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dez bryant | The DC Times

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

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Breaking Down Two Plays From Cowboys vs. Raiders

Over at NBC, I broke down two plays from the Cowboys’ first preseason game. The first was the back-shoulder throw to Dez Bryant, and the second was the sack of Tony Romo:

The Raiders showed a blitz on the right side of their defense prior to the snap. Tony Romo adjusted by moving his protection to the left side of the offense. DeMarco Murray and Lawrence Vickers both dashed to the left side of the offense to help pick up the blitz. It was one of the few plays on which the Cowboys provided Romo with solid protection.

Immediately after receiving the snap, Romo noticed the Raiders indeed blitzed up the middle and to the left side of the offense, so he rolled out to the right to buy himself more time. This wasn’t a designed rollout, of which Jason Garrett has called fewer than one per game over the past three seasons.

You can read my entire analysis here.

It was nice to see Romo and Bryant hook up on the back-shoulder throw. That sort of play suits Bryant’s skill set very nicely, but Romo just doesn’t seem to throw many of them. We see signs of back-shoulder throws every preseason, but they never make their way into the regular season. Romo doesn’t seem like he struggles with the throw, so perhaps he simply needs to trust his arm and let it rip come September.

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Dez Bryant Will Break Out in 2012

 

Dez getting his mind right at Hooters.

Dez Bryant has had an up-and-down offseason/training camp, but none of those “downs” have come on the field. Between the lines, Bryant appears ready to break out no matter how you slice it. I took a look at the statistical angle of Bryant’s probable breakout over at NBC:

Over the past two years, only 18.7 percent of Bryant’s targets came on passes that were thrown 20 or more yards. The playmaker has ranked only 51st and 54th in deep target rate over the past two years, according to Pro Football Focus. With Bryant’s undeniable ball skills, it’s a guarantee you’ll see his deep ball rate increase in 2012.

In turn, you’ll see Bryant’s yards-per-catch improve as well. Due to an abundance of quick screens in his rookie year, Bryant totaled just 12.6 YPC that season. It jumped to 14.7 YPC last year. With more deep passes surely on the way and greater yards-after-catch sure to follow (it was 4.9 per reception in 2011), you’ll likely see Bryant check in somewhere around 15.5 YPC this season.

Check out the full article at NBC DFW. Bryant is simply too talented of a football player to be contained much longer. The mental aspect of the game is the only thing that could hold him back. I actually think the beginning of the season will be telling; if you see Bryant consistently lining up on his own without the guidance of his quarterback (I’m being serious), he’ll be primed to become one of the league’s premiere receiving threats.

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Patrick Crayton’s Future in Dallas

Pro Football Talk recently published an article detailing their thoughts on Patrick Crayton’s future with the Dallas Cowboys.  In their opinion, it will be very difficult for the Cowboys to either retain or trade CraytonThey believe his role–which is likely to be diminished in 2010– does not justify his $2 million salary.

Further, they believe (and we agree) that a trade is highly unlikely.  First, the Cowboys had the last two days of the draft (after they selected Dez Bryant) to possibly ship Crayton out of Dallas, meaning if a trade was coming, it probably would have happened by now.

Secondly, if $2 million is too steep of a price for the Cowboys to pay for a slot receiver, why would another team dish out the cash?  Any trade would include Crayton’s contract, and because he doesn’t figure to have an incredibly impactful role on any team, there just aren’t too many teams (perhaps none) knocking on Dallas’ door for Crayton’s services.

Despite Crayton’s contract, however, we disagree with PFT’s assessment that he has no value to the ‘Boys in 2010.  Although he obviously won’t have the same role for the Cowboys as in prior seasons (he is likely to lose punt return duties and will see less offensive snaps), he still has the ability to play well in the slot. 

Roy Williams is obviously not a slot receiver.  Dez Bryant is an option, but if he ends up overtaking Williams in the starting lineup (which will obviously happen eventually), he will be playing outside as the X or Z receiver. 

The Cowboys could also look at Kevin Ogletree, who we believe has the sort of skill set which most resembles that of the prototypical slot receiver (outside of Crayton).  Still, Ogletree is an undrafted second-year player with very limited experience.  Can he be trusted as a slot receiver just yet?  We believe Crayton’s experience in the slot is alone enough to justify his stay in Big D, as he provides a skill set which we cannot be sure would be present following his potential release.

Another thing Crayton has going for him is that he could surely play special teams.  He of course contributed on special teams as a returner previously (and he can still be a backup option as a punt returner), but we don’t see any reason why he couldn’t be placed in the lineup on kickoffs or as a gunner on punts.

