Tomorrow my weekly Game Balls post will be coming out. Today I wanted to do a little draft talk after watching some good college football games over the weekend. It's honestly extremely early for any draft talk because we don't know where we are going to be picking in the first round and later. But the needs for this team are clear to most of us on here and we have a good general idea of where we should be focusing on.
In this mock I didn't get the chance to take a big time cornerback and instead I chose to focus on the defensive line and pass rush. The defensive line needs a clear upgrade and Anthony Spencer is just not the man for that job opposite DeMarcus Ware. Spencer is great against the run, but it's time for another pass rusher who can capitalize on the match up's he faces. Spencer is the real wild card this off season for me because he dictates what the Cowboys do in the draft. If he is resigned the Cowboys can use that draft pick for another area. If the Cowboys move on then OLB becomes a huge need.
Wide receiver was an area that truly was an interesting area to look over when making this mock draft. We need to resign Laurent Robinson, that is a must in my opinion. We lack a good kickoff and punt returner and I almost drafted for that need. Instead I went with another position and banked on Raymond Radway recovering from his horrifying injury suffered in the last preseason game this summer. If Radway can recover from that injury, I expect him to be the force we need on kickoffs.
Once again the Cowboys get dealt a weak safety class and there are only a few real good safety prospects. I decided to go with another position that had more talent instead of reaching for a safety early on. There will be some solid prospects in the mid to late rounds, but none of the early safety prospects make me jump over my seat. The Cowboys would be better off drafting one later instead of reaching for one early on in the draft.
Tight end is an area the Cowboys will have to scout for this year. Martellus Bennett is in his last year of his contract and personally that's cool with me. His one handed catch yesterday was huge, but that is easily his biggest contribution to this team in the last two years. The problem for the Cowboys is that this tight end crop is weak and spread out. There are two types of tight ends you look for. One is the blocking tight end and the other is the receiving tight end. Sometimes you are fortunate to come across a tight end who can do both equally well. There really aren't too many tight ends that can do both in this years draft class. I decided to go with the more athletic tight end who can stretch the field. Originally that was what Bennett was meant to do here.
When looking over this center class it was truly weak. If we want a good center we will have to reach in the first few rounds and that is something I really chose not to do. Instead of taking a center early, I chose one late hoping for a diamond in the rough. Maybe Phil Costa improves and actually grows into the player the Cowboys saw during training camp.
Basically this needs to be a Rob Ryan or defensive draft. Last year we got some nice offensive pieces and really only picked up one player on defense. This year it needs to be a defensive draft. The Cowboys really are only lacking a few pieces on the defensive side of the ball. I stress the importance of adding a ball hawk to this secondary all the time, but this pass rush is pretty bad besides Ware. That is why I went with a defensive end with my first pick here.
Devon Still DT/DE Penn State
Devon Still is a fast riser on many draft boards and could be a big time name once April comes. At 6'5 310, Still has the size to play as a five technique in the 3-4 defense. He also has the versatility to shift inside at defensive tackle and Rob Ryan loves versatile defensive lineman in his scheme. I want to point out once again that the Cowboys heavily scout the PA area and Still makes perfect sense for this team. The Cowboys were very high on Jared Odrick back in 2010, so it wouldn't surprise me to see Still high on the Cowboys draft board.
The first pick for the Cowboys could go in a variety of directions. They could focus on cornerback, pass rusher or offensive line instead of a defensive lineman. For me this is where need meets best player available. The Cowboys have a clear need on the defensive line, you really cannot argue that with me right now. Still will blow people away at the combine because he isn't one of those stuff and plug defensive lineman. This guy is really disruptive and is truly going to get better as he develops as a player.
This pick has side effects too. It will help the quality of the defensive line and will bring a true force on the line. Still will also help freeing up DeMarcus Ware and the other linebackers. I also stand behind the theory that pressure helps your secondary out. Yesterday's game was a perfect example of what happens when your not getting pressure from your defensive line, your secondary gets burnt.
With all the controversy brewing up in Happy Valley, Still could be a big time draft pick that sheds some sort of positive news for the Penn State football program. Devon Still would be a warm welcome to the Cowboys franchise and bring instant impact on our defensive line.
Bruce Irvin DE/OLB West Virginia
It's obvious here that I went with the Cowboys not resigning Anthony Spencer in this mock draft. In that scenario it leaves a big hole on the defense to fill and Bruce Irvin in my opinion is the plug and play type of player that could make an impact right away. Of course people are going to say he is too small at 6'3 245 and that he needs to beef up to play in our 3-4. Wes Bunting compares his athleticism and style to rookie of the year contender and BTB favorite Von Miller.
If the Cowboys had a consistent pass rusher opposite Ware this defense would be a lot better. Spencer is never going to be the player we wanted him to be, that's just how it is. Yes he is great against the run but he is not the pass rusher this team needs. Spencer is a decent player that can contribute but he will never be the guy who takes over games with his pass rushing skills.
There are some character concerns with Bruce Irvin and the Cowboys as always will have to do their homework with him. Irvin looks like the right kind of guy to me. He is constantly working hard on his game and is really showing people that he is growing up and becoming a man. It truly looks like he wants to show everyone that he isn't the character concern people make him out to be.
