The DC Times

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

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys 2011 Second Round Draft Pick: Breaking Down the Candidates at No. 40

Jonathan Bales

With the Cowboys selecting so early in the draft, the number of potential first round selections is limited.  We “know” if they stay put, the ‘Boys will select a player like USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith, Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, or Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt (that is not a conclusive list).  They might also trade down and grab a guy like Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi.

In the second round, however, things are a bit cloudy.  I personally believe the Cowboys need to grab an offensive tackle in the first round because the likelihood of a premiere one being available at pick No. 40 is very slim.  I explained how the numbers back up this idea in my article on why selecting the best player available is a myth.

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, one of the few draft analysts I respect and whose opinion I value, disagrees.  He thinks the value of a tackle like Alabama’s James Carpenter or Miami’s Orlando Franklin is enough to justify spending an early second round pick.  He claims the lack of cornerback depth means the Cowboys should seriously consider Amukamara at No. 9.

While the Cowboys’ second round selection will be heavily influenced by their pick in the first, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at who might be available at pick No. 40.  Below, I have created a “bracket” with the 16 players I consider to be the most likely to end up in Dallas.  A couple notes:

  • The percentages behind each player’s name are the likelihood he will be available when Dallas selects in the second round.
  • You might ask why I would have any “upsets” since I am the one seeding the prospects.  I have no good answer, outside of the fact that I need to make the winner a surprise.
  • I am assuming no free agent acquisitions before the draft.

Sweet 16

Moore has pretty good range as the draft’s consensus top-rated safety.  The Cowboys have shown interest in him, but that interest could fade if they sign a free agent like Michael Huff.

vs.

I love LeShoure, but he’s certainly the underdog in this competition.  He would be a worst-case scenario for Dallas.

Winner: Rahim Moore

  • 8. Rodney Hudson, G, Florida State (95 percent)

I don’t like the value of any guard other than Mike Pouncey, but he won’t be available for Dallas.

vs.

Paea is a talented player who I believe can play the nose, but I don’t think Rob Ryan will target him because he would be a one-gap player.  The ‘Boys already have that in Jay Ratliff.

Winner: Rodney Hudson

Williams may or may not be available for Dallas, but he is a real possibility if he’s on the board due to his versatility.  I think he’s better-suited at safety.

vs.

Taylor is my top-rated player on this list, but he won’t be around.

Winner:  Aaron Williams

  • 4. Danny Watkins, G, Baylor (85 percent)

I don’t like Watkins at all, but the Cowboys have been following him intently.  He’s a favorite at this point.

vs.

The value would be tempting if Smith is still on the board in the second round, but I can’t see the Cowboys bringing in a player with such character concerns.

Winner: Danny Watkins

  • 6. Orlando Franklin, OT/OG, Miami (95 percent)

Mayock thinks Franklin is a possibility.  That’s good enough for me to rank him as the No. 6 seed.

vs.

Ijalana is clearly the superior player, but I really don’t think he will be available in the second round.

Winner: Orlando Franklin

Heyward’s availability, in my opinion, will be a true coin flip.  I think he drops with players like Muhammad Wilkerson and Marvin Austin moving up boards.

vs.

Wilson is a longshot, but he’s a favorite of mine.

Winner: Cameron Heyward

  • 7. Marcus Cannon, G, TCU (90 percent)

Cannon makes more sense to me than Watkins, but I still don’t think the value is right.

vs.

  • 10. Christian Ballard, DE, Iowa (85 percent)

I haven’t talked about Ballard too much, but he’s a darkhorse.  Still, you have to think the Cowboys have Heyward rated higher.

Winner: Marcus Cannon

I’m really hoping Harris falls to the Cowboys’ second round pick.  It’s certainly possible, and despite other holes, I don’t think you’ll find much better value.

vs.

  • 15. James Carpenter, OT, Alabama (95 percent)

Not a legitimate option. . .I hope.

Winner: Brandon Harris

Elite Eight

  • 1. Rahim Moore vs. 8. Rodney Hudson

Winner: Rahim Moore

  • 5. Aaron Williams vs. 4. Danny Watkins

Winner:  Danny Watkins

  • 6. Orlando Franklin vs. 3. Cameron Heyward

Winner: Cameron Heyward

  • 7. Marcus Cannon vs. 2. Brandon Harris

Winner: Brandon Harris

Final Four

  • 1. Rahim Moore vs. 4. Danny Watkins

Winner: Rahim Moore

  • 3. Cameron Heyward vs. 2. Brandon Harris

Winner: Cameron Heyward

Championship

  • 1. Rahim Moore vs. 3. Cameron Heyward

Winner: Rahim Moore

What have we learned?

