Well the regular season's about over, so we all know what this team's strengths and weaknesses are. Some of the losses they had were a result of bad play calling, bad coaching, and boneheaded mistakes. I really think that will improve one way or another in the offseason, either Jerry will hire a new OC or Garrett will learn from the mistakes he made in his first full season as HC. They're already doing fewer stupid things and playing much better than they were under Wade.
However, some of the losses were because of true weaknesses on the team. The way I see it the Cowboys have two places that they'll look for their first round pick. Interior line and pass defense. The later is probably the direction that they'll go since they can either draft a DLman, a cornerback, or an OLB to replace Spencer and there seems to be more good choices worthy in that group, that being said there's a few players that might be worthy of a first on the interior line. The Cowboys might pick anywhere between 15th or so to 32nd. The order of these prospects hasn't shaken out quite yet, and a lot can change. That being said, if the Cowboys were to draft any of these players I'm sure we'll be quite happy. Candidates after the jump.
Peter Konz OC Wisconsin:
In the past three years there's been a center taken in the first round, maybe this is starting a new trend as teams learn the value of a center. This hasn't happen all that often but there are some centers that are worthy of a first round selection. Konz might be one of them. While I think Phil Costa or Kevin Kowalski can be a perfectly adequate center, there's definitely room for improvement. They haven't signed him to a big contract or anything, so they're not married to him and can seek improvement. While the team does have bigger needs than center, Peter Konz looks like he might be an Olin Kreutz or a Matt Birk type, or more contemporary, a Nick Mangold. That's definitely worth a first round pick in my book, even it means that other needs have to wait or they have to bring back Spencer for another year. Anyways, on to Konz.
He's pretty much everything you want out of a center and comes from a school that's produced some pretty good offensive lineman in the past. He's 6-5 and 313 pounds so he's got the size you want and from what I've seen of him he's also got the strength you'd like to see as well. I highly doubt you'll see many nose tackles outside of Haloti Ngata blow this guy into the backfield, whereas Costa gets drive five or six yards back at least once a game. While Konz may not blow up defensive tackles all that often, he can definitely hold his own against some of the bigger DTs he's faced. I live in Big Ten country from what I've seen he's excellent at pulling to pick up blocks in the running game as well as making the move to the next level allowing for guys like Monte Ball to have huge seasons. He's had some injuries with his ankles (300 pound men usually suffer those) and more seriously some blood clots in his lungs. Obviously I'm not a doctor, so the Cowboys medical staff will have to do their due diligence on this one, but that's the biggest concern I've seen about him.
Here's some video of him as a sophomore:
Peter Konz NFL Draft Analysis - 2010 Season (via TMBDraft)
Now as a junior:
Peter Konz No 66 Center Wisconsin vs Ohio State 2011 (via mathew40)
Now playing against a real defense:
Peter Konz vs Nebraska 2011 (via JMPasq)
Interview with him:
Peter Konz - Rimington Watch List (via drimington)
Lots of video on a guy that hasn't even declared for the draft yet.
David DeCastro OG Stanford
The second offensive lineman that I think would be worthy of the Cowboys' first pick, obviously Matt Kalil and Riley Rieff will probably be gone so I'm not going to count them. Guard's another position that doesn't get much love in the first, but this guy's pretty good. Again, much like Center, though to a far greater degree, there are bigger needs than guard. Koiser and Holland were perfectly fine this year and they just drafted Akrin and Nagy. However, like Konz, DeCastro has a chance to be a special guard. Mike Iupati's play suggests that sometimes it's okay to take a guard high. A lot of us here are missing Larry Allen, well he's probably the team's best shot at having an OLman like that or a more contemporary comparison is Allen Faneca. Since there may be a potential all-pro here I'd rather have a him than a merely good corner or OLB. Anyways, on to DeCastro.
