In part one of this series we went over the cornerbacks. 44% of the votes came in to do the defensive line next. The safety position was a close vote with over 35%. This is a beat safety class and after Gerald Sensabaugh's contract extension the Cowboys once again may choose to ignore that area of need. Defensive line is a big area of need and this will be a fun and exciting topic to go over.
The defensive tackle class isn't stocked with blue chip prospects but there are a few guys who fit what the Cowboys look for. Defensive end isn't exactly stocked either but there are some guys who jump off the page when you look at them.
What the Cowboys need in my opinion is a disruptive defensive end who can play three down football. We need a guy who can rush the passer but still offer us run support. At nose tackle we should be looking for a versatile guy who can be disruptive like Ratliff and rush the passer. He doesn't necessarily have to be a plug space eater due to the fact that Brent is that type of nose tackle.
In this draft the Cowboys should come out with at least one defensive end, possibly two and one nose tackle.
Let's jump into this DT/DE prospects and get this board going.
Defensive tackle for the Cowboys looks fairly decent right now. The problem is nose tackle is such a physically demanding position and guys tend to wear down quicker than 4-3 DT's generally do. It is also so much harder to find 3-4 talent at NT than it is to find 4-3 DT's. The Cowboys have been pretty lucky with Jay Ratliff and his success as a 7th round talent. Ratliff has been an All Pro and dominant in his career for this team. Ratliff is on the wrong side of 30 and I am not sure how many productive seasons he has left in the tank.
We all know Rat is a beast, there is no doubting that. He is the leagues best nose tackle next to BJ Raji and generates pressure like no nose tackle in NFL history. Finding a replacement for him won't be easy and it may not be neccessary to find his successor now, but the guy needs some help. Adding another pass rushing nose tackle who can stop the run and give Rat some breathers for the rest of his career would be a wise football decision.
Josh Brent has been a steal for this team when we took him in the Supplemental Draft back in 2010. I believe he would have been a 3-4 round pick and has been a successful part of this defensive line on limited snaps. Brent doesn't offer much in the pass rush department but could continue to add weight and strength and be a Vince Wilfork like space eater. Because of Brent the Cowboys could look for a pass rushing nose since they may have the space eater nose tackle already on it's roster.
Sean Lissemore looks like he will continue the Cowboys 7th round draft success. PFF loves this kid and for good reason because when he is on the field good things happen. Lissemore has a non stop motor and is a versatile player that the Cowboys front office loves. This hard working overachiever can also play the five technique at defensive end. He has great size at 6'4 306 and will only continue to grow and get stronger. With added experience and playing time, Lissemore could be the next Ratliff.
Defensive tackle may not be a classic draft need this year for the Cowboys. I believe the Cowboys are looking for a nose tackle who can rush the passer and also kick out to defensive end. This team really doesn't look like it will take a nose tackle high in the draft but if the right player is available they may take him as the best available player. Depth is always a good thing especially at a position that is key for the 3-4 defense.
Defensive end is the position that needs more talent. Three of our defensive ends are approaching the wrong side of 30 and the age is a clear factor in why we need to get younger at the position. We currently only have one defensive end who generate pressure and that is Jason Hatcher. Hatcher appears to be a late bloomer and the Cowboys front office did a great job in bringing him back over Stephen Bowen. Everyone thought Bowen would be the guy the Cowboys retained, but instead it was Hatcher. Hatcher is a guy who can generate pressure and actually make the sack. He is also good in the run game and is athletic enough to make plays all over the field. If you were to ask me who our most underrated defensive player would be, I would say it is Hatcher. This guy is a keeper and is starting to grow into the prime of his football career.
Most of Cowboys nation was surprised that Marcus Spears was brought back, including myself. Spears will never live up to his first round draft selection, but the guy is extremely solid on all fronts except the pass rush. He is a huge part of our run defense and has been a big team leader for some time now. The Cowboys need to keep Spears around and use him as a rotational player. Adding more disruptive defensive ends and using a rotation including Spears would be the best theory going forward. Keeping guys fresh will keep driving this line forward late in games. Spears is a great individual and I am glad he is a Dallas Cowboy.
Kenyon Coleman was brought over from the Browns and has been another solid player for us. He is the defensive end most likely to not be here in 2012. He is solid on run defense but offers no pass rush. I like the guy and think he is the RKG but we can get better production from a younger player.
I really don't know what to think of Clifton Geathers because he really hasn't played too much and when he has he really wasn't jumping off the screen. Unless he steps it up in training camp next year, the player we draft will beat him out.