Although he has asked for a clarification of his role in Dallas, Crayton says he will attend all mandatory team activities.  That fact may not be the reason the Cowboys keep him, but it certainly won’t hurt.  Crayton has shown and continues to show a loyalty to the Cowboys that the coaches (and fans) certainly respect.

Ultimately, we disagree with PFT’s idea that Crayton will not be on the Cowboys this season.  We placed him on our 53-man roster projection for a reason–he still has value to the team.  His $2 million salary is high for a receiver without a big-time offensive role, but not so much so that he is incapable of being retained.

Expect the Cowboys to be unable to find a trade partner for Crayton, but for the veteran to remain in Dallas this season.  He isn’t a dominant, game-breaking sort of player, but the reliability he brings to Tony Romo and the offense is certainly of value to Dallas.

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Is Dez Bryant at Punt Returner a Good Idea?

Head coach Wade Phillips recently declared rookie Dez Bryant the favorite to win the punt return duties for the Cowboys in 2010.  We have already heard from a few of you on this subject, so we wanted put forth our thoughts on the issue.

While the majority of the people with whom we have spoken dislike the notion of Bryant back deep fielding punts, we definitely think it is the correct move.  Bryant is a dynamic returner who can change the entire landscape of a game in the blink of an eye. . . at least he did so in college.

If he can prove he has that same sort of explosiveness in the NFL, then employing him on punt returns is a no-brainer. 

A lot of people are of the mindset that it is too risky to use a player who is (or in all likelihood will be) a major component of either the offense or defense on returns. 

While returners do get exposed to a higher probablity of big hits, the importance of both punt and kick returners is so great that the potential rewards outweigh the risks.  We see both spots as nearly important as starting positions on offense and defense.  Sure, a return man won’t see nearly the same number of snaps as, say, a running back, but each time he touches the ball the possibility for a “home run” is available. 

Further, it is important to remember that sometimes overall value is not as important as value differential.  For example, let’s assume Team X’s running back has a hypothetical value of 100 and their return man has a value of 50.  Now we will assume Team Y’s running back has a hypothetical value of 90 and their return man has a value of 20. 

Despite the fact that Team X’s return man is not as “valuable” as their running back in terms of overall points, the punt returner is more valuable in respect to his ability to help Team X beat Team Y. 

Remember, football is a zero-sum game, meaning the success of Team X equates to the failure of Team Y.  The running back for Team X may be a stud, but the differential value he creates is limited by the low standard deviation among the talent of running backs.  In other words (and words that are more understandable), it is harder for a running back to be that much better than the other running backs around the league.  The majority of practice time in the NFL is devoted to offense and defense.  While “game speed” can never be fully duplicated in practice, it is much more difficult to properly simulate a game-level NFL return than an offensive play.

Thus, returning punts and kicks is more about natural ability than practice–meaning the standard deviation of talent among NFL returners is much greater than at other positionsThe difference between the league’s best punt returners and the league’s worst punt returners is much larger than the same difference among running backs.  This is what we mean when we say ‘value differential.’

Now, does Bryant hold a great enough ‘value differential’ to be a lock as punt returner?  Should he maintain the role if he eventually becomes the Cowboys’ #1 wide receiver?  Only time will tell, but we think Bryant’s explosiveness and play-making ability could be great enough to justify him remaining the return man despite his offensive role.

Now, should he become a Pro Bowl-caliber wide receiver in a short time, the risk/reward for his stay at punt returner should be re-examined.  But let’s not forget, Bryant is only a rookie–he has played in exactly as many NFL games as all of us at Dallas Cowboys Times.

So we say give Bryant a shot at punt returner (and even kick returner for that matter).  The potential reward far outweighs the risk.  Also remember the Cowboys drafted another fairly dynamic returner in Akwasi Owusu-Ansah.  AOA can be groomed behind Bryant (don’t forget AOA is unable to practice until training camp due to a shoulder injury).  Eventually, Owusu-Ansah will take over as the primary return man.

Let’s hope so, anyway, as that would likely mean Bryant’s offensive production increased to the point where the team could no longer justify utilizing him as a returner.

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Cowboys News and Notes: 5/11/10 (Sean Lee, Alex Barron, Dez Bryant)

We agree, but only if Buehler shows he is not ready to handle all kicking duties.  The extra roster spot freed up by retaining just one kicker may seem minuscule, but it can really make a dramatic difference.  Players such as Marcus Dixon, Curtis Johnson, and Patrick Watkins will become huge Buehler fans this summer.

