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Why You Shouldn't Count On Cowboys Drafting A Defensive End In Round One

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Many are expecting the Cowboys to take a defensive end in the first round, but are there any quality options available?

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I’d heard a lot about this class of edge rushers. The Cowboy fanbase registered much excitement over the abilities and depth of the group and has been salivating over Taks and Tacos and Barnetts and Smoots since before the off season began.

I see it differently.

Now, I’ll freely admit that my film expertise, particularly at prospect analysis, is no better than that of a typical fan. Also, I need to review more games on each candidate. Because of my time constraints I start by reviewing one game against the toughest competition I can find to identify the people I want to focus on. So at this point that’s all I’ve done.

And you call me McKayla Maroney because I am not impressed.

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Myles Garrett will be long gone by the time Dallas drafts. I looked at everyone else and I am just not excited about what I saw. Which is not to say none of them will pan out. In fact, all of them have some good traits. But all of them have worrisome bits, and I believe the bust potential here in round 1 is high if Dallas goes DE. Therefore, I think Dallas is best off going CB or Safety round 1, where they will, as is their wont, get a plug-in starter with their first round pick. There are a couple of guys I might risk 28 on, but by and large, I don’t think you’re going to get someone as good as Demarcus Lawrence or with as much upside as Charles Tapper where Dallas is picking. To elaborate, here is my preliminary review of some of the top names (and one other guy):

Derek Barnett

He flashes a good first step and very nice lateral agility, but has a concerning tendency to lose contain against the run and counter action. His 6.96 three-cone time confirms that lateral ability and he has several years of productivity to confirm his ability to play. Big hands, but his arm length is concerning and his athletic measurables are very average. I almost completely disagree with his description on the NFL’s combine page.

He’s my favorite but he is not at all likely to make it there.

Taco Charlton

I’ll be honest, I only have him here because everyone else says he’s a top 15 pick. In my preliminary review I saw almost nothing. He was unable to disengage from tight ends on run plays in his direction. He was unable to beat right tackles with speed. I did see some evidence of power, but mostly I saw him handled by one blocker while other players made plays. He has nice long arms, but I never saw him use his length. Add in a thoroughly unimpressive combine, including a 4.92 forty time (no way he plays 3-4 LB, as some sites have suggested) and I just don’t get it.

Which probably means he’ll make the pro bowl as a rookie... but I call ‘em as I see ‘em.

T J Watt

This is a guy to watch, in my opinion. Excellent size and phenomenal explosion and lateral numbers. Nice length with massive 11" hands. His main knock is a little bit of a skinny base and a lack of experience (only one year as a starter) due to a series of injuries. Being J J Watt’s little brother, however, he looks much less raw than you’d expect and has some nice tape against LSU. His massive combine as well as his ability to stand up in a 3-4 is likely to push him out of Dallas’s price range, but should he fall to 28 I’d grab him in a heartbeat, even with the injury history. Don’t be surprised if he goes a lot earlier than many are projecting, though.

Charles Harris

Looks great on tape. Nice first step and repeatedly shows the ability to hold the point and turn running plays inside, as well as the ability to shed blocks. Constant effort with an excellent motor. But his measurables are very mediocre. How many guys who are slower than average, shorter than average, and lighter than average turn into great players at their position? He might be a classic example of how good technique wins every time against sub par technique, but in the NFL you’re not going to face much sub par technique, and being an inch too short in the arms, 10 lbs too light, and 0.2 seconds slower than ideal could be killers.

Takkarist McKinley

Once again, I’m going to make enemies here, but I just don’t see it. Monster, nearly 35", arms and terrific straight line speed. Absolutely zero lateral agility and doesn’t yet know how to use those arms. A little undersized on top of that (6’2", 250lbs) and a lack of any explosion or agility outside of a good forty time and I have to think the draft capital is better spent elsewhere. I’m guessing people see the speed and arms and think "we can coach him up", but I wouldn’t want to bet a first rounder on it when there are probably plug and play DBs available there.

Jordan Willis

There are many, including the Broad one, who will tell you his tape is that of a 3rd rounder. I agree that there’s nothing special about it. Where I part company is that I don’t see anything special about most of the other players either. The difference is that this guy measures up. He’s got motor (want to) and measurables (can do). He shows little to no technique, but so do most of the other guys people are talking about. But with a 4.53 forty, 39" vertical, 6.85 three cone, 33-1/2" arms at 6’4", 255lbs, this is a guy you can coach up. If you’re going to be taking a project (and at 28 you almost certainly are, already) why not wait till 60 (or later with a trade back?) and get a project with some upside? I would much rather have Willis at 60 than almost anyone else at 28 (again with the caveat that I don’t think Barnett or Watt sniff anywhere close to 28).

I think I am alone in that sentiment, but that’s ok. I’m not here to give you other people’s opinions.