Defensive end needs to be upgraded. If this defense had disruptive ends who generate pressure and contribute in the run game, this defense would be almost top notch. The draft is the area to add these type of players unless Jerry Jones goes out in free agency and spends some money. Knowing Jerry over the past few years I would lean towards the draft.
Defensive tackle really isn't a need but could always use some influx of talent. Defensive end is the area you will see the Cowboys upgrade because Rob Ryan has no choice but to add talent to the position if he wants to succeed.
Not a huge DT/DE class this year but there are some first round prospects out there. I think in the 2-3 rounds you will see most of the talent taken because there is a steep drop off after those rounds. We all thought last year would be stock full of these 3-4 prospects, but we were dead wrong. If the Cowboys want to upgrade the DE position they should not wait.
First Round DT Prospects
- Devon Still Penn State
- *Dontari Poe Memphis
- Brandon Thompson Clemson
- *Jerel Worthy Michigan State
Devon Still is a guy who will continue to climb draft boards as April inches closer. He really broke out this year and could be a great piece to this defense. I have Dontari Poe really high and I will admit that. The reason I have this guy so high is because he could be this years Phil Taylor. Poe is extremely intimidating and his strength is off the charts. A lot of these guys could also play the five technique. Jerel Worthy really didn't have a great season and is really starting to slip on many draft boards. Brandon Thompson is a real sleeper, watch out for him in the top 20 picks.
- Alameda Ta'amu Washington
- *Fletcher Cox Mississippi State
- Josh Chapman Alabama
Very talented group in the second round. The value here is real good and these guys could be potential starters at some point.
- *Sylvester Williams North Carolina
- *Kawann Short Purdue
- Kaleb Ramsey Boston College
- Tydreke Powell North Carolina
- Jaye Howard Florida
- Christian Tupou Southern Cal
- Mike Martin Michigan
- Nicolas Jean Baptiste Baylor
First Round DE Prospects
- Quinton Coples North Carolina
Yeah I know, there is only one first round DE prospect but that is exactly how limited the DE class is with blue chippers. Coples could also play OLB, but I think he would be better fitted as a down lineman.
- Billy Winn Boise State
- Jared Crick Nebraska
- Marcus Forston Miami
Right now Crick is in the 2nd round but if his medical stuff clears he could find himself as a late first round pick. Billy Winn is my favorite 3-4 DE in the class. He is disruptive but is great in the run game. He lives in the backfield and is always making plays there. I love this guy and would love to see him in the blue and silver.
- Kendall Reyes UConn
- Cam Johnson Virginia
- Julian Miller West Virginia
- Trevor Guyton California
Reyes is a guy who could climb the board after his combine workout. He is an athletic freak who reminds me of the Chris Canty type of DE we really miss here. Same thing with Cam Johnson, he reminds me of that Canty type of DE. The long and muscular lean type of DE with speed who can rush the passer, that is the type of DE we should be looking for.
- Kheeston Randall Texas
- Derek Wolfe Cincinnati
- Malik Jackson Tennessee
- DaJohn Harris Southern California
Derek Wolfe is a real sleeper that could be a dirty starter for us. He isn't the prettiest or athletic specimen, but he is just relentless and gets the job done. If you can get him late you do it. Malik Jackson is real talented and is the Canty type of DE I am looking for. 4-3 teams will get a good look at Randall and his stock is at an all time low after a depressing season at Texas.
Besides a few clear cut blue chip prospects this isn't a good draft for 3-4 DE and NT talent. The real value will be the guys you can land in the 2-4 rounds. Now it is really early and there will be some guys that come out of the wood work, but for right now this crop isn't too enticing. There are some talented 3-4 ends out there, the problem is that if you want one your going to have to draft one early. If you wait too long those guys will be gone and you will be left drafting defensive ends that we already have.
If the Cowboys want to upgrade defensive end they will have two options. One is draft a good defensive end prospect early. The second is go out and spend some money on a experienced veteran in free agency. The defensive end crop is good through the first three rounds, but after that it's slim pickings right now.
The true value may be at nose tackle where you can get a true talent and kick him out to defensive end. The first two rounds offers extremely talented prospects at that position. Those prospects have the ability to play defensive tackle and defensive end. The Cowboys value versatility and it wouldn't shock me to see them grab a defensive tackle and convert him to defensive end in their 3-4 defense.
Up Next: FS/SS