The DC Times

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

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys News and Notes: 3/17/10

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By Jonathan Bales

Top Five Reasons Brandon Marshall Will Not Join the Cowboys

Brandon Marshall is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL. So why would he be a poor fit in Dallas?

Of all the players that Cowboys fans could want, we hear Brandon Marshall’s name come up more than any other. The reasons are obvious. Big. Strong. Fast. 21 receptions in one game.

Marshall is also ripe for the picking as the Broncos only placed a first round tender on the stud receiver, practically begging another club to provide him with a one-way ticket out of Denver.

With Roy Williams struggling, why not give up a late first round pick for a player who would be dynamite outside opposite Miles Austin? The reasons are below.

1. Like T.O., Marshall would not take a back seat as a secondary option.

We recently detailed why T.O. would probably not respond well to being a complementary player in Dallas. The same is true of Marshall.

Would Marshall come in and automatically be the Cowboys’ number one receiver, or would it be Austin? It could be more of a 1A and 1B situation, but either way, Austin is too good to not continuously utilize.

Our inclination is that Marshall would want to see the bulk of the targets in the passing game. There just are not enough balls to go around to effectively satisfy Marshall, Austin, and Witten and maintain a dominant running game. Someone would be unhappy, and do we really want it to be players who have already put their heart into playing for the silver and blue?

2. In addition to yielding a first round pick, the Cowboys would also have to provide Marshall a long-term contract.

The Cowboys could only land Marshall by signing him to an offer sheet. That contract offer obviously has to have enough guaranteed money that Marshall will be willing to sign it.

After dishing out $45 million to Roy Williams and another big-time deal in the works for Austin, the Cowboys, surprisingly, will be a bit short on funds.

The organization could theoretically dump a huge portion of the contract into the 2010 uncapped season, but Jerry Jones is no fool. He has already stated the Cowboys have imposed a team-mandated salary cap for themselves.

Signing Austin long-term takes precedent over bringing in a guy like Marshall. After that happens, an offer to Marshall would mean the club would be investing well over $100 million in three wide receivers. Not exactly business-savvy.

3. Marshall does not fit the character profile of the current Cowboys’ players.

The Cowboys released T.O., Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, and Greg Ellis last offseason. There was a method to their madness. The current roster is composed of 53 stand-up, intelligent, high-character guys.

This is not to say that Marshall cannot be those things, but he has proven that he can become a bit of a distraction at times. There is no way that Jerry, influenced by his son Stephen, will be able to justify bringing in a possible trouble-maker.

Like it or not, this man is one of the main reasons the Cowboys will not sign a big-time free agent wide receiver in 2010.

4. Without a first round pick, the Cowboys would not be able to upgrade a more urgent position of need.

If the Cowboys do want to bolster the receiver spot, the draft is a great time to do it. Not only will it be less of a financial burden, but the team can also save their first-rounder by drafting dodging Marshall and drafting a receiver in the mid-to-late rounds.

Signing Marshall not only eats up a lot of cash, but it also erases the Cowboys’ ability to sign an impact player (perhaps an offensive lineman), in the first round. Instead, Dallas would have to wait until the 59th pick of the draft to upgrade either the offensive line, safety, or another position.

From the standpoint of a selfish fan, the draft without a first round pick, as we saw last year, can be quite monotonous.

5. No one is sure how hard Marshall will play once he obtains big money.

Marshall was a fourth-rounder out of UCF in the 2006 draft. Needless to say, his rookie contract wasn’t exactly Peyton Manning-type money.

Very talented players can alter their approach and overall mindset to football after cashing in, i.e. Jamarcus Russell. While Marshall does appear to have the proper work ethic intact to ensure that does not happen, you can never be sure.

At the very least, there does appear to be something about Marshall that makes it appear as though he is not as serious about the game of football as, say, Austin or Witten.

Conclusions

Marshall is certainly both an uncommon talent and a unique individual. He will undoubtedly help some team immensely–but that team us unlikely to be the Dallas Cowboys.

It isn’t that signing Marshall would be the worst thing in the world. Heck, it could even work out for the best. But operating a professional football team is about playing the percentages. At this time, Marshall is not a “high-percentage play” for Dallas.

