Couldn't resist that title guys; no this isn't about our favorite imbiber but rather this is a cautionary tale. I've noticed an even greater schism than usual recently among our typically divided blogger base about the upcoming draft. I am here to unite our front and let everyone know that we're all one hundred percent correct. And one hundred percent completely oblivious to what's going to actually go down on draft day, so in a sense we're all going to be one hundred percent wrong. Just maybe that's what's so fun about all of this premature bickering going on. It's all in good nature and hopefully we all learn a little about each other and the game of football, becoming better for it before Jerry drafts Ryan Mallet and we all collectively **** a brick.
There are some who covet an offensive lineman with our first round draft pick easily citing the abhorrent play of not only our right tackle but also our right guard. Yes, our offensive line whom despite grading out well due to our scheme, has seen two quarterbacks injured in the line of fire, and which left us to witness in horror as our running backs were met in the backfield more times than Roy E. Williams' Mom. Once we can get past Bigg's oxen tendencies and the braces formerly known as Colombo's knees (that's where his tibia and fibula directly meet with his femur with no cartilage or patella to speak of) we'll have an unstoppable offense with two one thousand yard receivers and a thousand yard tight end, each vying to upstage one another while ultimately increasing tenfold the sales of Pepto Bismol in cities they visit; all the while tossing Jones, Bennett, Phillips and Ogletree their reception scraps to see who can lay claim on the other thousand plus yards the passing offense will produce. Thoughts of 3rd and 1’s where we not only push and get our hard fought yard but Felix breaks loose followed by a convoy of Doug Free and Derrick Sherrod laying waste to those unfortunate enough to be caught in the wrath of the mobile tackles that are the staples of the Cowboys Superbowl teams of the 2010 decade.
There are others who would rather find a blue chip defensive end to set our pressure ablaze, picturing monsters like Rajji, Suh and Long terrorizing the opponent's back fields and uncaging not only Ware and Spencer; but also making life easier on Ratliff and maybe even by extension providing an even bigger window for peak performance from everyone's favorite undersized one gap warrior. Thoughts of 3 downed lineman pushing past 2 defenders each and forcing constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks dance in their heads evoking a sly grin and warm fuzzy feeling inside their bellies. The Cowboys starting a combination of Alan Ball and Barry Church in as safeties; and fiveblings at left cornerback with FiTaT at right corner precisely 6 yards off because that’s where he calculates the ANYPA correlation for victory is. What does it matter? It's not like the QB is going to have enough time to go deep or the dump off routes in the flats and backfields are going anywhere with 8 men in coverage and 3 of the horsemen of the apocalypse manning our defensive line.
Others still see the glaring lack of production from our linebacking corps, outside of one Canton-bound OLB; we have a flash in the pan first round pick who reeks of tuna that's passed it's prime, a play-making but often injured recent draft pick who presciently dropped like a stone in drafts due to injury concerns, a good but never great ILB who is as dependable as they come but has 2 career interceptions since the year 2003, and a Pro Bowl ILB who had a monstrous stretch of games amassing 6 sacks - 7 interceptions - 9 deflected passes and making a case as one of the premiere inside linebackers in this league; all this from the years '04 to '05 with the Atlanta Falcons, and yes we are the 2011 Dallas Cowboys. Countless opportunities squandered at the LB position, but just one more linebacker, just that one last piece, the one other worldly play maker in our front 7 to compliment DeMarcus Ware may just put those 7 over the top and let us focus on shoring up the glaring holes in our secondary before we try to really hammer down our front for the future.
Some Bloggers make other cases, like foreseeing that Prince Amukamara will tumble down into Dallas' needy grasp and enable us to look to the future with our aging but trusty CB Terence Newman losing a critical step. Even still more entrepreneurial members see a golden opportunity to trade down out of the number 9 pick and successfully address several positions of need in one fell swoop. Perhaps we are able to find 3 starters in our first 2 rounds, something akin to the 1975 draft of the Dallas Cowboys in which an unprecedented six starters were drafted. A draft which not only saw the ’75 Dallas Cowboys team that missed the playoffs the year before and finished third in the NFC East make an unprecedented run to the ’75 Super Bowl only to be narrowly defeated 21-17 by the Pittsburgh Steelers; but also the same draft which laid the crucial framework that ultimately catapulted the Cowboys to their 1976 Super Bowl victory and second Lombardi!
