The DC Times

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

By Jonathan Bales

“Dallas Day” Could Preview Some Future Cowboys

Prior to the draft, teams are allowed to hold tryouts for any players who grew up within 50 miles of the city where the team resides.  As we all know, North Texas is a bit of a high school football goldmine.

The Cowboys version of these tryouts, “Dallas Day,” is today.  We mention this because a few recent Cowboys’ draft picks have attended the workouts, including Patrick Crayton, Jacques Reeves, Brandon Williams, and Stephen Hodge.

Per ESPN, this year invites were extended to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (SMU), running back Shawnbrey McNeal (SMU), linebacker Chase Kennemer (SMU), defensive back Bryan McCann (SMU), safety Jordan Pugh (Texas A&M), center J.D. Walton (Baylor), cornerback Brian Jackson (DeSot0), defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger (Oklahoma) and Adron Tennell (Oklahoma).

There is a decent possibility that one of those names is one you’ll see listed on the Cowboys’ 2010 roster.  We think Sanders and Walton in particular have excellent shots to be drafted by Dallas.

By Jonathan Bales

2010 Draft Revised Big Board: Top 90 Prospects

Below is our list of the top 90 prospects for the 2010 NFL Draft.  As before, players we see as potential Cowboys’ draft picks are listed in bold.  Some players not in bold may be good fits in Dallas but the team just won’t be in position to select them.

1  Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska

2  Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma

3  Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

4 C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson

5 Earl Thomas, S, Texas

6  Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State

7  Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State

Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State


Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan

10  Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas

11  Joe Haden, CB, Florida

12  Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa

13  Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, USF

14 Mike Iupati, G, Idaho

15 Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida

16  Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

17 Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma

18  DeMaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech

19  Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech

Sean Weatherspoon is a great player, but we don't think he would fit well in Dallas' system.

20 Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama

21 Jared Odrick, DT/DE, Penn State

22  Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri

23  Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers

24  Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois

25  Jahvid Best, RB, California

26  Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

27  Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU

28 Morgan Burnett, S, Georgia Tech

29 Vladimir Ducasse, G/T, UMass

30  Nate Allen, S, USF

31 Brian Price, DT, UCLA

32  Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers

33 Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida

34  Dezmon Briscoe, WR, Kansas

35  Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland

36 Charles Brown, OT, USC

37  Tim Tebow, QB, Florida

38  Perrish Cox, CB, Oklahoma State

We really like CB/FS Chris Cook as an option for Dallas in the second round.

39  Daryl Washington, LB, TCU

40  Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida

41  Chris Cook, CB/FS, Virginia

42 Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Ole Miss

43 Eric Norwood, LB, South Carolina

44  Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama

45 Taylor Mays, S, USC

46  Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame

47 Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati

48  Jason Worilds, DE, Virginia Tech

49  Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame

50  Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State

51  Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, CB, Indiana of Pennsylvania

52  Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU

53  Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State

54  Roger Saffold, OT, Indiana

55 Javier Arenas, CB, Alabama

56  Geno Atkins, DT, Georgia

57  Ricky Sapp, DE, Clemson

58  Major Wright, S, Florida

59  Corey Wootton, DE, Northwestern

The Cowboys had Brandon Ghee in for a visit.

60  Everson Griffen, DE, USC

61  Alex Carrington, DE, Arkansas State

62  Brandon Ghee, CB, Wake Forest

63  Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama

64  Jon Asamoah, G, Illinois

65  Chad Jones, S, LSU

66 Jordan Shipley, WR, Texas

67 Lamarr Houston, DT, Texas

68  Koa Misi, OLB, Utah

69  Navarro Bowman, LB, Penn State

70 Mike Neal, DT/DE, Purdue

71  Donovan Warren, CB, Michigan

72  Marshall Newhouse, G, TCU

73  Reshad Jones, S, Georgia

74  Joe McKnight, RB, USC

75  John Jerry, OG, Ole Miss

76  Amari Spievey, CB, Iowa

77  Tyso Alulalu, DE, California

78  Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma

If Tony Washington drops to the third round, the Cowboys might jump all over him.