Still, kicker is such an important position that the Cowboys must make sure they are comfortable with whoever is kicking field goals.

Interestingly, the Patriots called Dallas.  Pats’ owner Bob Kraft opened with, “Hi Jerry, are you in the dealing business?”  Also significant is the fact that Coach Belichick appeared to be on the phone with the Ravens while Mr. Kraft was finalizing the deal with Jerry.  Said Belichick, “Hey Ozzie (Baltimore’s GM), Dallas is coming up here in front of us, unless you want to take it.”  This was followed by a prompt “okay” and Belichick hanging up the phone.

The draft is a cut-throat business, and the Patriots do it about as well as anyone.  Luckily for Dallas, the Ravens weren’t willing to make the move for Dez Bryant.

You probably know we are very high on Williams.  From a physical standpoint he is basically a rookie, but he does have a year of mental reps under his belt.  Williams is also immensely athletic–by far the defense’s fastest non-secondary player.  Lee also has underrated athleticism, however, so this will be an exciting battle to watch.

Cowboys’ undrafted rookie safety Barry Church, Pre-Draft

Overall, this was a great trade for Dallas.  Barron has disappointed thus far in his career, but so did Marc Colombo and Leonard Davis before joining the ‘Boys.  Barron has the right mindset to turn his career around.  We expect him to be the primary backup to Doug Free at left tackle, with Free moving to right tackle in the event of an injury to Colombo.

The Cowboys also rid themselves of Bobby Carpenter–the player we determined to be (by far) the worst on the entire defense last season.  We gave him a “D+” overall grade.

We actually don’t think Dez Bryant will receive enough targets to be in the 65-70 catch range.  Expect Roy Williams to open the season as the starter and for Bryant to attain somewhere in the vicinity of 45 catches for 650 yards and four touchdowns.

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Cowboys Film Study: 2nd and 1 Play-Calling

Advanced NFL Stats has published two interesting articles on the value of 2nd and 1 plays and the poor play-calling displayed throughout the NFL in these situations.  As you can see in the graph below, a nine yard gain on 1st down is extremely valuable to an offense.

Courtesy of Advanced NFL Stats

Why?  Well, think of it from the perspective of a defensive coordinator.  You want to stop the run to prevent a 1st down, but playing too aggressively against the run would create a vulnerability in your defense should the offense decide to pass.  Since 2nd and 1 is such a tremendous risk/reward situation for an offense, they could very well take a shot down the field.  If the result is an incomplete pass, they have a rather easy (relatively speaking) 3rd down play (meaning low risk), but the upside of a deep playaction pass, for example, is outstanding.

Game theory dictates that NFL offenses should be in the business of maximizing upside and minimizing risk, while defenses are looking to create low reward/high risk situations for offenses.

The value of a 2nd and 1 play is so incredible that, on average, a team will score .7 extra points each time they gain nine yards on 1st down as compared to gaining 10 yards.  Yes, gaining one less yard on 1st down provides a team with .7 more “expected points.”  In fact, 2nd and 1 plays are so valuable that they yield more expected points than any 1st down gain all the way up until 17 yards.  Thus, a nine-yard gain on 1st down is actually more valuable to an offense than a 16-yard gain.

The value of 2nd and 1 plays is even greater, though, if offensive coordinators take advantage of the situation.  This is not the case, however. League-wide, coaches called a run play on 78% of all 2nd and 1 plays.  That is even more than the 76% rate on 3rd and 1’s!

Further, only 4% of 2nd and 1 plays result in the offense going deep (throwing 15+ yards in the air).  This is fewer than all other 2nd down situations except 2nd and 4.

So why aren’t coaches taking advantage of the outstanding opportunity that comes with 2nd and 1 plays?  Disregarding the fact that most NFL coordinators are simply naturally conservative in their play-calling, we think the main reason is that they don’t want to deal with the stress of 3rd down.

Instead of utilizing the potential upside of 2nd and 1, they treat it as if it was simply another 3rd down.  Two opportunities to run the ball for just one yard?  Sounds good to me.  This thinking initially appears rational because it is the combination of plays which is most likely to result in a 1st down.  Offensive coordinators are supposed to do everything possible to obtain 1st downs, right?