This guy is just flat out nasty. Plays with a brutal mean streak where it seems like has something personal against the defenses. Great run blocker and he's kept Andrew Luck upright for most of the season. He's downright filthy with his hands and makes it near impossible for defenders to disengage the block. He hits defenders like a freight train and he's built like the rock of gibraltar. While he's listed at 6-5 310, that doesn't necessarily pass the eye test. Most people think he's closer to 6-3 and under 300. However, like Tyron Smith showed this year great big fat guys on the OL may be on the way out. He's always been strong enough to just maul defenders, so the size might not matter. Offensive linemen take lots of hits have to move mountains, because of this a leaner more muscular type of offensive lineman may be a better fit for this new NFL than a guy like Lumpy, even though we all have a spot in our hearts for Lumpy. He has perfect technique, great footwork, great run blocking, and great pass protection. As a guard he possesses no real weaknesses, maybe his size is a weakness and maybe he should get a little bit stronger, but other than that...he's perfect.
Anyways here's some video of him:
David DeCastro NFL Draft Analysis - 2010 Season (via TMBDraft)
David Decastro vs UCLA 2011 (via JMPasq)
And an interview of him:
Stanford Football Weekly : 9.6.2011 (via StanfordFball)
(DeCastro starts around 5:45)
The next biggest problem is the pass defense, this can be fixed one of two ways. Either improve the coverage, or get to the QB faster. The DL definitely has some issues outside of Ratliff, but since the five technique is such an unconventional position in the college ranks it's hard to draft a defensive end. Spears has done okay, and is probably one of the better 34 ends you can find, but people want more passrush out of him. Lissemore has shown some promise, but he's still far from a sure thing. The other ends all have their own set of issues, so you can look for help there. The OLB/Spears situation has yet to resolve it self, and drafting an OLB may be high on the team's priority list around April; and we all know Newman's cooked, Jenkins is injury prone, and they need better CBs we know that. So that leaves us at DL, OLB, and CB for places to pick from on defense. Unfortunately, this year's crop at that position is pretty weak.
There's a few guys at some positions, but no one that really wows you. While I'll look at the guys I think are worth drafting with the first pick, I will warn you that the Cowboys found themselves in a similar position in 2009. They were looking at a lot of guys that were just okay. Solid prospects but nothing special, and instead they went ahead and traded up for something special in Dez Bryant even though WR wasn't a very big position of need. That turned out okay, I'd say. Also, remember when people whined about the Murray pick saying that RB wasn't a need? Yeah. The Cowboys may surprise us on draft day, but lately the surprises turned out quite nicely, IMO.
Courtney Upshaw OLB Alabama
A lot of us here are ready to part ways with Anthony Spencer. We either want more, or we just don't think he'll be worth the contract he's going to get next year. Maybe Victor Butler's good enough to start, maybe he's not. I have a feeling if Spencer leaves we'll see them look for an OLB in the first round. Enter Courtney Upshaw. A four year starter at Alabama, he's had an exceptional career. I'm sure you all know Bama fans, I live in the North and even I know a few, and they all rave about this guy's play. He was voted the MVP of the Capital One Bowl last year and had a few big plays in the National Championship against Texas. That's enough about his story lets get to the scouting report:
At 6-2 262 he's definitely one of the bigger 34 OLB prospects to come out in the past. I'm unsure he can get much bigger and still be an effective OLB in the 34. He frequently draws LaMarr Woodley comparisons, and they seem to be deserved based on his play at Alabama. He excels at run coverage, and he's big enough to play with his hand down in the nickel package on third down. His pass rush isn't so much based on skill or speed, but more power. It's not so much a speed or a finesse thing, but a violent and brutal type of pass rush. He will blow guys up with the bullrush rather than use speed or quickness to get around them. The thing about it is, that he has plenty of strength to make that work. I'm unsure how that will translate to the pros, but he'll likely be taking on either a tight end or a right tackle in Dallas' scheme. I'm sure he'll be able to take most of those guys.