Even though I believe the Cowboys will make a serious push for free agent safety Michael Huff, I haven’t simply assumed his presence in Dallas.  Actually, this little tournament has taught us that the opportunity for a top free safety to be available in the second round is pretty good.  If we assume the chances that Moore and Williams are available as those I have listed above (65 and 40 percent, respectively), then the combined chance that one of them is available at No. 40 is 79 percent.  Thus, it is likely, but not certain, that either Williams or Moore will be available for Dallas.

We have also learned that the likelihood of a top offensive tackle being available is slim.  Actually, Ijalana is the only top-rated tackle I have listed in this bracket.  There is zero chance of a player like Gabe Carimi or Derek Sherrod falling.  I don’t see the value in a prospect like Franklin or Carpenter.

The Cowboys will have the opportunity to grab a guard in the second round, if they so choose.  The chance of one of the guards I have listed above (including Franklin) being available is 99.96 percent.  With such certainty, I think it would be smart for the Cowboys to wait until the third round, at the earliest, to address the position.  If we assume that Hudson, Watkins, Franklin, and Cannon have just a 25, 15, 25, and 20 percent chance of being available in the third round, the overall probability of just one still being around is still 61.8 percent.  I say bypass reaching for a guard in the second and “gamble” on one being available in the third.

There will be defensive linemen available for the Cowboys in the second round.  This is one reason I believe they should pass on J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan in the first round in an effort to target an offensive tackle.  The Cowboys may not be interested in Paea, Taylor, Heyward, and Ballard, but the chance that at least one is available in the second round is 98.3 percent.  Even if we throw out Ballard, that probability is still 88.8 percent.

Ultimately, though, it might be in Dallas’ best interest to look into trading up from the second round.  The majority of the players listed above are nice, but not incredible.  I have Taylor, Ijalana and Harris rated in my top 15 (No. 6, No. 11 and No. 15, respectively).  The probability that just one of them is available, however, is just 60.4 percent.  If we throw out Harris, who probably wouldn’t start immediately anyway, that number plummets to 28 percent.

Thus, I like the idea of the ‘Boys moving up a few spots from pick No. 40 to secure a prospect who can have an immediate impact.  The likelihood of that scenario playing out increases dramatically if the Cowboys trade out of the No. 9 spot.  Would you rather have Gabe Carimi and Phil Taylor, or Tyron Smith and Cameron Heyward?  That’s not a rhetorical question.

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys 2011 Free Agency/Draft Guide: Who’s Available, Who’s Coming to Dallas?

Jonathan Bales

A few readers have asked me to take a look at the free agents in 2011, so here you go.  In addition to analyzing the best available players at positions of need for Dallas, I’ve also provided my assessment of which one is most likely to come to Big D, as well as whether the ‘Boys should indeed address the position in free agency or visit it during the draft.

Please note that there may be a few omissions from these free agent rankings.  Some “free agents” are restricted, have already been franchised, etc.  Also, it’s actually quite difficult to obtain a reliable list of free agents.  Some organizations are needlessly secretive about their players’ contracts, and there’s plenty of inaccurate information out there regarding free agent statuses.  If you notice a player who is missing or one who shouldn’t be listed, please notify me in the comments below.

  • Positions of Need Assessed (in order of importance): FS, RT, DE, CB, OG, SS, ILB, FB, RB, OLB
  • Other Positions of Need: K, NT (if Ratliff moves to DE), Returner, C, slot WR

Top Unrestricted Free Agents

FS
1. Michael Huff
2. Eric Weddle (Restricted)
3. Dawan Landry
4. Tanard Jackson
5. Donte Whitner
6. Darren Sharper

Most Likely to Become a Cowboy:  Michael Huff–I really think you’ll see the Cowboys address the free safety spot in free agency.  UCLA’s Rahim Moore (scouting report here) is the consensus top free safety in this draft class, but many scouts have reportedly given him just a third-round grade.  I think he’s a second-round talent and nothing more.  Huff is the top free safety above and, to the best of my knowledge, he’s unrestricted.

Solution:  Free agency–The 2011 safety draft class is simply too weak to find an immediate starter.  If the Cowboys do address the free safety spot during the draft for some reason, options (in addition to Moore) include Oklahoma’s Quinton Carter, UNC’s Deunta Williams, and Temple’s Jaiquawn Jarrett (scouting report here).

RT

Ben Ijalana is versatile and represents great value in the second-round.

1. Ryan Harris
2. Matt Light
3. Tyson Clabo
4. Jared Gaither
5. Khalif Barnes
6. Jermon Bushrod
7. Willie Colon

Most Likely to Become a Cowboy: Ryan Harris–Why not?  Harris is young and his value has plummeted.  He has a tremendous skill set and something to prove, however, so now is the time to sign him.

