Believe it or not, the Dallas Cowboys will be in the market at positions other than quarterback in the upcoming NFL Draft. Given the attention that has been paid to the position in recent weeks this may come as a shock, but the needs of any professional football team always run deep. Coaching in the Senior Bowl will give the Dallas staff an opportunity for a close-up look at the talent that will be up for bids during the annual meat market.
First and foremost, securing a backup QB is a need, and the team will have to make moves to address this concern. The trip to Mobile will give the offensive coaches an opportunity to look at a couple different guys who would appear to be good fits for the franchise. Carson Wentz will be on Garrett's roster and you can bet your last dollar that the team will be looking closely in his direction. The deciding factor here could be more of a matter of team priorities than anything else. Is the need at QB great enough, both now and in the future, for the Cowboys to invest the fourth-overall pick in Wentz?
If the answer is no, another guy they will be working with is Stanford QB Kevin Hogan. In some ways he resembles Jason Garret. His strongest asset is his intelligence, both on the gridiron and off. With his being a Stanford product that goes without saying. He is also a gritty, tough-minded guy who has the tools to be at least a competent backup quarterback in the NFL for years to come. Hogan could be a guy the Cowboys look at later in the draft is they pass on A QB at fourth overall.
Following the train of thought that Dallas does not go with a quarterback on the first night, we need to consider other options, especially at positions of need. One of the guys on the roster that Rod Marinelli will be taking a long hard look at will be Penn State defensive tackle Austin Johnson. The 325-pound Johnson is a force in the middle and he is rarely moved off of the ball. This makes him a stout run defender. What he brings to the equation that the Cowboys "Rushman Whisperer" is sure to like is that he can also generate heat up the middle. This big cat is more than just a run-stuffer inside, he is a playmaker who has the build to sustain combat on the interior of the line.
The Cowboys wouldn't invest the fourth-overall selection on a player like Johnson, and recent history seems to indicate that they do not value the position highly in the draft. There is the possibility that the Cowboys may trade back and still have the Nittany Lion on their radar depending on where his stock is by draft day.
Another concern the team will have to address is at corner. Houston Cougars cornerback William Jackson, III looks to be the best prospect on the roster here. He proved to be something of a ball hawk in 2015. Five times he took the ball away from opposing defenses for the Cougars. Jackson has fluid hips and can run with his guy in man coverage, but he also plays zone well. The biggest knock on him is that he needs to bulk up to be able to go one-on-one with the bigger and more physical receivers at the next level. Jackson is another talent that is not in play at #4 but who will find himself in the picture if the Cowboys choose to move back or if he is available early in the second round.
Regardless of how the draft plays out, the entire Senior Bowl experience will be beneficial to the Dallas coaching staff. Notes will be taken and filed away; some will be used on draft day, perhaps some in future years, and some will never be used again. The time in Mobile will be a learning opportunity for all involved. It was not all that long ago that some guy named Zack Martin earned the attention of the Dallas staff at the game, and perhaps this year the tale will follow suit.
"We're looking forward to the opportunity to coach in the Senior Bowl. It's a great chance to get to spend time with the best players in the country, and all the people associated with the game do a great job of hosting the coaches and personnel people from around the NFL throughout the week. It's a very beneficial experience for everyone involved." - Jason Garrett