from acquiring a true nose tackle, so their assessment of those players could be interesting.  I think Austin is capable of playing the nose, but I think Paea’s skill set makes him a better fit as a three-technique.  Also don’t rule out Kenrick Ellis.
  • There are no top five-technique players left on the board, unless you view Drake Nevis as a candidate to move to defensive end in a 3-4.  I think he is a three-technique, but Dallas might jump on him if they disagree.
  • Will DaQuan Bowers’ potential value at No. 40 intrigue Dallas?  Even without the medical concerns, I think Bowers is a poor fit in Dallas, so let’s hope they don’t fall for the trap.
  • It is looking likely that either Aaron Williams or Rahim Moore will be on the board for the ‘Boys.  Both would upgrade the safety position, but will the team wait on possibly signing a veteran in free agency?
  • Before the draft, I gave you names to watch for the Cowboys in each round.  In the second, I listed Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward, Alabama OT James Carpenter, Baylor G Danny Watkins, UCLA FS Rahim MooreKenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton, TCU QB Andy Dalton.  The first three players are off the board, but all three of the latter players are still possible.  You should all be praying Dalton gets selected before the Cowboys are on the clock.

Personally, I think the Cowboys should give a long, hard look at both Brandon Harris and Marvin Austin.  Both represent great value and the depth at cornerback and defensive tackle is weak.  There are solid players like free safety Marcus Gilchrist and tackle/guard William Rackley who could still be available for Dallas in the third, so I don’t think they need to reach on a safety if defensive end if they don’t have one rated highly.  If I had to guess the likelihood of some of the top prospects to get selected by Dallas in the second round, it would be as follows:

  • Brandon Harris: 6 percent
  • Marvin Austin: 10 percent
  • Ben Ijalana: 4 percent
  • Aaron Williams: 8 percent
  • Rahim Moore: 35 percent
  • DaQuan Bowers: 1 percent
  • Kenrick Ellis: 12 percent
  • Other: 24 percent (yes, EXACTLY 24 percent!!)

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Draft USC OT Tyron Smith No. 9 Overall

Jonathan Bales

After a crazy eight picks to start the 2011 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys chose USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith.  I had Smith rated No. 6 overall on my Big Board, so I am obviously thrilled with the selection.  Smith will come in and immediately replace Marc Colombo, whose time in Dallas is all but over.

Below is my initial scouting report on Smith.  Keep in mind I completed this months ago, but the majority of it is still true.

Scouting Report

At only 285 pounds, Tyron Smith is incredibly light on his feet.  He slides laterally with ease and has absolutely no problem with speed rushers.  He’s one of the more athletic offensive tackles I’ve seen in awhile.   He reminds me a ton of USC’s top offensive tackle a year ago: Charles Brown (scouting report here).  Smith is actually 10 pounds lighter than Brown.

Like Brown, Smith could get overpowered in the NFL.  With Doug Free on the left side for Dallas, Smith’s lack of strength could become an even bigger issue if he would be moved to the right side.

Unlike Brown, however, Smith nearly always uses great technique in pass protection.  Take a look at his play against Cameron Jordan & Co. below (by the way, he’s at right tackle). . .

Smith utilizes a solid base and quick feet to succeed.  The game above was an up-and-down one for Smith, as he was able to neutralize Jordan at times but got exposed at others.  Take a look at the 1:55 mark when Jordan simply tosses Smith to the ground.  With a frame that can and will add bulk, however, I don’t see Smith’s lack of current size as a huge issue.

Others will since, on paper, Smith is the exact opposite of what the Cowboys traditionally look for in an offensive tackle.  He’s undersized and played in a zone-blocking scheme at USC.  There’s a fine line between drafting players who fit your scheme and selecting the best player available and tailoring the system around his skill set.  I think the best teams implement both tactics.

Smith will excel on screens, counters, and so on at the next level because of his athleticism.  Jason Garrett usually runs lead dives in short-yardage situations and rarely calls power plays behind tackle anyway, so perhaps now is the time to make a switch to the new breed of linemen.   Plus, Smith has right tackle experience.