Well, yes and no.  Of course a team needs to acquire 1st downs to move the ball, but coordinators should not be so focused on getting that next 1st down that they miss an opportunity for a huge play.  Take a look at this example:

Team A has 50 2nd and 1 situations throughout a season, running the ball on nearly every one.  They obtain 45 1st downs, but zero touchdowns on these plays.

Team B also has 50 plays on 2nd and 1, but they take a more balanced approach.  They throw about half the time, resulting in just 35 1st downs.  However, they score a touchdown on six of these plays.

So, which team would you rather coach?  For us, the low risk/high reward results obtained by Team B are much more appealing (and much more strongly-correlated with winning) than those of Team A.

Thus, offensive coordinators could increase the expected points of their offense dramatically by throwing out conventional wisdom and opening up the playbook a bit on 2nd and 1.

As you can see in the graph to the right, Cowboys’ offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s play-calling on 2nd and 1 was nearly identical to the league average (he called a run on 80% of plays, compared to the 78% mean).  With Miles Austin and the newly-acquired Dez Bryant both athletic play-makers who thrive at getting deep, we would love to see the Cowboys employ a more balanced 2nd and 1 approach in 2010.

The chart also provides the run/pass ratio for all plays with a distance-to-go of three yards or less.  You can see that Garrett rarely exploited the high-reward opportunity of short-yardage 2nd down plays.  In fact, the Cowboys attempted just three passes of 15+ yards all season in 2nd or 3rd and 3 or less (3.22% of all plays in these situations).

We would actually like to see the red and blue lines in the graph to the right alternate places in 2010 (or at least move closer together).  A higher pass percentage on 2nd and short and a higher run percentage on 3rd and short, we believe, would result in not only more 1st down conversions for Dallas, but also (more importantly) a much larger opportunity to score quickly on big plays.

For an offense that tallied the second-most yards in the NFL in 2009 yet failed to crack the top 10 in points (14th), maximizing upside through the implementation of high-reward plays in short-yardage situations (particularly on 2nd down) may be just what the doctor ordered for the ‘Boys.

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Iupati, Bryant, Odrick, Wilson: Who Do You Select?

It is Thursday night, April 22nd, and the Dallas Cowboys are on the clock in the 2010 NFL Draft. By some stroke of divine luck, there are four stellar players left on the board: Idaho guard Mike Iupati, Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant, Penn State DT/DE Jared Odrick, and Boise State CB Kyle Wilson.

The Cowboys have needs at all four positions, although some more than others. So, who do they select? The pros and cons of each player are listed below.

Mike Iupati

Pros

Iupati is the consensus #1 guard in this year’s draft, and the Cowboys brass are reportedly quite interested in him. Current starting LG Kyle Kosier’s contract runs out at the end of this season, so Dallas will have to make the guard position a priority in the near future.

Cons

Because of the stellar play of the guards in 2009, Iupati would be unlikely to crack the starting lineup this season without an injury ahead of him. Jerry Jones might want to secure a first round player with the ability to have an immediate impact in 2010.

There is also concern about Iupati’s inclination to hold defenders, a situation all too familiar to Cowboys fans.

Dez Bryant

Pros

Bryant is a physical freak and, in terms of pure talent, perhaps a top five player. Although we do not see wide receiver as an immediate position of need, Bryant would probably be an upgrade over Roy Williams. Combining him with Miles Austin would scare a lot of defensive coordinators.

Cons

There are a wealth of concerns over his attitude and work ethic, though, and a lot of scouts say he could drop out of the entire first round. Bryant reportedly showed up late to practice and even games.

Further, rookie receivers rarely have an enormous impact on a team, so like Iupati, Bryant’s 2010 upside could be limited compared to other players.

Jared Odrick

Pros

Odrick is a personal favorite of ours. He was a three-technique player at Penn State that would transition to the five-technique (defensive end) for Dallas. Marcus Spears, Stephen Bowen, and Jason Hatcher are all restricted free agents, so Odrick could start as early as 2011.

He also has the versatility to be the backup for Jay Ratliff at nose tackle.

Cons

Odrick got arrested last March, so there are a few character questions. He also may not get much playing time in 2010 barring an injury, and could take time to transition to a new position.

Kyle Wilson

Pros

Wilson is an incredible athlete, listed as the #1 cornerback and #8 overall player on our Big Board. Wilson would come in and immediately compete with Orlando Scandrick for the nickel cornerback position. Scandrick struggled some last season, and we gave him a ‘C’ in our cornerback grades.

Wilson’s true impact, though, would come on special teams. He would be an upgrade at both the punt and kick returner spots. We listed a dominant return man as the Cowboys’ top draft need.