Unlike the two interior linemen this guy possesses several flaws. One his speed isn't all that great, he plays quick but he's not going to be mistaken for a Clay Matthews or a Von Miller anytime soon as far as a speed rush goes. Also, his character concerns are huge. He was arrested for hitting his girlfriend, and while Alabama fans will tell you that he was defending himself (yeah right) and her dad vouched for him, what they WON'T tell you is that her dad is an Alabama booster and convinced police to let this matter go because of the season was about to start. Also when her dad left the police station, he shouted "Roll Tide!" Ahhhh...the joys of Alabama. However, he recently became a dad (different girl than the one he hit), and there's been plenty of instances of guys becoming a better man once they experienced fatherhood.
Make no mistake about it though. Upshaw can play, he's brutal against the run and he's more than powerful enough to take on a right tackle one on one. While his straight line speed may not be the best, but last year he was athletic enough to where Alabama put him as a spy on Cam Newton. Some of these things sound like Spencer's scouting report coming out of college or even Spencer's scouting report after a good year. However, he's played four years against top college talent and he's been very very productive. He won't be an elite pass rusher, but he will be a great number two, I think teams like San Diego, Arizona, or the Jets that may be looking for a guy to be their primary pass rusher will be disappointed with the results that Upshaw will provide if he has to be THE guy. That's not exactly a bad thing, though. There is a need for a solid number two passrusher. Philly, Washington, and the Steelers have experienced great results with this in their defense. Wes Bunting compared to a rich man's Ryan Kerrigan. Whereas Kerrigan looks like a 6-8 sack a year guy Upshaw is a 7-9 Here's video footage of him:
Highlights of his junior season:
Courtney Upshaw NFL Draft Analysis - 2010 Season (via TMBDraft)
Against LSU, this year's Game of the Century:
Courtney Upshaw vs LSU (via BrownsOrBust)
Some other games this year:
Courtney Upshaw vs Ole Miss and Tennessee (via JPDraftJedi)
Courtney Upshaw vs Auburn 2011 (via JPDraftJedi)
Against Auburn this year:
Courtney Upshaw Tennessee Post-Game (via 247SportsStudio)
He's a guy that will probably be ready to start Day 1 if drafted.
Continuing on that theme, another OLB...
Bruce Irvin OLB WVU
Pretty much the exact opposite of Courtney Upshaw. Rather than a big powerful OLB that might be a better 43 end, this guy's a small fast guy that will need to bulk up to play in the NFL. That isn't to say that he's a bad pick, though. Clay Matthews had to
juice bulk up to play in the NFL, and he turned out pretty well. Irvin's a similar athlete. He's extremely quick, great speed rush and great change of direction speed. They often say it's not how fast you can run it's how fast you can stop. Well, Bruce can do both pretty damn fast. Great athleticism, compares to Von Miller in that department. Because of that, and the conditions of this year's draft there's a chance he'll be a top ten pick, his production tapered off this year and it was the first time that he was a full time starter, whereas Von had disgusting production and sick measurables to go with it. This year's board's awfully fluid after the Luck/Kalil/Blackmon picks, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him get picked in the top 10. He had a killer year last year, but somewhat of a disappointing year this year. He basically plays the five technique on the three man line, and at 6-3 235 that's not the best place to play him. Still though, he has an elite first step tremendous athleticism and pass rush moves. Put him opposite Ware and I think he can do some serious damage. He has the instincts and the motor to excel at run coverage, but right now the size and technique is lacking. He'll have to bulk up to play in the NFL, but we've seen plenty of guys do that successfully. He was a JUCO transfer and he hasn't had the most experience at college while he wasn't an every down player his whole career at WVU. However, Jason Pierre Paul only had one year on a D-1 team and didn't even start every game, IIRC. So, make of that what you will.
He does have some character concerns. He did drop out of high school a while back, but earned his GED and hasn't made much noise off the field lately. Probably not an issue, but definitely something to be aware of. Hopefully he won't be asked if his mom was a prostitute.