By Jonathan Bales

Top Ten Dallas Cowboys Draft Classes of All-Time

As the 2010 draft approaches, we have been focused on bringing you Mock Drafts, various Cowboys’ Potential Draft Picks, and articles on draft strategy. Sometimes, though, the most effective way to predict the future is to study the past. In determining which path the Cowboys may take come April, we have provided you with a “blast from the past”– the top ten Cowboys’ draft classes of all-time.

10. 2008

Best Pick: Mike Jenkins, CB, USF (First Round)

We admit that we are a bit “new school” (although we would argue more of a mix of old and new), and so we begin this list with one of the Cowboys’ most recent drafts. Five of the six selections have already made significant contributions to the team. We chose Jenkins as the best pick of the draft, but that title could also go to RB Felix Jones as well.

The importance of the 2008 draft was not due only to first-rounders Jenkins and Jones, but also to mid-rounders Tashard Choice (fourth) and Orlando Scandrick (fifth). Martellus Bennett rounds out the 2008 class, and collectively they have provided a talented young base upon which the Cowboys will be able to build for years to come.

9. 1961

Best Pick: Bob Lilly, DT, TCU (First Round)

The 1961 Cowboys’ draft class is the oldest on our list and one of only two draft classes in team history to contain two Hall of Famers (you will see the other class later). Bob Lilly was selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary team and was amazingly a part of both the 1960′s and 1970′s All-Decade teams. He was also an 11-time Pro Bowl selection.

Lilly was also joined by guard Billy Shaw, a player who was drafted in both the AFL and NFL drafts. Shaw was elected to the Hall of Fame, but unfortunately not as a member of the Cowboys. He is the only Hall of Famer to never play a snap in the NFL.

8. 1974

Top Pick: Ed “Too Tall” Jones, DE, Tennessee State (First Round)

The 1974 Cowboys’ draft class was headlined by first-rounder defensive end Ed Jones. The rookie out of Tennessee State eventually became a three-time All-Pro, leading the Cowboys to a Super Bowl XII championship.

Jones was joined by third round selection Danny White, an All-Pro player who threw for 155 touchdowns and over 21,000 yards.

7. 1991

Best Pick: Leon Lett, DT, Emporia State (Seventh Round)

The 1991 draft class was headlined by a player whose college would remain an unknown to most had the Cowboys not selected him in the seventh round. Despite his share of bonehead plays and off-field struggles, Leon Lett was a dominant tackle who played an integral role in the Cowboys’ run of 90′s Super Bowl championships (Don Beebe would agree).

The Cowboys also secured a multitude of future impact players in that ’91 draft, including Pro Bowl players Russell Maryland and Erik Williams. In addition, Alvin Harper and Dixon Edwards became starters, and CB Larry Brown, a 12th round selection, was the Super Bowl XXX MVP.

6. 1977

Best Pick: Tony Dorsett, RB, Pittsburgh (First Round)

Tony Dorsett, a Heisman trophy winner at Pitt, was the 2nd overall pick in the 1977 draft. He tallied 92 total touchdowns and over 12,000 yards in his career. Dorsett became the first player to win a Super Bowl just one year after winning a college national championship.

Dorsett was joined by Pro Bowl WR Tony Hill and 10th round San Jose State quarterback Steve DeBerg in the ’77 class.

5. 2005

Best Pick: Demarcus Ware, OLB, Troy (First Round)

Selecting the best pick from the 2005 draft class was also a difficult task, as the Cowboys were able to obtain incredible value in the seventh round with the selection of DT Jay Ratliff. Ware, though, has been so dominant that he became the choice. Although it is too early to tell (and we don’t want to jinx him), there is an excellent shot that we are watching a future Hall of Famer in Ware.

The Cowboys had two first round selections in 2005, and the second was used on Marcus Spears. In addition, the team was able to acquire Pro Bowler Marion Barber and now ex-Cowboy Chris Canty in the fourth round.

