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Dallas Cowboys 2011 Mock Draft, Version 3.0: A Free Agent Right Tackle

Jonathan Bales

I personally believe my last Cowboys-only mock draft was my most realistic, with the team addressing the free safety spot via free agency and securing USC tackle Tyron Smith in the first round.

But what if the team address the offensive tackle spot in free agency (or has plans to do so, anyway), leaving a gaping hole at free safety?  I personally believe this is a poor strategy for two reasons.  First, there are plenty of quality free agent safeties, including Michael Huff, Eric Weddle and Dawan Landry.  Second, there are no first-round free safety talents available in this draft.

Perhaps Dallas sees it differently, however, and they believe they can secure a starting-caliber player in the second round (or later).  Plus, there are some quality offensive tackles that will be free agents, including Ryan Clady and Tyson Clabo.  By the way, you can see my entire Cowboys 2011 Free Agency/Draft Guide here.

If the Cowboys do plan on securing a veteran offensive tackle, their draft will look radically different from the one I predicted last week.  With Jerry Jones’ past hesitancy to select offensive linemen in the first round, though, the mock below may not be all that far-fetched.

Round 1- J.J. Watt, DT/DE, Wisconsin

Let me start by stating that, if the Cowboys do not plan on selecting an offensive tackle in the first round (or perhaps even if they do), I believe they will trade down from the ninth overall selection.  With the primary areas of concern being defensive end and safety, there is no reason for the ‘Boys to remain in their current draft slot.  The value simply isn’t there at those positions.  Plus, with Washington selecting 10th and in need of a quarterback and wide receiver, there could be a lot of potential trade partners.  I detailed those scenarios here.

With Dallas eying both Watt and Cal’s Cameron Jordan (also an option here), they would almost certainly be able to acquire a defensive end they like at, say, St. Louis’ 14th overall pick.  For this particular mock, we will assume they acquired an extra third-round pick.

Watt is a player I like, but one with whom I am not in love.  In my scouting report on him, I wrote:

One of my initial concerns about Watt is that, contrary to other reports, he doesn’t seem that stout at the point-of-attack.  I still stand by that statement.  Watt obviously has great size and strength, but when asked to hold ground against the run, he’s an average player.  It’s a bit perplexing, as Watt generally plays with superb leverage.  I think his mindset changes when he’s not asked to get after the quarterback and he becomes more tentative.  That could make him a poor fit in Rob Ryan’s two-gap scheme.

At 290 pounds, though, Watt seems to be a natural fit as a five-technique end.  For his size, Watt is incredibly quick and agile.  He finished in the top four among all defensive linemen in the bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle at the Combine.  Quite impressive.

Watt uses that athleticism on the field in a diverse array of pass rush moves, including what I consider the best swim move in the class.  His rip move and bull rush are also solid, particularly because of his leverage.

I personally prefer Jordan by a hair, but I do consider Watt to be a relatively safe pick.  In the first round, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Round 2- Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

If the Cowboys plan on addressing the free safety position via the draft (meaning attempting to find their starter), there are really only two players they will likely consider.  One is Texas cornerback Aaron Williams, who most view as a safety.  He is actually the top safety on my board, and I think he is a far better player than Moore.  In my opinion, he will be a first-round selection, but he is also certainly a possibility for Dallas here.

I see Moore as a second or third-round talent who is getting pushed up because he is the “consensus” top player at his position.  From my scouting report on Moore:

Moore’s range is quite good, but not extraordinary.  He diagnoses plays very quickly, however, and uses his intelligence to put himself in proper position.  He also has good speed which should help him become better in man-to-man coverage.  Sometimes he has trouble turning his hips and shadowing receivers.

I think Moore can be a good NFL player, but not a great one.  The Cowboys need to be sure they do not overvalue Moore simply because of the weakness of prospects at his position.

Note: Since the Cowboys must ensure they secure Moore (or whichever safety they covet), I have assumed they will use a mid-round pick (in this case, their fifth) to jump up a couple spots for him.

Round 3- Clint Boling, G, Georgia

The ‘Boys current interior linemen are quite long in the tooth.  Even though I think Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis should all stay in Dallas this season, the Cowboys need to address the interior line before it becomes a massive concern.

Boling reminds me much of Kosier in that, while he isn’t a dominating run blocker, he is superb in pass protection.  He is extremely athletic and uses his short-area quickness and athleticism to gain leverage on larger defenders.

