If you were to try and find the perfect fit for the Dallas Cowboys in this year's draft, who would it be?
One of the edicts of recent Cowboys draft philosophy that I broke out during the 2013 process was the team's insistence on using their first-round pick on the player they saw as the top player at his position. It's been the Cowboys way since the 2010 draft and held true each of the last four drafts. Whether Dallas was trading up, staying put, or trading backwards, they always walk away from the draft with a player they can say was the best at his position; a perfect fit.
This is just one of several trends that we here at Blogging The Boys have latched onto over the last several years and we'll take a more detailed look at all of them the week of the draft. For now, I wanted to focus on the theme of what players in the 2014 draft are perfect fits for what Dallas is looking for at each position. We'll split this up into two articles, today focusing on the offense.
Not all of these players are going to be first-rounders, but you can imagine that the perfect guy should be highly thought of across the league. Not every team plays the same scheme, but enough do that the value of a position should be the determining factor to where a guy is coveted. Also, this exercise has to be run on the gameplan that the regime in place remains. Regardless of whether or not you believe that is a possibility for Jason Garrett, Rod Marinelli and their staffs, there has to be a system to slot people in order to determine... the 2014 NFL Draft's Perfect Fits.
QB: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Stop. This is not me saying that I want Dallas to "figure out a way" to get Johnny Football. Whatever that mess even means. For one, I don't think he slides. For two, I don't think Dallas mortgages picks for him.
Chances are, if you doubt that Manziel will be a quality professional it's because of one of two base reasons. Either you don't believe that non-traditional QBs can be successful in the NFL, or, you're turned off by players that have an abundance of off-field drama. I get that, I really do.
I just don't agree.
On the field, here's what I see in Manziel. Insane instincts in the pocket. Insane maneuverability and escapability. Plus ability to throw on the move. Ability to make all of the throws. Uncanny leadership and team motivational skills. Quick field-scanner, progression reader. Tremendous scrambling threat that will eliminate a defender from coverage on almost every play. Here are the flaws I see in Johnny Manziel. He's short, he retreats too far back when pressured. Poor base on many throws. Not the best anticipation to throw a receiver open.
I know there will be drama that surrounds whomever drafts him. I know it will be magnified ten-fold if that team were the Cowboys. I know that people will clamor for him to takeover sooner rather than later. I don't care about that stuff. I guess I'm just built differently, but my world doesn't end because Sportscenter and First Take (which I don't watch either of) can't stop manufacturing storylines about Dallas. Yours shouldn't either, but we digress.
Fact is, during the interview process, we heard a myriad of reports about just how prepared and focused Manziel was on the entire draft process. As fans of the Dallas Cowboys, I would think that we have a unique perspective on media blowing unimportant, ancillary things out of proportion, and personally believe this is the case with Johnny Football.
My take? Give Johnny Manziel two seasons on the bench to rework some of these difficulties (though I don't know if I trust this to Wade Wilson) and I think he comes out on the other end as one of the Top 10 quarterbacks in the league. I think for the situation of sitting behind Tony Romo for a few years, Manziel is the perfect fit for the Dallas Cowboys. His playing style and panache is everything the team has in Tony Romo, plus the pedigree that Romo lacked.
Now I'm not saying that I want Dallas to spend pick No. 16 on Manziel; there are other players I would rather have in the fold first. But of the QBs in this year's draft, Manziel is the perfect fit for this team.
RB: Bishop Sankey, Washington
The running back position is in a strange place draft wise, due to the changing nature of the game. Backs rarely can carry their production into a second contract and as such are getting devalued. Now, more than ever, backs are being looked at as scheme fits and with the idea that they will need to be complimented by, or be the compliment to another runner. For my money, Bishop Sankey is the best back available for what Dallas does. Sankey can go anywhere from rounds 2-4, and I doubt Dallas wants to go there for a back (they drafted Randle to let Murray walk next year and have Dunbar as their COP back), but if they did he'd be my guy.
Sankey reminds me of Emmitt in a lot of ways. Emmitt was clearly more between the tackles, as Sankey might even cut it outside too often; but his slippery nature and they way he avoids the big hit are reminiscent to me. He also has great hands and is a serious weapon out of the backfield; not line him up outside weapon, but still.
