Continuing with the draft target series, today we look at the "Building Block" part of the series. The previous post was regarding the Dallas Cowboys and the blue-chip prospects they have been linked to. This post involves players that would be huge for the team, but also players that aren't necessarily the premier players of the draft class.
Building-Block Draft Targets
The players on this list are guys that will likely be targeted from the second round up until the fifth round. Over the past couple of seasons, the Cowboys have done an excellent job at getting immediate contribution from their top draft picks. But they have gotten mixed results from guys in the middle rounds. Hopefully, a few of these guys can't improve that.
Charles Tapper, Defensive End, Oklahoma
The Cowboys met with Charles Tapper at the Senior Bowl. At Oklahoma, it was hard to fully evaluate Tapper because of the awkward defensive formation they deploy, but the Cowboys love Tapper's speed and explosiveness, two traits they usually look for in their pass rushers.
Bronson Kaufusi, Defensive End, BYU
I wrote an article a couple of weeks ago on Bronson Kaufusi and why I like him in the middle rounds for the Cowboys. I'm going to put in what I said about him below:
"BYU's Bronson Kaufusi doesn't necessarily fit the mold the Cowboys look for in a defensive end, but he's a guy that could play inside or outside, depending on the down and the situation. Kaufusi could be an interesting player in the role of a Jack Crawford or even a Nick Hayden."
The problem with Kaufusi is that his stock has blown up since an awesome performance at the combine. However, the Cowboys were a team that knew about Kaufusi before most of the league did, and Will McClay and Stephen Jones deserve all of the credit.
Top 4 EDGE scores, but I would defer to @JuMosq's #FP#— Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) February 28, 2016
Cowboys had an interview with Kaufusi after the Senior Bowl.
Tajae Sharpe, Wide Receiver, UMass
AUMass' Tajae Sharpe was a participant in both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl, Sharpe is a guy that intrigues for his ability to perform both inside and outside. At UMass, he caught passes from a less-than-consistent player in Blake Frohnapfel. Sharpe in Dallas would be special, and I mean from the get-go. Here's my mini report on Sharpe:
"In Dallas, I think Sharpe would fit really well. He shows the ability to play either inside or outside, and when he comes into his body, he's only going to be tougher to defend. Whether his role is in sub-packages with Beasley on the inside or with Butler, the Cowboys could get very creative with Sharpe."
Falcons with Jake Rudock— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) January 20, 2016
Colts with Joel Stave
Argos with Frohnapfel
Broncos with Darion Griswold
Cowboys with Tajae Sharpe
Brandon Allen, Quarterback, Arkansas
Size is often mentioned a lot when evaluating quarterbacks and their NFL potential. One guy who's going to get undervalued because of that is Arkansas' Brandon Allen. Playing under Bret Bielema in college, Allen is an intelligent quarterback coming from a pro-style offense, who improved each season. If Dallas wants to wait until the middle rounds to nab their backup quarterback, Allen may not be a bad contingency plan.
Dak Prescott, Quarterback, Mississippi State
The DUI arrest will obviously not help his cause, but Dak Prescott has gotten some good grades from draft evaluators in the past couple of months. Before the 2015 college football season, Prescott was getting comparisons to Tim Tebow for his running ability and his questionable arm talent. But he proved in 2015 that he has a future in the NFL. The Cowboys set up an interview awhile back, but his arrest could very well change things.
"Last night, meeting with Wade Wilson, just talking about what they expect me to do if I come in there in the backup role behind Tony Romo," Prescott said. "How do I plan on approaching it and then just talking ball, so some very productive meetings." - Dak Prescott
Vernon Adams, Quarterback, Oregon
One winner from the pre-draft showcase series was Vernon Adams. Playing just one season at Oregon after transferring from Washington State, Adams drew some comparisons to Russell Wilson for their similar size, playing style, and their attitude. Adams may not have a future as a starting quarterback at the professional level, but he has the makings of backup.
"Adams can hit deep balls on scramble throws and won't take unnecessary chances, but teams might pass on him due to 'system and size' concerns. I wouldn't close the door on his chances to make a team due to athleticism and play-making potential in packaged plays." - Lance Zierlein
The Cowboys had an interview with Adams after the East/West Shrine Game.
Jacoby Brissett, Quarterback, NC State
Another quarterback the Cowboys have shown preliminary interest in is NC State's Jacoby Brissett. Watching Brissett on film, it's clear that his play was affected a bit by a horrible offensive line in front of him, but he's a calm quarterback who displays good touch and excellent scrambling ability. It's hard to get a full evaluation on Brissett, but if he impressed in his interview with the Cowboys, there shouldn't be a reason why he isn't one of the Cowboys' 30 pre-draft official visitors.
"While an NFL staff will need to help him overcome his bad habits and learn to be more consistent with his pre-snap recognitions, Brissett has the tools to become an NFL starter." - Lance Zierlein
The Cowboys had an interview with Brissett after the Senior Bowl.
Mackensie Alexander, Cornerback, Clemson (NOTE: Alexander could easily be a first-round pick, we'll slot him in this bracket but realize he could be among the "blue-chip" players)
Playing behind a dominant front seven, Mackensie Alexander benefited from pressure on the quarterback. Alexander was an opportunistic cornerback who displayed decent technique and athleticism. His problems are his size and how he will fare against bigger receivers in the NFL. However, he displays a penchant for making spectacular plays on the football.
Mackensie Alexander had formal interviews with Redskins, Ravens, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Eagles, Jaguars, Cardinals, Bucs & Dolphins. — Charlie Campbell (@DraftCampbell) February 29, 2016
Su'a Cravens, Safety/Linebacker Hybrid, USC
A five-star high school recruit, Su'a Cravens has been a household name for people who have followed college football over the past couple of seasons. His years in college weren't the best, but he's going to get looks from NFL teams for his athleticism and his potential alone. Over the past couple of seasons, NFL defenses have been trying to add that safety/linebacker hybrid. The Arizona Cardinals have effectively deployed that type of player in Deone Bucannon. In Cravens, the Cowboys may just get that defensive wild card.
Darian Thompson, Safety, Boise State
The future of Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox is murky in Dallas. It's no secret that the Cowboys need to improve their secondary in the coming weeks. Obviously, the defensive line needs to get more pressure as well, but the Cowboys have to add a new safety at some point this offseason and Boise State's Darian Thompson may fit the bill. The Cowboys have three playmakers on the defensive side of the ball that are alums of Boise State. Thompson is a bigger safety that likes to come up and make plays, but there are doubts about him and his coverage skills.
"Greater concern is that too many big plays were allowed because he busted coverage or failed to execute. Thompson does his best work near the line of scrimmage and has the frame and demeanor to become a box safety in the league, but it might take time." - Lance Zierlein
The Cowboys had an interview with Thompson after the Senior Bowl.
Disclaimer: If there are players I'm missing, leave a comment with the name and the source and I'd be glad to add them into this list. Thanks for reading!