————————————————-

So one of my only concerns with Smith was his size.  Well, he bulked up considerably since the end of the season.  He’s now somewhere in the 310 pound range, which is absolutely fine with me.  Since adding some weight, Smith has shown he’s still as agile as before.  His presence will undoubtedly allow the Cowboys to run more “finesse” plays to the right side, like screens and counters.

Plus, Smith has experience at right tackle but left tackle versatility.  This will allow the Cowboys to play him on the right side in 2011, but gives the team some options in the event that they cannot sign Doug Free to a long-term deal.  Let’s also not forget that Dallas likes second-year player Sam Young, but he is a right tackle only.  Since Smith can play either side of the line, he can be a “starting swing tackle” in 2011, meaning he starts at right tackle but moves to the left side in the event for an injury to Free.  Thus, he will become both a starter and an immediate backup, allowing the Cowboys to keep their best players on the field at their most natural positions.

And oh yeah, he is only 20 years old.  Now let’s hope Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor falls into the second round.

By Jonathan Bales

Your Ultimate 2011 Dallas Cowboys Draft Guide

Jonathan Bales

I figured a lot of you would want to do some last minute draft research or have a guide of the available prospects, so below I have pasted links to a few of my more popular draft articles.  I will be attending the draft tonight, but I will try to get an article up as soon as possible (and perhaps even during the draft if I can sneak my laptop into Radio City Music Hall) regarding the Cowboys’ first selection.

2011 Big Board (Top 100) and Position Rankings

Dallas Cowboys Draft News and Rumors

Final Dallas Cowboys-Only Mock Draft

Latest 32-Team Mock Draft

32-Team NFL Draft Notes

12 Sleeper Picks for Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2011 Draft Trade Scenarios

I also ended up completing scouting reports for 39 different potential Dallas Cowboys draft picks, and the links are below if you want to review anyone before the draft.  They contain full scouting reports and player highlights.

Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Cameron Jordan, DT/DE, Cal

Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC

Cameron Heyward, DT/DE, Ohio State

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Tyron Smith, OT, USC

Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple

Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois

Martez Wilson, ILB/OLB, Illinois

Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon

Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois

Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Brandon Burton, CB, Utah

Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn

Jaiquawn Jarrett, FS, Temple

Ben Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova

Drake Nevis, DT/DE, LSU

Dontay Moch, DE/OLB, Nevada

Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona

Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State

Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Texas

JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin

William Rackley, OT, Lehigh

Allen Bailey, DE, Miami

Akeem Ayers, ILB/OLB, UCLA

Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville

Jeremy Kerley, WR, TCU

Chris Culliver, FS, South Carolina

Marcus Gilchrist, FS, Clemson

Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton

Orlando Franklin, G/T, Miami


By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Pre-Draft Rumors, Notes, Potential Picks and Trade Scenarios

Jonathan Bales

There is a lot of information flying around right now about the Cowboys and, as is the case with all NFL teams, most of it is untrue.  Here is what I am hearing about the Cowboys’ draft plans. . .

  • The Cowboys don’t “know” whether they will trade their pick or stay in the ninth slot, as it depends on how the draft plays out.  I originally thought the Cowboys’ most likely trade partner if they move up (for Patrick Peterson) is Cleveland, but I have heard the Browns will select Peterson themselves if he drops that far.  Thus, the most likely trade partner for the Cowboys is Arizona at the No. 5 overall selection.  They reportedly are not in love with Blaine Gabbert and may want to move back.  If Dallas does not move up to the fifth pick, I don’t think they are moving up at all.
  • If the Cowboys are able, I think they will try to move back.  I posted a guide to all Cowboys trade scenarios a week ago.  If I had to guess, I would say the current “pod” of potential first-round picks includes Tyron Smith, Anthony Castonzo, J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan (in that order).  Thus, if the Cowboys move down a few spots, I think Castonzo is the most likely pick.  If they move down past St. Louis at No. 14, I think they will choose between one of the defensive ends.  This might not be a death sentence, as the extra third or even second-round pick they acquire could be used as ammunition to move up for a premiere offensive tackle such as Ben Ijalana or Gabe Carimi.
  • If the Cowboys stay in the ninth spot, I think Smith is the pick, but don’t be shocked to see the team take Castonzo.  I am unsure on which player they are higher.
  • Ultimately, I would rate the chances of each first-round scenario taking place as follows:  Move up for Peterson (15 percent), stay in pick and select Smith (30 percent), stay in pick and select Castonzo (10 percent), stay in pick and select defensive end (5 percent), move back and select offensive tackle (30 percent), move back and select defensive end (5 percent), other (5 percent).
  • Here is where it gets crazy. . .I have heard from more than one person in the organization that Jason Garrett loves Andy Dalton and will seriously consider him at No. 40.  Dalton may not reach that pick (hopefully), but he could be the pick if he falls.  I think the possibility of it happening skyrockets if the Cowboys move back in the first round.  If the team can stockpile a few picks, they will be far more likely to take a risk on Dalton.
  • Otherwise, the Cowboys may target a free safety in the second round, with Aaron Williams and Rahim Moore both options.  I still think a defensive end such as Cameron Heyward is more likely.  Again, don’t rule out nose tackle Kenrick Ellis.
  • At this point, I would be shocked if the Cowboys pass on Will Rackley if he is available in the third round.

