For diehard Cowboys fans and draft fantaics, the second round of the draft has become almost as important as the first. In the last few seasons alone, DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory have been second-rounders that could be important pieces of the Cowboys future. Looking at this year's draft, who are players that the Cowboys should keep on their short list for pick #34?
CB Eli Apple, 6'1, 200 lbs, Ohio State (32nd CBS Prospect)
Apple could very well wind up being taken in the first round after the Hargreaves and Alexanders of the world are long gone. Apple is a long, rangy cornerback that plays with physicality and is skilled in both zone and press coverages. He's got great hip motion and is a very coordinated athlete to stay in the play. He uses his length well enough to keep receivers anything but comfortable. He's played against top receivers and has done well with his opportunities. He's still learning what he can and can not get away with at the next level, but Apple is a physical presence that NFL teams yearn for in their secondaries.
DT Sheldon Rankins, 6'2, 304 lbs, Louisville (36th CBS Prospect)
Rankins had to drop out of the Senior Bowl due to injury, but there is no question that he is one of the better interior guys in the draft. Rod Marinelli got a good look at him in those practices and was nearly unblockable. Rankins practically lived in the backfield at his time in Louisville and he brought that to his Senior Bowl practices. His ability to use his lower-body power with his heavy hands and strength routinely beat the offensive linemen in Mobile. He's got a quick-twitch and excellent motor. A very relentless competitor, Rankins has supreme awareness for a 300+ pound guy. He's versatile enough to play anywhere on the line and his vision to remain in the play is also outstanding. It's a shame that he didn't get to play in the game, he would have surely had success like all the defensive linemen at the Senior Bowl. He could perhaps be one of the best run defenders in this year's class though he's still polishing his repertoire as a pass rusher.
WR Josh Doctson, 6'2, 197 lbs, TCU (37th CBS Prospect)
Here is a guy to keep a watchful eye on, I can tell you with confidence that the Cowboys are intrigued by him. Sure, like Braxton Miller, he has some developing to do, but he's a tremendous athlete. Our own O.C.C. will tell you that the Cowboys have bought into the SPARQ system. Doctson could be a guy that lands pretty high on that chart. He's got great measurables and length for the position and good speed, too. His leaping ability is outstanding as is his awareness and tendencies. You won't hear a negative thing said about Doctson from any alumni or insiders who have the scoop on him. He's a wonderful teammate that can make stellar plays when called upon. Doctson's name has been overheard by Nick Eatman on several occasions in the halls of Valley Ranch. TCU runs a spread offense and often times their receivers need help polishing their route trees, the same will be said for Doctson. He had excellent production for the Horned Frogs with 2,785 receiving yards (most in TCU History) and once had 267 yards in a single game (most in history). Needless to say, here's a player that will contribute early.
CB Kendall Fuller, 6'0, 197 lbs, Virgina Tech (43rd CBS Prospect)
Much like his older brother Kyle (drafted 14th overall), Kendall is a finely-tuned athlete with all the range and tangibles to become a great corner in the NFL. Fuller had meniscus surgery that ended his season early, but that doesn't stop him from entering a draft where cornerbacks will be a solid class. Much like Apple, Fuller knows how to use his length to his advantage with receivers. He plays like a veteran and has a great attitude. He's not going to make many mistakes and still has the mental capacity to get better and correct any mistake he does make. Fuller would have been a first-round consideration, if not for the knee surgery. Fuller has all the physicality and skills of his brother but could become an even better prospect with more work on consistency.
DT Austin Johnson, 6'4, 323 lbs, Penn State (45th CBS Prospect)
In the past, the Cowboys have paid very little attention to their defensive tackles position and it should be more prioritized. Johnson has gaudy sack numbers in his time at Penn State but he's probably more of a run-stuffer than a sack artist. His ability to create havoc in the backfield leads to a lot of nothing for opposing offenses. He's not terribly quick, but his vision certainly is and he's been known to stack and shed blockers with ease. Johnson has become a favorite of the Draft Show so he has a lot of us looking into the young prospect. He's graded out in the second round and much like Grady Jarrett of 2015, Johnson is an all-around relentless competitor. It'll truly be a delight to watch what Marinelli can get out of him. Johnson showed a glimpse of what he was made of at the Senior Bowl. The second round is shaping up as a "Who's Who" at defensive tackle.
OLB Joshua Perry, 6'4, 253 lbs, Ohio State (46th CBS Prospect)
Perry is not getting nearly enough love from the draftniks as he should. He was very consistent in his time with the Buckeyes. His motor is outstanding and he's one of my favorite prospects in the entire draft. His instincts as both a run defender and in coverage are outstanding. He can line up at Sam and rush the passer. He's got long limbs that allow him to break through would-be blockers to make the play. He's probably best-fit as the middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme and his size is intriguing for Eberflus and Marinelli. He was widely considered a leader at Ohio State for his on and off the field demeanor. He doesn't get held up by blockers in his pursuit but needs to work on not being overly aggressive which can get him taken out of plays. Still, Perry led the team in tackles with 124 which was 32 more than the next Buckeye.
DE Carl Nassib, 6'7, 273 lbs, Penn State (60th CBS Prospect)
The Cowboys have taken DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory in consecutive second rounds and Nassib could be another instrumental part of their rotation for years to come. Nassib was coached by Marinelli at the Senior Bowl, so he got to see first-hand how high his motor is. Nassib has been described as a gym-rat who is chiseled for the position. He's long and tall at 6'7, 270 pounds and has a very impressive wingspan to grab the ball carrier and bring him down. Nassib has a very fast first step that coordinators are really going to like and he's a versatile athlete when it comes to scheme fit. Nassib set new records in his time at Penn State but still has quite the bit of developing to do. Either way, he's a try-hard player that gives relentless effort.
RB Kenneth Dixon, 5'10, 215 lbs, Louisiana Tech (62nd CBS Prospect)
The more you watch Dixon, the more you want this guy on your team. Excellent character and overall team-first mentality. What he lacks in explosiveness, he makes up for in intelligence and patience. Dixon hits the hole with a compact build that can take the punishment. He was an extremely productive at LA Tech with 4,480 rushing yards, but there are some slight concerns with his 900 carries. What sets him apart is his ability to know all of the little wrinkles and nuances of the position that make him intriguing. He's a very decisive runner and knows how to take on blocks in pass protection. He has a very high football IQ to know where the chains are and always keep focus as a runner. Great vision and ability to catch passes out of the backfield. He did have some fumbling issues but seems to have corrected them. Dixon is a very durable back with the potential to be a workhorse at the next level.