Solution:  Free agency if value is there, otherwise early rounds of draft–If the Cowboys can’t find a bargain in free agency, they’ll undoubtedly need to address the offensive tackle spot early in the draft.  I’ve already analyzed Villanova’s Ben IjalanaBoston College’s Anthony CastonzoUSC’s Tyron SmithWisconsin’s Gabe Carimi, and Colorado’s Nate Solder.

Of those players, Smith and Castonzo are options in the first-round, while Carimi and Ijalana could fall into the second.  I actually think the latter two players are the best fit at right tackle, and I would be extremely happy with either player in the second-round.

And for those interested (Mom), here are my current offensive tackle rankings (of those listed above):

1. Tyron Smith
2. Ben Ijalana
3. Anthony Castonzo
4. Gabe Carimi
5.  Derek Sherrod
6. Nate Solder (third-round grade)

DE
1. Shaun Ellis
2. Tommie Harris
3. Cullen Jenkins
4. John McCargo
5. Brandon Mebane

Most Likely to Become a Cowboy:  Cullen Jenkins–I’m really stretching it here with this free agent list, as only Ellis and Jenkins have played as a five-technique defensive end in the past.  The other three players have been three-technique players in 4-3 schemes, so they’re quite unlikely to land in Dallas.

Solution:  Early rounds of draft–The draft seems like the obvious arena through which to upgrade the defensive end spot this offseason.  There are plenty of talented linemen who project as 3-4 ends, including probable first-rounders Marcell Dareus (Alabama), Cameron Jordan (Cal), Nick Fairley (Auburn), J.J Watt (Wisconsin), and Adrian Clayborn (Iowa).

Options in round two include Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple) and Cameron Heyward (Ohio State). All would be upgrades over the current Dallas defensive ends.

CB
1. Nnamdi Asomugha
2. Jonathan Joseph
3. Antonio Cromartie
4. Eric Wright
5. William Gay
6. Chris Houston
7. Ike Taylor
8. Chris Carr
9. Richard Marshall
10. Carlos Rogers
11. Will Blackmon
12. Kelly Jennings

Most Likely to Become a Cowboy: Jonathan Joseph–With this year’s cornerback draft class very strong, I don’t see any reason for the Cowboys to sign a middle-tier cornerback in free agency.  Either go big or go home.  The top three cornerbacks on this list are all top-tier guys (with Asomugha obviously in a class by himself).  I don’t see Asomugha as a legit option, unfortunately, because he’s simply going to be too costly.  Don’t forget that Dallas still needs to re-sign Doug Free, perhaps a few other free agents, and their rookies.

Joseph is incredibly underrated and, if he can be had for second-tier money, the Cowboys could find a bargain.

Solution: Sign Joseph if the price is right, otherwise early rounds of draft–I’ve already broken down the games of Nebraska’s Prince AmukamaraMiami’s CB Brandon HarrisLSU’s CB Patrick PetersonTexas’ Aaron Williams, Colorado’s Jimmy Smith, and Utah’s Brandon Burton. As of now, I’d rate those players as follows:

1. Patrick Peterson
2. Brandon Harris
3. Prince Amukamara
4. Jimmy Smith
5. Aaron Williams
6. Brandon Burton

If Peterson drops past the fifth pick, the Cowboys need to look into trading up.  He’s the No. 1 overall player on my board.  I love the upside of Brandon Harris in the second-round, or Burton in the third.

OG
1. Davin Joseph
2. Justin Blalock
3. Harvey Dahl
4. Robert Gallery
5. Richie Incognito
6. Alan Faneca

Most Likely to Become a Cowboy: Davin Joseph–Offensive guard is a difficult position to assess for the ‘Boys.  Kyle Kosier, who I’d rank at No. 3 on this list, is a free agent as well.  The ‘Boys could re-sign him to a short-term deal (which I think is a good idea, as he graded out as the seventh-best Cowboy in 2010 and the top lineman).

Solution: Re-sign Kyle Kosier and/or sign a free agent–Whether the Cowboys re-sign Kosier or pick up a free agent, I think they need to address the position in free agency.  The interior linemen at the top of this year’s draft class are weak (Florida’s Mike Pouncey, TCU’s Marcus Cannon, Baylor’s Danny Watkins, and FSU’s Rodney Hudson all figure to be in the second-round range).  I like Pouncey’s upside and versatility in the second-round and Cannon/Hudson are intriguing if they drop, but none of these guys “wow” me (particularly Watkins).

