The DC Times

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

By Jonathan Bales

Final 2010 NFL Draft Prospect Positional Rankings

This is a two-page entry.

QB

1.  Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

2.  Tim Tebow, Florida

3.  Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame

4.  Colt McCoy, Texas

5.  Jarrett Brown, West Virginia

RB

1.  CJ Spiller, Clemson

2.  Jahvid Best, California

3.  Ryan Mathews, Fresno State

4.  Joe McKnight, USC

5.  Roy Upchurch, Alabama

WR

1.  Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State

2. DeMaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech

3.  Arrelious Benn, Illinois

4.  Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss

5.  Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas

TE

1.  Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma

2.  Aaron Hernandez, Florida

3.  Jimmy Graham, Miami

4.  Rob Gronkowski, Arizona

5.  Tony Moeaki, Iowa

OT

1.  Russell Okung, Oklahoma State

2.  Trent Williams, Oklahoma

3.  Bryan Bulaga, Iowa

4.  Anthony Davis, Rutgers

5.  Charles Brown, USC

OG

1.  Mike Iupati, Idaho

2.  Marshall Newhouse, TCU

3.  John Jerry, Ole Miss

4.  Jon Asamoah, Illinois

5.  Mike Johnson, Alabama

C

1.  Maurkice Pouncey, Florida

2.  Matt Tennant, Boston College

3.  JD Walton, Baylor

4.  Eric Olsen, Notre Dame

5.  Kenny Alfred, Washington State

Click page 2 below for the second half of our rankings.


By Jonathan Bales

2010 NFL Draft: 10 Bold Predictions

Every year we make a list of somewhat bold predictions concerning the NFL Draft.  Below are this year’s forecasts–five general NFL predictions, and five dealing solely with the Cowboys.

Non-Cowboys Predictions

1. Florida QB Tim Tebow will be drafted in the first round.

Is Tebow a first round talent?  We think so, but obviously a handful of teams do not (Jerry Jones, do you have any thoughts on Tebow?).

Nonetheless, someone will covet Tebow’s leadership and willingness to work as hard as possible to become a winner.  Expect a team in the early second round to jump up to the late first to grab him.

2. Oklahoma’s Trent Williams, not Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung, will be the first offensive tackle off of the board.

This prediction is based on draft order.  In all likelihood, the Redskins will have their choice of offensive tackles at the 4th overall selection.  Okung is the consensus #1 LT, but Williams seems to better fit their offense.  Coach Shanahan loves zone-blocking–a scheme that emphasizes athleticism among linemen.  They don’t come much more athletic than Williams.

3.  Texas QB Colt McCoy will get picked no later than the 38th overall selection.

Who selects at that spot?  The Cleveland Browns.  Expect the new head honcho Mike Holmgren to select McCoy–perhaps the most accurate quarterback in this class–to run his West Coast offense. . .but only if no one trades up ahead of the Browns to snatch McCoy.

4.  Virginia Tech DE Jason Worilds will go to a 3-4 team in the mid-second round.

Worilds is so under-the-radar it is unreal.  We assume many of you have never heard of the V-Tech product, but he had the fastest 10-yard split of any defensive end at the Combine.  With all of the talk of Michigan’s Brandon Graham and TCU’s Jerry Hughes, Worilds is in a perfect position to be the first “Who the **** is he?” player drafted this year.

5.  No tight end will be selected in the entire first round.

Oklahoma’s Jermaine Gresham and Arizona’s Rob Gronkowski are the only tight ends with a legitimate shot to go in the first round.  The Cincinnati Bengals have been linked to Gresham, while a recent report calls Gronkowski a “darkhorse” selection for the Baltimore Ravens.

However, both teams have more pressing needs and with such a deep class tight end class, other squads may prefer to hold off on selecting one as well.

Dallas Cowboys Predictions

1.  Dallas will trade at least one player on the current roster on draft day.

The front-runner?  Martellus Bennett.  The darkhorse?  Marcus Spears.  An early second-rounder would probably suffice for both players (although it is more realistic for Spears).  This would allow the ‘Boys to acquire two first round-quality impact players.

