Top UDFAs to target (i.e. 'picks' 8-14)
8th Michael Williams TE/Deluxe OT Alabama 6"6 270
The '8th pick' -- I start this list off with Alabama's lumbering blocker Michael Williams. Should Dallas burn a precious sixth round pick on a guy who's basically an extra tackle? If that's the case, why not just draft an athletic tackle like Vince Painter or Tanner Hawkinson in the 4th or 5th rounds and see if they can give Jeremy Parnell some help on those toss sweeps and screens? Wouldn't it make more sense to draft an athletic but undersized linebacker for depth or even another center or guard candidate here (even after using our 1st rounder on Jonathan Cooper -- since I don't agree with Mel Kiper Jr. that he's gone at 18)?
The only justification I can think of for using a sixth on Williams if he's there (assuming some other team isn't desperate for an extra blocker) is to help down in the red zone. Let's face it while our running game has often been average between the 20s, since 2008 it's consistently stalled out down in the box where the safeties don't have to worry about the deep ball.
After thinking Williams was a slam dunk pick I'm starting to think we'll pass unless he's available in undrafted free agency. There were too many offensive tackles in this draft who could easily outpull this mauler trapped in a tight end's body to burn the 6th on him. For a two tight end offense to work like in New England both guys have to be legit receiving targets even if one is just an adequate blocker (i.e. Aaron Hernandez or our very own James Hannah).
One other thing my final mock draft had Terrance Williams falling all the way to us in the mid-3rd. But given the popularity of Baylor receivers across the league lately I don't see any way that happens now, if we want Williams we'll have to burn a 2nd on him instead of using that high pick on a more needy position like OL, S or RB (Jonathan Franklin would be awesome, especially if this team passes on signing LaRod Stephens Howling in free agency).
9th Kyle Juszcyk FB Harvard 6"2 250
Jason Garrett uses his Ivy League/Princeton connections here to land one of the most coveted undrafted prospects, Harvard FB Kyle Juszcyk, though Princeton DE Mike Catapano ultimately spurns Garrett's recruitment attempts and heads for New England (maybe we land Princeton DT Caraun Reid as a consolation prize).
Juszcyk in my mind only goes undrafted because of the increasing scarcity of the fullback position in the NFL, though he played tight end at Harvard.
Juszcyk may not be a great blocker but he gives defensive coordinators something else to think about when he's on the field, though I expect Garrett to play more two TE than with a fullback if we get Williams and pair him with Witten or Hannah. I can definitely imagine Garrett stealing a page from Houston or Philadelphia's playbook and using Juszcyk in much the same way those teams have or will use FB/TE tweener James Casey. Out of this whole list, Juszcyk is the biggest lock to make the final 53.
10th Zach Rogers WR Tennessee 6"0 172
Getting a receiver who may be faster and more talented than our 2012 5th round pick Danny Coale (and who's likely to beat Coale out in training camp) as a UDFA is a steal. But why wouldn't Rogers want to play for his college coach Derek Dooley, unless he can find a wide receiver desperate team where he's more likely to start?
I had originally had Western Kentucky's Tyrone Goard as this year's undrafted wide receiver, but the San Francisco 49ers interest in using one of their 7th round picks on Goard and the Dooley connection makes signing Rogers a more likely scenario.
Did I mention Rogers ran in the mid-4.40's at Tennessee's pro day? If Rogers doesn't beat out Cole Beasley for the fifth and final receiver spot behind Dez, Miles, and Harris I can see him getting snatched off our practice squad by the Jets or another receiver needy-team and Coale or Tim Benford settling in for another year on the PS. However Rogers might not get poached this year as he needs to add some muscle to his six foot frame to beat aggressive corners in the slot.