Cons

Scandrick is not a poor player and we expect him to improve in 2010. Remember, he played so well his rookie season that he earned the right to alternate starts in the beginning of the season with current starter Mike Jenkins. Bringing in Wilson could set back Scandrick’s progress, although you can never have too many cornerbacks.

Wilson may also have the toughest time of all these players eventually cracking the starting lineup. Iupati, Bryant, and Odrick could all be starters by 2011 at the latest, while Wilson might have to wait a little longer.

Who is the pick?

With the 27th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select. . . . . . . . . Kyle Wilson!

If these four players are somehow still on the board at 27, it will surely be hard for Jerry Jones to pass on Dez Bryant. Still, we see Wilson as a unique talent without the character concerns.

Dallas could also pencil Wilson in to have an immediate impact (as a returner), something they probably could not do with the other three options.

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Top 90 2010 NFL Draft Prospects: Post-Combine

Below is our revised list of the top 2010 NFL Draft prospects, along with a rundown of big risers and fallers. Players changed positions not only based on Combine results, but also due to extra opportunity for us to study game film.

Risers

Sean Weatherspoon, Devin McCourty, Dan Williams, Morgan Burnett, DeMaryius Thomas, Arrelious Benn, Vladimir Ducasse, Golden Tate, Eric Norwood, Kareem Jackson, Ryan Mathews, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Geno Atkins, Roger Saffold, Ricky Sapp, Marshall Newhouse, Major Wright, Ben Tate

Fallers

Dez Bryant, Joe Haden, Anthony Davis, Dezmon Briscoe, Donovan Warren, Brandon LaFell, Jon Asamoah, Everson Griffen, Brandon Ghee, Chad Jones, Jordan Shipley, Damian Williams, Myron Rolle, Jason Fox, Aaron Hernandez, Micah Johnson

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.

Concerns about Dez Bryant's attitude and work ethic have dropped him on our board.

1 Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska

2 Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma

3 Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State

4 C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson

5 Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

6 Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas

7 Earl Thomas, S, Texas

8 Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State

9 Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan

10 Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State

11 Joe Haden, CB, Florida

12 Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa

13 Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, USF

14 Mike Iupati, G, Idaho

We are very high on Devin McCourty, rating him as the 21st best player overall.

15 Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida

16 Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma

17 Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech

18 Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama

19 Jared Odrick, DT/DE, Penn State

20 Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri

21 Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers

22 Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida

23 Jahvid Best, RB, California

24 Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

25 Brian Price, DT, UCLA

26 Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU

27 Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

28 Morgan Burnett, S, Georgia Tech

Dezmon Briscoe, once our second-rated WR, has dropped due to his lackluster speed.

29 DeMaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech

30 Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois

31 Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers

32 Dezmon Briscoe, WR, Kansas

33 Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland

34 Donovan Warren, CB, Michigan

35 Charles Brown, OT, USC

36 Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida

37 Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Ole Miss

38 Taylor Mays, S, USC

39 Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame

40 Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati

41 Vladimir Ducasse, G/T, UMass

42 Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame

43 Chris Cook, CB/FS, Virginia

44 Jason Worilds, DE, Virginia Tech

45 Tim Tebow, QB, Florida

Perrish Cox is one of a handful of players to comprise what we believe is a very underrated cornerback class.

46 Eric Norwood, LB, South Carolina

47 Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama

48 Nate Allen, S, USF

49 Perrish Cox, CB, Oklahoma State

50 Daryl Washington, LB, TCU

51 Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State

52 Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, CB, Indiana of Pennsylvania

53 Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU

54 Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State

55 Jon Asamoah, G, Illinois

56 Javier Arenas, CB, Alabama

57 Geno Atkins, DT, Georgia

58 Roger Saffold, OT, Indiana

59 Everson Griffen, DE, USC

60 Alex Carrington, DE, Arkansas State

61 Brandon Ghee, CB, Wake Forest

62 Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama

Mike Neal is a player Dallas may target as a defensive end in their 3-4 scheme.

63 Chad Jones, S, LSU

64 Ricky Sapp, DE, Clemson

65 Jordan Shipley, WR, Texas

66 Mike Neal, DT/DE, Purdue

67 Marshall Newhouse, G, TCU

68 Major Wright, S, Florida

69 Corey Wootton, DE, Northwestern

70 Reshad Jones, S, Georgia

71 Joe McKnight, RB, USC

72 Amari Spievey, CB, Iowa

73 Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma

74 Mike Johnson, G, Alabama

75 Ben Tate, RB, Auburn

Myron Rolle is very intelligent, but he displayed poor hips and ball skills at the Combine.

