It has been a fun couple of days in the NFL offseason with league meetings. Every year, NFL fans get unreal photos of each head coach smiling, standing, and glaring awkwardly next to each other. This year’s photo definitely did not disappoint:
But now that the meetings are over, it is back on the grind for improving your team prior to the start of the 2018 offseason. After waiting a while to sign their first outside free agent, the Cowboys went on a mini-signing spree. Dallas’ method on free agency is to pick their spots and not to let the market play them.
While the Cowboys made some necessary improvements and adjustments, the focus will now turn to the draft. Reports came out that the Cowboys will take a lot of personnel with them to Alabama’s pro day:
Jason Garrett & a Cowboys contingent of coaches & scouts will be in Alabama on Wednesday for the school’s 2nd Pro Day. It will Be Garrett’s first campus trip leading up to April draft.— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) March 27, 2018
For those that remember, Jason Garrett also had a campus trip to Ohio State when the Cowboys selected Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Knowing that, this could have huge ramifications regarding which prospects the Cowboys will have interest in for the draft. Let’s take a look at five Alabama products who Garrett and company will have their eyes on.
Calvin Ridley, Wide Receiver
Surprise! You thought the Cowboys who signed two free agent wide receivers meant they weren’t going to look into receiver in the draft? Well, you may have thought wrong. Stephen Jones’ comments on Monday re-confirmed that there is going to be a conversation with Dez Bryant regarding his contract.
It would be questionable to move on from Bryant, who is still 29 and has the most touchdown catches in the league since 2011, but stranger things have happened. Dallas could be open to trading or even releasing Bryant and giving his No. 1 receiver spot to a guy in the draft.
Dallas could see Calvin Ridley as that guy. Despite not testing well at the combine, Ridley was one of the top receivers in the country due to his route-running ability, football IQ, and his ability to create separation.
Da’Ron Payne, Defensive Tackle
Another guy who will likely go in the first round, Payne is a guy who Dallas could potentially have interest in. He is not getting as much buzz as Vita Vea, but he is a space-clogging defensive tackle that would fit nicely in Dallas in the 1-technique role.
Dallas typically looks for defensive lineman who jump off the ball quickly. And while Payne may not be exactly that, he rarely gets pushed off the line of scrimmage. Dallas would benefit from having a guy to take on double teams to give options like David Irving and DeMarcus Lawrence more space to work with to get after the quarterback.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Defensive Back
Full disclosure here, I really do not expect Fitzpatrick to get past the tenth overall pick. However, there is a valid question regarding which position he will play in the NFL. I see Fitzpatrick as more of a free safety at the next level, but many teams will be back and forth on this.
If Fitzpatrick does slip and the Cowboys see enough out of him to warrant giving up a mid-round draft pick to move up, it would not shock me to see a potential trade-up in between the range of 10-12.
Da’Shawn Hand, Defensive Lineman
The No. 1 high school player in the country in 2014, Hand finished with just 71 total tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, and nine sacks. The production was not there, but Hand still has a bright future ahead of him.
At 6-foot-4 and about 300 pounds, he has the potential to be a nice cog for a defensive line in the future. He has the ability to play in both a 3-4 and a 4-3. In Dallas’ 4-3, Hand would have the versatility needed to play end and tackle on passing downs. He will not be a first-round pick, but Hand could be an option one the second day for Dallas.
Levi Wallace, Cornerback
Lost in a secondary that features Fitzpatrick, Anthony Averett, and Ronnie Harrison, Wallace is a guy Dallas should have interest in. A former walk-on, Wallace was a solid starter in 2017. At 6-feet, 185 pounds, he has desirable size and he showed last season his ability to play in both man and zone.
He engages well at the line of scrimmage and he has the ability to stick glue on opposing receivers in coverage across the field. He’ll need to add on more weight to improve his overall frame, but he is the type of competitor and character that Dallas’ coaching staff should find interest in.