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Cowboys 2017 Draft: Which Pass Rusher Do You Want?

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The Cowboys could have a real chance to land an impact edge rusher in this year’s draft, but who should it be?

NCAA Football: UCLA at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In 2015, I predicted the Cowboys would draft Byron Jones and much to my great satisfaction, they did.

Last year, I was pushing the idea of drafting Ezekiel Elliott to anyone that would listen (If you build it, he will run....remember that?) And for the second straight season, I was in jubilation when my guy’s name was called.

But that’s in the past.

It’s a new draft season with a bunch of other new prospects to salivate over. And just like the years before, you got to have a favorite. And for me, that guy is Takkarist McKinley. Joseph Hatz had him on his radar back in January.

Now if you’re not a Takk guy and you’re worried because I’ve gotten lucky the last two drafts, don’t fret. As Woody Harrelson said in White Men Can’t Jump - I never hit three in a row. While McKinley was a popular choice among Cowboys fans at one point this offseason, recent shoulder surgery has turned some fans off. Not only that, there is a new favorite prospect that is climbing up the ranks fast, T.J. Watt. There are writers at BTB that love the idea of taking Watt with the Cowboys first-round pick. Michael Sisemore tried to sell you on the idea yesterday.

Could either of these pass rushers be the “war daddy” this team so desperately needs? Let’s do a comparison.

Takkarist McKinley, UCLA, 6’2” 250 pounds

The Bruins’ edge rusher has shown outstanding progress from year to year and has turned into one of college’s best defensive ends.

  • 2014 - 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks
  • 2015 - 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks
  • 2016 - 18 tackles for loss and 10 sacks

This is an exciting player to watch on tape. Every highlight reel of a college edge rusher will show you a player getting to the quarterback, but not every player will get to them so quickly. McKinley absolutely explodes to the ball. He has great speed which was on display at the combine with a 4.59, 40 time (95 percentile for DEs). The effort on this kid is amazing and he is relentless in his pursuit. And he isn’t just a pass rusher as he was found bursting inside to attack the run on many plays. His long stride helps him accelerate to the ball carrier and he’s difficult to elude.

As long as his arms are, he isn’t very adept at using his hands to his advantage. In fact, many of the hand skill fundamentals (slaps, swipe, rip, etc.) need work. But this is something that just adds to his overall potential once Rod Marinelli gets his mitts on him. The raw athleticism of a player like McKinley could finally give the Cowboys the game-changing edge rusher they’ve been looking for.

T. J. Watt, Wisconsin, 6’4”, 252 pounds

Raise your hand if you’ve recently developed a man-crush with J.J.’s little brother? Well, that’s about half of us. I’m not going to lie - he’s another player that is fun to watch on tape. In a lot of ways, he’s very contrasting to McKinley. For starters, Watt is fundamentally sound, especially when it comes to using his hands. He uses the push/pull technique to upset the balance of his blockers. His instincts and reaction make him an outstanding 3-4 OLB, but can he put his hand in the dirt and consistently rush the edge? If his fundamentals break down, he doesn’t posses the overpowering ability to make plays. Even more alarming is that he lacks the explosive first-step that is so important to Marinelli’s Rushmen.

But Watt is just getting started. Last year, his college production was amazing (63 tackles, 15.5 tackles for losses, and 11.5 sacks) and it was really his only healthy year as a college pass rusher. He started out as a tight end and then suffered injuries to both knees, one each in 2014 and 2015. It’s hard to say what his true potential is. Could Watt be the star pass rusher the Cowboys have needed?

Both have a reasonable shot at being available at pick 28 and Dallas might be able to have their choice. Which of these players do you think would be better for the Cowboys?

Poll

Which of these pass rushers would you prefer the Cowboys drafted?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    Takkarist McKinley
    (1439 votes)
  • 41%
    T.J. Watt
    (1033 votes)
2472 votes total Vote Now