Others still, envision more unorthodox approaches to the draft. Some unfortunate soul saw us taking Mark Ingram with our pick, laughable. Randy Galloway has been driving home taking Cam Newton with the 9th pick. Wrong? Yes, very much.
Besides those few wretched souls though, BTB community you are each 100 percent correct. Yes we could use a right tackle to join Doug Free. Yes we could use a dominating defensive lineman to bookend Jay Ratliff and allow Igor to Russian Jig his way out of Dallas. Yes we could use a shutdown corner to allow Newman to ride off into the sunset (and take his inflated contract with him). Yes we could use another linebacker that can put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The safety situation goes without say.
Outside of that though, we are all completely and unapologetically one hundred percent incorrect.
First we should take a long hard look at the favorable position we've found ourselves in. Andrew Luck, once thought to be within reach of the Cowboy's abysmal mid-season record and the widely regarded first pick of the first round draft didn't feel the need to declare. While the shock waves are still being felt throughout the draft, one thing it certainly did is shoot up the quickly declining stocks of the other big time quarterbacks; shoot them right into the thick of the top 10. Mallet, Gilbert, and Newton are all going to get a long hard look from teams with glaring needs at the quarterback position. I see at most 2 quarterbacks taken by the time the ninth pick in the draft rolls around, now don't ask me which two, but the consensus seems to be that the Panther's are not going to want to pay #1 insane cap busting dollars to a quarterback not named Luck. Denver is married to Tim Tebow. Buffalo and Cincinnati are also not likely to draft a quarterback so high with such dire needs at other positions, and the serviceable Fitzpatrick and recently renewed Carson Palmer on the rosters. Cleveland found a scrappy little quarterback Colt McCoy who promises to be the future. Now the 49ers are likely to take the first quarterback of those big 3, they need to draft another quarterback because Smith is not it. Tennessee likewise just cut their ties with a costly former overall #1 pick – and with a team ready to contend with its great defense and one of the most electrifying running backs in the league it seems like a quarterback is the last piece of the puzzle needed, and with the CBA they're going to have to either draft a quarterback or risk having to trade for one of the quarterbacks already on an NFL roster after the draft because there aren't going to be any trades until a new CBA goes into effect.
And right after all of those teams is the Dallas Cowboys. While we may not necessarily want them, we should be looking at one of the top three quarterbacks remaining on the board if not more depending on what the 49ers coach decides about the QBs on the roster and whether or not Tennessee decides to pursue a different avenue to conjure a QB. We'll also happen to be sitting smack dab in front of division rival and QB desperate NFC East step children the Washington Redskins; a team which is unlikely to retain McNabb's services and which is also tragically, almost laughably left with Rex Grossman as their starting quarterback. What might Minnesota, Miami, possibly the Jaguars, and even possibly the Patriots who currently have Hoyer, an UDFA backing up golden boy Tom Brady and are in possession of 6 picks in the top 3 rounds; give Dallas in order to swoop in and either snatch the last big armed prospect or alternatively to have the prospect of their choice? We may just find out come draft time April 28th. And after April 28th we may just be kicking ourselves in the heads for not drafting the next Revis, Suh, Ware, or Jake Long. It's OK though, we'll have quite a few JAGs to show for it.
There’s the looming CBA that’s going to throw a wrench into every single one of our plans. What if the finger is on the trigger to cut Newman and sign Nmandi? It may seem fantastical but I wouldn’t put anything past Jerry Jones. And while I wouldn’t put any money on that scenario it would make taking Prince Amukamara at the 9th slot a complete waste of precious resources we could allocate to other needs. Not to say that the corners that we already have on our team won’t benefit immensely from any safety help they could muster. No, it really can be argued that we could hold off on drafting another corner until next year, get one last year of solid production from T-New and focus on other deeply glaring areas of need.