4. 1988

Best Pick: Michael Irvin, WR, “The U” (First Round)

The Cowboys probably could not have hit any better with their first two selections in the 1988 draft, selecting Michael Irvin and LB Ken Norton, Jr. The duo went 1-15 in their rookie season, but Irvin was the first component of “the trio” to be selected, and undoubtedly the heart and soul of the 90′s Cowboys dynasty.

Ken Norton, Jr. was a Pro Bowl linebacker, and Dallas also added impact player DT Chad Hennings in the 11th round.

3. 1975

Best Pick: Randy White, DT, Maryland (First Round)

The 1975 “Dirty Dozen” is frequently thought of as the top Cowboys draft class ever, so perhaps we are short-changing them a bit. In addition to selecting Hall of Famer Randy White in the first round, Dallas obtained eleven other rookies to make the team out of camp, including eight who were regular starters for at least one season.

The class was also headlined by LB Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, DE Pat Donovan, and G Herbert Scott, all of whom made the Pro Bowl.

2. 1989

Best Pick: Troy Aikman, QB, UCLA (First Overall)

The Cowboys’ 1989 draft will be remembered for the selection of Troy Aikman as the first overall pick. The importance of hitting on this pick cannot be overstated as, had Dallas missed, it is not crazy to believe the team would currently own only two Super Bowl victories. Instead, Aikman was a HOF player sandwiched between two others in the preceding and following drafts, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith. With Smith getting inducted into the Hall of Fame this fall, the trio will be immortalized together in Canton forever.

The selection of Aikman alone may have been enough for this ’89 class to make our top ten list, but the Cowboys also obtained four other Pro Bowl players who were a vital part of their ’92, ’93, and ’95 championship seasons: guard Steve Wisniewski, fullback Daryl “Moose” Johnston, center Mark Stepnoski, and defensive end Tony Tolbert.

1. 1964

Best Pick: Roger Staubach, QB, Navy (10th Round)

The #1 ranked Cowboys draft class of all-time is also the second-oldest on this list. Back in 1964, the draft was a ridiculously long 20 rounds. During that season, the Cowboys obtained three Pro Bowl players in round seven or later (Staubach, guard Jake Kupp, and WR “Bullet” Bob Hayes). Of course Staubach became a Hall of Famer, throwing for 153 touchdowns and over 22,000 yards.

Incredibly, Staubach was not the only HOF player from the 1964 draft. In the second round, the Cowboys selected a cornerback out of Oregon named Mel Renfro, perhaps the most underrated player in Cowboys’ history. After 52 career interceptions, Renfro was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996.

By Jonathan Bales

2010 NFL Combine Losers

Dan Lefevour missed a chance to be the most talented quarterback to participate in the Combine.

Yesterday, we detailed the “winners” of the NFL Combine. Today, we analyze those players who may have substantially hurt their draft stock.

Ole Miss RB/WR Dexter McCluster

We think McCluster’s poor performance at the Combine is a bit over-hyped. Yes, he ran a 4.58 forty, but he showed explosion with a 37.5 inch vertical. In addition, McCulster also proved he has been working out with an incredible 20 bench press reps at just 165 pounds. McCluster certainly plays faster than he timed, so we think he will bring excellent value to any team that selects him.

Central Michigan QB Dan Lefevour

With so many quarterbacks not working out at the Combine, Lefevour had a shot to move up boards. He likely would have been the best signal-caller participating in drills. Instead, he chose to only work out at his Pro Day, displaying a lack of competitiveness which will hurt his draft stock.

Kansas WR Dezmon Briscoe

Briscoe was a guy not many people were high on pre-Combine, yet we had him ranked as our #21 overall prospect. We knew he would have a sub-par forty (4.61), but his nine bench press reps call his work ethic into question. We still love his body control and ball skills, but Briscoe will likely slide down boards into the third or fourth round.

Cincinnati WR Mardy Gilyard

Ciron Black has been in a tailspin since the start of the '09 season.

Gilyard, a player most were expecting to run in the 4.40 range, posted just a 4.56 forty. In a way, this could help the Cowboys a lot, as Gilyard could easily drop to the back of the second round (after pre-Combine rumors of him jumping into the back of the first). We knew Gilyard plays fast and brings tremendous upside in the return game.

