It seems somehow fitting that the Dallas Cowboys sent a 2016 sixth-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers so they could get one last player in the 2015 draft - and it was a tight end. In a flurry of selections at the end of the draft, they added linebacker Mark Nzeocha from Wyoming, offensive tackle Laurence Gibson of Virginia Tech, and Texas tight end Geoff Swaim. All of which will give my spell checker fits, but I digress.
As is to be expected from players taken so late in the draft, they don't come with resumes or reputations that will knock your socks off, but that doesn't look like what the Cowboys were up to.
First, a look at what each player brings to the table, and the likely reasons why the Cowboys drafted them.
If there is a find among these three, it is likely to be Nzeocha. Our own rabblerousr saw him as a possible late pick and did a profile on him. He is from Germany, and is a relative newcomer to the game. But he played four years for the Wyoming Cowboys (appropriate name) and started his career as a safety. He would likely have gone higher except for an injury.
In 2014, he started strong, posting 59 tackles with two sacks, five passes defensed and two forced fumbles in seven games before suffering a season-ending injury. Despite missing time, he was named to the Academic All-Conference team for the third straight year.
What he looks like is a smart, athletic but raw player whose best bet is to become a special teams demon - and he looks to have all the tools for that. Dallas also has a chance to further shore up the linebacking corps, where they lost Justin Durant and need to worry about injury concerns for both Sean Lee and Rolando McClain. They now have a large group of linebackers to work with, and still may add during the UDFA signings.
Gibson offers another option for a swing tackle, although there is always a chance that the team may see him (or third-round pick Chaz Green) as someone that can move inside to guard. Given the lack of depth on the offensive line, and how important that line is to the running game, this seems logical. The Cowboys seem to believe that the running game is based on the line, or at least have a lot of faith in the current backs on the roster, since they did not draft a single running back this year.
Swaim is a blocking tight end, which also ties in with the running game. He is going to be competition for James Hanna, it appears, unless the team is looking to go with four TEs on the roster. It will be something to watch in training camp.
The three also are continuations of a couple of trends that emerged in the draft. Both Nzeocha and Gibson were visitors to Valley Ranch, which means that the first seven of the eight draftees all were players that the Cowboys have targeted for quite some time. This is the most ever, and may show a growing confidence in the team's scouting department under Will McClay. Identifying players early and then bringing them in before the draft lets the team get a very good handle on the men they are dealing with.
Second, as has been mentioned in previous posts, the SPARQ scores for the players seemed to play a major part in their selection.
Dallas has drafted the #1 Sparq DB, the #8 & #20 EDGE the #9 & #47 OL #2 & #32 LB this is a SPARQ team for sure...— Joey Ickes (@JoeyIckes) May 2, 2015
Geoff Swain is the #9 TE using the SPARQ scores.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) May 2, 2015
It seems a foregone conclusion that the Cowboys are now fully on board the analytics train. This indicates that the team is focused on players with the athletic ability to perform at the NFL level. College performance is still important, but the use of SPARQ or similar measures helps weed out players who put up big numbers in college only to fizzle in the pros. The competition in the NFL is bigger, stronger, and faster than who these players lined up against on Saturdays. The theory is that the team will put the athletes in the hands of their coaches and staff, who will then develop them into the players the Cowboys need. It is not a foolproof approach, but recent trends in the league show that it is a better way to go than just relying on the video.
Another point about the draft is that the Cowboys did not use a single pick on an offensive skill player. No running backs, quarterbacks, or wide receivers were seen as the best option at any point in the draft. This is the first time this has happened since Jerry Jones bought the team. Five of the eight players chosen, all in the first six picks, were on defense. Rod Marinelli now has a much better toolbox to work with.
Now the focus will shift to the undrafted free agents. Stay with us for all the latest there.