Round 3- William Rackley, OT/OG, Lehigh (this pick acquired from first-round trade)

Yes, I had Rackley in all three of my Cowboys mock drafts, but I know the ‘Boys really like him.  He has the versatility to play any position on the offensive line, which could be huge in Dallas.  I think Rackley should get a look at tackle, but will probably eventually play guard in the NFL.

I’ve been very high on Kosier the past two years, voting him the team’s most underrated player in 2009 and providing him with the seventh-highest grade in 2010.  The Cowboys need an infusion of youth along the entire offensive line, however, and who better than a prospect with legitimate potential to play every position on the line?

Round 4- Curtis Marsh, CB, Utah State

Despite a pedestrian 4.52 40-yard dash at the Combine, Marsh plays fast.   He is extremely athletic, having played running back his first two years in college.  He is a bit lean (6’1”, 197 pounds), but he is a physical player who is willing to come up in run support.  Overall, I think he is a good fit in Rob Ryan’s scheme.  The Cowboys will have to address cornerback earlier than this if they cut Terence Newman, of course.

Round 6- Colin McCarthy, ILB, Miami

Due to McCarthy’s “low” weight (238 pounds), some might see him as a poor fit for Dallas.  Inside linebackers in a 3-4 defense are generally massive (think Bradie James), and the Cowboys already have a smaller linebacker in Sean Lee.

However, Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defense calls for defensive linemen to play two gaps, meaning the inside linebackers can probably get away with being a bit smaller.  Plus, the game is changing anyway, and I will take a player who can defend the pass over a run-stuffer any day.

McCarthy needs to work on his technique in coverage, but he is a high-motor player with some explosiveness who would look good with a star on his helmet.

Round 7- Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia

I am pretty certain the Cowboys are going to come out of this draft with a running back.  I really, really hope it is a speedster (like Devine) who can catch some balls and become an insurance policy behind the fragile Felix Jones.  I think Jason Garrett might covet a bigger running back, but there will be far more value with the little guys in this particular draft.  Other options in the middle or late rounds include Taiwan Jones, Graig Cooper, Dion Lewis, Kendall Hunter, DeMarco Murray, Jacquizz Rodgers and Derrick Locke.  I like all of them.

Round 7- Byron Maxwell, CB, Clemson

At 6’0”, 201 pounds and running a 4.46 40-yard dash, Maxwell has a good size/speed combination.  I put much more stock in game film, but you want to garner upside in the late rounds.  Maxwell’s measurables indicate he has that.

Conclusions

Personally, I would not be very happy with this draft.  The only player in the group on whom I am high is Rackley.  I really think the Cowboys need to sign a free agent free safety and address the offensive tackle position in the first round.  The value of a Michael Huff/Tyron Smith combination, for example, far exceeds that of Tyson Clabo/J.J. Watt.

I do think Jerry Jones’ refusal to draft offensive linemen early does make a scenario similar to the one above possible, however.  As long as Marc Colombo and Alan Ball are not starting in 2011, though, the Cowboys will be a better team.

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Dallas Cowboys 2011 Mock Draft, Version 2.0: Rounds 1-7

Jonathan Bales

You can see my first Cowboys-only mock draft here.  Both that mock and this one contain a built-in assumption that the Cowboys will sign a veteran free safety in free agency.  Michael Huff (Raiders) and Eric Weddle (Chargers) are two guys I love, but pretty much anyone can beat Alan Ball and his 67.7 percent overall grade for the 2010 season.  You can see all of my safety grades here.

The Cowboys may target UCLA’s Rahim Moore in the second round, but I don’t think the team should put all of their eggs in the rookie safety basket.  This class is awfully weak at safety, and filling that hole via free agency will allow the organization to concentrate on other needs, such as right tackle and defensive end.

It is becomingly increasingly obvious that USC tackle Tyron Smith is a legitimate option, and probably the favorite, for the Cowboys at No. 9 overall.  The team desperately needs an upgrade over right tackle Marc Colombo, and Smith played right tackle during his time at USC.

Smith is an extremely athletic player and the future of NFL linemen.  His selection would be a good indicator the Cowboys are moving in the right direction.

The ‘Boys may try to trade up for Patrick Peterson or Marcel Dareus if either player falls past the fifth pick, but that may be unlikely.  Smith was the pick in my last 32-team mock draft.

  • Round 2: Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton

I recently performed a March Madness-style “tournament” with 16 prospects who could get selected by Dallas in the second round.  I concluded that, if the ‘Boys do not plan on signing a veteran free safety, Rahim Moore is the most likely candidate to go No. 40 overall.  The other “Final Four” prospects were Miami CB Brandon Harris, Baylor guard Danny Watkins, and Ohio State defensive tackle Cameron Heyward.