SS
1. Quintin Mikell
2. Bernard Pollard
3. Atari Bigby
4. Brodney Pool
5. Roman Harper
6. Abram Elam

Most Likely to Be a Cowboy: None–Outside of Mikell, this is a very weak group of strong safeties.  I think Mikell is extremely underrated, but the lack of talent behind him means someone will overpay for his services.  That shouldn’t be Dallas.

Solution:  Re-sign Gerald Sensabaugh, find depth late in draft–Like Kosier, I think Sensabaugh’s 2010 play went unheralded.  He wasn’t incredible, but he yielded just a 57 percent completion rate, 6.95 yards-per-attempt, and one touchdown (all while snagging five interceptions).  You can see all of his numbers in my 2010 safety grades.

Whoever the Cowboys sign, they should probably look for a mid-to-late prospect at the position (assuming they don’t think Danny McCray or Barry Church are the future at strong safety).  Options include Florida’s Ahmad Black, West Virginia’s Robert Sands, Idaho’s Shiloh Keo, and Boise State’s Jeron Johnson.

ILB
1. Paul Posluszny
2. Barrett Ruud
3. Stephen Tulloch
4. Stephen Cooper
5. Takeo Spikes

Most Likely to Be a Cowboy:  Paul Posluszny–The former Penn State linebacker is really the only option for Dallas in free agency.  There’s no reason to sign any of the other aging players when you already have two of the same at the position.

Solution:  Sign Posluszny if the price is right, otherwise mid-to-late rounds of draft–I really like Posluszny and think he would complement Sean Lee quite well inside.  I don’t think he’s likely to land in Dallas by any means, but I’d take a long look if the money isn’t exorbitant.

If the Cowboys look to the draft to upgrade the position, Martez Wilson if by far the best prospect.  He might be available in the second-round and he could potentially play outside linebacker too.  The Cowboys’ more pressing issues make Wilson’s arrival unlikely, however.  Other possibility include UNC’s Quan Sturdivant, Oregon’s Casey Matthews (yuk), LSU’s Kelvin Sheppard, NC State’s Nate Irving, and Michigan State’s Greg Jones.

RB
1. DeAngelo Williams
2. Ahmad Bradshaw
3. Michael Bush
4. Cedric Benson
5. Darren Sproles
6. Ronnie Brown
7. Tim Hightower
8. Joseph Addai
9. Cadillac Williams
10. Ricky Williams
11. Kevin Smith

Most Likely to Become a Cowboy:  None–The Cowboys will likely be in the market for a running back to fill Marion Barber’s shoes (not literally, as it would be difficult to get one’s feet through the concrete. . .thank you, I’ll be here all night).

This free agent list is impressive, but the top players will all be too pricey for the ‘Boys.  Even a guy like Sproles, who could dramatically upgrade the Cowboys’ return game and be an insurance policy for Felix Jones, will probably command more money than Dallas is willing to spend on a position which isn’t really a gaping hole.

**Note: If Sproles’ asking price drops due to the abundance of talented free agent runners, I think he’d be a really nice option for Dallas.  Others will want a bruiser at tailback, but Sproles’ versatility trumps the short-yardage ability of the big boys.  Plus, I think Jones and Tashard Choice are just fine in short-yardage.

And you know I’m not going to just throw an opinion out there without proof. . .

That’s some mighty fine tasting pudding.

Solution: Mid-to-late rounds of draft–I really don’t see the ‘Boys addressing tailback in free agency, but it’s certainly a possibility late in the draft.  Potential draft picks include Syracuse’s Delone Carter, Oklahoma State’s Kendall Hunter, LSU’s Stevan Ridley, Auburn’s Mario Fannin, and my personal favorite, Pitt’s Dion Lewis.  I really like Lewis.

FB
1. Vonta Leach
2. Heath Evans
3. John Kuhn
4. Deon Anderson

Most Likely to Become a Cowboy:  None–Again, I don’t see the Cowboys addressing the backfield through free agency.  Leach is a stud, but he will probably re-sign with Houston.  Meanwhile, Evans and Kuhn aren’t tremendous lead blockers, which is just what the Cowboys need out of a fullback.  Readers know I like Anderson, but his time in Dallas is over.

Solution: Mid-to-late rounds of draft–Options include Stanford’s Owen Marecic, Pitt’s Henry Hynoski, and USC’s Stanley Havili, although it’s just as likely the Cowboys roll with Chris Gronkowski.

OLB
1. Manny Lawson
2. Matt Roth
3. Thomas Howard

Most Likely to Become a Cowboys: None–This isn’t even a question.  Teams simply don’t allow stud 3-4 outside linebackers to hit the open market.