2.  The Cowboys will not select at pick#27–they will either move up or back.

If the Cowboys do trade a player on draft day, don’t rule out the team using that player as trade bait to move up in the first round.  If a stud offensive tackle or safety drops into the mid-first round, they may be inclined to package their first round pick and a player like Spears to go get him.

If no quality offensive tackles or safeties drop (which we see as more likely), the Cowboys could move back into the early second round.  This would allow them to acquire both an extra pick and a player like USF FS Nate Allen.

Also, read our article on why the new draft format might make Dallas more inclined to move out of the first round.

3.  Dallas will make an inordinate number of trades–even more than last season.

We already detailed why the new draft format will cause more trades.  The extra time between rounds gives organizations all day (literally) to dangle picks.  Expect the Cowboys to make multiple moves just within the first two days of the draft.

4.  R. Okung, B. Bulaga, T. Williams, A. Davis, B. Campbell, C. Brown, E. Berry, E. Thomas, M. Iupati, and M. Pouncey will all be selected before the 27th pick.

Many people are assuming that a run on offensive tackles will force other players at positions of need down to the 27th pick.  Not so.  Of the players listed above, only Campbell, Brown, Iupati, and Pouncey have a realistic chance of falling to the Cowboys’ selection.  We still don’t think any of them will.

5.  The Cowboys will not address either left tackle or safety with their first selection.

This prediction goes hand-in-hand with #4.  With all of the top-tier players at both tackle and safety off the board, the Cowboys will either 1. select a player at a “non-need” position, 2.  move out of the first round, or 3. reach for a player at left tackle or free safety.

The Cowboys have done an admirable job in recent years of not reaching for players in the first round.  So what does this mean?  Probably that the majority of Cowboys fans will be unhappy come April 22.


By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Potential Draft Picks: Reshad Jones, S, Georgia

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.

Scouting Report

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.

Projection

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.


By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Potential Draft Picks: Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland

The Cowboys’ situation at left tackle can be described as ‘unsettled’ at best.  After releasing veteran Flozell Adams, the club seems content on giving Doug Free the opportunity to win the job.  Free played right tackle in all but one game last season, however, and struggled mightily in his short stint at left tackle.  It should be noted that he was facing Vikings’ pass-rushing stud Jared Allen.

Free may or may not be a starting-caliber left tackle.  We believe this uncertainty is a problem for Dallas.  The team is ready to make a Super Bowl run in 2010 and having questions at a position as critical as left tackle makes us uneasy.

Further, there simply isn’t much depth right now at the offensive tackle position.  Second-year man Robert Brewster figures to be the primary backup tackle, but he has yet to play a down in the NFL.

We believe the top-tier offensive tackles in this year’s draft class will be taken by the Cowboys’ 27th selection.  If one does happen to fall, it may be Maryland’s Bruce Campbell.  It is debatable whether Campbell is truly a first round talent, as multiple scouts reportedly have a fourth round grade placed on him.

However, Campbell is set to visit the Cowboys today.  Is this a smokescreen or is Campbell a legitimate option for the Cowboys in the first round?

Scouting Report

Campbell is an absolute freak in terms of athleticism.  At 6’6”, 314 pounds, he ran a 4.85 forty-yard dash at the Combine.  Let that sink in.  He also benched pressed 225 pounds 34 times.  With that sort of size/strength/speed combination, Campbell has an incredible chance of being drafted 8th overall to Oakland.

If Oakland passes, however, Campbell will likely fall a bit.  Other teams place more emphasis on game tape–Campbell has a lot of ‘bad tape.’

Campbell’s athleticism makes it easier for him to recover from giving up the edge in pass protection.  The problem is he actually gets beat quite often.  This is due to his upright stance and lack of elite leverage.  Despite his athleticism, Campbell frequently loses his balance and allows defenders who have no business beating him to do so.

Still, pass protection is his strength.  In terms of run blocking, Campbell is not a first round prospect.  Despite his bench press reps, he does not play like a ‘mauler.’  His weight room strength does not appear to fully translate to on-field strength.

Campbell would probably be best-suited landing with a team like the Houston Texans who run a zone-blocking scheme.  This would allow him to utilize his quickness.  For this reason, we don’t see Campbell as a great fit in Dallas.