But what if the Cowboys go “off the map” in the second round?  Who is someone we are all overlooking who could potentially land in Big D?  Enter Kenrick Ellis.

I understand new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said he will keep Jay Ratliff at nose tackle.  Guess what?  I don’t necessarily believe him.  If the Cowboys are on the clock and their highest-rated player is a nose tackle, they would be foolish to pass on him.

The concerns about Ellis are plentiful.  He was dismissed from South Carolina for academic reasons and marijuana use.  He was suspended this season due to assault.  There are concerns about his work ethic and weight (he is reportedly 346 pounds).  All of these issues could lead Dallas to take him off their board.

But you don’t often find true 3-4 nose tackles with Ellis’ athleticism.  He has big-school talent that he used to dominate his competition at Hampton.  He’s a mean player that, despite off-field work ethic concerns, works very hard in games.  Most importantly, he is the two-gap defensive lineman that Rob Ryan covets.  Mike Mayock recently stated Ellis will not get out of the second round.  He’s a “sleeper” to go to Dallas here, but don’t rule it out just yet.

I had Rackley going to Dallas in my last Cowboys-only mock as well.  That’s because I really like him and I know the Cowboys do too.  Actually, Rackley was just in town on April 5 for a visit and lengthy conversation with Jerry Jones (via Rackley’s Facebook. . .he requested me guys, cause we’re tight like that).  I recently interviewed Rackley and I think his versatility to play any position on the line would be huge for Dallas.

In that mock, I had him going in the fourth round, but I really think the ‘Boys will need to spend their third round selection on Rackley to secure him.  He is gaining some steam and a third round pick would by no means constitute an ‘overpayment’ for Rackley.

I see Rackley playing guard in Dallas (especially if the team drafts Smith, obviously).  I’ve been very high on Kosier the past two years, voting him the team’s most underrated player in 2009 and providing him with the seventh-highest grade in 2010.  The Cowboys need an infusion of youth along the entire offensive line, however, and who better than a prospect with legitimate potential to play every position on the line?  From my scouting report on Rackley:

I do think whoever drafts Rackley should at least give him a look at tackle.  He’s quite athletic for a 310-pounder, displaying great knee bend and quick hand movement.  His lateral movement and slide in pass protection are superb.

Rackley’s athleticism allows him to play with tremendous leverage.  He can easily get to the second level in the running game, which is something Dallas is missing right now at right tackle.  It sure would be nice to be able to run a toss or counter to the right side of the field, huh?

Rackley’s mobility is complemented well by his strength.  He has a very thick lower body, and his upper body strength is adequate (29 reps at the Combine).

  • Round 4:  Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville

Patrick is No. 66 on my revised Big Board (yet to be published).  I recently posted a scouting report on Patrick in which I wrote:

At 6’0”, Johnny Patrick has a long frame that allows him to effectively re-route receivers at the line-of-scrimmage.  He will become even more effective at that when he adds five or 10 more pounds (he’s only 190).  Despite being thin, Patrick is physical in all aspects of the game.  He’s generally a willing tackler.  He could benefit from using better technique at times, but a willing attitude is far and away the most important aspect of tackling.

Patrick has plenty of flaws, but he possesses the sort of upside you want in a mid-round draft pick.

  • Round 5:  Lawrence Guy, DT/DE, Arizona State

Once considered a potential second-rounder, Guy has dropped down boards.  He never tallied much production at Arizona State and his arms are shorter than you would like.  Nonetheless, Guy is a natural 3-4 defensive end with tremendous character and intelligence.

  • Round 6:  Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville

I personally have no interest in Powell.  Despite his production in 2010 (1405 yards rushing and 14 total touchdowns), I think Powell is a better fit for a zone-blocking scheme.  He is a downhill, one-cut runner who doesn’t possess great lateral quickness or burst.  I would much prefer Pitt’s Dion Lewis here, but the Cowboys have shown heavy interest in Powell.  I think Garrett views him as a potential replacement for Barber.  Little does he know, he already has that player on the roster in Tashard Choice.

  • Round 7: Kristofer O’Dowd, C, USC

O’Dowd is a talented player who may not last this long, but centers tend to drop.  O’Dowd has also been horrible since the season ended, getting blown backwards all week in Senior Bowl practices and running just a 5.16 40-yard dash at the Combine.  He has the potential to play any position along the interior line, however.

  • Round 7:  Alex Wujciak, ILB, Maryland

The National Football Posts’ Wes Bunting characterized Wujciak as “tough, instinctive, and hard-nosed.”  He’s not going to ‘wow’ you with athleticism, but he is a good football player.  He’s a hard-worker that, with Sean Lee taking over Keith Brooking’s role, could eventually be the Cowboys’ “new” Bradie James.