76 Lamarr Houston, DT, Texas

77 Carlton Mitchell, WR, USF

78 Cam Thomas, DT, UNC

79 Damian Williams, WR, USC

80 Myron Rolle, S, Florida State

81 D’Anthony Smith, DT, Louisiana Tech

82 Jared Veldheer, OT, Hillsdale

83 Tony Washington, OT, Abilene Christian

84 Jason Fox, OT, Miami

85 Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida

86 Micah Johnson, LB, Kentucky

87 Zane Beadles, G/T, Utah

88 Greg Hardy, DE, Ole Miss

89 Clifton Geathers, DE, South Carolina

90 Navarro Bowman, LB, Penn State

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2010 NFL Mock Draft Version 2.0

Sam Bradford jumps to the first overall pick in our latest mock draft.

1. St. Louis Rams- Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

In Version 1.0 of our 32-team mock draft, we had Clausen going first overall. That changes as St. Louis is rumored to have more interest in Bradford as the ticket to future success.

2. Detroit Lions- Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska

The Lions are rumored to have heavy interest in OT Russell Okung, but look for them to take the highest-rated non-QB on their board. We doubt Okung will be rated higher than Suh on any board.

3. Tampa Bay Bucs- Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma

McCoy’s 23 bench press reps are a concern, but he has displayed good overall intelligence and character, making any worries about his work ethic a bit less concerning.

4. Washington Redskins- Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State

Will Jimmy Clausen be the pick? The Redskins placed a first round tender on Campbell, so he isn’t going anywhere. Washington needs to fix their line or no quarterback will be able to succeed.

5. Kansas City Chiefs- Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa

The Chiefs are in dire need of a left tackle, and Bryan Bulaga has steadily been moving up boards. Safety Eric Berry could also be the selection here.

6. Seattle Seahawks- Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame

Although we do not believe Clausen represents great value (we had him as the #37 rated overall player on our initial Big Board), it is tough to pass up what you consider to be a potential franchise quarterback. Pete Carroll is very familiar with Clausen’s skill set.

Trent Williams is the third Oklahoma player in the top eight of this mock draft.

7. Cleveland Browns- Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

The Browns would be doing cartwheels to grab Berry here. They have been rumored to be seeking either him or Florida CB Joe Haden. It will be interesting to see if they select Haden if Berry is off the board despite Haden’s poor 40-yard dash time.

8. Oakland Raiders- Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma

Could it be? The Raiders don’t select the biggest, fastest player on the board? Look out for Maryland tackle Bruce Campbell here, but Williams ran just three-hundredths of a second slower (4.88) than Campbell, so his game tape could be the deciding factor (if Al Davis even looks at game tape).

9. Buffalo Bills- Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama

The Bills have a lot of holes to fill. It will be interesting to see what they decide to do if Clausen or Bradford is still on the board at this point.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars- Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, USF

Despite signing DE Aaron Kampman, the Jags will still be searching for talented pass-rushers early and often come April. Pierre-Paul is an athletic freak (260 pounds, 4.64) and a good fit in Jacksonville’s scheme.

11. Denver Broncos- Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

This may seem a bit high for the DT from Tennessee, but we have talked to multiple scouts who say Dan Williams may be the most under-the-radar player in this year’s draft. Denver desperately needs to improve their run defense, and at 330 pounds, Williams may be just the man for the job.

12. Miami Dolphins-Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan

Lately there have been concerns about Anthony Davis's work ethic, but tackles never last long on draft day.

Graham has been soaring up the rankings since the Senior Bowl. After losing Jason Taylor, the ‘Phins will be on the lookout for a player such as Graham who is versatile enough to stuff the run as efficiently as he gets to the quarterback.

13. San Francisco 49ers- Earl Thomas, FS, Texas

An overwhelming amount of Dallas fans want Thomas to be the team’s selection, but there is just no way he drops to the back of the round. A cornerback could also be the pick if San Fran releases Nate Clements.

14. Seattle Seahawks- Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers

Davis’ stock could be slipping after he did not even weigh in or participate in drills at Rutgers’ Pro Day. Still, Seattle needs a replacement for LT Walter Jones.

15. New York Giants- Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State

In a bit of a shocker, we have Kyle Wilson as the first CB off the board. Successful corners generally have either great size or speed, and Joe Haden has neither. That is not to say he won’t be a good corner, but Wilson is a more fluid athlete with greater versatility. He could help New York in the return game.