Overall, Campbell is certainly a boom-or-bust pick–perhaps to the highest degree of any player in this class.  His upside is outstanding.  Unfortunately, his downside is quite ‘outstanding’ as well.  Do the Cowboys have the luxury of being able to wait on Campbell’s development?  Probably not.

Projection

Like we said, Campbell’s measurables make him a great fit for Oakland at the 8th overall pick.  If he slides passed the Raiders, we see zone-blocking and West Coast offense clubs as the best fit–San Francisco, Green Bay, Philadelphia.

There is a legitimate chance that Campbell’s poor game tape causes him to fall to the Cowboys’ selection.  Will they pull the trigger?  It would probably depend on who else is on the board, but we suspect that they might try to trade out of the pick.

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys News and Notes: 4/14/10

Dallas Cowboys ‘State of the Franchise

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Potential Draft Pick: Ricky Sapp, DE/OLB, Clemson

There is no doubt the Cowboys have one of the strongest (and probably the strongest) sets of starting outside linebackers in the NFL in Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.  We all know of Ware’s dominance, but Spencer led all 3-4 outside linebackers in tackles (56) and quarterback hits (26) and was a big ticket to the Cowboys’ 2009 defensive success.

The backup situation at OLB, though, is a bit cloudy.  The Cowboys have two unproven second-year players in Victor Butler and Brandon Williams.  Butler did show some signs of athleticism last season, particularly against the Panthers, but the future contributions of both players is a giant question mark for Dallas.

The Cowboys have shown they are willing to provide their young players with an opportunity to play in recent years.  Last season, they released T.O., paving the way for Miles Austin.  This season saw the somewhat-shocking releases of Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin, leaving Doug Free and Alan Ball/Michael Hamlin as the current starters at left tackle and free safety (hopefully Free is at left tackle and not free safety).

Having said that, the outside linebacker position is one that seems near and dear to coach Wade Phillips’ heart.  We really think he would draft players at the position with every selection would it not be for, you know, having to win football games.

We have already profiled Michigan’s Brandon Graham as a “Cowboys Potential Draft Pick.” He may just be the best edge rusher in this year’s class.  If that is the case, today’s feature–Clemson’s Ricky Sapp–isn’t far behind.

Scouting Report

Sapp is an ideal fit for a 3-4 scheme at 6’4”, 252 pounds.  He has experience playing in a stand-up position at Clemson, which makes him even more attractive to 3-4 teams.

The majority of Sapp’s success is a result of his speed (4.61 forty-yard dash at the Combine).  The man can absolutely fly and he utilizes his speed regularly on the football field, often chasing down ball-carriers from across the field.  He also does a great job of implementing a variety of pass rush moves into his game in addition to the speed rush.

There are currently two knocks on Sapp’s game.  The first is health-related:  he tore his ACL in 2008 and played 2009 at what he said was “about 60 percent.”  However, he claims he is 100 percent healthy now and he did appear to check out just fine medically at the Combine.  We aren’t particularly concerned with Sapp’s health because of his work ethic.  This is a stand-up individual who will outwork just about anyone, so teams can rest assured that he will do everything possible to prepare himself to play at 100 percent.

The second critique of Sapp’s game is that he might just be a pass rush specialist at the next level.  Some think he will get overpowered if he gets tangled up with a bigger offensive lineman.  However, we don’t really think this “con” of Sapp’s game is justified.  Sapp has the type of frame upon which muscle can be added, and we know his work ethic will have him hitting the weight room to improve his game.

We tend to grade player’s not simply on where their game is now, but where it can be in the future.  As dominant as Sapp was in college, it is scary to think just how much better he can get.

Projection

Sapp is projected to go in the late-second to early-third round range, but, like South Carolina’s Eric Norwood, we are not completely sure why he is not rated higher.  It is probably more due to Sapp’s health than his on-field play.  If the Cowboys have cleared Sapp medically, though, we see his selection as holding incredible value.

For the Cowboys to nab Sapp, they would likely have to spend their 59th overall selection on him.  He may or may not be there at that point, but there is zero chance he drops to the back of the third round in our opinion.

The chances of the Cowboys drafting Sapp increase dramatically should they sign either a left tackle or free safety prior to the draft.  In that scenario, Dallas would be freed up to select the best player available in the second round.


