Now that all of the underclassmen have declared, we finally get a better look at how this draft will turn out in the talent department.
This year we have a new record of underclassmen entering the draft with 57.
What is crazy to me is that the underclassmen just keep getting better and better. If I look at this draft class as a whole, I would say that the underclassmen are more talented than the seniors that came out. The upward trend continues to rise and that number could reach 60 next year.
Honestly this year is a difficult year to grade prospects, especially after the top 15-20. The blue chip prospects are down from last year. It was easy for me to rank the top 15, but after that it really got difficult. There really isn't much separation between some of the prospects. It would be a good year to have multiple picks, but if I was the Cowboys I would make sure I wouldn't trade down. The talent pool really thins out towards the bottom of the first round.
I know people envision us being the New England Patriots and work out these dream scenarios, but we just don't have success trading down. Stay put and take a good player. I would entertain the idea of moving up, but the risk of losing draft picks this team needs is just too much of a concern.
In the first big board, I mentioned some of the strengths of this years class. The cornerback class this year is just amazing. There is so much depth at this position and a team could really land a quality corner between the 2nd and 3rd round this year. That is great news for the Cowboys.
At first I didn't believe this was a strong pass rushing class, but after taking a second look it appears to be somewhat deep. The problem is that the depth is only in the first two rounds. After that it drops off big time, but if we are going to draft a pass rusher it should be within the first two rounds. The first two rounds offer a pretty good selection and picking at #14, we could have our choice of the crop.
Wide receiver is immensely deep this year too. This class offers some great prospects and depth. It's not like the Cowboys need any, but you just never know who may fall to you on draft day.
The weakest positions in this years class have to be safety and defensive lineman. The Cowboys have been plagued by these weak safety classes in the recent years and the answer may be another year away. Outside of Mark Barron, there are no Ed Reed's out there. The only safeties that I would draft this year would be Mark Barron, Markelle Martin, Brandon Taylor, and Aaron Henry. That is truly remarkable considering how this league has put a premium on the safety position, but the talent in the draft is just not there, yet again.
The other area that is truly weak has to be defensive lineman. Because I am a Cowboys fan, I am not really looking at 4-3 guys. Since we run the defense that requires unique talent, the 3-4, I tend to focus on those kind of players. Nose tackle looks fairly weak outside of Dontari Poe and Josh Chapman. There aren't too many five technique defensive ends either. Maybe I am wrong and of course there are always guys who come out of nowhere, but from a scouting standpoint this is a weak class.
The Top 50
|2||4||*Robert Griffin III||QB||Baylor|
|3||7||*Justin Blackmon||WR||Oklahoma State|
|10||15||Melvin Ingram||DE||South Carolina|
|13||10||*Luke Kuechly||LB||Boston College|
|15||11||Janoris Jenkins||CB||North Alabama|
|20||21||*Alshon Jeffery||WR||South Carolina|
|22||39||*Stephon Gilmore||CB||South Carolina|
|23||17||Michael Floyd||WR||Notre Dame|
|25||12||Quinton Coples||DE||North Carolina|
|26||18||Devon Still||DT||Penn State|
|29||25||Kelechi Osemele||OG||Iowa State|
|30||23||Bruce Irvin||LB||West Virginia|
|33||20||Zach Brown||LB||North Carolina|
|38||33||*Fletcher Cox||DT||Mississippi State|
|39||NR||David Wilson||RB||Virginia Tech|
|42||34||*Jayron Hosley||CB||Virginia Tech|
|43||36||*Jerel Worthy||DT||Michigan State|
|46||40||Mike Adams||OT||Ohio State|
|47||41||Markelle Martin||S||Oklahoma State|
|50||29||*Vontaze Burfict||LB||Arizona State|
|- -||26||Cordy Glenn||OG||Georgia|
|- -||32||Ryan Tannehill||QB||Texas A&M||Injury|
|- -||38||*Brandon Jenkins||LB||Florida State||Back To School|
|- -||44||*Montee Ball||RB||Wisconsin||Back To School|
|- -||45||Billy Winn||DE||Boise State|
|- -||48||James-Michael Johnson||LB||Nevada|
|- -||49||*Marcus Forston||DT||Miami|
|(*) denotes underclassmen|
Here's how the Top 50 board splits out by position groups
|*Andrew Luck||*Justin Blackmon||Coby Fleener||*Trent Richardson||*Matt Kalil||*David DeCastro|
|*Robert Griffin III||Kendall Wright||Orson Charles||David Wilson||*Jonathan Martin||*Peter Konz|
|*Alshon Jeffery||*Lamar Miller||*Riley Reiff||Kelechi Osemele|
|Michael Floyd||Mike Adams||Brandon Washington|
|*Michael Brockers||Melvin Ingram||Courtney Upshaw||*Morris Claiborne||Mark Barron|
|*Dontari Poe||*Nick Perry||*Luke Kuechly||*Dre Kirkpatrick||Markelle Martin|
|Devon Still||Quinton Coples||*Don'ta Hightower||Janoris Jenkins|
|Brandon Thompson||Jared Crick||Bruce Irvin||*Stephon Gilmore|
|*Fletcher Cox||*Whitney Mercilus||Zach Brown||Alfonzo Dennard|
|*Jerel Worthy||Chandler Jones||*Ronnell Lewis||*Jayron Hosley|
|Jonathan Massaquoi||*Vontaze Burfict||Chase Minnifield|
- Nick Perry- Reminds me a lot of Terrell Suggs and he is really growing on me. Come April, Perry might be one of the most hyped pass rushers in the entire draft.
