Sometimes, there is tragic or just troubling news out of the NFL, such as the terrible murder of former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith, or the latest failed drug test by Josh Gordan of the Cleveland Browns. The Dallas Cowboys are certainly no strangers to the bad side of the news, so to set a more positive tone today, we open up with a couple of stories about some of the good guys who are associated with the Star.
You normally think of lifetime achievement awards going to someone who is a good bit older than the 33 year old Jason Witten. But that is not how the Albertson Companies saw it in selecting him. He was lauded by his head coach, Jason Garrett, Cowboys executive vice-president Charlotte Jones Anderson, and the first friend he made on the Cowboys team, quarterback Tony Romo.
"You know, you're just seeing how he interacts, how he talks, how he goes through games," Romo addressed the gala prior to Witten's reception of the award. "And you're like, 'Oh, I kind of like that. That's what I want to do.' And it's kind of silly. We're all grown people here. We're not 12. But you find yourself kind of emulating him. And I can tell you right now: it keeps going back to him being the standard, not only for myself and our teammates, but for everybody who wants to be a great dad, a great husband, a great son, a great brother. I mean, he exemplifies everything you want in any area of life you want it to be. And it's an honor for me to talk about it truly because I don't get the opportunity."
Witten will be considered one of the Dallas greats one day. Hall of Fame and Ring of Honor former quarterback and current FOX broadcaster Troy Aikman is one already. But he seems to have a truly great understanding of what is important in life.
"I'm going to be 50 in November - I have a hard time saying that," Aikman said last week as part of an announcement that he's donating $1 million to the United Way. "I'm looking to build something that will have impact after I'm gone."
OK, enough with the uplifting stuff. Time to get down to what you really came here to read, the latest Cowboys-related draft news.
Myles Jack was not invited to visit the Cowboys, and it is not certain whether or not they kept a visit in their pocket while they wait to see how his medical recheck goes. If he is healthy, he immediately enters the conversation about who is the best player in the draft, along with Laramey Tunsil, Jalen Ramsey, and Ezekiel Elliott.
Jack's size and unique athleticism make him the ideal fit to play linebacker in today's NFL. With offensive coordinators constantly trying to spread out defenses, Jack is the type of player who can defend the run in the box or step outside and stay with wide receivers in coverage.
Although there are 28 known draft prospects who have come to Valley Ranch on official visits, there are rumors from those close to the team that at least one other player got in and out without being noticed (by plan). It is believed it was a pass rusher, and was either Robert Nkemdiche or Noah Spence (or maybe even both). Here is why Nkemdiche may be of interest to Dallas despite his off-field issues.
Nkemdiche is big, strong as an ox and pretty damned agile. That means he has pretty much everything he needs to become a monster. Yes, he was inconsistent, but his flashes were so very impressive. Any defensive line coach worth his salt would be licking his chops at the prospect of being able to mold this kid into weapon.
Ramsey is one of the real favorites among Cowboys fans, but he may well be gone before Dallas ever goes on the clock. Another alternative in the secondary is Vernon Hargreaves III. While he may be a little short according to the Cowboys' preferred profile, he also is very, very good.
At least three and preferably four proven corners are needed in today's pass-first NFL, and Hargreaves figures to be able to step in and help an NFL defense as a rookie. At 5-10, he doesn't have ideal height to match up with some of the league's bigger receivers, but he was highly productive and Florida and has the athleticism and recognition skills that translate well to the next level.
Another defensive back worth consideration after the first round is safety Vonn Bell, although he comes with a performance related question or two.
My question for him would be: Was 2015 his best effort? Or once he secures his draft spot and his paycheck, can we expect more of his 2014 performances? Because a player who plays at less than 100 percent (for any reason) makes us wonder if we will always get 100 percent at the top level on a nasty day when things are going poorly and the body isn't feeling great. In other words, what I saw this past season for long stretches was not something I would be fighting hard for in the draft room to take.
But at his best, there is no question that Bell has some very attractive components that can really help a team in Round 2.
Here is a name that may pop up later in the draft as a pass rusher, especially if the Cowboys double-dip at the position. Matt Judon is a small school product whose college career indicates the big schools may have missed out on him.
The 6'3", 275-pounder was a two-star recruit and had no listed I-A or I-AA offers according to Scout.com while coming out of Michigan's West Bloomfield High School. Fast-forward to the 2015 season, and it is evident that Judon's lack of recruiting activity in high school did not hold him back from being an extremely productive player at the college level. His 17 solo sacks and 21 total sacks led all of Division I and II. Judon also took home the Gene Upshaw Award, given to the best lineman in Division II.
They may have cheated a little bit on this - it is basically a look at five of the six backs (including, of course, Elliott) who paid visits to Dallas. There is no explanation given for leaving Paul Perkins out of this discussion.
This list also uses the visitor's list, taking nine of the ten from it. But since they saw fit to include him . . .
Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA. Another top 10 running back prospect who could provide some much-needed youth to the position on the Cowboys roster. Perkins' numbers over the last two seasons: 488 carries, 2,918 yards and 23 touchdowns.
The idea of drafting a quarterback and when, continues to generate a lot of discussion among the fans - and probably will until we find out what they actually do.
This is one of the best things out there the past few days. Our former colleague here at BTB, KD Drummond, takes a look at the question of just how often the draft gets it right in picking the best player at the "money five" positions. The answer: Not all that often, especially if you are talking about cornerback, edge rusher, or wide receiver.
What does it all mean? In general, the league is pretty good at pinpointing the best prospects at quarterback and tackle, while the other positions are like playing the lottery.
In a draft such as 2016, this could go a long way.
Ole Miss tackle Laremy Tunsil will almost assuredly be worth the pick, relative to this draft class' other tackles. So will the first quarterback off the board; whomever he may be, the team selecting him is likely making the best decision. But if Joey Bosa is the first edge rusher off the board? It's more than likely he won't end up as one of this draft's better choices. In a year when the position is seen as down and unathletic, the team selecting Bosa (or another first-taken DE) could be in for the biggest disappointment.
One last thing for those of you in the Dallas area.