By Jonathan Bales

How We Know Dallas Cowboys Are On Right Track

Let’s quickly run over a few of the Cowboys’ draft needs.  Left tackle.  Free safety.  Guard.  Inside linebacker.  Kicker. Cornerback.  Kick and punt returner.

Now let’s guess who might start at each of these positions if the season began today.

Doug Free.  Alan Ball.  Kyle Kosier and Leonard Davis.  Bradie James and Keith Brooking.  David Buehler.  Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins, and Orlando Scandrick.  Kevin Ogletree and Patrick Crayton.

Really?  These are the weak links of this team?  This little game, more than anything else, is the reason we know the Dallas Cowboys are on the right track in 2010 and beyond.

Yes, they could use help at some areas, but things are good when your weakest links are arguably Doug Free, David Buehler, and Alan Ball.

Further, the draft and free agency figure to make these “weak link” positions a bit stronger.  For example, substitute USF FS Nate Allen for Ball, Ravens LT Jared Gaither for Free (which would likely cost approximately a second and fourth-rounder), free agent kicker Shayne Graham for Buehler (on field goals), and Texas WR Jordan Shipley for the return guys.

Now. . .tell me. . .where is the weak link on the Cowboys?  Keith Brooking?  Igor Olshansky?  Sounds good to us.

Yes, the Cowboys are on the right track ladies and gentlemen.  A few tweaks here and there and the players from one of this season’s Super Bowl teams may just be able to sleep at home the night before the game.



By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Times 2010 NFL Mock Draft Challenge–Win a Signed Tony Romo Mini Helmet!

We are in a giving mood today, so we’d figure we’d let you take advantage of it before we return to our normal stingy ways.  We are holding a Mock Draft Challenge–your chance to prove you know your stuff.  The rules of the contest are as follows:

  • All mock drafts must be submitted in the comments below so everyone can see.  Be sure to submit your e-mail in the comment.  No e-mail submissions will be accepted.
  • Contestants must predict the top 12 draft picks AND the Cowboys’ draft pick.
  • Contestants will receive a point for a player picked in the right draft slot (the team is irrelevant).  Thus, if you select Russell Okung to go to the Redskins and another team trades into their slot and selects him, you still get a point.
  • Do not try to predict any trades.  They won’t count and you aren’t that good anyway.
  • All entries must be submitted prior to midnight ET, April 22.
  • Ties will be broken by the most consecutive selections correctly predicted, followed by the time you submit your mock–so get yours in ASAP to have the best shot to win.
  • The winner will receive a Cowboys’ mini helmet autographed by Tony Romo.

All three of us (me–Jonathan, Justin, and A.L.) will submit our mock drafts below.  These WILL count.  So to win the challenge, you have to beat all of us as well.

If I lose to A.L. I will dress up like her, upload the pictures, and do my own episode of “The Blonde Side.”  Hmm. . .where did I leave my tight spandex shorts?

By Jonathan Bales

Trading Up in the 2010 Draft Revisited

Contributed by Justin Shoemaker

As the draft approaches an abundance of rumors always occur for the Cowboys.  Will they move up or move back?  Every analyst loves to talk about Jerry Jones’ inclination to move around on draft day–and they are absolutely correct as we have seen a lot of movement in recent drafts.  However, is this the year to maybe gamble and move up for a highly-sought player?  We examined the possibility before.

First we must look at the teams drafting ahead of the Cowboys to examine their needs.  The teams holding the 23rd pick through the 26th selection, the Packers, Eagles, Ravens, and Cardinals, all have different needs.  One common denominator of these teams, however, is the need for young offensive linemen.

The Eagles are known for their love in drafting linemen and that is still a possibility in 2010, particularly with their struggles on the line at the end of last season.  There are also reports saying USC OT Charles Brown may not slip passed the Packers.  The Ravens’ linemen are younger than most teams but they could be in the market for another tackle should they lose Jared Gaither.  Finally, the Cardinals ticket out of the playoffs was due to Kurt Warner looking more to the turf in Louisana than downfield at his targets.