Texas WR Jordan Shipley

Like Gilyard, Shipley’s poor Combine performance could help the Cowboys. In addition to a 4.57 forty, Shipley also looked shaky in position drills. We have watched enough tape on him, though, to know what Shipley brings to the table. Instead of using their second round pick on Shipley, there is now a chance Dallas could grab him with their third.

LSU OT Ciron Black

We are not worried about Black’s numbers as much as what we saw in the drills. He looked slow, stiff, and out of shape. Black bent over at the waist instead of the knees, displaying poor form and an overall lack of athleticism. He could easily drop to the late rounds of the draft.

Is there a chance Joe Haden drops to pick #27? At least one scout thinks so.

Kentucky LB Micah Johnson

Johnson’s 4.99 forty was by far the worst of any linebacker (there was only one other player above 4.90). We were surprised by this result perhaps more than any at the entire Combine. Johnson displays good sideline-to-sideline speed on tape, so it is possible he was not completely healthy. We still like him as an option for Dallas at inside linebacker, but he would likely only be a two-down linebacker.

Michigan CB Donovan Warren

Donovan Warren had a shot of being the third cornerback taken in the 2010 draft. That is unrealistic now, as Warren displayed inadequate speed (4.59) and poor strength (12 reps). A cover two team might jump on him, but he is not a fit for Dallas’ scheme on defense.

Florida CB Joe Haden

How bad was Joe Haden’s Combine? He went from a consensus top ten pick to possibly losing his status as the first cornerback taken to Boise State’s Kyle Wilson. One scout we talked to actually said Haden could drop to the back of the first round because elite corners must have either size or speed, and Haden showed neither. If he somehow dropped to pick #27, Dallas would have to take a long look at him despite no immediate need at cornerback.

Nebraska S Larry Asante

Larry Asante is in the mix with Morgan Burnett, Nate Allen, Chad Jones, and Reshad Jones to be the fourth safety off the board come April. He may have dropped to the back of that pack after his Tuesday workout running a 4.63, posting just 14 reps, and exhibiting poor hips and change of direction in position drills.

LSU S Chad Jones

Chad Jones ran nearly as poorly as Asante (4.57), but at least Jones is 15 pounds heavier. However, at 230 pounds, Jones’ nine bench press reps are pathetic. His size and lack of speed make him an unrealistic option for Dallas.

Chad Jones doesn't fit the safety mold for which Dallas is searching.

By Jonathan Bales

Antrel Rolle and the Dallas Cowboys: Pros and Cons

Safety Antrel Rolle has good ball skills and could help Dallas force more turnovers.

There have been rumors abound lately concerning the potential addition of Antrel Rolle to the Dallas Cowboys roster. Rolle is expected to be released in the coming days and has already been linked to several teams, including Chicago, Dallas, and even staying in Arizona. We take a look at some of the positives and negatives that would come with the signing of Rolle.

Pros

1. Rolle has good ball skills and play-making ability.

Rolle, the eighth overall pick in the 2005 draft, came out of the University of Miami as a cornerback. We know he is an athletic, rangy safety, characteristics that could benefit Dallas greatly at the position. Rolle can match up favorably with tight ends, running backs, and perhaps even slot receivers. That trait is something Dallas is lacking now from their safeties.

2. He has experience in a defense similar to the Cowboys’ defense.

The Cards, like Dallas, play a lot of man coverage. Like we said, Rolle can play man-to-man against a variety of players, but he can also play centerfield in cover one, a coverage the Cowboys utilize frequently. Rolle’s experience at cornerback would also give the Cowboys a bit of versatility in how they can use him.

Cons

Rolle is a gambling safety who gives up a lot of big plays. The Cowboys want their free safety to ensure that does not happen.

1. His play-making ability is not elite and he gives up a lot of big plays.

While Rolle does have better play-making ability than Ken Hamlin, his skills are by no means elite. There is a reason the Cardinals are not paying him his bonus money and letting him test free agency. A lot of fans think Rolle is the answer to all of the Cowboys’ woes on defense, but he is not Ed Reed.

Not only is he not an All-Pro type defender, but Rolle also gives up a lot of big plays. He gambles a lot, which is something that would be discouraged if he landed in Dallas. A big part of Ken Hamlin’s lack of big plays is the role the Cowboys ask him to fulfill. Hamlin has done a tremendous job of setting up the defense and not allowing many big plays.