After much consideration, I have listed the players I think are most likely for Dallas in each round.  These names are based on information I have gathered on the Cowboys’ interests and my own views on the availability of certain prospects.

First Round

USC OT Tyron Smith, Boston College OT Anthony Castonzo, Wisconsin DE JJ Watt, Cal DE Cameron JordanLSU CB Patrick Peterson

Second Round

Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward, Alabama OT James Carpenter, Baylor G Danny Watkins, UCLA FS Rahim Moore, Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton, TCU QB Andy Dalton

Third Round

William Rackley, OT, Lehigh, Washington OLB Mason Foster, Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville, Georgia G Clint Boling, Florida State G Rodney Hudson, Miami CB DeMarcus Van Dyke, Miami CB Brandon HarrisMarcus Gilchrist, FS, Clemson

Rounds 4-7

TCU G Marcus Cannon,  Boston College ILB Mark Herzlich, Mount Union WR Cecil Shorts, LSU RB Stevan Ridley, Louisville RB Bilal Powell, Fort Valley State WR Ricardo Lockette

By Jonathan Bales

Final 2011 NFL Draft Big Board: Position Rankings and Top 100

Jonathan Bales
I spent the morning finalizing my board and position rankings.  As is the case with just about everything on this site, there are quite a few deviations from the norm.  Players I “love” more than the general public have *** behind their name, and players I “hate” (not literally, except in the case of Nate Solder) have ^^^ behind their name.
2011 Position Rankings
QB
1.  Cam Newton, Auburn
2.  Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
3.  Blaine Gabbert, Missouri^^^
4.  Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech***
5.  Christian Ponder, Florida State
6.  Jake Locker, Washington^^^
7.  Greg McElroy, Alabama
8.  Ryan Mallett, Arkansas^^^
9.  Andy Dalton, TCU^^^
10.  Pat Devlin, Delaware
11.  Ricky Stanzi, Iowa
  • Overall Position Grade: C
  • A lot of mid-tier prospects, but no franchise quarterback in the bunch