What about taking the best available lineman with our first selection? Yes, it does sound fine in theory but then again go take a look at OCC’s wonderful article about the impact of tackles taken high in the draft and immediately put onto the line. At the same time though, look at how many 2nd round picks there are in those neatly aligned grids. Typically NFL teams want to only take a lineman in the first round if they project to be a dominating center or left tackle. Do the Cowboys really need to take an offensive lineman so high in the draft when the consensus is that there are plenty of other prospects to be had in the second round? What if we could find a starting right tackle in the second round? Without moving up? Without having to miss out on one of the top 10 players in this talent laden draft class?
Also, for all of the flak that Hudson Houck's gotten for the offensive line this year his pièce de résistance has completely silenced any of my criticisms. Who's to say that our line isn't fixed with just one lineman taken in the second round? You may scoff at the notion, but take my case in point Doug Free. This is a fourth round draft pick who unexpectedly came in out of the blue for Marc Colombo and did really, really well. Unfortunately for all of us Marc Colombo lumbered back into action for the Viking's playoff game and he's just plugged right back in as the starting tackle. We lose, and that off season Flozell gets cut. That makes me think strongly that it wasn't Houck's decision to put Marc back in the line, why is it that Hudson came out with such gloating reviews of Doug Free after Flo was released? I'm sure he didn't suddenly change his opinion after the Viking's playoff loss. No, it was an opinion strongly embedded into his thoughts that entire time. I'm sure the entire season Hudson recognized an NFL ready player waiting in the wings. The result? Doug Free graded out as the best run blocking left tackle in the league, and was among one of the best in the game. Fortunate for us, we'll probably have him locked up for foreseeable future; probably one of the few bright spots in this abysmal 2010 football season.
Now I ask, are there any other lineman with NFL caliber skills currently standing on the sidelines during games thanks to Jerry's penchant for expecting the players who make the most to play? Is there a lineman we have on our bench that can come in and like Free metamorphosize from a bench warmer to one of the top lineman at their position in the game over the course of a single off season? Let's ask Houck, because until proven otherwise I have complete faith in his opinion. If he says after Bigg's cut that Holland is going to jump in and be exceptional, well I'm going to have to take his word for it; if Hudson tells me that Alex Barron has worked out his issues and is going to come in and take command at right tackle, I'm going to have to take his word for it; and that would mean we could be looking at the first phase of our rebuilt line (RG, RT) all for the low, low price of a second round draft pick to fill in at RT. Maybe we could even be potentially looking at a new offensive line that's been staring us in the face the entire season?
I know that Barron example was a stretch, but I had to get my point across.
What we really need is a 3 and 5 technique savage. A blue chip player like Ndamukong Suh. 10 sacks, one forced fumble, one interception, six tackles for a loss. A guy like that would change the facet of the line, this defense. Which of our best 3 front 7 players are the opposing teams going to be able to double team with Ware, Ratliff, and our blue chip DE. You need 6 guys to block 3. Rush Bowen and he may just have to hop over fallen bodies en route to sack QBs, if one of the other 3 hasn't already done so that is. Now the problem with that is that there are maybe two or three defensive linemen in a draft that are able to bring pressure from that position, tops. You want to get a defensive end with our number 9 overall pick? Go ahead. Set our franchise back another year or two.
What would the Lion's defense look like if they hadn't taken Suh? What if they liked Gerald McCoy instead, the other of the highly touted linemen? McCoy amassed 3 sacks this year. 28 tackles. Tyson Alualu was taken near the spot where we were picking, 10th by the Jaguars. He had 3.5 sacks. Not bad, but by comparison in 2009 Spears had 2.5 sacks. Are we really clamoring to cut Spears and use our 9th overall pick to draft .. a younger slightly more productive version of Marcus Spears? Surely that year was an aberration. Let's look at the 2009 draft. Now I have to preface this by saying that B.J. Raji was widely considered a top 5 pick but slipped down to 9 due to character concerns after he was found to have failed a drug test with marijuana in his system. Truly he is an elite game breaker. This year he's had 6.5 sacks from the nose tackle position in a 3-4, that's Jay Ratliff caliber numbers. Guy is a monster, I've seen him wreaking havoc in every single Green Bay game. Would love to have him and be able to move Ratliff over to end. Now what about the other highly touted defensive end in the draft? Tyson Jackson went 3rd overall to the Chiefs. Guy has 1 career sack, but is sitting on a 5 year 57 million dollar contract with 31 million dollars guaranteed. He was a can't miss blue chip defensive line prospect, the likes of which a lot of people would be praying fell to number nine to us in this year's draft. What a complete bust. The next defensive end taken was the successful Bryan Orakpo, but he's an outside linebacker for the Redskins. Remember though, we don't want no stinkin' linebacker we want to be able to rush 3 and hit home; we want the Incredible Hulk, the Thing, and the Juggernaut on our defensive line.