What makes anyone sure Rolle is ready to change the way he plays? Dallas does need to force more turnovers, but not at the expense of giving up the same number of big plays.

Further, Rolle is a very poor tackler. Hamlin’s ability to bring down the ball-carrier is also sub-par, but he also does not cost nearly as much as Rolle would (which brings us to con #2).

2. The value for Rolle will not be there.

Rolle is seeking over $8 million a year. This would make him the highest-paid safety in the NFL. More than Troy Polamalu. More than Ed Reed. Rolle is an above-average safety, but nothing more. Free agency is a lot like the draft in that you are always seeking value, and making Rolle the league’s highest-paid safety does not constitute good value.

Conclusion

The signing of Antrel Rolle would bring with it both positives and negatives. Rolle has good play-making ability and probably would help the Cowboys force more turnovers. Unfortunately, it is likely these takeaways would come at a price. If the defense is allowing more long touchdowns, are the extra takeaways really worth it? Rolle’s abilities are not elite enough to make up for these negative plays.

USF safety Nate Allen is a ball-hawk the Cowboys could target in round two.

The value that comes with signing Rolle would also be poor. While the top five free safeties in the league are averaging $6.25 million a year, Rolle wants over $8 million. He simply is not worth it.

A more logical goal for the Cowboys, in our opinion, would be to target their favorite safety in the draft and make sure they get him. Although Eric Berry will go too early for this to be possible,everyone else, including Texas safety Earl Thomas, is a possibility. If Thomas is the guy the ‘Boys covet and he drops into the 20′s, they should make the move.

Otherwise, there are capable safeties that will go later in the draft as well. Georgia Tech’s Morgan Burnett, USF’s Nate Allen, and Georgia’s Reshad Jones are all safeties who fit the Cowboys’ mold and could be available in the back of round two.

Drafting a free safety in round two or later would likely mean that Ken Hamlin sticks around. While this would be wildly unpopular with most fans, Hamlin is a cerebral player from whom a rookie could take a year to learn the defense. Further, we have a feeling Hamlin is set to rebound nicely in 2010.

Overall, whichever direction the team decides to go, there appear to be better options than overpaying Antrel Rolle.

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Potential Draft Picks: Jacoby Ford, WR, Clemson

Clemson WR Jacoby Ford reminds us of Dolphins' receiver Ted Ginn.

It is no secret that Roy Williams has struggled in his year and a half with the Cowboys. When we watched the game film again, it was stunning to see how Williams’ confidence took a noticeable downward turn as the season progressed. It is true that Williams is a bit limited in what he can do, but this lack of swagger is what affected his play most in 2009.

Still, Roy is going to be on the team this season. Despite his lack of production, Williams was a very effective player in Detroit, so there is some potential there. It is up to Romo, Williams, and Garrett to figure out which routes work best for Roy and to develop the requisite chemistry for success.

A lot of people believe Kevin Ogletree could push for Williams’ starting spot in camp. This is certainly a possibility, but Williams will be given every chance to win the job. His contract means he really is not going anywhere in 2010.

Despite this, the number one position we hear fans claim must be upgraded is wide receiver. We disagree, as the position is actually fairly strong and deep, but a wide receiver who can return punts and kickoffs would be a nice addition. In reality, if a player’s primary role is as a returner, it does not matter which position he plays. The Cowboys used a roster spot last season on a return specialist (albeit for one game), so if a returner can play wide receiver that is simply a bonus.

Clemson wide receiver Jacoby Ford is a guy the Cowboys could look at to fill this role. The key, of course, will be to not overreact to his Combine-best 4.28 forty-yard dash.

Scouting Report

Jacoby Ford is a track star. He is literally one of the fastest people in the country, evidenced by his Combine forty time. In our opinion, though, his speed does not translate to the football field. Unlike his college teammate C.J. Spiller who is a football player who runs track, Ford is a track star who plays football.