Irvin is physical, aggressive, fast and hungry. I really don't know what more you could ask for in a football player. If the Cowboys actually drafted Still and Irvin with their first two picks, this defense would be tremendously upgraded on two key positions in the 3-4 defense.
Kevin Zeitler G Wisconsin
Guard will be a huge position of need this off season. Kyle Kosier is on his last legs and will not be a member of this team next year unless he wants a reserve role on the team. Kosier has been a great player for us but the time has come to move on. Montrae Holland has been tremendous in his return to the team but we have to be realistic about him. Can Holland actually be a good starting guard for us next year and down the road? The Cowboys will have to upgrade the guard position regardless of the young talent they have on the roster. David Arkin will be an unknown and is still working on his strength. Bill Nagy will be returning from a broken leg and was average at best anyway.
What better program to tap when you need an offensive lineman? Wisconsin is pumping out offensive lineman every year and this year is no different. We went over Kevin Zeitler in my offensive lineman fan post before and this guy would be a great pick for us in the mid rounds of the draft. Jason Garrett is close to this program and his connections within the Wisconsin program will be key in drafting Zeitler.
Finding a offensive lineman that you can just plug and play is pretty hard in today's game. But Zeitler looks like a player we can draft and plug into the starting lineup right away. The Cowboys need to continue to build this offensive line and this is a great pick in staying true to that commitment. We have the running back finally, we just need to build up this line into a powerhouse that way DeMarco Murray can continue on his great success in the future.
Leonard Johnson CB Iowa State
Cornerback is a position I truly wanted to target earlier in the draft but in this scenario it had to wait. Wes Bunting has talked about Leonard Johnson and I honestly haven't seen him play until the other night when Iowa State beat Oklahoma State. Johnson stood out in that game to me and he impressed me. 5'10 202 meets the Cowboys criteria when it comes to cornerbacks and truly I wanted a taller cornerback but Johnson's physicality and build make up for the height.
Johnson looks like a guy who can come in and contribute as a nickel corner. Down the road he is a player who could eventually develop into a possible starter on the outside. When your drafting a cornerback this late in the fourth round that is the most you can ask for.
The other night was the first time I saw Johnson play and he was pretty impressive. Check out The National Football Post and Wes Bunting's scouting report on Johnson.
Brandon Taylor S LSU
This is another weak safety class even though it is stronger than last years class. There are a few fringe late first/second round options but nobody that the Cowboys should reach for just because they lack youth and talent at the position. Brandon Taylor is an intriguing option in the fifth round. LSU puts out quality players and Taylor has experience starting for an SEC team.
Taylor has fully recovered from a 2010 leg injury and has been solid in every LSU game I watched this year. He has some ball hawking capability and has the speed to make plays in the secondary. He isn't a hit stick type of safety but he is a sure tackler and that is what we should be looking for.
It may be a pipe dream to get this guy in the fifth round but you never know. The Cowboys need to start bringing in some talent at the safety position. Both of our current starters are on one year deals and there is no sure thing that they come back for another campaign with us. Barry Church is more of an in the box safety, basically a rover linebacker. Danny McCray is almost the same type of player Church is and we lack a legit starting safety prospect backup on the roster. At some point the Cowboys need to bite the bullet and just draft a safety. Taylor would be a nice fit and could develop into a starter at some point for us.
Ladarius Green TE La-Lafayette
As I mentioned earlier, the tight end class is also fairly weak. Ladrius Green falls under the receiving athletic type prospect and he looks like a good project to take on. The main reason why I like Green so much is because he isn't a goofball like Bennett was coming out of Texas A&M. He is 6'6 236 and has the athletic ability to stretch the field. Out of all the tight ends I looked over, Green may be the best bargain in the draft. He comes from a small school so maybe teams sleep on him for that. This guy has Jermichael Finley ability and just needs the right coaching to develop his skills.
Marty B was originally drafted to stretch the field, not to be a blocking tight end. He was supposed to add another offensive threat to the offense and add more wrinkles. Bennett never developed into the player some thought he could be. When you look around at some of the young tight ends having success in the league they have the same skill set. Tall and muscular build who can line up wide as a wide receiver. Green has these type of skills, he is just a little bit raw at this stage in the game.
The best part of his scouting report? Hard worker and no character concerns, exactly the opposite of Martellus Bennett. Garrett needs two tight ends to make this offense work.
He is a work in progress as a blocker, but this is what CBS Sports NFL Draft Scout said about his blocking.
Blocking: A work in progress as a blocker, though effort is there. Capable of anchoring against linebackers on the edge, flashes the ability to seal the edge. Usually gets to linebackers at the second level and extends his long arms to knock them from the play. Tall, lanky build causes him to miss quicker or get ripped off by strong defenders at times
Green has the size and strength to become a better blocker. His work in the weight room can bulk up his frame some more. Tight Ends coach John Garrett would love a player like Green and he could eventually mold him into the player Bennett was supposed to be. In the sixth round, this is a steal.
Scott Wedige C Northern Illinois
The seventh round is actually one of the hardest picks to make when making a mock draft in my opinion. Wide receiver was almost an option honestly, but instead I went with the center. I know nothing about this guy, absolutely nothing at all. The Cowboys draft Illinois players and like that state for some reason. We need a center and this guy has all the rewards to backup his resume. Centers are usually late round picks and maybe Wedige is the next Jeff Saturday, who knows.
Center was a need and he looked like a good pick in the seventh round.