Solution: Mid-to-late rounds of draft–Unlike many other people, I think the Cowboys are just fine at outside linebacker.  Anthony Spencer will rebound (and he wasn’t even as bad in 2010 as people think), and Victor Butler is ready for a bigger role.

Of course, you can never have too many pass-rushers, and draft options include UNC’s Robert Quinn in the first-round (if the team deems his value to great to pass up) or Nevada’s Dontay Moch, Stanford’s Thomas Keiser, UCF’s Bruce Miller, and Fresno State’s Chris Carter in the mid-to-late rounds.

Overall Free Agency/Draft Plan

The Cowboys desperately need to find a starting free safety in free agency.  In my opinion, no rookie safety is worthy of starting.  There are also some quality offensive tackles on the market, but the abundance of talented players at that position who are projected to go in the late-first or early-second make signing a free agent less likely.

I don’t see the Cowboys signing a defensive end in free agency, as the draft is stacked with 3-4 end prospects.  Cornerback is a tricky position, but I think you’ll see the Cowboys address that spot via the draft as well.

At guard and strong safety, the Cowboys’ best options appear to already be on the squad.  Kyle Kosier and Gerald Sensabaugh won’t demand top dollar and are underrated players, according to my film study.

The inside linebacker, tailback, fullback, and outside linebacker spots could all be upgraded, but they aren’t pressing issues.  It’s possible the Cowboys will look to find value in free agency with a player like Paul Posluszny, but all four of these positions are probably only options in the middle or late rounds of the draft.

Dream Upgrades/Roster Moves (Realistically)

  • FS- Michael Huff
  • RT- Ben Ijalana (Villanova)/Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin) — Second-round
  • DE- Marcell Dareus (Alabama)/Cameron Jordan (Cal) — First-round
  • CB- Aaron Williams (Texas) — Third-round
  • OG- Davin Joseph (and Kyle Kosier)
  • SS- Gerald Sensabaugh
  • ILB- Nate Irving (NC State) — Fourth-round
  • RB- Dion Lewis (Pitt) — Fifth-round
  • FB- Undrafted free agent/Gronkowski
  • OLB- Steven Friday (Virginia Tech) — Seventh-round
  • K- Kris Brown/David Buehler duo
  • NT- Ratliff likely to stay put
  • Returner- Jeremy Kerley (TCU) — Sixth-round
  • C- Develop Phil Costa
  • Slot WR- Jeremy Kerley (TCU) — Sixth-round

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Potential Draft Pick in 2011: Tyron Smith, OT, USC

Jonathan Bales

I recently completed my 2010 Offensive Line Grades for Dallas, and the results weren’t pretty.  Although I do think Doug Free is the most talented lineman on the team, Kyle Kosier ended up with the highest grade.  Still, it was only a “B” (86.2 percent).

Marc Colombo’s 63 percent, however, was the worst grade I ever gave a player.  If the Cowboys don’t upgrade the right tackle spot this offseason, they deserve another playoff absence in 2011.  Colombo yielded a ridiculous nine sacks, 11 quarterback hits, and 40 pressures in 2010.

I already dissected the game of Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder and Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi.  Both of those players are “prototypical” Dallas Cowboys linemen.  Today’s feature, in my opinion, represents the offensive tackle of the future. . .

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.

Projection

Because of his pass protection ability, I think Smith will rise up some boards.  He’s likely to be a top 25 pick because some team will see a dominant left tackle in him.

For Dallas, Smith would have to play right tackle.  Because of that and the fact that he’s not dominant in any aspect of tackle play, I don’t think he’s good value anywhere in the top 15.

Don’t get me wrong–I really like Smith’s potential.  If the ‘Boys could slide down to the late teens or early 20′s,  I think they should at least take a look at a player who doesn’t necessarily fit what they already do in Big D, but rather what they should do.

Other Potential Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011

Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara

Cal DT/DE Cameron Jordan

UNC DE/OLB Robert Quinn

Ohio State DT/DE Cameron Heyward

Colorado OT Nate Solder

Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi

Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Potential Draft Pick: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Jonathan Bales

I’ve already assessed the play of two prospects who could potentially play defensive end for Dallas: Cameron Jordan from Cal and Cameron Heyward from Ohio State. I really love Jordan’s game and I think he’ll rise before the draft.  Heyward is a solid player, but I don’t think he’s worth a first-round selection.

The Cowboys’ draft depends heavily on the future of Jay Ratliff, who may move to defensive end in Rob Ryan’s 3-4 scheme.  I think that move would help Ratliff, who received only a “B-” overall grade in my 2010 Defensive Line Grades.