Just as important in football as a player’s speed is how fast he can stop. If a wide receiver can only run one route, it is awfully easy to defend it. Ford appears to be one of these players. He is faster than he is quick, and this straight-line speed is rarely utilized on the field.

Because of these flaws, Ford is very raw at wide receiver. He is a terrible route-runner with average hands at best. Ford may be able to learn to run better routes, but unfortunately you cannot teach a player to have better hips or be more fluid. Ford reminds us almost exactly of Dolphins’ receiver Ted Ginn. Their straight-line speed is not matched by their on-field production.

On top of this, Ford is very small. At 5’9”, 186 pounds, he will not be anything more than a slot receiver in the NFL. Where Ford truly figures to make an impact is as a returner. Thus, if he is available in the middle rounds, Dallas may select him as a returner (and nothing more).

Projection

Before the Combine, Ford was probably a fifth-round selection. Now, we can see a team like the Raiders jumping on him as early as round three. In our opinion, he is nothing more than a late-round prospect, but the Cowboys will probably think long and hard about him if he is still available in the back of round four and they have not yet upgraded their return spots. In fact, we have the team taking the Clemson speedster in our latest Cowboys’ Mock Draft. This does not mean we want the team to draft Ford, as we believe there are other returners available that offer more upside at their particular position (Mardy Gilyard, Dexter McCluster, Jordan Shipley, or Javier Arenas).

By Jonathan Bales

Which Ten Cowboys Will Go?

Jerry Jones recently claimed that the Cowboys will make a significant number of changes this offseason, adding perhaps 10 or 11 new players. Said Jones, “One of the biggest challenges I’ve got in my role here is to be an agent of change this year. We have got to look for ways to make changes. That’s personnel.”

We think Anderson's play warrants his stay on the team.

While we find it hard to believe there will really be ten new Cowboys next season, Jones’ quote got us to thinking: which ten current players might lose their job? Our predictions are below, in no particular order.

1. Deon Anderson- We detailed why Anderson’s valuable play makes us lean toward keeping him. With the Cowboys’ increased emphasis on player conduct, though, Anderson could be a casualty.

2. Patrick Watkins- He is an excellent special teams player, but the addition of another safety via the draft or free agency, or the movement of Alan Ball to full-time free safety could spell his doom.

3. Junior Siavii- If Dallas selects a defensive tackle fairly high come April, Siavii will probably be out of a job.

4. Steve Octavien- Octavien made some plays last preseason, but he just doesn’t figure to ever be more than a special teams player.

5. Ken Hamlin- This is speculative, but there seem to be a variety of ways Hamlin will get released this offseason, i.e. signing Antrel Rolle, drafting a safety, etc. We think Hamlin is a cerebral player who is set to rebound nicely in 2010, but perhaps Jerry Jones craves a ball-hawking safety enough to let him go.

Is it possible that Pat McQuistan's play is uglier than his hair? No, but he still isn't very good.

6. Cory Procter- Procter’s release has been long overdo. He is a sub-par lineman whose versatility has kept him around. Had Dallas not missed out on Max Unger last year, Procter would already be gone.

7. Duke Preston- Preston was already released last year after the team signed Chauncey Washington, only to be re-signed later. If Dallas selects a guard in the draft, Preston is unlikely to stick around.

8. Montrae Holland- Holland could stay if Preston and Procter are released because Dallas would be getting thin at guard. The team also invested a fifth round pick in Holland last season. They may want to see more return on their investment.

9. Sam Hurd- Like Watkins, Hurd is a tremendous special teams player. He also has potential at wide receiver, so his release would be dependent on if the team drafts another receiver, and subsequently how many WR’s they are willing to keep on the roster.

10. Pat McQuistan- The Cowboys are almost certainly going to select a tackle in the early rounds of the draft. They could also address the position again in the later rounds, and with second-year player Robert Brewster returning from a torn pectoral muscle, McQuistan’s time in Dallas has run out.

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Potential Draft Picks: Eric Norwood, LB, South Carolina

Eric Norwood is one of the draft's top pure pass rushers.

We have discussed at length the Cowboys’ need to add depth to the inside linebacker position. Though outside linebacker is often seen as much less of a need, Dallas is somewhat thin behind starters Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.

