Over the past few months the BTB community has put together some excellent work on the various prospects that will be available to the Cowboys in the draft (thanks Chia!). While I normally don't venture into the world of fanposts (this is my first), today I would like to flesh out my three favorite draft day scenarios. I will mostly focus on the first three rounds, since there are too many variables involved in accurately predicting who will be available on day three of the draft. I strongly believe that we not only need long term hits on these picks, but we also need to find some early starters from the first two days if 2011 is going to be a successful season. Each of these scenarios assumes that Fairley, Peterson, Quinn, Dareus, Bowers, and Amukamara will all be gone when Dallas is on the clock at #9. So without further ado, here are the three draft day scenarios I like the most:
Scenario 1: The Cameron Jordan Edition
Round 1, pick #9: Cameron Jordan
Like many others on this board, I am a big fan of Cameron Jordan. I think he has the ability to be an immediate starter for us in our base 3-4, while also sliding inside for our 4 man fronts. Jordan had a dominant week of practice at the senior bowl, and Wes Bunting frequently referred to him as the second most disruptive defensive lineman in college football last season. He is strong enough to hold up against the run, and has a variety of inside moves to get pressure on the quarterback. Stick him in between Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware at RDE and I believe we will see sparks fly once again in 2011.
Cameron Jordan vs. Colorado (via AloAloysius)
Round 2, pick #40: Benjamin Ijalana
Round 2 is actually the linchpin to my first draft scenario. Cameron Jordan should be available at #9, but projecting Ijalana to #40 is a bit trickier. Wes Bunting's latest mock has him going in the late first round, while CBS has him as a 3rd rounder. I think both are probably incorrect, but I still feel that Ijalana will be taken in the first half of the second round. He is a small school prospect who did not participate in the senior bowl due to injury, so there is a chance he will still be there when we pick. If he is, I strongly feel he should be the pick if we take a defensive player in round 1. This kid dominated the competition at Vilanova - he is strong at the point of attack and has the quick feet you look for in a tackle. He may be able to play OT at the next level, but he will likely be an even better fit at guard. Take all the pulling we do with Leanord Davis as an example, but then imagine him actually hitting someone once he gets out there. I liken this kid to the great Lary Allen, and while its not a perfect comparison by any stretch (Larry was obviously much stronger and is probably one of the best to ever play his position), when I watch this video I see similarities:
Ben Ijalana vs. Montana (2009) (via MARI0clp)
Round 3, pick # 71: Deunta Williams
Our Safety play was a real problem last season and something that has to be addressed going into 2011 if we are to have any shot. I think the best bet we have is to pick up a guy like Eric Weddle or Michael Huff in FA, and then draft somebody early to compete with AOA for the other spot. Deunta Williams was being projected as a 2nd round talent prior to breaking his leg in his team's bowl game this year. The injury will probably cause him to drop in the draft, but every account I've read indicates he will be ready to go by the time training camp arrives this summer. When you watch him, you see a good coverage safety who isn't afraid to support the run. I like him, and would be thrilled to have him in the third round.
Deunta Williams (via colbert08)
Scenario 2: The Trade Down Edition
Round 1, pick X: Gabe Carimi
The biggest issue we have on offense is the play of our offensive line. In particular, the right side of the line. Marc Colombo, for all his determination and toughness, was an awful player for us last season. The scary thing is, RT is not going to be an easy fix in free agency or later in the draft. While some FA options exist (Tyson Clabo for example), it may be difficult to secure their services. The CBA uncertainty makes matters even worse, and I'm just not sure we can depend on FA to find a suitable replacement. If that's the case, then the guy I would look at is none other than the Outland Trophy winner, Gabe Carimi. Carimi is actually my favorite player in this draft, but would be considered a reach if we were to take him at #9. If we can get him a little later in round 1, while also nabbing an extra 2nd or 3rd round pick, then that would be a big boon to the Dallas Cowboys.
Gabe Carimi vs. Adrian Clayborn (via AloAloysius)
Gabe Carimi vs. Cameron Heyward (via AloAloysius)
I included two videos on Gabe for a couple reasons. First, Clayborn and Heyward are projected first round picks at DE, and he threw them around like rag dolls. Secondly, these videos really illustrate Carimi's strengths and weaknesses as a player. Both DE's were able to beat him with speed rushes to the outside, a flaw that is going to keep Carimi from going at the top of the first round. That problem would be a real concern if we were looking for a LT, but I think its a bit overblown at RT. That aside, the one thing that really stands out in the above videos is Carimi's ability to absolutely maul people in the running game. Clayborn and Heyward are big guys, and Carimi got a great push against them on almost every single running play. This is a big nasty who will win for us in the running game, and is the most NFL ready lineman in the draft. Maybe he isn't a true LT like some of the other guys in the first round conversation, but I'll take him at RT from day one and never look back.