- Mark Barron- If Barron were a FS, he would be even higher on my board and he would find himself #1 on my Cowboys draft board. The problem is he is more of a prototypical SS. Regardless of his position at safety, the kid looks like a missile sent to wreak havoc in NFL secondaries. Barron is one of my biggest risers after an impressive performance in the BCS title game.
- Don'ta Hightower- Another Alabama player who really opened some eyes in the BCS game was Hightower. He could play inside in a 3-4 or in the 4-3. If he runs well at the combine, he will be a high draft pick. Hightower is starting to get graded higher than Rolando McClain and that is amazing.
- Stephon Gilmore- Gilmore is one of my favorite CB's in the class. He has the size and ball skills to be a starer early on in his career. He is also a willing tackler, which is quite rare now a days. I was hoping he would be there in the 2nd for us, but it's not looking that way anymore.
- Coby Fleener- After watching the importance of athletic tight ends in the playoffs this weekend, it really hit me hard that tight end position is becoming a true X Factor in games. Fleener is making progress in the run blocking department, but his game is being a pass threat. Fleener may be the best TE in the entire class and end up as a real steal on draft day.
- Kendall Wright- When I breakdown tape on him and read about him, he just grows on me more and more. I see a DeSean Jackson type wide receiver without the baggage. I have seen Greg Jennings comparisons, but I think the Steve Smith (Panthers) comparison is the best I have heard so far. He is a great route runner who is smooth out there on the field. He should run a low 4.4, maybe a 4.3 40 yard dash. If he does that, watch out for Kendall Wright then. Wright will be a big time threat on the next level.
- Peter Konz- The best center in this years draft and in my opinion it's not even close. Centers aren't drafted high or valued as much as they used to be. Konz comes with some medical concerns, but if he checks out okay, his high ranking will stay put. Konz will not get drafted in the top ten, but he will be one of the ten best players in this years draft.
- Courtney Upshaw- He looks faster than what people give him credit for and I have to rank him higher right now. If he has a bad workout at the combine, I will drop him accordingly. But right now Upshaw deserves a high ranking on my draft board. He is stout against the run and is a good pass rusher. I really can't ask for too much more from him except that he runs well at the combine in February.
- Justin Blackmon- He is the best WR prospect in this years draft. His game is reminiscent of TO's back in the day and Blackmon doesn't come with the baggage TO did. He is strong and powerful, but needs to focus on catching the ball better. Other than that, he is rock solid as a prospect.
- Robert Griffin III- RG3 blew me away this season, but he might have saved his best for last in his bowl game performance. He is larger than Michael Vick, runs like a deer, and has a great arm. Luck will go #1 and rightfully so, but RG3 will not fall far behind. Another rock solid blue chip prospect.
- Jonathan Martin- Martin starts to drop after I am starting to read some of his scouting reports. So far some of the stuff I read labeled him as an athletic offensive tackle, but plays with finesse too much. The skill set is there for him to be a good tackle in the NFL, right now I just don't know if he is top 10 material. He could be a player that rises again after a good combine.
- Riley Reiff- This is a guy I haven't paid too much attention to this year. Mainly I haven't been scouting offensive tackles because I did that last year in my search to replace Marc Columbo. Reiff may be more of a right tackle on the NFL level and that right there drops him down my board. His combine workout could determine if teams see him as a LT or RT.
- Quinton Coples- For two years I heard how Coples was a "beast". Well maybe this "beast" should have entered the draft last year because his stock is dropping. Amazing athlete, no motor and character concerns drive him down my board. No doubt he is a physical specimen, but I watched him quit on a lot of plays and didn't see a good motor in him. My first BOOM or BUST prospect so far, because he will either be Julius Peppers or he will be Gaines Adams/Aaron Maybin. If I was a team, I would do my homework on this kid and make sure he wants to play football. He has not shown any love or emotion for the game so far in my evaluation of him.
- Alfonzo Dennard- This is a prospect I actually really like, but his bowl game left more questions than answers about him. He got into an altercation with Alshon Jeffery after the two had been going at it. Dennard lost his cool and was ejected. Before you say he is the total opposite of the RKG, I have followed him for the last two years and he is a real good kid. Like Prince Amukamara, he has trouble with the ball in the air and is undersized. I love the kid, but I have to drop him on my board.
- Zach Brown- Another UNC prospect who is an amazing athlete, but there are just too many questions about him and his game. He is vastly undersized to play in the 3-4 defense, so primarily he will be looked at by 4-3 teams. A Cover 2 type scheme would be a good fit for him where he could use his athleticism in coverage. I am not high on any UNC player right now and they will have to have strong combine performances to sell me over again.
