[Ed. Note: We are welcoming back Ryan Ratty to the BTB writing stable. Ryan was with BTB before, and after a hiatus to pursue other things, he’s back. Welcome Ryan!]
Hello again BTB. My name is Ryan Ratty and I am a junior at Syracuse University. I have been writing about sports since my sophomore year of high school after my friend started a sports blog. I helped him out for a little and something I thought was cool immediately turned into a hobby.
Like many of you, I am a super fan of the Dallas Cowboys. Also like many of you, my playing days ended as soon as I graduated high school. Nevertheless, football has been a part of my family. My father played in college and coached me throughout my entire childhood. It goes beyond just following a team.
When I first started writing for BTB, I had the opportunity to collaborate with THE best Cowboys writers and THE best Cowboys fans. Yes you, all of you. This community is a special one.
Without further ado, let’s get to that link you clicked on!
Just a few days removed from the 2018 Senior Bowl, front offices around the league have gotten an idea about certain upperclassmen prospects and their potential fits in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys are no exception to that.
The Senior Bowl is perhaps the most important All-Star event in the pre-draft process, and there are multiple players that can bring skills to the Cowboys that will immediately improve this roster.
Yesterday my colleague Tom Ryle outlined many of the players who stood out at Senior Bowl practices and in the game. It’s a great primer to read.
I’m going to narrow it down to five players that could immediately make an impact for the Cowboys in 2018.
Uchenna Nwosu, Linebacker, USC
It feels like it has been forever since the Cowboys have had three capable linebackers playing all at the same time. In the second half of the season, we saw just that. Despite missing games in the second half of the season, Sean Lee played at an elite level in 2017. Jaylon Smith made tremendous strides in the second half of the season, only making Cowboys fans excited for what is to come with a full offseason training program and more in-game experience under his belt.
Anthony Hitchens also had the best season of his career in 2017. The problem is that Hitchens may be a candidate to cash in in free agency due to that success. If that is the case, the Cowboys could look to the draft to find a replacement.
An option could be Uchenna Nwosu out of USC. Listed at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, Nwosu may not be the biggest linebacker, but he is the new-school version of an NFL linebacker. He is rangy, has tenacious athleticism, can fly across the gridiron, and play multiple linebacker positions. He is a scheme-versatile linebacker who could become a Rod Marinelli favorite as the draft nears.
USC LB Uchenna Nwosu is quiet, but confident. Said teams are looking at him as an edge player. Mentioned his knowledge/ability to isolate tackle’s tendencies as a primary way for him to win. I’m impressed.— Jerod Brown (@JerodBrown_) January 23, 2018
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, EDGE/OLB, Oklahoma
In today’s NFL, teams truly cannot have enough pass rushers. Depth is so crucial in the NFL and while the Cowboys had their best pass rush in years thanks to Demarcus Lawrence and David Irving, there isn’t much reliability behind them. Granted, it is up in the air how exactly Okoronkwo will be used in the NFL. He excelled at the collegiate level as a key cog in Oklahoma’s defense, but NFL teams may view him as an outside linebacker.
Regardless, he has the frame to add more weight. Ogbonnia has extremely quick hands that will suit him well in the NFL, especially against the run. Rookies are typically less-skilled against the run. I do not see that being an issue for Ogbonnia. He was one of the biggest bright spots in the Senior Bowl and he deserves to be in the conversation.
Almost 6’1 1/2” and 243 pounds with tentacle-like 34 1/2” arms for Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. Solid numbers for one of my favorite edge-rushers in this class. Currently my No. 13 overall prospect.— Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) January 23, 2018
Isaiah Wynn, G/T, Georgia
Another bright spot in the week of the Senior Bowl was Wynn. Named the Offensive Lineman of the Week, Wynn dominated and definitely improved his draft status. Interestingly, Wynn was spectacular at left guard — a position he did not play at the University of Georgia.
NFL personnel believe that he may be undersized to play tackle in the NFL. Despite the position switch, that did not stop Zack Martin from transitioning from tackle in college to one of the best guards in the NFL. Wynn is a fiery offensive lineman who plays with relentless hands and active feet. Guard is a position the Cowboys could attack early in the draft and pairing Wynn with the group the Cowboys already have would return this unit back to ‘elite’ status.
Troy Fumagalli, TE, Wisconsin
Wisconsin football is known for producing some of the best offensive lineman. And while the Badgers may not have the most spectacular passing attack, they do have one special player in Troy Fumagalli.
Jason Witten is nearing the end of his career and while signs point to Rico Gathers hopefully taking over at the position, it is no secret that the Cowboys love to involve their tight ends in the blocking attack. Sure Geoff Swaim is a solid blocker, but Fumagalli is not only excellent in the run-blocking department, but he is a well-rounded pass-catcher as well with sneaky athleticism.
Born with amniotic band syndrome, Fumagalli is missing the pointer finger on his left hand. That did not keep him from excelling throughout his high school career. Over time, Fumagalli earned a scholarship at Wisconsin. He was a team leader for the Badgers, so he definitely fits that type of character Jason Garrett looks for and adores in his players. The numbers will not stand out to you, but Fumagalli has the potential to be a nice piece for an NFL offense in the future.
2) A long-time director of College Scouting for one team told us it’s an unheralded and deep TE crop in Mobile, but “the Wisconsin kid is best,” speaking of Troy Fumagalli.— RosterWatch (@RosterWatch) January 25, 2018
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
Wide receiver from Oklahoma State? Hmm... sounds familiar. Yes, I am hinting at Dez Bryant. There seems to be two camps on the issue of Bryant. There is the group that believes he is ‘washed-up’ and has regressed. There is also the group that beleives that Bryant’s role in the offense is not what it once was. I am of the latter camp.
The Cowboys have a lot of money tied up in the receiver position after the contract extensions of Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley. Still, the Cowboys could certainly look to groom a No. 1 receiver for the future.
Washington is an interesting name. At the age of 21, Washington has had an illustrious college career. Under Mike Gundy’s regime, Washington has become a superstar. Better yet, Washington has mentioned what it would mean to play for the team he grew up rooting for.
Oklahoma State WR James Washington said it would be a dream come true to play for the Cowboys, his favorite team growing up. Said he'd be a great complement to Dez Bryant. Said he often studied his tape while at Oklahoma State. He said Dez needs help.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) January 23, 2018
Some Big 12 receivers do not have the best route-running skills in large part due to the route trees they run. That is not the case with Washington. He is meticulous in his routes and quite a threat when that is paired with his ball skills.
Which Senior Bowl prospects did you come away impressed with?