Scouting Report

At 6’4”, 285 pounds, Clayborn was a monster defensive end in college.  In the Cowboys’ scheme, however, he’d be on the small side.  As I’ve stated in the past, I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing.  While the job description of a 3-4 defensive end certainly entails stopping the run, Clayborn has plenty of size and athleticism to do that.  It is his pass-rushing ability that could really aid the Dallas pass rush.

Clayborn is a player who has stood out to me while I’ve been studying film on other players.  He has a tremendous speed rush (for his size) and an overall high motor.  His strength is incredible and he uses it to get to the quarterback and ward off defenders in the run game.  When he isn’t in position to make a play on the ball-carrier, he has the speed to chase him down from behind.

For evidence of Clayborn’s speed and athleticism, check out the 1:11 and 1:36 marks below (when he beats future first-rounder Gabe Carimi).

In the video below, Clayborn shows an uncanny ability to fight off blocks and create havoc for an offense.  He does just this at the 1:22 mark.

Clayborn is also excellent at stringing out the ball-carrier (2:15 mark).  His ability to fight off blocks and secure the edge might allow the Cowboys’ outside linebackers to focus on rushing the passer immediately (which could be a big help to Anthony Spencer).

To me, Clayborn’s only negatives are his hand placement (he sometimes allows blockers to get their hands in on him and neutralize his athleticism, but this isn’t a consistent weakness) and the lack of a dominant second move.  He has relied so much on his strength in college that he hasn’t needed to use counter moves, but that won’t be the case in the NFL.  Clayborn’s future success will depend on his ability to adjust to facing blockers who are even stronger than him.

Projection

Clayborn is all over people’s boards–from the top of the first to the bottom of it.  The strength of the 2011 defensive tackle/end class hurts him, but I still think he’s a top 10 talent.  I haven’t put together a big board yet, but I am confident that he’ll be in the single digits.  Despite other pressing needs, I would have no problem with the Cowboys selecting Clayborn with their No. 9 overall pick–he’s that good.  If they could trade down a few spots and still secure Clayborn, they’d be in prime position to trade back into the first round and acquire a top offensive tackle as well.

Other Potential Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011

Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara

Cal DT/DE Cameron Jordan

UNC DE/OLB Robert Quinn

Ohio State DT/DE Cameron Heyward

Colorado OT Nate Solder

Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi

By Jonathan Bales

Jared Odrick, Devin McCourty Were Next in Line for Cowboys

Coach Wade Phillips just confirmed on Galloway & Co. that, had the Cowboys not traded up to select Dez Bryant in the first round, they would have selected either Penn State DT/DE Jared Odrick or Rutgers CB Devin McCourty (in that order).

Since Odrick didn’t get drafted until Miami’s 28th overall selection, we can safely conclude he would have been the Cowboys’ selection.  We point this out because we had Odrick being selected by Dallas in a few mock drafts, including here, here, and here, and thought he would be a good fit in Big D.

This is what we said about Odrick in February:

This pick may come as a bit of a shocker, but we really think it is a strong possibility for the Cowboys.  So many mocks have Dallas selecting Idaho G Mike Iupati, a player for which team execs “perked up” during the Senior Bowl.  With him still on the board, he could be the selection.  In our opinion, though, Odrick could have a more immediate impact.  Kosier and Davis figure to be the starting guards next season, so Iupati would really just take the place of backup guard Cory Procter.  Odrick, however, would have the ability to join the defensive end rotation immediately. Also, with Marcus Spears, Jason Hatcher, and Stephen Bowen all restricted free agents this year, the Cowboys will most likely have a hole at the position by next season.  Odrick would be the perfect 5-technique 3-4 defensive end to fill the spot.

Had the Cowboys selected Odrick, we have a feeling the draft (and people’s perceptions of it) would have been altered drastically.  First, the Cowboys would have likely let go of defensive end Marcus Spears for a late-round selection.  The team put out word that they would not accept less than a third-rounder for the veteran, but that asking price would have dropped after the selection of Odrick.

The middle picks may have been the same (as the Cowboys had Sean Lee so high on their board they were going to do everything possible to acquire him) but the team wouldn’t have drafted William & Mary DT/DE Sean Lissemore.  Lissemore was of course only a seventh-rounder, but coaches have already likened his ability and motor to that of Jay Ratliff–quite the praise.

The largest alteration that would have accompanied the selection of Odrick would be in the perception of the Cowboys’ draft success.  Most fans with which we have spoken have given the Cowboys either an ‘A’ or (at worst) ‘B’ grade.  However, we have a feeling that grade is more representational of their thoughts regarding the Cowboys’ first round pick as opposed to their entire draft.

Admit it–had Dallas come out of this draft with Odrick, Lee, Owusu-Ansah, Young, Wall, and Lissemore (or another seventh-rounder), you would probably be, well, livid.  That isn’t to say that that combination of players would ultimately be a bad draft class or that the team wouldn’t have been attaining good value in selecting them, but simply that the “wow” factor would have been absent.