79  Jared Veldheer, OT, Hillsdale

80  Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida

81  Tony Washington, OT, Abilene Christian

82  Mike Johnson, G, Alabama

83  Colt McCoy, QB, Texas

84  Roy Upchurch, RB, Alabama

85  Carlton Mitchell, WR, USF

86  Dominique Franks, CB, Oklahoma

87  Greg Hardy, DE, Ole Miss

88  Cam Thomas, DT, UNC

89  Jimmy Graham, TE, Miami

90  Ciron Black, OG, LSU

By Jonathan Bales

NFL Draft Boards: Why Do They Change So Easily?

Immediately following the season, we heard that Georgia Tech WR Demaryius Thomas was a third or fourth round prospect.  His raw route-running and inexperience in a pro-style offense, “experts” said, would drop him on draft day.

Fast forward to the present day, and Thomas has been projected in some mock drafts to go as high as the 10th overall selection (and in the first round of most others)–all despite breaking his foot during pre-draft preparations and ultimately failing to work out for any NFL team.

So what happened?  How did a guy with a “third round grade” who did NOTHING all offseason climb boards faster than Chuck Norris can roundhouse kick?  More on that in a bit.

Why is Georgia DT Geno Atkins so low on boards? Might he be a "surprise" pick come draft day?

On the other end of the spectrum is Georgia DT Geno Atkins–a guy whose name you may have not heard mentioned all offseason. Atkins, however, has had tremendous pre-draft preparations.  He dominated at the Senior Bowl and ran a 4.75 forty-yard dash at 293 pounds, perhaps the best weight/speed ratio of anyone at the Combine (yes, even Maryland OT Bruce Campbell).

Combined with a productive career in the SEC, you’d think the Atkins would be high on boards, right?  Nope.  We’ve seen him as low as the sixth round in a multitude of mock drafts.

Nowadays, it seems as though a player could fall on a draft board due to improper sneezing technique. “Did you see how that kid just sneezed?  He barely even covered his mouth.  That’s the sort of mindlessness that will get a whole team sick.  I’m lowering him on the board.”

Don’t think it could happen?  Well, you’d be right, but for some draft “experts,” it isn’t that far from reality.

How could this be the case?  Why do players rise and fall so quickly?

Our answer:  they don’t. Sure, it happens on media big boards all the time, but this is simply because, well, the media knows very little about the teams’ actual player ratings.   As they gather information and piece things together, the media’s boards change drastically.  The true boards–those of the teams–alter only slightly as the draft approaches.  In effect, the media–your Mel Miper’s and Todd McShay’s–are simply “catching up.”

So how did Demaryius Thomas rise up three rounds despite participating in zero offseason activities and breaking his foot?  Well, he didn’t.  Instead, media draftniks slowly gathered information on the scouts’ general consensus of Thomas, and he rose up their boards.

The media’s final draft boards will be more representative of the general NFL consensus, but not completely. Thus, you can still look forward to being shocked by a “surprise” draft pick who stuns everyone except NFL teams.

And we can all be surprised (31 of the 32 NFL teams included), when Oakland hands in their selection.

By Jonathan Bales

2010 NFL Draft Format: How Will It Affect the Cowboys?

If you have not yet heard, the NFL has changed the format for the 2010 NFL Draft.  Gone are the days when you could wake up on Saturday morning and nearly immediately check out the picks.

Instead, the Draft will take place over three days with the first on a Thursday night (April 22).  The first round will take place then, the next two on Friday, and the last four on Saturday.

Dallas might move out of the first round if they want a player like Georgia Tech FS Morgan Burnett.

As you might expect, this significantly alters teams’ draft preparations.  At the conclusion of the first round, all 32 teams will have an entire night to re-examine their draft boards.  In effect, it will be like an entirely new draft.

The team with the initial selection in the second round, the St. Louis Rams, holds the advantage of being able to shop that selection all night.  The same holds true for a handful of teams who select just after the onset of that round.

Thus, expect more trades–a lot more trades.

As is the case in multiple aspects of football, adaptability will be the key to success.  Which teams will analyze their boards and effectively re-examine their goals, and which will fail to use the extra time wisely?

For the Cowboys, the new format should equate to a lot of draft day movement, perhaps even more than usual.  With a late second-rounder and hours to discuss trade scenarios with teams, the likelihood of the Cowboys moving up in the round is greatly increased.

Another trade scenario that becomes more probable is Dallas moving out of the first round altogether. This would surely upset fans, but it might be a smart move.  Sliding back from the 27th overall pick to, say, the 35th would land the team approximately a late-third round selection, according to the NFL Draft Value Chart.

That early second-rounder could come in handy during the 16 or so hours between rounds one and two.  Perhaps the Cowboys could utilize all that time to find a team desperate to move up, maybe for a player like Florida’s Tim Tebow or Texas QB Colt McCoy.  If not, they may still be able to score the player they wanted at pick #35 while also acquiring an extra third round selection.

Dallas could also implement their newly-acquired third round selection to move up from pick #59 to around #46.

Would you rather have the 27th and 59th overall selections or the 35th and 46th?  The answer to that question is debatable, but the 35th selection allows the Cowboys time to re-evaluate their board overnight and adjust accordingly.  If they believe they can still land the player they covet most after a move from the first round to the second, then the deal make sense.

What are your thoughts on the new draft format?  Will it make for more excitement?  Will there be more trades?

By Jonathan Bales

2010 NFL Draft’s Future Best Players, Part II: Defense

Along with Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy may be the best prospect in this draft.

In Part I of this segment, we profiled the soon-to-be rookie offensive players we think will become the cream of the crop in the NFL. Now we take a look at the defense.

DT: Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska), Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma)

This was really a no-brainer. The top two defensive tackle prospects are head and shoulders above the others. They both have the talent to play in either a 4-3 or a 3-4.

Sleeper: Jared Odrick (Penn State)

No one seems to be mentioning Odrick as a potential Cowboys’ draft selection–except us. If he can overcome some character concerns (which we believe are unjustified), he can cash in his ticket as a Pro Bowl player.

DE/OLB: Brandon Graham (Michigan), Sergio Kindle (Texas)

Graham is a personal favorite of ours because of his ability to not only rush the passer, but also effectively halt the run. He is probably a better fit for Dallas’ scheme than Kindle. Both players will likely be taken before the 27th pick.

Sleeper: Jason Worilds (Virginia Tech)

Worilds is our #44 overall player, but he could move up even further. He had the best 10-yard split of any defensive end at the Combine.

Micah Johnson is similar to Brandon Spikes--poor forty times but great game tape.

ILB: Rolando McClain (Alabama), Brandon Spikes (Florida)

Despite all of the criticism Spikes is receiving, we still look at him as having first round game tape. What else really matters? We view both him and McClain as better fits in a 3-4 scheme where they will have to participate less in sideline-to-sideline pursuit.

Sleeper: Micah Johnson (Kentucky)

Another 3-4 guy, Johnson’s forty time, like Spikes, was atrocious. However, if he checks out medically, he is worth a risk late in the draft due to his athleticism and play-making ability.

CB: Kyle Wilson (Boise State), Devin McCourty (Rutgers)

Wilson and McCouty just look the part. They have tremendous hips and fluidity, and both will also help you out in the return game. McCourty’s size and speed may even give him the highest upside of any CB in this class.

Sleeper: Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (Indiana of Pennsylvania)

Again, another cornerback who can return punts and kickoffs. It is AOA’s combination of size and speed that we love though. He will have to show teams he is capable of playing with the big boys.

S: Eric Berry (Tennessee), Earl Thomas (Texas)

Fairly standard selections here. Berry and Thomas are simply the two best safeties in this draft–hands down.

Sleeper: Major Wright (Florida)

Wright has been slowly crawling up draft boards, even reaching the top five safeties in NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock’s rankings. Is his centerfield ball-hawking ability enough to make up for his poor tackling? Wright is a high risk/high reward selection.

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys News and Notes: 3/27/10

The ‘Boys playing cards

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kL-ALDE3sXw]

By Jonathan Bales

Mailbag: 3/22/10 (3-4 OLB’s, Taylor Mays, Marion Barber to Fullback)

Q: Why does everybody look for college defensive ends to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense? Why not move a fast 6’3”, 260lb guy to inside linebacker?

John Coleman, Bassett, VA

A: The reason 3-4 outside linebackers are generally college defensive ends has to do with the similarities between the positions. Both 3-4 OLB’s and 4-3 DE’s are almost always rushing the passer. They develop similar pass-rush moves and, although a 3-4 OLB rushes from a standing position, the general mindset of the two positions is equivalent.

3-4 OLB's like Victor Butler were generally 4-3 defensive ends in college because the positions require a similar skill set.

An inside linebacker does not rush the quarterback. He may come on blitzes from time to time, but the primary goal of an ILB is not to sack the quarterback–it is to read a play and react by either stuffing a run or dropping into coverage.

Thus, the positional designation of a player is not solely determined by size and speed, but more so by skill set. College defensive ends, although sometimes the same size as a 3-4 inside backer, rarely have the fluidity and change of direction to efficiently drop into ILB coverages. Remember that speed is not everything. Just because a college DE runs a 4.6 does not mean he has the quickness or the hips to play ILB.

3-4 outside backers, on the other hand, are almost always rushing the quarterback. When they are not, they are very rarely asked to do anything but drop into the flat.

It is these differences in athleticism and mindset that make a transition from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 inside linebacker basically non-existent.

Q: Why do you guys hate USC safety Taylor Mays so much? He is an incredible athlete and even if he can’t play safety, the Cowboys could move him to linebacker.

Jeremy Frederick, Arlington, TX

A: We don’t hate Taylor Mays. He is a hard-worker and a good kid. We simply think he would be a poor fit in Dallas. As you point out, he is certainly an incredible athlete. Incredible athletes don’t necessarily win games though. Good football players win games.

In our opinion, Mays does not properly translate his athleticism to the football field. He was rather unproductive at USC, particularly the last two seasons.

If Dallas does make a change at safety, it will likely be for a “ball-hawk.” Mays is a hard hitter and possesses great straight-line speed, but the last thing we would characterize him as is a “ball-hawk.”

Barber is capable of playing fullback once in awhile but a full-time switch is unrealistic.

At 230 pounds, Mays is also way too undersized to play linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Further, why would the Cowboys want to invest a first round pick in a player who would take a few years to transition to a position he has never before played?

Q: Is it possible for the Cowboys to move Marion Barber to fullback? Deon Anderson might not be back, and it would allow two talented ball-carriers to be on the field together. Thanks!

Alicia Packard, Tampa Bay, FL

A: Barber has lined up at fullback in the past, particularly in short-yardage situations. The Cowboys don’t generally call traditional running plays (power, lead, iso) with Barber at fullback. Quite frankly, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has been rather predictable in these situations, either handing the ball off to Barber on a dive or faking the dive and pitching outside to Felix Jones.

There do seem to be some situations where Barber could be used effectively at fullback, particularly on pass plays (as he is excellent as both a receiver out of the backfield and in pass protection).

The problem is Barber has little experience being a lead blocker, so designating him as a true fullback is not an option. He can be a “specialty fullback” (if there is such a thing), but utilizing him consistently in a Deon Anderson-esque role is not going to be successful.

Let’s just hope for these reasons that Deon Anderson returns to the team in 2010.

By Jonathan Bales

Potential Draft Picks: Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, CB, Indiana of PA

Owusu-Ansah reminds us of Dominique Rodgers-Cromatie. Both were small-school prospects with a big game.

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).

Scouting Report

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).

Projection

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.

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Potential Draft Picks: Nate Allen, S, USF

USF's Nate Allen would add a dimension to the defense which is currently lacking.

Our 2009 Cowboys’ safety grades will be out soon, but no grade is required to know that Dallas could benefit from the addition of a ball-hawking safety. We don’t see it as the #1 team need, but many people do. Thus, safety, along with offensive tackle, are the most popular positions chosen for Dallas in mock drafts.

The problem for the Cowboys is that the top two ball-hawks, Eric Berry and Earl Thomas, will likely be long gone by the time they select at pick #27. USC’s Taylor Mays may still be on the board, but his poor hips and lack of quickness make him a poor fit for Dallas.

People within the organization have been saying great things about second-year safety Michael Hamlin. The Cowboys obviously won’t rely on him though, so safety is a legitimate first round option for the ‘Boys.

Scouting Report

Safeties who are considered “ball-hawks” generally have cornerback-type size, but USF’s Nate Allen is an exception. At 6’1”, 205 pounds, Allen’s physique allows him to be above-average in run support. He takes good angles and can actually be quite physical at times.

In addition, Allen also has the skill set to play a “centerfield” type position. He excels at tracking the ball in the air and making plays due to his fluidity and exceptional change of direction.

Allen lacks elite speed, so his man-to-man coverage skills are only average. He is better suited playing in a zone, allowing his instincts to take over.

We see Allen as a bit underrated. He has game-changing ability–a trait the current Cowboys’ safeties lack. He would be a great fit in Dallas’ scheme because of his ability in run support and the fact that he does not give up a lot of big plays (yet he is still able to force turnovers).

Projection

Allen has been soaring up boards of late. Once considered a mid-to-late second round selection, there have been rumors of Allen sneaking into the back of the first round. There is practically zero chance Allen will be available for Dallas when their second pick rolls around, but he might be a slight reach at pick #27.

Allen is the type of player that could force the Cowboys to either trade out of the first round or move up in the second. If Dallas does end up trading back come draft time, you can expect that Allen is probably one of the players they are seeking.

By Jonathan Bales

How Important is Intelligence in Football?

With so much attention being placed on the Wonderlic exam, we want to address the importance of intelligence in football. First, let’s take a look at some interesting Wonderlic scores (the highest attainable score is 50):

Contrary to popular belief, Randy Moss is actually one of the smartest players in the NFL.

Dan Marino- 15

Ben Watson- 48

Vince Young- 15

Michael Vick- 20

Kevin Curtis- 48

Matt Leinart- 35

Drew Henson- 42

Donovan McNabb- 14

Terry Bradshaw- 15

Jim Kelly- 15

Randall Cunningham- 15

Ryan Leaf- 27

Steve McNair- 15

Jason Garrett- 36

Troy Aikman- 29

Clearly a high Wonderlic score is not a golden ticket to future NFL success, while a low one is not necessarily indicative of future failures. Except in the case of McNabb. 14. Nice.

But how important is true intelligence, apart from a standardized test result, in becoming a successful NFL player? We would argue that more important than being intelligent is being able to translate one’s intelligence to the football field. Dan Marino’s Wonderlic score of 15 obviously left something to be desired, but he certainly had “football smarts.”

Going hand-in-hand with intelligence is player conduct. When analyzing character, teams not only search through a player’s history of conduct, but also attempt to determine if he is intelligent enough to stay out of trouble in the future.

Two contrasting example of this are Randy Moss and Ryan Leaf. Moss slipped in the 1998 Draft due to concerns about his character (as Cowboys fans know all too well). However, Moss has used his intelligence to (generally) avoid trouble since entering the league. In fact, Moss was voted one of the smartest players in the entire NFL by his peers.

On the other end of the spectrum is Leaf, whose struggles are well-documented. Leaf didn’t fail in the NFL because of a lack of talent, though, but rather because he was a headcase. Despite scoring a 27 on the Wonderlic (a fairly good score), Leaf was one of the dumbest players we can remember. He did not translate his intelligence into becoming a better football player.

The key for teams is not only to decipher players’ intelligence, but also their ability to implement those smarts into improving on the field. For the Cowboys, it could mean the difference between either drafting or missing out on this year’s Randy Moss.