2008 is a year we should especially pay attention to. Chris Long needs no introduction, the son of Howie Long he was taken second overall. Just this year he's had 8.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles as a 4-3 defensive end. Glenn Dorsey on the other hand was taken fifth out of LSU by the Kansas City Chiefs. Guy was a force unto himself, he finished ninth in Heisman voting in his senior year, was a 2x All-SEC recipient and 2x All-American in addition to being named the 2007 SEC Defensive Player of the Year. You know what else he's done? He's also finished 2010 season with sacks sacks as the RDE of the Kansas City Chiefs 3-4. Sacks sacks? Sacks sacks? Yeah, that's two sacks. A fifth overall pick surefire blue chip prospect that had two sacks last year. Even more chilling, the story of the Jaguars. Derrick Harvey won MVP of the 2007 BCS National Game based on the strength of his performance. The Jaguars, ready to find their pass rushing defensive end that would change their defense like so many believe our number 9 pick can do, mortgaged a great deal to move into the 8th overall position so they could take Harvey before the Bengals at 9. The Jaguars traded their 1st, two 3rds, and a 4th rounder to the Baltimore Ravens to pick Derrick Harvey. What did they get in return for their efforts? 2.5 sacks from him in the 2010 season, and 8 sacks in his career.
All that glitters is not gold. I see two blue chip prospects at defensive end this year, outside of them you're going to be wasting our shot at a game breaker. Nick Fairley seems a lot like Suh to me. That nastiness, determination and overpowering strength to go along with that deceptive speed. I'm sure Buffalo is going to love him with their third overall pick. Who's the second? No, not Daquan Bowers. Go watch his game again, Wes Bunting says Bowers gets stood up easily while rushing. Can't shed blocks. Now imagine him against NFL caliber offensive linemen. You want to waste your number 9 pick on that? Maybe we should just trade that pick to the Chiefs in exchange for for Glenn Dorsey. No, the other blue chip to me is Robert Quinn – guy had 11 sacks, six forced fumbles, and 17 tackles for a loss in his true sophomore year. Reportedly runs a 4.38 forty, as opposed to DeMarcus Ware's 4.56 forty. Can probably squat over 700 pounds. Projects as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. Well, I guess he's out, why would we possibly draft another linebacker? Does Spears, Bowen, and Ratliff along with Lissemore and Brent still sound that bad? We may even pick up Cullen Jenkins from the Packers this off season. He can rotate in and keep everyone fresh. That sounds a lot more attractive to me than drafting the league's next bust at 3-4 DE.
What about a linebacker? I love Von Miller, heard he can cover and he's obviously going to do well rushing the passer. He's weak against the run though, gets lost in the wash. Maybe we should draft Quinn? Maybe we can keep dreaming. If he kills the combine like that he probably won't even whiff the bottom 10. Plus, we've been throwing high draft picks at linebackers for the past few years now with no real improvement. Drafting another Anthony Spencer is another surefire way to make sure this defense is going to stay pedestrian just as quickly as drafting another Marcus Spears would. Although, to be fair to both they are terrific against the run.
No, all of the options look so enticing. Yet at the same time they all have such glaring holes in them. We're all so right, but we're all so wrong at the same time guys. Nate Newton advocates we just pick using BPA, just try to get the best athletes on the field and hopefully we can contend again next year. You know what? He's probably right, with all of the glaring holes we have we're not going to be a dominant defense next year anyway. Nor will our offensive line be ready to go even if we address right guard and right tackle. That just leaves two question marks at the left guard and center position going into the future. What do we do with our #1 pick this year? We may just have to take the best deal available and pray. You know the beauty of it though? With Jason Garrett at the helm I'm superbly confident that we'll do well in this year's draft.
Plus, we'll all get another crack at it in 2012.