Here's a dominating performance against Louisville this year:
Bruce Irvin vs Louisville 2011 (via JMPasq)
THE FOLLOWING VIDEOS HAVE BACKGROUND MUSIC THAT CONTAIN NSFW LANGUAGE
Here's highlights of his sick 2010 season:
Bruce Irvin "Clap your Hands" (via drpepperhas23flavors)
Bruce Irvin (Taking Over) Junior Highlights (via blairbethke)
The Third Down Almighty (Bruce Irvin Junior Highlights) (via imabeast78)
Here's a video that's a lil more family friendly of his monster 2010 season:
Bruce Irvin NFL Draft Analysis - 2010 Season (via TMBDraft)
Here's WVU's video footage of him:
Defensive End Bruce Irvin (via WestVirginiaU)
Wearing the jersey: Bruce Irvin (via WestVirginiaU)
Linebacker Bruce Irvin (via WestVirginiaU)
Lots of good video of this guy. Lots to like about him.
Devon Still DT/DE Penn State
Unfortunate website name given that whole Penn State Scandal...
A former teammate of Sean Lee's this guy just might be solution to the DL's woes. At 6-5 310 he's the perfect size to player the five technique. He possesses plus power, and believe it or not he still might get bigger. He's got TREMENDOUS strength when providing a bullrush, he can consistently drive players several yards back. Truly has the potential to make every OLman that he attacks look like Phil Costa. However, he's not perfect. He had character concerns coming in when he'd take a few plays off, wouldn't correctly use his hands and critics challenged his motor. However, all that changed this year. He's shown a tremendous motor and he's been downright unstoppable one on one in the run game and he can collapse the pocket with a power bullrush. He sheds blockers and attacks the ball. Maybe it wasn't the character, maybe it was conditioning, whatever it was he's been playing lights out lately. Since he'd likely play the end on Rob's line, his primary job would be to kill the run game, which he will be able to do. However, he'd also be able to rush the pass and provide a more effective pass rush than were used to seeing out of the 34 ends. He'd be a pick that I would say is worth trading up for provided his medicals and interviews check out. He was the Big 10 defensive player of the year, so that's a nifty little accolade in his back pocket.
Here's the video:
Him against Michael Brewster (a top center prospect)
Devon Still No. 71 DT PSU & Mike Brewster No. 50 Center OSU (via mathew40)
Him against Bama this year:
Devon Still vs Alabama 2011 (via JMPasq)
Some footage from last year against Florida and Bama LAST year for comparison sake:
Devon Still vs Alabama and Florida 2010 (via JMPasq)
Note the difference in the highlights videos.
General highlights video (NSFW language in the background music)
Devon Still 2011 PSU football highlights (via ctodd1242)
Here's his interviews:
Devon Still for the Nagurski Trophy (via PSUFootball1)
Devon Still Named Big Ten's Top Defensive Lineman (via bigtennetwork)
Devon Still: One-on-One (via bigtennetwork)
Penn State Football: Devon Still Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (via GoPSUTV)
Penn State Football Tuesday Q&A: Devon Still (via GoPSUTV)
He comes off as sort of a dull dopey big guy. Nice dude, not a primadonna or anything, maybe the "RKG" that lots of people here like. These videos are pretty short too, but they're all worth watching.
Melvin Ingram DT/DE South Carolina
This is a guy that a lot of people whose opinions that I respect are high on. He's probably an OLB in this defense, or defensive end in the flex. His first step isn't the quickest, but he has the athletic ability and change of direction skills to make double moves on blockers. He excels at closing in on the QB and finishing the plays. There's no almost with this guy he can finish a play. Every scouting report you read about this guy the word sudden comes up quite often. While the first step may not be there off the edge he has plenty of lateral quickness to make the plays. He needs to improve his run play, right now he's about average but a guy that's 6-2 272 he should be a far bigger threat against the run, he's shown the ability to be an anchor against the run but hasn't played the run with consistency at any point in his college career. He shows great closing speed from the backside, but you're chasing after the guy he's already won. He's pretty raw, and he'll definitely need some good coaching. Now we don't know if the technique will be refined, but that will definitely need to happen for him to make the plays at the next level. 2011 was his first season as a starter, which could be a cause for the lack of refinement.