Thus, the Dez Bryant selection was even more important than we all may have realized.  Disregard the fact that the Cowboys acquired a true play-maker who has already drawn rave reviews at mini-camp.  Disregard the fact that defense coordinators will now have to game plan for, like, six legitimate offensive threats.  You can even disregard the fact that Wade Phillips has labeled Bryant one of the best rookies he has seen in 33 years of coaching.

The most crucial aspect of drafting Bryant is the attitude and mindset with which the Cowboys (and their fans) will head into the 2010 season.  Coaches, players, and fans are all on the same page.  There is an excitement in the air.

Of course there is always that buzz around Valley Ranch, but this year is different.  This year there is a feeling of change.  A feeling of rebirth.

The Cowboys sure are lucky they have Dez Bryant.

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys 2010 Draft Pick Analysis, Grades



Round 1

Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State

Positives:  Tremendously talented (perhaps a top five talent), incredible size and balls skills

Negatives:  All issues are off-field concerns–will he be motivated to perform in the NFL?  How much does he love football?

2010 Projection:  Expect Bryant to begin the season as the #3 receiver and starting punt/kick returner.  His return ability surely increased his value in the eyes of the Cowboys.

Pick Grade:  A-

Bryant’s selection was outstanding value, even if the need wasn’t great.

Round 2

Sean Lee, ILB, Penn State

Positives:  One of the hardest workers you will ever meet, surprisingly athletic, great in coverage

Negatives:  Slightly undersized for a 3-4 defense, coming off of 2008 knee surgery, may not have a very high ceiling

2010 Projection:  Lee will likely becoming the primary backup to Bradie James and Keith Brooking.  He will compete with second-year man Jason Williams for nickel linebacker duties (we are effectively ruling out Bobby Carpenter).

Pick Grade:  C-

This grade would be lower but Cowboys had a high first round grade on him, meaning they really see him as an impact player.  We see it as a “safe” pick with the high risk/high reward J. Williams on the roster.  We also don’t understand trading up for Lee.  The team basically wasted a fourth round selection that could have been utilized to secure another impact player.

Round 4

Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, CB/FS, Indiana of Pennsylvania

Positives:  Tremendous athelete, particularly for the safety position, great play-making and return ability

Negatives:  Won’t be able to participate until training camp, inferior competition in college, didn’t play safety full-time

2010 Projection:  AOA will probably begin the season as the backup free safety and return man.  He would have an outside chance to start immediately if it wasn’t for his injury (had surgery on a torn labrum) and lack of experience at free safety.

Pick Grade:  A

We have been hyping up AOA for literally months now and couldn’t be more thrilled with his selection.  He is a second round talent at worst.

Round 6A

Sam Young, OT, Notre Dame

Positives:  Hard worker, extensive experience in a pro-style offense (started 50 games at Notre Dame)

Negatives:  Not very athletic, probably only a right tackle

2010 Projection:  Young will have to fight to make the team.  We think he will eventually will, but don’t expect him to beat out Robert Brewster for the backup tackle job.

Pick Grade:  D+

We don’t like the selection because of Young’s limited upside.  After coming out of high school as the top tackle in the nation, Young didn’t really improve much in college.

Round 6B

Jamar Wall, CB, Texas Tech

Positives:  Very athletic, 41 inch vertical, great at reading the quarterback and making a play on the ball

Negatives:  Not overly fast, gambles too much

2010 Projection:  Wall will have to fight to make the 53-man roster.  If he does, he will become a special-teamer and compete for the dime cornerback spot behind Orlando Scandrick.

Pick Grade:  D

Again, we aren’t thrilled with this selection when there were talented players left on the board at positions of need.

Round 7

Sean Lissemore, DT/DE, William & Mary

Positives:  Good athleticism and speed for his size, high motor player

Negatives:  Lack of competition, no experience in a 3-4

2010 Projection:  Lissemore is a candidate to transition to defensive end in the Cowboys’ system, although members within the organization claimed he was “Ratliff-like.”  Does this mean Lissemore will become an undersized nose tackle?  We think his potential versatility will help him make the squad as a hybrid DT/DE.

Pick Grade:  B-

We aren’t even going to pretend we had heard of Lissemore before the Cowboys selected him.  This grade is based on what we have learned about him since he was drafted–that he is very athletic and a potentially versatile player for Wade Phillips’ defensive line.

Overall Draft Grade:  B-

The selections of Bryant and Owusu-Ansah saved this draft.  We aren’t thrilled with the other picks, but the top three players should be able to come in and at least contribute marginally in their rookie seasons.