WR: Cody Latimer, Indiana
The Cowboys have a prototype for wideout. 6’2" 220 lbs. Yeah, well this one comes with blazing, 4.41 40 speed. Latimer wasn’t on a lot of radars early in the process, but trust me… teams knew about the Hoosier stud. Latimer basically refuses to be pressed at the line, and then combines that with sharp stutters and cuts in his routes and great hands. He’s raw, he didn’t start playing football until 2009, but he does great work in traffic.
If you’re looking for someone that could play alongside Dez and Terrance Williams, as well as fill in for Dez at the X should injury occur… this is your guy. Latimer is projected anywhere in the Top 2 rounds as the incredibly deep wide receiver group will be all about which style a team prefers more than ever.
Move TE: Eric Ebron, North Carolina
I've been fascinated with Eric Ebron ever since I started watching Jonathan Cooper games back in 2012. He is an extremely fluid player that seems to just be scratching the surface of what he could do in the pro game. He could stand to get stronger, but he seems to just float all over the field and find himself open. When contested, he has great body control to make the tough catch. Running a 4.58 40, you can't leave a linebacker on him or he will burn him to ashes.
If you want a tight end that you are moving all over the place (and the Cowboys probably don't, not this early) it would be Ebron. I doubt he makes it to 16, so no worries Dallas fans.
Inline TE: CJ Fiedorowicz, Iowa
CJ seems to be the quintessential inline tight end, as he has honed his skills at a TE factory in a run-heavy offense. He's the definition of a get-what-he-can tight end; he's not going to run past anybody, but he is going to set the edge on running plays and find space when he needs to leak out as a pass target. He is ultra-physical as a blocker and could possibly see a draft weekend slide as other more athletic tight ends shoot up the draft boards. Projected as a 3rd or 4th rounder, he'd be a wise move should he fall to the 5th.
Right Tackle: Greg Robinson, Auburn
There isn't a player in the draft with more upside than Greg Robinson. He's only been playing football for a few years, but he is so athletically freakish that it's obvious he's just scratching the surface. It's Tyron Smith all over again. His footwork is great, his hands are all-encompassing weapons of destruction, and for all his quickness he has immense strength to match. There is a need to improve his technique, which is to be expected since he just started playing OL as a junior in high school.
Oh yeah, dude is mean.. and I mean that literally. He's not very pleasant. There's no way Dallas ends up with him (Top 4), but there is no better bookend to Smith in this draft than what Robinson brings to the table.
ZBS Guard: Zack Martin, Notre Dame
The entire draft season, I've been among those saying to get Martin so he can play guard for a year and then kick him outside. I'm coming around to the idea that Martin should stay at guard, and be your swing guy at tackle if you need him to be. The only weaknesses to Martin's game are dealing with extreme foot quickness and sliding out laterally to catch speed rushers.
He will never have that issue at guard, especially in a ZBS scheme. He is powerful in the run game and highly intelligent. He's not an uber-athlete, but he is athletic enough to get into his stance and be ready for the defender. This dude is Logan Mankins 2.0 and would solidify the Cowboys O-Line next to Travis Frederick. Mid-first round rated, perfect for Dallas.
ZBS Center: Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
The Cowboys obviously don't need a starter here, as last season's "well-received" first rounder Travis Frederick has a lock on things. With the loss of Phil Costa though, Dallas currently only has the supposedly versatile Mack Bernadeau. So, a ZBS center is what they need, and that's exactly what Gabe Ikard is. He doesn't have the functional power that Frederick has, but his smarts (graduated with a 4.0 GPA) leads to very intelligent play; knowing exactly how to help his line mates.
He also will not easily be overpowered by nose tackles and can manage one-on-one responsibilities. Ikard is very capable of getting to the second level and impressed those watching the week of practices at the Senior Bowl. He is projected as a 5th or 6th rounder, which is right where Dallas should be looking for a long-term backup.
Of course, these fits are just my opinions. Some may believe in these prospects, others might think there are better candidates available in the draft. Use the comment section to share your opinions and offer up some other players you think would be perfect fits for the Dallas Cowboys.
Next: Perfect Fits On Defense.