Overall Thoughts

You can see this mock draft is heavy on both the offensive and defensive lines.  If the Cowboys came out of the 2011 Draft with high-upside prospects at tackle (Smith), guard (Rackley), and center (O’Dowd), I would be thrilled.

Plus, the Ellis/Guy combination would do a lot to strengthen the defensive front.  With Ellis and Josh Brent manning the nose, Ratliff would upgrade the defensive end spot.  He would join forces with (perhaps) Stephen Bowen and/or Jason Hatcher (Bowen is more likely to stay, in my opinion).  With Guy as a prospect for the future, the line is suddenly looking okay.  Throw in improved play from Anthony Spencer and the continued emergence of Victor Butler, and the Cowboys’ potential pass-rush looks a whole lot more formidable.

Personally, I would pass on Powell.  I do think the ‘Boys should address the running back position late in the draft, but there are an abundance of talented second and third round talents who will drop.  Taiwan Jones (Eastern Washington), Graig Cooper (Miami), Dion Lewis (Pitt), Shane Vereen (Cal), Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), and Jacquizz Rodgers (Oregon State) are all players I really like and have rated anywhere from No. 34 to No. 63 on my Big Board.  A few of those backs will go later than they should, and Dallas can and should benefit from that.

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Interview with Lehigh OT Will Rackley

Jonathan Bales

Yesterday, I published my scouting report on Lehigh offensive tackle William Rackley, a player the Cowboys seem to be targeting and one who would fit quite well in Dallas.  Last night, I was able to get in contact with Rackley and ask him a few questions about the upcoming draft. . .

Q:  How is your draft prep going?  What have you been doing?

A: Since my Pro Day, I have been doing a lot of private workouts.  Once those are over, I have some visits.  I have also been working out like a maniac to keep in shape.

Q:  Dallas showed interest in you at the Combine.  have you had any farther contact with them?

A: Yes, I actually have a visit scheduled with them on April 5.

Q:  How was that interview with Dallas at the Combine?  Did they (or any other teams) ask you any off-the-wall questions?

A: Luckily, I don’t have anything bad in my background that might make them put me on the spot.  I was happy to not really get any crazy questions like that.

All of the teams had me watch film, draw up plays and stuff like that.  All football-related.  Some of them teach you their plays and then test you on them.  They want to see how much you can remember.

Q:  Were you content with your overall Combine performance?

A: I thought my position drills went really well, but I didn’t run as well as I wanted.  I wasn’t really nervous or anything, but I just didn’t do my best in some of the tests.  I was really looking forward to the position drills though and I think teams were impressed with my work there.

Q:  You’re originally from Georgia.  What made you decide to attend Lehigh?

A: Well, I wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school.  I was mainly recruited by Patriot League schools like Lehigh.  Going pro was always a dream of mine, but when I came out of high school, I was really just focused on becoming the best college player possible.

Q:  Well you obviously made a good decision.  Those hills at Lehigh will kill you though.

A: (Laughs) Yeah, those hills get old really fast.

Q:  Have teams talked to you about moving to guard?  Would you prefer to stay at offensive tackle?

A: Some teams have brought it up.  Some want me to move to guard, some to center, and some think I can stay at tackle.  I don’t care where I play.

Q:  Do you have any experience at guard or center?

A: Yeah, I played guard my freshman year at Lehigh, and I also played center in practice.

Q:  How difficult is it to not constantly check mock drafts or watch television to see where analysts think you’ll get drafted?

A: I try not to worry too much about that stuff.  It can be hard, but I honestly don’t really pay much attention to it.  I know those things can change so frequently, so no sense worrying about it.

Q:  Know where you’ll watch the draft?

A: Just from home.  I just want to get selected as early as possible.

Q:  Last question.  Do you pattern your game after any current or former players?

A: No, I don’t really try to emulate anyone else’s game.  I do watch other players to see their technique and how they succeed.  I watch Jake Long a lot, for example.  But I don’t think I really try to pattern my game after anyone else.  I just do my own thing.  I didn’t really have any specific favorite players growing up or anything like that.

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Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: William Rackley, OT, Lehigh

Jonathan Bales

The majority of the tape I watch comes from recorded games during the college season.  Often, however, I have the opportunity to attend local college games (I am from Philadelphia, for those who didn’t know).  This is one of the reasons I was so high on Akwasi Owusu-Ansah last season (Indiana of Pennsylvania played at a number of local universities).

