FanPost

5 Non D-lineman Draft Prospects

Everyone understands that Dallas needs to address the defensive line via the draft. Ravaged by injury and lacking in depth and difference-makers, the rushmen are an obvious unit to focus on leading up to draft weekend at Radio City music hall. However, Dallas will not draft a defensive lineman in every round (and quite possibly not in the first), so it's a good exercise to intentionally step away from the d-line for a bit to look at a few prospects who aren't DE's or DT's.

Please note that these five prospects vary wildly in position and round that they will be drafted - this is not a mock draft, nor is it a look at potential first round picks. This is a (non-exclusive) list of five guys who I think Dallas should or may end up drafting that don't play on the defensive line.

Zack Martin, G/T, Notre Dame

6’4", 308 lbs
(RS) Senior, 23 years old
Projected: mid-to-late 1st

PRO’s

Four year starter at LT for the Irish, set record for number of starts at Notre Dame with 52. Very polished, superb technician. Good athlete – quick feet and natural bend, agile. Excellent fit for Dallas’ zone blocking scheme. High character – intangibles are a big plus. Intelligent. Dominated Senior Bowl practices and the game. Plays with great strength – routinely punches his assignment back at the snap. Great production – rarely beaten, even against good teams with good pass rushers (shut out Trent Murphy [Stanford], the nation’s sack leader in 2013). Looks like he could be a 10 year starter at any position along the line. Was the MVP of Notre Dame’s bowl game in 2013, for what it’s worth.

CON’s

A lot of people project him inside at guard because of his body type (32 ¼" arms). Not a lot of cons, really. He’s not a small-school TE and is therefore unlikely to be drafted by the Cowboys.

MY INEXPERT OPINION

He’s the number two player on my "could realistically be there at 17th overall" list. If Aaron Donald is unavailable, Dallas should draft Martin. The Cowboys’ offensive line was much, much improved last year. However, there is still a big lack of depth and Martin would start right away at either guard spot (or RT if they decide to release Free). It wouldn’t hurt to invest in more protection for Romo’s back. In short, I think fans are too quickly dismissing the offensive line as an area of concern.

Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville

6’2", 208 lbs,
Junior, 21 years old
Projected: late 1st, early 2nd

PRO’s

Hard-hitting safety who has a habit of creating turnovers. Amassed 75 tackles, three interceptions, four passes broken up and two forced fumbles for the 2013 season. Fast and has good size to cover tight ends and big receivers. Hitter who caused a lot of fumbles over his career.

CON’s

Most people make the Earl Thomas comparison, but it’s a lazy one – Pryor is not the centerfielder that Thomas is/was as a draft prospect. To some extent, he duplicates what Dallas already has in J.J. Wilcox – a young, athletic safety who hits really hard but is not yet a ball hawk in coverage.

MY INEXPERT OPINION

Pryor is being projected as Dallas’ first round pick with more and more frequency; I hope that Dallas doesn’t make that decision. Not because Pryor is a bad prospect, but because I think it’s premature to replace Wilcox with a rookie who seems very similar. And I like Wilcox’s potential – I think he could be much improved next season. I think that Dallas is actually better off at safety than most fans seem to. They certainly could add some depth (shouldn’t be playing Jeff Heath), but unless it’s a clear upgrade at the position, I would wait until the mid-rounds to address the safety position.

Ryan Shazier, 4-3 OLB, Ohio State

6’2", 229 lbs
Junior, 22 years old
Projected: mid 1st to early 2nd

PROs

Best production for any defender in the draft. An absolute football player. Three down player – rangy and athletic. Sideline-to-sideline range. Has the length to cover TE’s effectively. Tracks the ball well and moves well in space. Great instincts and a tackling machine. Aggressive. Athletic and fast enough to be a good edge blitzer. Really cool name.

CONs

Small. Looks more like a strong safety sized football player than a linebacker. Can get swallowed up by bigger offensive lineman – not strong enough to redirect once he’s locked up with a bigger player. Not going to punish people in tight spaces.

MY INEXPERT OPINION

While it would be panned by the "experts" and I certainly would rather Dallas draft other players at 17, it would be hard to fault the Cowboys if they draft Shazier in the first round. Because of his elite instincts, elite production, and really good athleticism, he projects as a player who could be really good for a long time at an area of concern for Dallas’ defense. Wouldn’t be as upset as most fans would be if Dallas forewent other "higher rated" prospects at 17.

Jimmy Ward, FS, Northern Illinois

5’11", 193 lbs
Senior, 22 years old
Projected: 2nd to 3rd

PROs

Athletic cover safety. Takes good angles and keeps the play in front of him in coverage. Above-average ball skills. All over the field, worked out at the Senior Bowl everywhere from single high to slot coverage and excelled at all coverages. Aggressive, downhill tackler. Not afraid to hit and is a capable tackler. Great production (95 tackles, 7 INT in 2013). Uncannily effective as a blitzer in college. Stock was boosted from great showing during Senior Bowl practices and game itself. Showed great kick coverage ability during Senior Bowl week, as well.

CONs

Small safety that played against inferior competition in the MAC. Ability to stay healthy at his size is an unknown. Played in the box more often than as a true FS in NIU’s defense. Doesn’t always wrap up, often hits rather than tackles.

MY INEXPERT OPINION

I’d much rather take Ward in the 3rd than Pryor in the 1st. Ward adds a skillset that no current Cowboys safety has: great coverage ability with the chance of being a real centerfielder. He would most likely vie for a starting position as a rookie, and at the very least would immediately add depth to a position that needs it while being a real upgrade on special teams as a rookie.

Tre Boston, FS, North Carolina

6’1", 205 lbs
Senior, 22 years old
Projected: 4th – 5th

PROs

Versatile defensive back who has started at both CB and FS during his time at North Carolina. Athletic. Has the speed and range to cover sideline-to-sideline. Comfortable in space and shows the ability to make a play on the ball. Led his team in interceptions for the last three years, led team in tackles and INT in 2013.

CONs

Tackling can be an issue; tries to lower his head too often instead of wrapping up the ball carrier. Tackling technique will need a lot of attention at the next level.

MY INEXPERT OPINION

Boston is another safety prospect I would rather draft in the mid-rounds than Pryor in the 1st. He has coverage ability in spades to go along with great athleticism.


So there you have it, folks. This is not a complete list, obviously. Just trying to focus on a few prospects I'm not as familiar with as I am the Aaron Donald's and Stephon Tuitt's of this draft. What do you guys think?

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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