Among fans of pro football, just about everyone knows about the top fifty players eligible for the NFL Draft. With the internet and the proliferation of sites about the game, it is not hard to become conversant with the top 100, or 150, or even 200 players.
This year, the Dallas Cowboys have an unusual situation. They currently are sitting on 11 draft picks. But six of those picks are in the seventh round. That is when those top 200 players are pretty much already gone. All the obvious choices have already been made, and for those picks, the scouting department will really need to earn their pay in finding some hidden or overlooked gems for the Cowboys to use those picks on in the last round.
Historically, Dallas has done pretty well with seventh-round and UDFA signings. Given that three of the seventh-round picks involved are compensatory (which also means they can't be traded away) and in the last nine picks overall, these have a great deal in common with past UDFAs. They want players who were overlooked for one reason or another.
Figuring out who the Cowboys would be interested in is largely a guessing game. We get some ideas from players who Dallas bring in for visits, but they wind up drafting and signing players who don't visit every year. All we, as fans, can do is try to think like the staff at Valley Ranch and find players who might fit.
I had some discussions about this with my digital friend (calling him a "Tweep" just seems too cute for someone as, um, seasoned as I am) @landonmccool. He and I (mostly him) came up with a few names, and he worked up some scouting reports. In doing this, we had decided we were going to focus on players from the area near Dallas rather than look all across the nation. It may not reflect how things really work, but the reasoning is that the scouting staff may be more familiar with schools that are relatively near and may have some contacts they have developed that can tip them to players they might want to consider.
One thing the team can do in the seventh round, especially with multiple picks, is look to address needs they still have after going through the first six rounds. By this point, best player available is a pretty subjective thing, and you are doing a lot of grading on a curve here. Landon looked at a couple of defensive tackles that might be worth a look from the Cowboys.
Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech, 6-2 280 lbs.
Hyder is a player that may get some attention elsewhere. Depending on the site, he is seen as possibly a sixth-round pick, but is fairly likely to be around in the seventh. He got a lot of accolades in the Big XII conference, but may have seen his stock fall along with the team's when they finished the season with five losses after opening with seven wins. According to many, he was the best defensive player on the Red Raiders, but that is as much due to the dearth of talent around him as anything.
Landon sees him as more of a 1-tech than a 3-tech. Here is his summary:
- I really think that Hyder would benefit from a year of getting in a NFL program. He needs to tighten up his midsection and add some weight in his legs.
- Let me explain why I think he is a 1-tech and not a 3-tech. When I think of Booger McFarland, the thing that he did consistently which was very disruptive was reestablish the line of scrimmage for the men blocking him, a yard deep in the backfield. That's what I think this kid could eventually do consistently.
- He doesn't have elite burst, and he doesn't have elite pass rushing traits. I think to play 3 tech in Marinelli's system, you need at least one of those two. But he does have good enough burst, light enough feet, and strong enough push when he gets low to eliminate running lanes or push pocket back to QB.
- Floor with this kid is a floater utility NFL Defensive Lineman. I think he could be a decent 5-tech as well for an attacking 3-4 team. But his ceiling is a good starter if he can get some more good weight and lose some bad.
Since a 1-tech DT is believed to be a position Dallas would not want to use a high draft pick on, then finding one in the seventh would seem to be ideal. Hyder did play primarily as a three in college, so he might be able to surprise people.
Chris Whaley, Texas, 6-3 295 lbs.
Whaley was injured late in his senior season, which has dropped his stock considerably. But he may be worth a seventh-round pick. He certainly has some big play ability, having scored a touchdown on both a fumble recovery and an interception in 2013.
He appears to have a bit more burst than Hyder and when he won his battles, he did so with speed. Here is Landon:
- I don't frankly think he is draftable for a 2-gap team.
- Badly timed injury, limited defensive experience, and bad coaching/scheming, all could add up to a diamond in the rough type situation.
- Hustler, hard worker (came to UT at 215lb RB). Dane Brugler makes him sound like he is a coach's dream. Team first guy, who changed position to help college team.
- For the amount of time it would require for him to get healthy, get stronger, refine his technique to a level that is competitive for what they would ask him to do in a 2-gap system, it wouldn't be worth the investment.
- On the other hand, in a penetrating 1-gap system, he has *some* immediate potential as a nickle interior pass rusher, with big potential for down the road.
He obviously needs a lot of work, but the fact he is a recent conversion to DT could mean there is a lot of upside. He is another player who was affected by what happened with his team. The Longhorns fired their defensive coordinator two weeks into the season. The general air of disarray that contributed to the retirement of Mack Brown, plus the strange way his retirement transpired, unfortunately can color the way teams regard players, despite how well they actually performed. However, this could help Dallas if it brings in a player at a bargain cost. As Landon pointed out, he is not going to be a fit for many teams, but could bring some useful attributes for Rod Marinelli's scheme. I particularly liked the nimble feet Landon saw, and the way he seemed to move through traffic. He gets compared to another guy who played in Austin named Henry Melton, which is not a bad thing at all.
Those are two names that may be worth looking at in the seventh round. I'll have a few more later for your consideration.