Pet Cats For Sale Part II: Defensive Prospects To Watch

Earlier in the week, we took a look at the 2012 draft prospects that might fit into Dallas' plans on the offensive side of the ball. Now we'll take a look at the defense. The defense was largely ignored during the 2011 draft by the franchise. While most observers felt that offensive line was the sole offensive need, the Cowboys drafted six players projected to add even more potency to a high-powered machine that Tony Romo leads. 

If North Carolina LB Bruce Carter lives up to the promise he showed prior to his ACL tear, the Cowboys did make a very large investment into their defensive portfolio. Cornerback Josh Thomas appears to be adding depth to the secondary, but how quickly the small school star can transition to the NFL is to be determined. Despite these additions, there is still plenty of work to be done.

Everyone will have their favorite targets, their pet cats, the guys they think will be magic in a Cowboys uniform. I figured we might as well start to get a jump on the process. This is the time when those projections are made. Follow the jump to see who you should be watching come the fall College Football season. At least these players can't be locked out. With that in mind, we look ahead to some of the 2012 draft prospects.

For all you amateur draftniks out there, follow the jump for more.

Here is my snap evaluation of the position needs of the Cowboys, per their currently constituted roster and potential free agent fills. I'll be tracking these positions the most over the 2012 collegiate season. My pack leaders aren't the top rated at the position, but the players I feel may fall into one of the numerous Cowboys draftee profiles.

Target Areas:

Defensive Line
The entire defensive end position is up for free agency, which means they are in the middles of their careers. Even if a combination of Marcus Spears and or Jason Hatcher are resigned, the only young gun prospects on the roster are Sean Lissemore and Josh Brent. An infusion of impact youth will be needed here soon.
Interesting Note:  Butch Davis and North Carolina have three top tier defensive line prospects, including two possible top ten selections.
Litter Leaders:  DE Jared Crick, Nebraska. 9.5 sacks each of the last two seasons. Injured his knee in spring practice but expected to be fine for regular season.

 

Linebackers
Anthony Spencer will be a free agent, so even if Victor Butler (or Brandon Williams) shows us something, we could easily be looking to draft an outside backer. We all hope that Bruce Carter realizes his potential, and the Cowboys have spent two consecutive 2nd rounders on the ILB position, but what if injuries hit?
Interesting Note: Miami North Carolina and Oklahoma all have two top prospects at the linebacking positions.
Litter Leader:  DE Brandon Jenkins, Florida State. Currently a DE, but I could easily see him sliding over the OLB for Big D.


Secondary

If Terence Newman remains on the roster for 2011, 2012 is still seriously in doubt. What if Jenkins doesn't rebound? Ball has already been removed from the safety depth chart, and Sensabaugh is a free agent. What if the young prospects or FA's we add don't fix the safety position? A lot of question marks here.
Interesting Note: Janoris Jenkins is listed below, but it will be interesting to see what happens with him should he elect not to transfer to another school. Could he go to another professional league? Would that make him eligible to join an NFL team midseason, making him the perfect Jerry Jones move? These are the things I think about.
Litter Leader:  FS Kenny Tate, Maryland. Tate went to the high school down the street from where I grew up, the famed DeMatha HS in Hyattsville MD. He's moved around all over the field and expects to play some at the STAR position for UMD this season, as well as linebacker. Fierce, fierce playmaker, along the lines of Ed Reed and Troy Palamalu potential.

 

Finally, here is the Defensive grid, where we look at the top 15 prospects, per position, according to scout.com.

DE DT OLB ILB FS SS CB
Quinton Coples, North Carolina Jerel Worthy, Michigan State (Jr) Nigel Bradham, Florida State Don'ta Hightower, Alabama (Jr) Kenny Tate, Maryland Mark Barron, Alabama Janoris Jenkins, Florida
Vinny Curry, Marshall (OLB) Kerry Murphy, Alabama (Jr) Zach Brown, North Carolina Manti Te'o, Notre Dame (Jr) TJ McDonald, USC (Jr) Sean Cattouse, California Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina (Jr)
Brandon Jenkins, Florida State (OLB) (Jr) Marcus Forston, Miami (Jr) Travis Lewis, Oklahoma Luke Kuechly, Boston College (Jr) Lance Mitchell, Oregon State Ray Ray Armstrong, Miami (Jr) Josh Robinson, UCF (Jr)
Jake Bequette, Arkansas Tydreke Powell, North Carolina Sean Spence, Miami Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State (Jr) Janzen Jackson, Tennessee Orhian Johnson, Ohio State (Jr) Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama (Jr)
Devin Taylor, South Carolina Jared Crick, Nebraska Ronnell Lewis, Oklahoma (Jr) Courtney Upshaw, Alabama Robert Lester, Alabama DeVonte Holloman, South Carolina (Jr) Cliff Harris, Oregon (Jr)
Cameron Meredith, Nebraska (Jr) Baker Steinkuhler, Nebraska Tank Carder, TCU Shayne Skov, Stanford (Jr) George Iloka, Boise State Delano Howell, Stanford (FS) Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska
Andre Branch, Clemson Billy Winn, Boise State Nico Johnson, Alabama (Jr) Jerry Franklin, Arkansas Vaughn Telemaque, Miami (Jr) Brandon Taylor, LSU (FS) Omar Bolden, Arizona State
Brandon Lindsey, Pitt John Simon, Ohio State (DE) (Jr) Adrian Robinson, Temple (ILB) Korey Williams, Southern Miss Rashard Hall, Clemson (Jr) Charles Mitchell, Mississippi State Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech (Jr)
Vince Browne, Northwestern Kheeston Randall, Texas Cornelius Washington, Georgia (Jr) Chris Galippo, USC Nick Moody, Florida State (Jr) Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State Donnie Fletcher, Boston College
Donte Paige-Moss, North Carolina (OLB) (Jr) Montori Hughes, Tennessee (Jr) Sean Spence, Miami Kevin Reddick, North Carolina (Jr) Aaron Henry, Wisconsin (FS) Winston Guy, Kentucky Chase Minnifield, Virginia
Jonathan Massaquoi, Troy (OLB) (Jr) Jamarkus McFarland, Oklahoma (Jr) Keenan Robinson, Texas Tanner Brock, TCU (Jr) Sean Baker, Ball State Tony Dye, UCLA Travis Howard, Ohio State (Jr)
Armond Armstead, USC Jaye Howard, Florida Lavonte David, Nebraska Adrien Cole, Louisiana Tech Karnell Hatcher, LSU Cody Davis, Texas Tech (FS) (Jr) Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State (Jr)
Frank Alexander, Oklahoma Alameda Ta'amu, Washington Gerald Hodges, Penn State (Jr) Will Ebner, Missouri Harrison Smith, Notre Dame Nick Williams, Georgia Brandon Boykin, Georgia
Alex Okafor, Texas (Jr) Logan Harrell, Fresno State Chase Thomas, Stanford (Jr) Chris Marve, Vanderbilt DJ Swearinger, South Carolina (Jr) Tysyn Hartman, Kansas State Coryell Judie, Texas A&M
Malliciah Goodman, Clemson (Jr) Mike Martin, Michigan Danny Trevathan, Kentucky Patrick Larimore, UCLA (Jr) Blake Gideon, Texas Tavon Wilson, Illinois Shaun Prater, Iowa


Up Next: Series finale, 'The Pet Cat Sandbox: 10 Juicy 2012 Matchups To Follow'

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