16. Tennessee Titans- Joe Haden, CB, Florida

Picks #15 and #16 could be flip-flopped on draft day, but we are going to stick with what we have heard from scouts. Ex-Ravens and Browns scout Daniel Jeremiah told us there is a chance that Haden drops into the 20’s.

17. San Francisco 49ers- C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson

We debated listing Spiller as the 49ers’ first pick in the round, which is a definite possibility with Seattle selecting right behind them at #14. If Spiller lasts this long, expect the Niners, who will have already addressed one position of need, to bring in the home-run hitter to complement Frank Gore.

Maurkice Pouncey is an option for Dallas, but he might not last until pick #27.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers- Mike Iupati, G, Idaho

The Steelers’ linemen are getting old quickly, and the organization always places an emphasis on do-it-all players. Iupati, who will likely play guard in the NFL, has the potential to kick out to tackle, a characteristic which will surely boost his draft stock.

19. Atlanta Falcons- Maurkice Pouncey, G/C, Florida

We had Pouncey as the Cowboys’ selection in our last mock draft, but in this particular version he won’t be available for Dallas. A lot of people may be surprised to see Pouncey this high, but some teams reportedly have him as a top 10 overall player.

20. Houston Texans- Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State

Local Houston newspapers have reported the Texans are going to select either Earl Thomas or Ryan Mathews. We think Thomas will be long gone, so Mathews will come into Houston with an immediate opportunity to start over Steve Slaton.

21. Cincinnati Bengals- Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech

With the signing of WR Antonio Bryant, the Bengals’ focus will likely shift to the defensive side of the ball. Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall are excellent cornerbacks who could benefit from the pass rush abilities of a player such as Derrick Morgan.

22. New England Patriots- Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State

Stories of Bryant missing meetings and even showing up late to games could be erroneous, but they still may hurt a player who already had character concerns. If Bryant drops into the 20’s he is dangerously close to Jerry Jones’ trade range. If the Cowboys stand pat, the Patriots would love a play-maker like Bryant to possibly replace Randy Moss in 2011.

23. Green Bay Packers- Charles Brown, OT, USC

Charles Brown is an undersized, athletic tackle who fits best in a West Coast offense because of his superb ability in pass protection. Green Bay re-signed tackle Chad Clifton but will lose OT Mark Tauscher, so Brown fills a need.

24. Philadelphia Eagles- Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri

We love the upside of Texas LB Sergio Kindle.

Weatherspoon impressed at both the Combine and Missouri’s Pro Day, displaying the sort of consistency NFL coaches love. Philly may also go with Kyle Wilson or Joe Haden here if they happen to fall, but linebacker is a prime need.

25. Baltimore Ravens- Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas

We had Kindle rated as the #8 overall prospect on our Big Board, so Baltimore would be acquiring tremendous value here. Their wide receiver position is no longer weak with signings of Donte Stallworth and Derrick Mason and the trade for Anquan Boldin.

26. Arizona Cardinals- Taylor Mays, S, USC

Honestly, we think Mays is going to be an average player at best in the NFL, but a lot of people obviously disagree. Some team will fall in love with his workout numbers, and Arizona would probably love to see Mays drop to them after losing Antrel Rolle.

27. Dallas Cowboys- Jared Odrick, DT/DE, Penn State

At this point, Cowboys fans will likely be screaming for the team to select Maryland LT Bruce Campbell. Despite the need for an upgrade at tackle, we still see Odrick as the most likely pick. There is a good chance either Marcus Spears, Jason Hatcher, or Stephen Bowen will not be back in 2011, and in addition to playing defensive end, Odrick can also become the primary backup to DT Jay Ratliff. If Odrick is gone at this point, which is a decent possibility, we see Bruce Campbell, Golden Tate, Brian Price, and Devin McCourty all as legitimate options for Dallas.

McCourty may seem like a reach to some, but don't be shocked to see him be a first round selection.

28. San Diego Chargers- Jahvid Best, RB, California

We love Jahvid Best’s skill set, and despite concerns about his size, he is actually the same size as C.J. Spiller. RB Darren Sproles may or may not return to San Diego, but either way the team must address the position early in the draft.

29. New York Jets- Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame

Questions about Tate’s speed disappeared after his 4.42 official 40 time in Indianapolis. WR Braylon Edwards may not be in New York next season, so the Jets have to stock up on weapons for Mark Sanchez.

