The Cowboys make their first selection, barring a trade, at pick 19. Our own DannyPhantom explains how America’s Team can add one of the draft’s top talents with that pick. Hint: hope teams are desperate for quarterbacks.
The crop of players in the 2018 draft class looks to offer another wide selection of potential NFL starting quarterbacks. Players like Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield have already surfaced quite a bit in first-round mocks. And Louisville’s Lamar Jackson is another player who could surprise people with an early selection.
There are several teams that need a quarterback. The Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, New York Jets, Denver Broncos, and Arizona Cardinals all could be on the lookout for a new QB in the draft. All of those teams pick ahead of the Cowboys.
If there is a run on quarterbacks, that could open the door for one of the Cowboys first-round graded players to slide to 19. Which players do you think could fall to Dallas?
Brugler writes that Central Florida defensive back Mike Hughes may be an ideal selection for the Cowboys with the 19th pick. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to continue investing picks in the secondary.
Hoping to return to the FBS level, Hughes enrolled at UCF last August and enjoyed a productive five months in Orlando. Despite joining the program just two weeks before the season opener, he quickly found the field and developed into one of the best cornerbacks in the country, posting 15 passes defended and four interceptions. Hughes also shined on special teams as the first player in school history to return a punt, kickoff and interception for a touchdown in a season.
The Cowboys invested premium draft picks in the cornerback position last season, but there is a realistic scenario where Hughes might be the best player on the draft board at pick No. 19. And although he does his best work in press coverage, Hughes has the mentality and athleticism to mirror receivers and be a lock-down corner in zone or man, making him tough to pass up for the Cowboys.
The Combine hasn’t even come yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start getting excited about the 2018 NFL Draft if you’re a Cowboys fan.
Frederick, Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence, Anthony Hitchens, Byron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, Jaylon Smith, Maliek Collins, Dak Prescott, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Xavier Woods have all been quality starters on teams that have won 46 games in five years.
Twelve starters with five seasons or less of experience is a good way to build a foundation. It also helps when you have the ammunition to do so.
The number of picks the Cowboys have and the location of those picks is yet another reason to get fired up about the draft. Dallas will have four picks in the top 120 as well as a projected four compensatory picks.
With the ability to trade those compensatory picks, it’s very possible Dallas gets a fifth pick in the top 120. Given the track record of recent drafts, that is something to look forward to.
Speaking of the draft, how soon should the Cowboys look to draft Jason Witten’s replacement?
It is safe to say that Nussmeier understands the importance of the TE position for a QB, especially a young one like Prescott - who has inconsistently used Jason Witten as the “security blanket” he became known as under Tony Romo.
If recent draft history holds up, the Cowboys will wait until the later rounds to possibly address tight end. The impact a top player from this class could immediately have in Dallas needs to be considered though, making TE an intriguing draft need as early as the second or third rounds.
Linebacker is a need for the Cowboys. With Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds likely to be off the board before the Cowboys come on the clock, who are other targets that Dallas can look for? Michael has you covered.
Josey Jewell, 6’1, 236 lbs, Iowa (Brugler: 65th, 2nd ILB)
Jewell ranked third in the country with 125 tackles and averaged 11.4 tackles per game. He is certainly a productive player that has probably the highest football IQ of all the linebackers in this class. He’s a bit undersized but he doesn’t play with any limitations and has worked extremely hard to get to this point having added 36 pounds. Jewell was a three-year starter and captain due to his incredible awareness and vision. He knows how to make plays on the ball where he defended 26 passes while snagging six interceptions.
He plays with a high level of intensity but can look a little stiff some of the time. He doesn’t have eye-popping athleticism but he’s a leader on and off the field. His teammates flocked to him and he was what made his defense tick. He’s smart enough to know where everyone lines up and what their jobs are, holding guys accountable.
Where you get him: Late second to middle of the third round.
Who is the “real” Dak Prescott? BTB’s own Michael Strawn examines the numbers to determine how good the Cowboys quarterback is. Strawn says the Cowboys need Dak to play like a top-10 quarterback if the team wants to have a successful 2018.
One of the things that stood out throughout 2017 was Prescott was more accurate and effective when on the run than when throwing from the pocket. It felt like many of his best plays came while throwing on the run.
All of this should influence how the Cowboys can build a more “Dak-friendly” offense. Simply put, the Cowboys need to make more and better use of Dak’s elite running capabilities through:
More designed runs
More run-play options
Let’s do away with the idea that Prescott can only succeed when “everything’s perfect around him” as many have suggested. Prescott’s own 2016 performance should disprove that. Why? Because things weren’t perfect around Prescott that year. In fact, Prescott’s pass protection was poor in 2016, ranking 24th in the league by Football Outsider’s evaluation.
Add the fact the Cowboys’ receiving corps has proven to be good (not great) and it’s simply a fallacy to suggest that Prescott was the beneficiary of an “elite” offense. The only elite unit was the running game (which benefited from Prescott’s running threat).
Recently, NFL.com’s associate fantasy writer/editor Matt Harmon ranked the top 10 tight-window quarterbacks, tight-window receivers and most elusive backs in the league. Here are where some Cowboys players ranked.
Although last season may have been a step backward for Dak Prescott, he was ranked as the best tight-window quarterback in the NFL.
“[Prescott] was hyper-accurate when throwing into tight windows in 2017, leading qualifying passers in completion percentage and passer rating,” Harmon said. “Prescott actually improved his completion rate from his rookie year (42.7 percent) on a similar number of attempts (90 to 96).”
Dane Brugler discusses quarterbacks with SportsDay. He says Dak needs to develop better chemistry with his receivers.
Dane Brugler: Dak’s accuracy issues in college are why I didn’t put a high grade on him out of Mississippi State. He is very mechanical in his delivery and throwing motion and needs to be more loose and confident with his release. Aside from technical improvements, Dak needs to develop better chemistry with his targets - right now, that is the biggest difference between him and Tony Romo. 2018 is a pivotal season for Dak.
What would a free agency wish list for the Cowboys look like? Keeping David Irving better be high up on the list.
Wish #1: Keep The Rushmen
The front office will have one hell of a challenge trying to retain all of its free agents. The two most important ones may be their two defensive linemen. If they can keep them, DL won’t be a top need heading to the Draft.
Lawrence is one of the biggest names in free agency this 2018, but the Cowboys should find a way to keep him from ever being available.
If they’re able to franchise tag him, that’d be the way to go since he’s only had one elite season in his four-year career and they may not want to sign him to a huge long-term deal and risk not seeing the same guy next season.
David Irving is a more polarizing player, with off-the-field issues. However, he’s been a very disruptive guy and he has the chance to be a unique player. His talent is really out of this world. Keeping him and Irving would give this franchise a top defensive line for the first time in many years.
The Cowboys have a need at offensive guard, but how will the team address it? Jack Mewhort could be an intriguing option.
Jack Mewhort, 27, G
Jack Mewhort from the Colts has been one of the best performing young guards in the NFL. The only problem is he’s not always performing. The former second round pick enters free agency with a lot of question marks surrounding him. Is he the dominant star he was the first two seasons of his career or is he the injury-riddled mess from the most recent two seasons. He might be the perfect player to sign on a “prove-it” deal.