Free Agent Signing Notes

Matt Nichols, QB, Eastern Washington

We have heard of multiple scouts raving about Nichols lately.  Unfortunately, there is probably no room on the roster for him and he is unlikely to sneak onto the practice squad.  He may just be an arm for upcoming mini-camps.

Phil Costa, C, Maryland

Costa played center and guard, meaning he could potentially take Procter’s spot.

Barry Church, S, Toledo

We are pretty surprised Church went undrafted.  He is a tremendous size/speed guy, but won’t help out the ‘Boys much at free safety.

Chris Gronkowski, FB/TE, Arizona

Gronkowski version 2.0 will have a difficult time making the team.  His future will be tied to Deon Anderson’s.

Lonyae Miller, RB, Fresno State

Miller is a supremely talented running back who was Ryan Mathews’ backup at Fresno State.  We doubt the team will be able to sneak him on the practice squad.

Terrell Hudgins, WR, Elon

We don’t know much about Hudgins, other than he is absolutely enormous–6’1”, 237 pounds.  Will Dallas attempt to convert him to an H-Back type player?

Chet Teofilo, G, California

At 329 pounds, Teofilo fits the Cowboys’ profile for an offensive lineman.

Will Barker, RT, Virgina Tech

A poor man’s Sam Young.  Editor’s note:  Isn’t Sam Young a poor man’s Sam Young?

Rashaun Greer, WR, Colorado State

Poor senior season, won’t make the final roster

Bryan McCann, CB, SMU

I personally had McCann listed as a potential seventh-rounder for the Cowboys.  He will compete with Jamar Wall.

Overall Free Agent Grade:  B



By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Draft: Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, Owusu-Ansah Highlights













By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys-Related Post-Draft Thoughts


  • This draft was a roller coaster for us.  The selections of Dez Bryant and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah held tremendous value, while every other pick was ‘so-so.’  We particularly dislike yielding a second and fourth-rounder for Sean Lee.  Nonetheless, we like Bryant and AOA so much that we will probably provide the Cowboys with a respectable draft grade.
  • Speaking of draft grades, they will be coming tomorrow–round-by-round, in depth analysis of each selection.
  • We are shocked the Cowboys selected OT Sam Young in the sixth round.  The value isn’t terrible, but players such as West Virginia’s Selvish Capers and Abilene-Christian’s Tony Washington were still on the board and can probably play either tackle position.  Young is likely a right tackle only.  Washington went undrafted, though, so Dallas still has an opportunity to sign him.
  • The selection of Texas Tech CB Jamar Wall in the sixth round means Owusu-Ansah will be playing free safety for Dallas.  His ability to move to cornerback was still a likely factor in Dallas valuing him highly.  AOA’s return ability also contributed to his worth, even with Bryant being the first round pick.  Once Bryant takes over as a starter, the Cowboys will most likely take him off of returns.
  • In addition to Washington, LSU guard Ciron Black, Texas Tech guard Brandon Carter, Virginia Tech guard Sergio Render, East Carolina defensive tackle Jay Ross, and Fresno State cornerback A.J. Jefferson are all options for the Cowboys to sign as free agents.

By Jonathan Bales

Akwasi Owusu-Ansah: The Best Value Thus Far



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

After trading back slightly in the fourth round (and picking up an early sixth-rounder from Miami), the Dallas Cowboys have drafted Indiana of Pennsylvania cornerback Akwasi Owusu-Ansah.  We have been touting AOA for awhile and really love his game.  I personally have seen him play live multiple times and thus know quite a bit about him.

It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys envision AOA as a cornerback or a candidate to move to free safety.  He has the requisite size to move into the back of the secondary (6’0”, 207 pounds) and good speed to boot (4.47 Combine forty).

Below is our original scouting report on Owusu-Ansah and the Cowboys’ current cornerbacks.  As you can see, we thought Owusu-Ansah was a second round talent, meaning his selection in the middle of the fourth round once again represents incredible value.

Original Owusu-Ansah Article

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

2010 NFL Draft Live Cowboys Blog

We (Justin and I) will be in New York for the Draft.  We will be posting analysis, pictures, and smart-ass comments on our  Twitter account.  Most importantly, we will (hopefully) be able to provide you with instant updates on the Cowboys’ draft selections (and everyone else’s) before they are announced on television.

To check out the blog, simply click on the Twitter icon in the bottom right corner of this page (on the black toolbar). Feel free to ask us questions during the Draft, although I can tell you now we will not be able to respond to each question.

Again, I can’t stress enough the multitude of smart-ass comments that will be posted.  The Oakland Raiders are now on the clock.