- Vontaze Burfict- He falls the farthest from 29 to 50. I love the guys physical demeanor and athletic ability, but he is a total headcase with many issues. It's starting to come out that some NFL teams will completely take him off their board. He has issues off the field, he fights with teammates, and he is a loose cannon on the field. A team will take the chance here, but it better be a team with good veteran leadership. He is a major BOOM or BUST prospect, he will either get it together and become a great linebacker or he will end up a bust and be out of the NFL very shortly. His negatives outweigh the positives right now for me.
- Cordy Glenn- The more I research Glenn, the less I like him. He reminds me of the former type of offensive lineman we used to go after. Big, slow, and strong. I really think he would be an awful fit for our offense and that isn't the only reason I dropped him. More teams are moving to the smaller athletic type lineman and are using more zone blocking schemes. Cordy Glenn is a solid prospect, but I just don't think he is as good as he was advertised earlier on in the season.
- Ryan Tannehill- Tannehill suffered an ankle injury and will not be able to perform in the upcoming draft prospect bowls. This is killing his draft stock because teams will be able to see him work out. I have Tannehill still as my 3rd best QB in the draft, but his stock is slipping because of his injury. In a few weeks we should have a clearer picture of what is going on with him. Tannehill might be down, but he may not be down for long. Quarterbacks with strong arms, athleticism, and size are hard to come by.
- Michael Brockers- Brockers will be a quick riser on many boards, not just mine. He is a big defensive lineman with some speed. This is a very weak defensive line class and Brockers in my opinion is the cream of the crop. The combine will be his to show the world just how good of an athlete he is. Keep your eye on Brockers, because he is on his way up.
- Chandler Jones- I am higher on Jones than most right now, but in a few months I will either look brilliant or stupid. I am going to bank on brilliant because Chandler Jones has the size, athleticism, and speed to become a real good pass rusher on the next level. I am a bit of a Jones homer, but this kid just oozes talent and I love pass rushers with those long arms.
- Brandon Washington- Being a Miami fan, I tried to stay biased with ranking Washington. I felt that he made a great decision to come out because he is a great guard prospect who is ready for the NFL. Washington is very strong and has good footwork. He can get out and pull, and teams will love to hear that. He is a better prospect than last years 2nd round offensive tackle taken out of Miami, Orlando Franklin. Keep your eye on Washington, he could have a draft board rise like James Carpenter did last year.
- Orson Charles- Charles just declared this week and he is one of the best tight ends in this years class. He doesn't have the best hands in the world, but he is a good athlete and has decent size. TE is the new X Factor position in the NFL and I see a premium being placed on the tight end position now. Charles should work out well and get drafted higher because of that.
- Mohammed Sanu- Sanu kind of reminds me of Hakeem Nicks. Both were very raw at this stage, but had great athleticism and size. Sanu is just a natural playmaker and will be a good wide receiver on the next level.
- Jonathan Massaquoi- I just recently began to follow Massaquoi and he really impressed me. He comes from Troy, the same school to NFL stars DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyora. He wears #94 in honor of Ware and this kid may be the next big thing out of Troy. He has an awesome burst off the line and is a polished pass rusher who makes his living in the backfield. Boy is this kid growing on me, check him out.
- David Wilson- Virginia Tech is know for producing good cornerbacks and good running backs. David Wilson is the complete package as a runner and looks like a traditional workhorse running back. He isn't the fastest, but his acceleration and burst are very good. Wilson just looks like a solid player and well polished. Wilson is ready for the NFL.
Darren Sproles 2.0?
LaMichael James is a kid I am really high on. After watching the success Darren Sproles has had this year, it instantly made me think about James. James isn't ranked in my top 50, but that is only for right now. I think James is going to be a real good player in the NFL for a few reasons.
His size will limit his touches and he could possibly face some injuries, but he is very versatile. The team that drafts James (I think the Chargers) should use him in the Sproles role.
You send him out wide as a receiver. Throw him the ball out of the backfield. Use him on punt returns. James is also underrated as a runner. He has great vision and uses that to his advantage when looking for cutback holes. Defenses sometimes have trouble spotting him during a play because his height helps him disappear behind blockers. Once he turns on the juice and accelerates, he could be gone for six. His burst and athleticism are very good.
I am going to keep analyzing him throughout the winter and break him down more. I really believe that he could be a real steal for a team in the third round.
#14, So Many Options
For our Cowboys segment of the big board, I want to talk about options. The Cowboys have plenty of options this year with the 14th pick.
Last year they had multiple options and I think it's great when a team isn't tied down to one line of thinking.
We will obviously break it down and analyze it to death over the next few months, but we have options folks and options are always a good thing to have.
BIG THANKS TO OCC FOR HELPING ME SET UP THE BOARD AND RANKINGS. TRULY APPRECIATE IT OCC, THANK YOU SO MUCH.