All four of these teams do an excellent job of drafting the best player available.  However, with offensive tackles at a premium and the position a possibility for all four teams, it is very unlikely a top-tier guy at the position will drop to the 27th overall selection.

If there is a year to move up and draft “your guy,” this is it.  Should Rutgers OT Anthony Davis or Maryland OT Bruce Campbell fall into the 20′s, Dallas should think about packaging picks to go get their guy.  There is limited roster space on the roster and, as of now, the Cowboys have pigeon-holed themselves into securing a top-tier offensive tackle and safety.

The difficult part of this move will be finding a team that will move back.  With the Packers, Eagles, Ravens, and Cardinals all picking back-to-back, there may not be much room to maneuver.  Thus, Dallas might have to jump up to the Pats’ 22nd overall selection.  Is that too far to move?  It depends on who drops and what sort of grade the organization has placed on that player.

If the Cowboys do stay put at pick #27, expect the selection to be Florida G/C Maurkice Pouncey.  With all of the top tackles and free safeties likely off the board, the Cowboys will be in a position to either reach or select the best player available.

Let’s hope they do the latter.

By Jonathan Bales

2010 Cowboys-Only Mock Draft: Version 4.0, Post-Adams and Hamlin

In our analysis of the ramifications of releasing Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin, we noted that Hamlin’s departure indirectly affects the Cowboys’ cornerback depth.  FS/CB Alan Ball will likely move to free safety full-time, leaving Dallas with just three viable options at cornerback.

Would Kyle Wilson's value in the late first round be too good to pass up?

So what happens if one of the Cowboys’ top-rated cornerbacks slides to their selection?  Would they have the bravado to pick him despite recently losing two starters at key positions?

In this Mock Draft Version 4.0, we will take a look at the path Dallas may take should they pull the trigger on a sliding cornerback.

Round 1

Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State

Wilson would represent great value with the 27th pick, but he doesn’t fit an immediate need for Dallas.  Yes, the cornerback position is extremely thin, but the top three guys (particularly Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman) are exceptional.

Wilson could compete for nickel duties in 2010 and aid the Cowboys significantly in the return game.  Will that be enough to justify his selection?

Round 2

Vladimir Ducasse, OG/OT, UMass

We have a slight man-crush on Ducasse.  Big, athletic, and versatile, Ducasse has enormous upside–even more so than a lot of first-rounders.

The problem with Ducasse is that he is so raw that it may take some time for him to develop.  Could he have an impact in 2010?  Probably not as large of one as you might expect from a second-rounder.

Round 3

Darrell Stuckey, S, Kansas

The main issue with selecting Wilson in the first round surfaces itself here.  Stuckey is a project and not someone who can be counted on for immediate help in the secondary.  By drafting a lineman in the second round, the Cowboys would ultimately be forced to start either ball or (Michael) Hamlin at FS.

Round 4

Sam Young, OT, Notre Dame

We really believe Dallas could select a multitude of linemen this year.  With Ducasse able to play either tackle or guard (we think he is a tackle), the Cowboys are free to select an offensive lineman who plays basically any position in the later rounds.  Young or Miami’s Jason Fox could be options here.

Don't sleep on the Cowboys drafting a fullback.

Round 6

Clifton Geathers, DT/DE, South Carolina

We have been pushing the need for a versatile DT/DE of late, even projecting the Cowboys to select Penn State’s Jared Odrick in recent mock drafts.  However, selecting Wilson in the first round pigeon-holes Dallas into drafting an offensive lineman and safety in rounds two and three, so the DT/DE hybrid spot cannot be addressed until the later rounds.

Round 7

John Conner, FB, Kentucky

Conner may not last this long, but he is perhaps the top fullback prospect in this class.  With Deon Anderson’s future up in the air and John Phillips unable to convert to fullback full-time, Conner makes a lot of sense for Dallas.

Analysis

Overall, this mock draft seems a bit weaker than our previous ones.  Sure, the Cowboys obtain a player of great value in Boise State CB Kyle Wilson, but at what cost?  Can this team really afford to go into the 2010 season with Alan Ball, Michael Hamlin, and Darrell Stuckey as the choices at free safety?

Ultimately, if Dallas does not make a move for a free safety or left tackle prior to the Draft, we fear their options could become quite narrow.