Based on how the Dallas Cowboys offensive and defensive units performed at the end of the 2017 NFL season, an argument could be made that they could be better on defense as opposed to offense. In the month of December, the Cowboys gave up an average of less than ten points per game.
In the 2017 draft, Dallas invested heavily in improving the defense. The focus of defense in the draft became clear when guys like Taco Charlton, Xavier Woods, Jourdan Lewis, and Chidobe Awuzie were all given significant playing time in their freshman seasons.
One other position on defense they could look to improve is at defensive tackle. In Rod Marinelli’s scheme, the 1-technique defensive tackle spot is not as important as others on the unit, but adding a young defensive tackle to the front seven would be very helpful.
One player that could make sense in Dallas due to his versatility and combination of quickness and power is Vita Vea out of the University of Washington. A player of his talent and potential has the makings of a top-ten pick. But due to the amount of quarterbacks that could go in the first round, it could push Vea back into an area where the Cowboys could draft him, whether that is through trade up or at the No. 19 pick.
What does Vea do well?
With his quick feet to go along with how his weight is well-distributed, Vea has the physical skills. He has the power to go in and immediately contribute against NFL offensive lineman. On top of his strength and quick feet, Vea is excellent at diagnosing plays in the backfield and disengaging with the blocker in front of him to disrupt plays.
Because he is so big, there is a pre-existent notion that he wins because of his size and that was the only reason why he won at the college level. However, Vea has a few moves as well to go along with his strength. He can bull rush, he uses his arms and his hands well, and he excels with different finesse moves.
What does Vea struggle with?
Fortunately for Vea, his weaknesses are things that can be coached up. He struggles with his technique. Sure he is quick, but he is not quick off the football, which is something Rod Marinelli values out of defensive lineman.
He is sometimes stopped at the line of scrimmage for coming off the snap too high. He may come in “too hot” sometimes and not do a good job of using his hands and arms. The skills are there, but Vea has to be able to harness them and that is something that an NFL coaching staff will know when drafting him.
Pros of the Cowboys drafting him
By adding Vea, Dallas will undoubtedly be using their first-round pick on him. He will probably go somewhere in the range of 10-15. But in the event that he falls, maybe Dallas will have an interest in him. The glass half-full approach to the Cowboys drafting Vea is that he can work on his weaknesses with two of the smarter defensive line coaches around.
It would be interesting to see what Marinelli and Leon Lett could do with a player with so many skills like Vea. If Dallas has an interest in Vea, they will need to get a better understanding of how he could be used in their defense. Of course he will be on the field on running downs, but can he overcome his weaknesses to make it on the field on passing downs? That is the golden question that the Cowboys will need to know the answer to.
Cons of the Cowboys drafting him
Due to some of his traits, there is concern he is more suited for a 3-4 defense. On his tape, you see a player who truly does look like a man among boys. He is not only bigger, but his athleticism is giving him chances to plays across the football field. But that won’t necessarily be the case in the NFL, where size/skill tends to even up some.
The Cowboys have shown in the past that they simply do not value the 1-technique defensive tackle position as much as other positions across their defense.
Since 2010, the Cowboys have drafted five defensive tackles: Sean Lissemore, Ken Bishop, Maliek Collins, Joey Ivie, and Jordan Carrell. Only Collins is still on the roster and he was drafted in the third round to be a 3-technique defensive tackle. Injuries and an overall lack of positional depth forced Collins to play the 1-technique spot for much of the season. The four other players on that list were all drafted in seventh round
Should the Cowboys use the 19th overall pick on Vita Vea?
Would you draft Vea? Tell us why you would or would not in the comments section.