This past season, I was able to watch local teams Temple, Villanova and Lehigh quite a bit.  You may notice I’m rather high on some of the products from those schools–Muhammad WilkersonJaiquawn Jarrett, Ben Ijalana and William Rackley.  Am I simply biased?  I like to think I’m as objective as possible, but of course I realize some biases are a natural outcome of increased exposure.  However, I’m not automatically high on all local products.  You may recall I wasn’t thrilled with the selection of Penn State’s Sean Lee last season, for example.

My love for the prospects above may be the result of my general appreciation for small-school players.  To be mentioned alongside the blue-chip guys, you know a small-school prospect had to dominate his competition.  With the gap between the elite universities and the second-tier ones shrinking rapidly, I think small-school players can hold a ton of value for NFL clubs (and I think they’re beginning to agree).  By the way, a study of the recent success of small-school players in the NFL might be a cool project. . .let me know if that interests any of you.

Nonetheless, Lehigh offensive tackle William Rackley is a player I know more closely than any other in this draft.  I was actually recruited by Lehigh’s football coach out of high school, but chose to attend a different school nearby.  Thus, I know the program well, giving me a chance to study Rackley quite in-depth.

Unfortunately, the videos of Rackley which are available for me to post are scarce.  I have added a very short “highlight” film below, but for this particular scouting report, you’ll just have to trust me :)

Scouting Report

A pet peeve of mine is when small-school offensive tackles are automatically projected to transition to guard in the NFL.  This has already happened with Villanova’s Ben Ijalana, which is a joke to me.  Ijalana has the size and ability to play tackle in the NFL, and that is where he should stay.

Having said that, there may be some merit to the idea of moving Rackley to guard.  He’s rather short for an offensive tackle (6’3”), and possesses arms of just 33.5 inches–average at best.  If you talk to any scout or NFL GM, you’ll quickly realize the incredible importance they place on arm length among offensive linemen.  They generally consider arms of 35+ inches to be outstanding, and 34+ to be good.

I do think whoever drafts Rackley should at least give him a look at tackle.  He’s quite athletic for a 310-pounder, displaying great knee bend and quick hand movement.  His lateral movement and slide in pass protection are superb.

Rackley’s athleticism allows him to play with tremendous leverage.  He can easily get to the second level in the running game, which is something Dallas is missing right now at right tackle.  It sure would be nice to be able to run a toss or counter to the right side of the field, huh?

Rackley’s mobility is complemented well by his strength.  He has a very thick lower body, and his upper body strength is adequate (29 reps at the Combine).

Rackley’s largest weakness is a lack of explosiveness (he had just a 23.5 inch vertical jump).  You can see this in Rackley’s game, as he doesn’t ever really appear sudden in his movements.  His athleticism comes more in his technique and position than being explosive, i.e. he’s an athlete similar to a guy like Joe Thomas, not Bruce Campbell.

And of course I have to mention Rackley’s competition.  Facing teams like Colgate and Lafayette makes a proper evaluation rather difficult.  Further complicating matters is the fact that Lehigh runs a zone-blocking scheme that isn’t very similar to that in Dallas.  Thus, Rackley will have an adjustment period (which will happen anyway if he moves to guard).

The good new is Rackley’s very intelligent (3.4 GPA), so the cerebral aspect of the transition won’t be an issue.  When you speak to him, you can tell he’s a smart kid who loves football.  That’s important.

It’s worth noting the Cowboys were one of the teams to interview Rackley at the Combine.

Projection

Even if most teams view Rackley as a guard at the next level, I think interest in him will be high.  He had 13 interviews at the Combine alone, and his versatility makes him an attractive fit for a lot of schemes.  He has zone-blocking experience, but I think his transition to an offense like that in Dallas will be made easier by his intelligence and versatile skill set.

Rackley is projected to get selected anywhere from the late-second round to the fourth.  I currently have him rated No. 50 overall on my Big Board–the fourth-rated guard.  Rackley could be an option for Dallas in the third round, but if he’s still available in the fourth, the decision seems like a no-brainer to me.

Other Potential Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011

Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Cameron Jordan, DT/DE, Cal

Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC

Cameron Heyward, DT/DE, Ohio State

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Tyron Smith, OT, USC

Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple

Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois

Martez Wilson, ILB/OLB, Illinois

Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon

Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois

Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Brandon Burton, CB, Utah

Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn

Jaiquawn Jarrett, FS, Temple

Ben Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova

Drake Nevis, DT/DE, LSU

Dontay Moch, DE/OLB, Nevada

Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona

Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State

Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Texas

JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin