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We have discussed the Cowboys’ safety position ad nauseum the last few weeks, so there really isn’t much left to say. As of now, Alan Ball and second-year man Michael Hamlin would compete for the starting job at free safety, with Gerald Sensabaugh manning the strong safety position.
Neither Ball nor Sensabaugh lit up our 2009 Safety Grades, but Ball did perform adequately during his short stint replacing ex-Cowboy Ken Hamlin. Still, Dallas is undoubtedly seeking an upgrade at free safety.
The team’s 27th overall draft selection seems like the most natural spot to fill this hole. However, we don’t see either of the two top-tier safeties, Tennessee’s Eric Berry and Texas’ Earl Thomas, dropping to Dallas. With the offensive line positions also a possibility in the first round, Dallas may not address the safety spot until later.
If so, Georgia’s Reshad Jones is a possibility.
At 6’2”, 215 pounds, Jones is in the “Goldilocks Range” for Cowboys’ safeties–not too big, not too small. However, Jones plays the run as if he was 230 pounds. His tackling form is superb and he displays tremendous aggression in run support. This is undoubtedly the strongest part of Jones’ game. Forward to about the 1:12 mark in the video below to see the definition of a ‘form tackle.’
Jones’ speed is by no means elite, but it is adequate. He is capable of getting beat deep due to his short stride length. However, that short stride length makes cutting quite easy for him, thus allowing him to be better in man coverage against a slot wide receiver than, say, running deep with a burner. Ultimately, his quickness is better than his speed.
Others have knocked Jones for having poor ball skills, but we don’t see it. He has shown good hands in the tape we have watched and an above-average ability to make a play on the ball. He has rather fluid hips and good change of direction. The only thing Jones is really lacking is elite straight-line speed.
Jones is not a first round talent due to his limited upside–he does everything well, but nothing outstandingly.
Originally considered a surefire second-rounder, Jones has dropped a bit of late. He may still go in the late second round, but the early-to-mid third seems more likely. If he does drop into the back of the third round, he will becomes a legitimate option for Dallas.
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
6 Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State
10 Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas
11 Joe Haden, CB, Florida
12 Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa
13 Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, USF
16 Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
19 Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
22 Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
24 Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois
25 Jahvid Best, RB, California
26 Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee
27 Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU
32 Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers
34 Dezmon Briscoe, WR, Kansas
35 Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland
37 Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
38 Perrish Cox, CB, Oklahoma State
39 Daryl Washington, LB, TCU
40 Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida
41 Chris Cook, CB/FS, Virginia
43 Eric Norwood, LB, South Carolina
44 Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama
46 Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
48 Jason Worilds, DE, Virginia Tech
49 Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame
50 Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State
52 Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU
53 Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State
54 Roger Saffold, OT, Indiana
56 Geno Atkins, DT, Georgia
57 Ricky Sapp, DE, Clemson
58 Major Wright, S, Florida
59 Corey Wootton, DE, Northwestern
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
68 Koa Misi, OLB, Utah
69 Navarro Bowman, LB, Penn State
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
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
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.
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.
Dexter McCluster Path to the Draft
The combination of Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer probably makes the Cowboys’ outside linebacker position the strongest on the team (in terms of the starters). We are all a-ware (no pun intended…okay it was intended) of Ware’s dominance. His 12 sacks were sub-par for him (although he still ranked third in the league among OLB’s), but his 17 quarterback hits were fourth in the NFL among all players.
A major factor in the success of the Dallas’ defense in 2009 was due to the emergence of Spencer, who finally became a pass-rushing force. After a slow start, Spencer racked up seven sacks and 26 quarterback hits (the latter led the entire NFL). Don’t forget that 3-4 outside linebackers must occasionally drop into coverage.
Spencer also tallied 56 tackles–the most of any 3-4 OLB in the NFL and 22 more than Ware. His ability to consistently plug the run makes his pass-rush totals all the more impressive.
With such dominating starters outside, could the Cowboys really address the OLB position in the first round of this year’s draft? The answer will be determined by the organization’s thoughts on second-year players Brandon Williams and Victor Butler.
Butler showed flashes in limited time last season, but he is currently more of a pass-rush specialist than a full-time player. Williams is a giant question mark as he lost the entire 2009 season to injury.
Consequently, the Cowboys are a bit thin (or at least questionable) behind Ware and Spencer. Remember that coach Wade Phillips loves drafting OLB’s, and he even went as far as to claim that it is the strongest position in this year’s crop of rookies.
Thus, don’t count out the team drafting a DE/OLB in round one if they determine the pick to hold excellent value. Michigan’s Brandon Graham, who made our “Elite Eight,” could be that player.
Graham, a 6’1”, 268 pound college defensive end, is widely considered a potential 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. Graham’s stock has been rising since he tore up the Senior Bowl. He carried that success into the Combine with a 4.69 forty-yard dash and 31 reps on the bench press.
Graham reminds us of Spencer when he came out of Purdue. Both players are pass-rushing monsters but, just as importantly, they are equally stout against the run. For this reason, Graham will be an every-down player in the NFL, whether it’s as a 4-3 DE or a 3-4 OLB.
He uses his combination of speed and strength to pressure the quarterback with a variety of moves. He maintains great balance and leverage when rushing, which he needs due to his short arms (just 30 inches). He needs to improve his ability to not let offensive tackles get their hands into his body.
There are questions about Graham’s ability to drop into coverage. Although he is fairly quick in short areas, he is more of a “straight ahead” player and may not be able to effectively get into his drop. He can sometimes display tight hips (although so did Spencer). He could have tremendous value to a 3-4 team if he is able to display proper coverage technique.
We have Graham going No. 12 to the Miami Dolphins in our latest mock draft, although that is higher than most. It is unlikely he will fall to the Cowboys’ selection, but crazier things have happened. Although the team has bigger concerns than outside linebacker, it will be interesting to see what they decide to do should a top-tier player at a “non-need” position unexpectedly drop.
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