I'm always skeptical of those guys who were specialistis their first few seasons and only had one year as a fulltime starter, but he's definitely delivered some top notch production this year, to the tune of 8.5 sacks 13.5 TFLs and two picks. Out of all the guys I've talked about in this post he's the most likely to be there when the Cowboys pick. In interview with our old friend Raf, Wes Bunting compared him to Greg Ellis. No one that will ever win DPotY but someone that will come in and clock some rock solid play and be the guy to take some pressure off of Ware and Rat in the passrush. Along with playing the run, and hopefully without the "I'm under-appreciated" attitude. At any rate,Here's the video of him:
This year versus Auburn:
Melvin Ingram vs Auburn (via BrownsOrBust)
Melvin Ingram - Mid Season 2011 (via tmac20031)
Melvin Ingram - 2011 Highlights (via GamecocksOnline)
Footage from 2010 for comparison
Melvin Ingram - 2010 Tape (via BrownsOrBust)
Now the interview:
Melvin Ingram Feature - The Steve Spurrier Show (via GamecocksOnline)
He doesn't have the upside a lot of guys here have but he's definitely going to be a good player.
Dre Kirkpatrick CB Alabama
Another member of the Tide in this post. Kirkpatrick is either second or third best corner in the draft depending on who you ask, he's comfortably behind Morris Claiborne, but most people have him ahead of the next guy on the list. However, I'm a bit more concerned about him and the next player on this list than I am the others. Anyways, on to the scouting report.
Chia had a pretty good piece on him and the next guy on the list when he scouted the corners, so hopefully I won't be telling you too many things that you already know, but here it is. A lot of people thought he'd be the first CB taken before Morris Claiborne burst onto the scene, but he's still going to be a first rounder. He definitely has the size and strength to excel in press coverage, but he's not the best at jamming WRs at the line. Though he's still more than strong enough to reroute a receiver. On the bright side he's not shy about playing the run, he's always willing to get his nose up there and get hut. Though, this is not without it's risks, he has had a few nagging minor injuries throughout his career including a more serious shoulder injury that he experienced in HS. Much like Prince Amukamara he does struggle with receivers that are big and strong (like most CBs do) so a guy like Hakeem Nicks will eat him alive, but guys that are either just fast or just strong he seems to do okay with the exception of smaller quicker receivers like Desean Jackson. Alshon Jeffery ate his lunch when he played him this year, it wasn't quite Blackmon/Prince bad, but it wasn't pretty. He'll definitely need to be able to cover receivers like that if he expects to make it in the NFL. However, even though the Quarterback play in the SEC is downright terrible this year, the SEC does have several top flight athletes that Kirkpatrick would have to match up against like AJ Green, Alshon Jeffery, and Jarius Wright. He also practiced against Julio Jones every day until Jones left. He's faced his fair share of tough competition. His ball skills aren't the best, but that can be improved, he seems like he's He seems to have at least adequate speed for the position, but nothing like a burner like Peterson or anything. He's definitely got some quality play in him, good aggressive corner. Seems like an Antoine Winfield type player to me small good not great coverage but very aggressive in coverage and against the run, just needs to stay healthy. On to the videos:
Highlights from this year:
Dre Kirkpatrick vs Arkansas 2011 (via JPDraftJedi)
General highlights, NSFW background music
Dre Kirkpatrick Highlights (via AlabamaFootballFan3)
Against Penn state last year:
Dre Kirkpatrick vs Penn State 2010 (via JPDraftJedi)
Announcing his college decision, sounds like an entitled little turd.