Second-year players Brandon Williams and Victor Butler are the backups, meaning if either starter goes down due to injury, the Cowboys could be in a bit of trouble. Thus, although not many experts are projecting the Cowboys to target an outside linebacker in the draft (at least not early), it is still a possibility.

This lack of experience, combined with the need for a young playmaker at inside linebacker, makes any player that is versatile enough to play both positions extremely valuable to Dallas. LB Eric Norwood of South Carolina may just be that player.

Scouting Report

Norwood is 6’1”, 252 pounds, meaning he has good size to play inside in a 3-4. Despite this, his exceptional pass rush skills have most projecting him solely as an outside linebacker. We do not totally agree with this assessment. Norwood would be somewhat undersized at OLB, meaning teams would target him in the run game. Because of this, he would likely only be a pass rush specialist if a team pigeonholes him as solely an outside linebacker.

Instead, we believe Norwood is capable of playing both inside and outside. He is fairly explosive at his size, registering a 4.67 forty and 36.5 inch vertical leap at the Combine. Playing him at inside linebacker on running downs, particularly short-yardage situations, might allow him to use his ability to pursue the ball-carrier more so than if he was outside.

His incredible pass rushing abilities could be utilized by moving him to outside linebacker in passing situations. In terms of solely rushing the quarterback, we would actually rate Norwood as a top three prospect in this draft.

Norwood is also durable, having never missed a game in his entire college career. This sort of consistency is also matched in his on-field play. Norwood is a sure tackler and is a rather safe pick for where he will be selected.

His biggest weakness is in coverage. He is very instinctual when rushing the quarterback, but sometimes seems lost in coverage. Thus, Norwood would be primarily an edge rusher in the Cowboys’ scheme, as the team would want to hide this weakness as much as possible.

Overall, we see Norwood as a guy who could become the primary backup to Ware and Spencer, perhaps spelling them in passing situations, with the ability to play inside in a pinch or during short-yardage situations. His versatility is what will appeal to Dallas, and Wade Phillips can never have enough talented rush linebackers.

Projection

Norwood is projected to go around the third round, but we honestly have no idea why he could get selected this low. It is probable that teams see him as a player with no exceptional qualities and limited upside. His perceived lack of outstanding traits will give whichever team selects him excellent value.

He reminds us of Tashard Choice in that his numbers aren’t eye-popping, but he is a leader who is solid in just about every aspect of the game. We have a feeling Norwood could rise to as high as the second round, but if he is available for the Cowboys in the third, it would be awfully tough to pass on a player with his versatility and pass rushing capabilities.

By Jonathan Bales

2010 Cowboys-Only Mock Draft: Version 2.0

In our first Cowboys-only Mock Draft, we projected Dallas to select Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick and Ole Miss RB/WR Dexter McCluster with their first two picks. In Version 2.0 of our Cowboys Mock Draft, we will give you an alternate path the Cowboys may take come April 22nd.

Charles Brown

Round 1- Charles Brown, OT, USC

We profiled Charles Brown in our “Potential Draft Picks” Series, detailing why he is not the typical Cowboys’ lineman. Brown is just 300 pounds and could be a great choice for a West Coast offense, as he excels in pass protection. After the playoff loss in Minnesota, though, Dallas likely wants to upgrade their pass protection. If Brown is still on the board at pick #27, his selection could mean Dallas is changing their offensive philosophy a bit.

Morgan Burnett

Round 2- Morgan Burnett, S, Georgia Tech

Burnett is the sort of safety Dallas covets in that he is versatile enough to play either strong or free safety. Many people are speculating that the Cowboys could sign soon-to-be free agent Antrel Rolle. If that happens (which we still see as unlikely), Burnett would not be an option here. Also, if Texas safety Earl Thomas drops to the Cowboys’ first-round pick, expect him to be the pick and for the team to obviously go a different direction here.

Micah Johnson

Round 3- Micah Johnson, ILB, Kentucky

Micah Johnson certainly possesses all of the physical tools to excel in the NFL, but his health is a question mark. We listed his physical as one of ten things to watch at the Combine. If that ends up checking out, Johnson could rise up boards. He is a sideline-to-sideline player who, in our opinion, can play all three downs. Dallas will likely have to grab him in round three if they are interested.