RB
1. Mikel Leshoure, Illinois
2. Taiwan Jones, Eastern Washington***
3. Mark Ingram, Alabama^^^
4. Graig Cooper, Miami***
5. Dion Lewis Pitt***
6. Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State***
7. DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
8.  Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State
9. Shane Vereen, Cal
10.  Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech^^^
11. Derrick Locke, Kentucky
12. Jordan Todman, UConn
13. Noel Devine, West Virginia
14. DaRel Scott, Maryland
15. Jamie Harper, Clemson
16. Delone Carter, Syracuse
  • Overall Position Grade: B
  • Extremely underrated position with incredible value in middle/late rounds, but no game-changer
WR
1.  A.J. Green, Georgia
2.  Julio Jones, Alabama
3.  Titus Young, Boise State
4.  Leonard Hankerson, Miami
5. Randall Cobb, Kentucky
6.  Jeremy Kerley TCU
7. Greg Little, UNC
8. Niles Paul, Nebraska
9. Jerrel Jernigan, Troy
10. Jonathan Baldwin, Pitt^^^
11. Torrey Smith, Maryland^^^
12. Edmund Gates, Abilene Christian
13. Jeff Maehl, Oregon
14. Terrance Toliver, LSU
15. Vincent Brown, San Diego State^^^
16. Tandon Doss, Indiana
17. DeAndre Brown, Southern Miss
18. Austin Pettis, Boise State^^^
  • Overall Position Grade: B-
  • Two studs at the top, but a steep fall after that
TE
1. Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame
2. Luke Stocker, Tennessee
3. Jordan Cameron, USC
4. DJ Williams, Arkansas
5. Rob Housler, Florida Atlantic
  • Overall Position Grade: D
  • No studs, nor depth
OT
1. Tyron Smith, USC
2. Ben Ijalana, Villanova***
3. Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
4. Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
5. Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State
6. James Carpenter, Alabama
7.  James Brewer, Indiana
8. Willie Smith, East Carolina
9. Nate Solder, Colorado^^^
10. Joseph Barksdale, LSU
  • Overall Position Grade: B-
  • Good depth at top, but steep drop after first five
G/C
1.  Mike Pouncey, Florida
2. Rodney Hudson, FSU***
3. William Rackley, Lehigh***
4. Clint Boling, Georgia
5. Orlando Franklin, Miami
6. Marcus Cannon, TCU
7. Danny Watkins, Baylor^^^
8. Jason Pinkston, Pitt
9. DeMarcus Love, Arkansas
10. Stefen Wiskiewski, Penn State
  • Overall Position Grade: B
  • Group being undersold, as usual with interior linemen
DE
1. Robert Quinn, UNC
2. Justin Houston ,Georgia***
3. Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
4. Aldon Smith, Missouri
5. Brooks Reed, Arizona
6. DaQuan Bowers, Clemson
7. Jabaal Sheard, Pitt
8. Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
9. Sam Acho, Texas
  • Overall Position Grade: B
  • A few potential game-changers, but a lot of question marks as well
DT
1. Marcell Dareus, Alabama
2. Phil Taylor, Baylor***
3. Nick Fairley, Auburn
4. Cameron Jordan, Cal
5. Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple***
6. JJ Watt,  Wisconsin
7. Marvin Austin, UNC
8. Drake Nevis, LSU
9. Stephen Paea, Oregon State
10. Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
11. Kenrick Ellis, Hampton
12. Jurrell Casey, USC
13. Corey Liuget, Illinois
14. Christian Ballard, Iowa
15. Allen Bailey, Miami
  • Overall Position Grade:  A
  • Strongest and deepest DT class I have ever seen
OLB
1. Von Miller, Texas AM
2. Akeem Ayers, UCLA
3. Quan Sturdivant, OLB
4. Bruce Carter, UNC
5. Dontay Moch, Nevada
6. Mason Foster, Washington
  • Overall Position Grade: C-
  • One stud, one starter and a bunch of projects
ILB
1. Martez Wilson, Illinois***
2. Greg Jones, Michigan State
3. Kelvin Sheppard, LSU
  • Overall Position Grade: F
  • Wow.
CB
1. Patrick Peterson, LSU
2. Brandon Harris, Miami***
3. Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
4. Jimmy Smith, Colorado
5. Curtis Brown, Texas
6. Curtis Marsh, Utah State
7. Johnny Patrick, Louisville
8. Brandon Burton, Utah
9. Buster Skrine, UT-Chattanooga
10. Rashad Carmichael, Virginia Tech
  • Overall Position Grade: C-
  • Four first-round grades from me is okay, but the drop is outrageous
S
1. Aaron Williams, Texas
2. Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson***
3. Rahim Moore, UCLA
4. Chris Culliver, South Carolina
5. Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple
6. Deunta Williams, UNC
7. Quinton Carter, Oklahoma
8. Ahmad Black, Florida
9. DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson
10. Tyler Sash, Iowa
  • Overall Position Grade: C+
  • No top players at position, but the depth better than most think with guys like Gilchrist, Culliver, Jarrett and Williams
Overall Top 100
1. Patrick Peterson, CB/S, LSU
2. Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
3. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
4. Robert Quinn, DE, UNC
5. Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor***
6. Tyron Smith, OT, USC
7. Von Miller, OLB, Texas AM
8. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
9. Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia***
10. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
11. Benjamin Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova***
12. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
13. Cameron Jordan, DE, UCLA
14. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
15. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