10th Alex Carder QB Western Michigan 6"2 210
As I wrote in the previous edition (A Few Good UDFAs Part II), Carder reminds me of a young Matt Moore -- a training camp pet cat who got away to the Carolina Panthers and is now the backup to Ryan Tannehill in Miami. Carder has the arm strength and good mobility to excel in our offense and (hopefully) be groomed on the practice squad for 2014 and beyond (we've developed one UDFA from a small Midwestern school into a quality starter in the past decade, maybe we can do it again). The only reason he goes undrafted is because he struggled on a bad Western Michigan team in 2012.
11th Jakar Hamilton FS S. Carolina St. 6"0 200
I've got to admit Hamilton wasn't even on my radar until I read somewhere on BTB that he'd flown in for a pre-draft visit along with the Dallas Days prospects. He's a guy very similar in build and speed to current Cowboys 4th cornerback/safety Sterling Moore.
In fact, as with Don Unamba below I wouldn't be unhappy if the Cowboys used their 6th round pick on Hamilton as he could be drafted by another team desperate for depth at safety (i.e. the Ravens or Steelers) who have lots of compensatory picks in the final two rounds.
However, Hamilton also had some ankle and other injury issues in college that led to frequent transfers after he initially committed to Georgia in 2009. Those issues could lead to him going undrafted.
12th Don Unamba CB S. Arkansas 6"0 200
Unamba grew up rooting for the Cowboys in Hurst and is a likely Dallas Day invite who could go as early as the 6th round (I wouldn't be unhappy if we drafted him there). Unamba's brother Trumaine Johnson is a likely future starter at cornerback (or perhaps safety) for the St. Louis Rams. Unamba was a standout at the D2 level and can be brought in to compete with Micah Pellerin for the 5th and final cornerback spot on the roster (should the Cowboys opt to keep five corners as opposed to four with Sterling Moore as the 4th).
13th Nigel Malone CB Kansas State 5"10 180
Will Malone go undrafted? How should I know, I just know this guy can play and has the speed to be a slot corner in the NFL after having matched up well with future NFL receivers like Oklahoma's Kenny Stills and Texas speedster Marquise Goodwin. And the Cowboys are most definitely interested in finding a long-term successor to 2007 5th round pick Orlando Scandrick, either through the draft or the undrafted ranks.
14th Lane Taylor OG Oklahoma State 6"3 328
Taylor is a player I found out about through a BTB FanPost or FanShot (I can't recall which it was or when). He's a possible Dallas Day invitee who can compete in training camp to become this year's Ronald Leary, a UDFA who's a sleeper for either a backup or starting spot in the future. Should Leary outplay Livings for the left guard spot I can see Taylor making the PS with Killer Kowalski as our final guard/center should we carry six interior linemen (10 OL) for a lineup that looks like this (italics for new starters, bold for rookies):
Starters Backups 3rd string (backup 'swing' G/C)
LT T. Smith
R. Wagner Vince Painter (R-Va. Tech)
LG R. Leary M. Bernadeau
OC P. Costa K. Kowalski D. Arkin
RG J. Cooper (R-UNC) M. Bernadeau
RT J. Parnell
R. Wagner VincePainter (R-Va. Tech) D. Weems
Surprise Final Cuts:
OC R. Cook
OG N. Livings
PS OG L. Taylor or M. Benavides (10 OL on 53 and 1 OL on PS)
Now that's an offensive line we could ride deep into the playoffs if it can stay healthy. However if the Cowboys are shifting to a zone blocking scheme after throwing in the towel on Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau as quality starters, then another center like Mario Benavides (who may be this year's Ronald Leary) or West Virginia's Joe Madsen makes more sense.
Stay tuned -- next time I'll mock draft our NFC East Rivals two weeks before the draft!
Click here and here to read previous "A Few Good UDFAs" posts. I'm pleased to say that some of my picks like Western Kentucky's Tyrone Goard are now likely to be drafted.
If you want to know why developing a guy like Carder into a quality backup to succeed Kyle Orton is so important, I highly recommended these articles on the Cowboys' cap situations in 2014 and 2015.