**UPDATE: Micah Johnson just ran an unofficial 4.99 at the Combine. He did manage 34 reps on the bench press, but with this time and his injury history, Johnson will probably last until the fourth round. His pro day will be enormous for him.

Jacoby Ford

Round 4- Jacoby Ford, WR, Clemson

After notching the fastest forty-yard dash (4.28 official time) at the Combine on Sunday, Ford may rise up some boards. The problem is that he is a poor route runner and doesn’t play nearly as fast as he tested. He is a track star that knows how to run fast in a straight line, but has yet to translate that speed to the football field. We saw him as a fifth or sixth round pick earlier, so expecting him to drop to the back of the fourth round is realistic. Dallas may view him as an upgrade at both return positions.

Corey Peters

Round 6- Corey Peters, DT/DE, Kentucky

Kentucky isn’t exactly a football powerhouse, but we have two of their defenders becoming Cowboys in this particular Mock Draft. Peters, a guy who would have to transition to the “five-technique” in Dallas’ 3-4, would be a project. He had a big-time senior season with 11 tackles for loss and four sacks. He would likely have to compete with practice squad DE Marcus Dixon for a roster spot.

Walter McFadden

Round 7- Walter McFadden, CB, Auburn

You can never have enough talented cornerbacks. McFadden would be a long-shot to have an impact in the near future, but he has good height and adequate speed. He would need to put on a bit of bulk, but perhaps he could push Scandrick to perform better in the slot.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this mock draft or suggest alternative options for upcoming mock drafts.

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Potential Draft Picks: Brian Price, DT/DE, UCLA

UCLA DT Brian Price may be able to transition to defensive end in a 3-4.

We have detailed in the past how often 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL were frequently defensive tackles in college. Cowboys’ defensive end Marcus Spears, for example, was a defensive tackle at LSU. In a 4-3 defense, he played what is called a “three-technique,” meaning he lined up over the offensive guard. In comparison, a 3-4 defensive tackle, or nose tackle, plays a “zero-technique.” He lines up directly over the center.

When 4-3 defensive tackles transition to 3-4 ends, they simply kick out a bit further down the line to line up over the tackle. This is called playing a “five-technique.” Thus, the Cowboys will have their eye on a variety of defensive tackles in this year’s draft, some of whom will stay at defensive tackle in the 3-4, and some of whom will have to transform into defensive ends.

Although it is not the sole factor in determining a college defensive tackle’s future position for a 3-4 NFL team, the player’s weight often gives you an idea of where they will line up. The Cowboys will look at tackles who are 315+ pounds as potential backups for Jay Ratliff at nose tackle, while those in the 300 pound range will have to switch over to the “five-technique” defensive end.

Defensive tackle Brian Price of UCLA is one of these players that would likely have to transition to defensive end in the Cowboys’ 3-4 scheme. We have him listed as the 28th best overall prospect.

Scouting Report

Because of the popularity of defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy, UCLA’s Brian Price is getting little publicity. He may be the best “unknown” player in the draft, though. He has tremendous quickness in small areas. His first step is as good as anyone’s in the league, and although some see him only as a 4-3 defensive tackle, we think his quickness would make the transition to 3-4 defensive end relatively smooth.

For his size (6’2”, 302 pounds), Price has extraordinary athleticism. He reminds us of a better pass-rushing Marcus Spears, which is big praise. He really does an excellent job of diagnosing plays and trusting his read.

Price’s body frame appears to have little room for growth, and he can sometimes get overpowered inside. A lot of the popular knocks on him, though, could be alleviated if he moves to the “five-technique.” To be effective in that position, Price will have to improve against the run while maintaining the instincts and quickness that allow him to be an outstanding pass-rusher.

Projection

Price is right on the border of the Cowboys’ 27th pick. His draft stock depends greatly on how teams view him. Teams that employ a 4-3 defense will likely be interested in Price, but the 3-4 squads may not see him as we do. If they don’t, there is a solid chance that Price drops to pick 27. The question, then, would be if Dallas thinks Price can move to defensive end. If so, they could attain pretty good value with the selection.