Round 2, pick # 40: Rahim Moore
As mentioned in scenario 1, safety has to be a priority this offseason, and it doesn't get any better than taking the best safety prospect in the draft in Rahim Moore. This isn't the best year for safeties, but Moore is the best player in that grouping and can definitely impact this team very early in his career. His tackling needs to improve, but his ball skills are unmatched and he was a real leader in his 3 years at UCLA.
Rahim Moore vs. Cal (2010) (via MARI0clp)
Round 2, pick X: Muhammad Wilkerson
Another small school guy, Wilkerson was a dominant DT for Temple and accumulated 17 sacks over his 3 years there. He has the perfect size to play 3-4 DE, and as a DT in college he is use to playing in traffic. He does need to vary his pass rushing repertoire, as right now he is more a bull rush kind of guy, but the talent is there for this guy be a big time 3-4 DE. Some sites (CBS) have projected him as high as the late first round, but most draft services have him as a solid 2nd rounder. One of the great things about trading down in the first is addressing multiple needs, and Wilkerson fits the bill as a pass rushing 3-4 DE.
Muhammad Wilkerson vs. Penn State (2010) (via MARI0clp)
Round 3, pick # 71: Danny Watkins
One of the best players at this years Senior Bowl was 26 year old Danny Watkins. Watkins is a Canadian firefighter who has only been playing football for four years, but has already developed into a great lineman. Since his breakout week in Mobile, some have projected him as a late first or second round pick, but I have a hard time seeing him go that high because of his age. No matter how you break it down, its hard to spend that high of a pick on a guy who will turn 27 his rookie year. Still, if you can get him in the 3rd round then you have to be excited, since this guy has plug and play potential at guard early on in his career. As a Baylor OT there doesn't appear to be a lot of video on him available online, but DCFanatic was kind enough to upload the senior bowl practices where you can see a lot of Danny Watkins:
Senior Bowl Practice - South - Jan 25 - Part 1 (via DCFRadio)
Senior Bowl Practice - South - Jan 25th - Part 2 (via DCFRadio)
Scenario 3: The Tyron Smith Edition
Round 1, pick #9: Tyron Smith
I expect this to be the least liked scenario of the three, simply because it is similar to the previous scenario without the trade down. To be clear, I think scenario 2 is the ideal one if we are going OT in round 1. But the biggest hurdle to that scenario is that we have to find a trading partner, and it has to be in the range where we can still reasonably assume we can get one of our guys. If that isn't possible, then perhaps sticking to #9 and taking our #1 OT is the best play, even if some consider it a reach. In this scenario, I consider Tyron Smith to be that guy. Tyron Smith gets some flak in the draft community because of his lack of bulk, but according to Wes Bunting the kid has the best tape of any OT in college football, and at only 20 years old is almost certain to get bigger. The hard thing about Smith is accepting the idea that we will have to endure his growing pains as a rookie. I admit, the idea that he may not be ready to go next year is a turn off to me. But I suspect he will be better than most people think his rookie year, and I strongly feel that we will be talking about him as the best OT of the draft class from 2013 and beyond. If he weighs in around the 300 pound range at the combine, I would be more than ok taking him at #9.
Tyron Smith vs Cal (via AloAloysius)
Watching the above video, you can see Smith frequently matching up with our round 1 choice in scenario 1, Cameron Jordan. There are times where Jordan really took advantage of Smith's lack of bulk which caused him to get knocked down or get caught holding. But you also get to see Smith's quick feet and good hand placement. Even at 280, there are a couple plays here where he uses superior technique to really drive Jordan back in the running game. You also get a chance to see how his athleticism allows him to quickly get to the 2nd level, while also showing the coordination to consistently hit somebody once he gets there (something I've seen a lot of lineman have issues with, especially ours). Finally, I will leave you with a quote from Cameron Jordan himself, which perfectly describes what Smith is capable of:
Scott Wright: Who is the best opposing player you have faced during your career?
Cameron Jordan: The SC tackle, who I’m training with here, Tyron Smith. He was one of the faster, more athletic tackles I’ve faced pretty much my whole career.
Round 2, pick # 40: Rahim Moore
Round 3, pick # 71: Danny Watkins
Both the 2nd and 3rd round picks are the same in this scenario as in scenario 2, with the notable exception of not having the extra pick from the trade down. This is more doable if you believe Spears and Bowen will be resigned, but it certainly would be nicer if we were able to grab an extra pick in addition to getting our OT.
So there you have it! These are the three scenarios that I would be pleased with come draft day. Obviously these aren't the only possibilities. Maybe one of the other blue chip defenders slip, maybe the 2nd and 3rd round guys get snatched up earlier than expected, but ideally I would hope to see something like this happen. As this is my first fanpost, any comments would be appreciated!