16. Brandon Harris, CB, Miami***
17. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
18. Muhammad Wilkerson, DT, Temple***
19. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
20. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
21. Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois***
22. Marvin Austin, DT, UNC
23. Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
24. Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri
25. Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
26. Drake Nevis, DT, LSU***
27. Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois***
28. Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
29. Mike Pouncey, C/G, Florida
30. Brooks Reed, DE, Arizona
31. Taiwan Jones, RB, Eastern Washington***
32. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
33. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
34. DaQuan Bowers, DE, Clemson
35. Aaron Williams, S, Texas
36. Titus Young, WR, Boise State
37. Marcus Gilchrist, FS, Clemson
38. Graig Cooper, RB, Miami***
39. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA
40. Chris Culliver, FS, South Carolina
41. Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada
42. Cameron Heyward, DT, Ohio State
43. Dion Lewis, RB, Pitt***
44. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
45. Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton
46. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
47. Rodney Hudson, G, FSU
48. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
49. William Rackley, G, Lehigh
50. Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois
51. Curtis Brown, CB, Texas
52. Christian Ballard, DT, Iowa
53. Clint Boling, G, Georgia
54. Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami
55. Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State***
56. James Carpenter, OT, Alabama
57. Jaiquawn Jarrett, FS, Temple
58.  James Brewer, OT, Indiana
59. Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pitt
60. Orlando Franklin OG/OT, Miami
61. Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
62. Deunta Williams, S, UNC
63. Sam Acho, DE, Texas
64. DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma
65. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Oregon State
66. Tyrod Taylor, QB, Virginia Tech***
67. Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky
68. Curtis Marsh, CB, Utah State
69. Shane Vereen, RB, Cal
70. Luke Stocker, TE, Tennessee
71. Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville
72. Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
73. Jeremy Kerley, WR, TCU
74. Marcus Cannon, G, TCU
75. Greg Little, WR, TCU
76. Danny Watkins, G, Baylor
77. Niles Paul, WR, Nebraska
78. Greg Jones, ILB, Michigan State
79. Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy
80. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pitt
81. Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
82. Quan Sturdivant, OLB, UNC
83. Willie Smith, OT, East Carolina
84. Brandon Burton, CB, Utah
85. Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
86. Joseph Barksdale, OT, LSU
87. Jordan Cameron, TE, USC
88. Quinton Carter, FS, Oklahoma
89. Ahmad Black, S, Florida
90. Stanley Havili, FB, USC
91. Bruce Carter, OLB, UNC
92. Dontay Moch, OLB, Nevada
93. DJ Williams, TE, Arkansas
94. Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, LSU
95. Buster Skrine, CB, UT-Chattanooga
96. Rashad Carmichael, CB, Virginia Tech
97. Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford
98. Rob Housler, TE, Florida Atlantic
99. DeAndre McDaniel, S, Clemson
100. Mason Foster, OLB, Washington

—————————————————-

I also ended up completing scouting reports for 39 different potential Dallas Cowboys draft picks, and the links are below if you want to review anyone before the draft.

Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Cameron Jordan, DT/DE, Cal

Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC

Cameron Heyward, DT/DE, Ohio State

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Tyron Smith, OT, USC

Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple

Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois

Martez Wilson, ILB/OLB, Illinois

Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon

Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois

Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Brandon Burton, CB, Utah

Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn

Jaiquawn Jarrett, FS, Temple

Ben Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova

Drake Nevis, DT/DE, LSU

Dontay Moch, DE/OLB, Nevada

Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona

Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State

Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Texas

JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin

William Rackley, OT, Lehigh

Allen Bailey, DE, Miami

Akeem Ayers, ILB/OLB, UCLA

Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville

Jeremy Kerley, WR, TCU

Chris Culliver, FS, South Carolina

Marcus Gilchrist, FS, Clemson

Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton

Orlando Franklin, G/T, Miami

——————————————

Coming later today:  Latest Dallas Cowboys draft rumors and final thoughts on their draft strategy