The 2013 Senior Bowl starts off this week and the Dallas Cowboys' scouting department, front office and coaching staff have assembled in Mobile, Alabama to begin their offseason process of evaluating talent for the 2013 NFL Draft. Last year at the Senior Bowl, then defensive coordinator Rob Ryan told reporters that he was only in the market for defensive backs.
While I don't expect our new defensive coordinator to come out and tell us his needs, it has become fairly clear that the Cowboys need to focus on the defensive line. Obviously we still have major issues on the offensive line. It should come as no surprise that the team needs to start investing on talent on the line in order for them to get anywhere past 8-8.
The big argument this offseason will be defensive line versus offensive line. This draft offers the Cowboys an opportunity to plug up some of the holes on the front lines. Outside of those needs, I would say that safety, running back and linebacker are the glaring needs for the Cowboys.
If you are curious about which players to watch for throughout the week at practice and the game on Saturday, then I have you covered. I will break this post into two parts, one for offensive prospects and the other for defensive prospects.
Related: SB Nation Senior Bowl Coverage
Let's start off with the offensive line. While it's become easier to acquire game tape on players, offensive line still remains one of the hardest positions to evaluate. We shouldn't completely judge the lineman we see this week off of their Senior Bowl performances, but for some of the players this will be the first time we get to see them up close.
One offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl who makes sense for the Cowboys is Kentucky offensive guard Larry Warford. The physically dominating guard from Kentucky stood in at 6-3 and weighed 333 pounds. Warford has played against great competition in the SEC, so he should be ready to translate that over to the NFL. He needs to work on his technique, but be sure to check him out this week in Mobile.
Another guard prospect that should interest the Cowboys is Tennessee offensive lineman Dallas Thomas. At the weigh in, Thomas officially stood in at 6-5 and weighed 308 pounds. It's hard to get a feel for what position he will thrive at in the NFL. Is he a guard or is he a tackle? Thomas will get the opportunity to show the scouts which position he can fit in at in the NFL.
A popular name floating around the draft community and Senior Bowl is Oregon offensive tackle Kyle Long. Standing in at 6-6 and weighing 304 pounds, Long possess the long frame needed to play offensive tackle in the NFL. Long had to play in the uptempo Oregon offense, so he is a very agile and athletic lineman. If he develops more strength and stops overextending, he will become a very good player in the NFL.
The Cowboys still have a huge question mark at right tackle. It may not be a dire need, but it's another position that the Cowboys' scouts need to evaluate.
Yes, believe it or not, running back has become another position of need for the Cowboys. In today's NFL, you need to have multiple running backs who can do a variety of things. We clearly have our workhorse in DeMarco Murray, but he does have some durability concerns. There is nobody behind Murray who the Cowboys felt completely comfortable with.
Felix Jones is a free agent who probably won't be returning to Dallas unless he takes a hometown discount. Phillip Tanner showed promise, but he failed to grow into anything more than a special teams player. Lance Dunbar could thrive in a role similar to Darren Sproles. The Cowboys will probably be looking for a running back who can play all three downs, but here are a few running backs that I will be watching for this week.
One my sleepers for the 2013 NFL Draft is Kenjon Barner. I was extremely high on LaMichael James coming out of Oregon last year, but Barner is another exciting running back prospect that could be a value for a team looking to add more juice to their backfield. When watching Barner, it's hard not to come away impressed by his smoothness and acceleration. Barner's size (5-9, 188) is a concern, so he must work on becoming more physical if he wants to be a complete running back.
Andre Ellington is another running back that makes sense for the Cowboys. Even though he lacks size (5-9, 197), Ellington is a dynamic runner because of his acceleration and vision. He's a dangerous player because at any given time he can turn on the jets and run by defenders for a big play. Ellington needs to work on becoming more physical, especially in pass protection.
Stepfan Taylor was extremely productive during his career at Stanford. Taylor has the size (5-9, 216) to become a three-down running back in the NFL. While he doesn't possess the speed of Barner or Ellington, Taylor is the more complete player. He's a powerful runner who excels at making the quick cut and getting up the field. Taylor has strong legs and is always looking to move the ball forward for extra yardage. I don't expect him to wow you, but Taylor is a very solid football player who can help this football team.\
Coming Soon: Defensive Prospects To Watch For At The Senior Bowl