Dre Kirkpatrick (via crimsonnation)
Now in college:
Dre Kirkpatrick North Texas Post-Game (via 247SportsStudio)
Much better, still says y'know a lot, y'know?
Alfonzo Dennard CB Nebraska:
Last year his teammate, Prince Amukamara, was taken by the Giants, but he was also looked at by respectable organizations, like the Cowboys. Dennard compares favorably to Prince. Draftnicks and teammates alike like Dennard more than Prince. A former teammate said that Dennard played him much harder than Prince ever did. When everyone threw on Princess when last year it's because Dennard was on the other side. I'd say this is pretty good seeing how most people will have him being around whenever the Cowboys pick. Dan Kadar compares him favorably to Leon Hall, so he definitely does have the potential to be a very very good cornerback. At 5-10, 205 he's shorter than you'd like a corner to be but he has good bulk to him and pretty good top end speed. He's great in drop coverage and excellent at jamming receivers at the line. He doesn't draw too many interference calls, mainly due to his excellent hand placement. He's got good hands and good ball skills, he played wide receiver in high school and probably could have done it at the college level too.
For a guy his size and as feisty as he is he doesn't play the run as well as he should, certainly not as well as Dre Kirkpatrick. Occasionally he'll give a receiver too much room in man coverage and that burned him against the Sooners, but he's still pretty raw as a football player and he'll need some time to develop into all he can be. He has no real flaws in his game, just needs some refinement. Great character too, he's won over the respect of the coaching staff with his intensity and he almost came out last year so he can help his mom out financially, but she insisted that he stay in and finish his degree. He's had injury concerns, he missed the first four games with a hamstring injury, but nothing that seems chronic or anything. On to the video:
General highlights (NSFW background music)
Alfonzo Dennard #15 HIghlights (via PhillyMyNilly)
Against Marvin McNutt (a future NFL receiver)
Alfonzo Dennard vs Iowa 2011 "Marvin Mcnutt" (via JMPasq)
His 2010 highlights:
Alfonzo Dennard NFL Draft Analysis - 2010 Season (via TMBDraft)
Alfonzo Dennard: One-on-One (via bigtennetwork)
Alfonzo Dennard (via huskerblog)
Out of all of these guys I guess I'm unsure who I'd like the most. I'm not going to say something like "it doesn't matter" because it clearly does matter. Courtney Upshaw or Bruce Irvin I guess I'd be the most excited about, but I think any one of these guys have the potential to be great players for the Dallas Cowboys. I think Dennard or Ingram would be the most likely to fall to the Cowboys and Dre Kirkpatrick could be the most likely to go the earliest. Anyways, these are eight players I'd be happy with. Obviously there's others, I'll let our resident expert in all things Tar Heelia, Paul, educate us about Zach Brown and Quinton Coples in a fanpost, but those seem like a couple of good guys too. Chia mentioned the USC pass rusher that looks tempting as well. I will state that very few of these guys are top knockout prospects, really Konz and DeCastro are the only ones that make me think "future pro-bowler easily." Maybe the Cowboys' brass likes one of these guys a lot and we just don't know, but other than Konz and DeCastro they all have decent bust possibilities; or they may end up like a Spencer or a Spears, a guy that's good, but leaves us wanting more out of a first rounder. Like I said before this reminds me of the situation they found themselves in the 2010 draft. Where us fans were hoping for a mid first to fall or looking at taking a guy that's graded as an early second that's at a position of need. We all know what happened instead, a guy that was a true rare talent fell and the Cowboys moved up to take him. I'm not sure if there's a guy like that this year, but I wouldn't be surprised if on draft day. There's also that whole rest of the season thing that needs to shake out too. I hear there's a big game on Sunday.
So, tell me what you think! Like it? Hate it? Think I'm full of it? Got your eye on someone that I missed?