30. Minnesota Vikings- Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers

A bit of a sleeper to sneak into the first round, McCourty displayed superb fluidity and change of direction at the Combine. In addition, he also possesses above average size and speed. Minnesota is desperate for an upgrade over Cedric Griffin.

31. Indianapolis Colts- Brian Price, DT, UCLA

We see Price as a legitimate option to convert to defensive end in a 3-4, but a lot of teams see him as a three-technique defensive tackle. He is an underrated player that will fit in well with Indy’s undersized defense.

32. New Orleans Saints- Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma

The Saints are pretty free to select the best player available at this point. Linebacker is a bit of a question mark right now, so Brandon Spikes may be an option. Also do not rule out the Golden Child, Tim Tebow. Sean Payton is creative enough to concoct ways to utilize Tebow’s talent without disrupting the productivity of Drew Brees.

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Top 75 NFL Draft Prospects

Although we are die-hard Cowboys fans, we are also fans of the NFL in general. As such, we love the Draft and form an annual “Big Board.” Below is a list of our top 75 NFL prospects, with potential Cowboys’ draft selections in bold.

1 Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska

Ndamukong Suh's athleticism and intelligence make him a seemingly can't-miss prospect.

2 Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma

3 Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State

4 Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State

5 C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson

6 Joe Haden, CB, Florida

7 Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

8 Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas

9 Earl Thomas, S, Texas

10 Mike Iupati, G, Idaho

11 Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State

12 Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan

13 Bryan Bulaga, OT, Iowa

14 Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, USF

15 Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech

16 Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama

17 Jared Odrick, DT/DE, Penn State

We think many are underestimating the potential of Kansas WR Dezmon Briscoe.

18 Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers

19 Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida

20 Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma

21 Dezmon Briscoe, WR, Kansas

22 Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland

23 Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

24 Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida

25 Jahvid Best, RB, California

26 Donovan Warren, CB, Michigan

27 Charles Brown, OT, USC

28 Brian Price, DT, UCLA

29 Jerry Hughes, DE, TCU

30 Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida

Few even know the name 'Jason Worilds,' but we have him as a near-first round prospect.

31 Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee

32 Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri

33 Morgan Burnett, S, Georgia Tech

34 Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Ole Miss

35 Taylor Mays, S, USC

36 Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois

37 Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame

38 Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati

39 Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers

40 Jason Worilds, DE, Virginia Tech

41 Brandon LaFell, WR, LSU

42 Jon Asamoah, G, Illinois

43 Nate Allen, S, USF

44 Everson Griffen, DE, USC

45 DeMaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech

Is there a possibility Jerry Jones takes a chance on the Golden Child?

46 Tim Tebow, QB, Florida

47 Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame

48 Alex Carrington, DE, Arkansas State

49 Brandon Ghee, CB, Wake Forest

50 Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama

51 Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State

52 Chad Jones, S, LSU

53 Jordan Shipley, WR, Texas

54 Perrish Cox, CB, Oklahoma State

55 Damian Williams, WR, USC

56 Myron Rolle, S, Florida State

57 Mike Johnson, G, Alabama

58 Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida

59 Corey Wootton, DE, Northwestern

60 Reshad Jones, S, Georgia

61 Daryl Washington, LB, TCU

62 Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma

The Cowboys might deem LT Ciron Black a worthy selection in the middle rounds if they do not address the position earlier.

63 Eric Norwood, LB, South Carolina

64 D’Anthony Smith, DT, Louisiana Tech

65 Greg Hardy, DE, Ole Miss

66 Vladimir Ducasse, G/T, UMass

67 Clifton Geathers, DE, South Carolina

68 Jason Fox, OT, Miami

69 Javier Arenas, CB, Alabama

70 Micah Johnson, LB, Kentucky

71 Ciron Black, OT, LSU

72 Joe McKnight, RB, USC

73 Trevard Lindley, CB, Kentucky

74 Navarro Bowman, LB, Penn State

75 Mike Neal, DT/DE, Purdue


Notes

  • Some players not in bold would be good fits in Dallas, but we don’t see the team being in position to select them.
  • We are very high on Sergio Kindle, Kyle Wilson, Brandon Graham, Dezmon Briscoe, Jahvid Best, Dexter McCluster, Mardy Gilyard, Jordan Shipley, Alex Carrington, D’Anthony Smith, Jason Worilds, and Micah Johnson.
  • We are very low on Sam Bradford, Jimmy Clausen, Taylor Mays, Terrence Cody, and Jermaine Gresham.

Feel free to comment on which players you think we may be over or underestimating.