Towards the end of the 2017 season, it all looked well for the Dallas Cowboys at the linebacker position. Sean Lee was being the Sean Lee that he has always been when he was been able to stay on the field. Jaylon Smith was making tremendous stirdes and improving on a game-by-game basis. And, Anthony Hitchens was every bit of productive in the last year of his rookie contract.
Then, Hitchens signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency on a lucrative five-year, $45 million contract. The move opened up the need at the linebacker, as the Cowboys had just Damien Wilson and Justin March-Lillard behind Lee and Smith.
Just six days after the Chiefs snagged Hitchens away from Dallas, the Cowboys made their own linebacker acquisition by signing Joe Thomas, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, to a two-year deal.
With Thomas, the Cowboys are getting a linebacker who can be of used in sub-packages. He may not provide as good of an every-down presence as Hitchens did in 2017, but the Cowboys simply could not afford the latter’s price tag.
For those that have seen the movie “Moneyball”, their goal was to re-create a player’s value, not just invest in their value. By signing Thomas and likely drafting a linebacker, Dallas could reap similar benefits that Hitchens provided them with at a fraction of the price.
So how early could the Cowboys draft a linebacker? And, oh, linebacker is definitely on the docket for the Cowboys. Don’t believe me? Prior to the 2017 draft, the last time the Cowboys did not draft a linebacker was in 2004! And the only reason the Cowboys did not draft a linebacker last year was because they already had Lee, Smith, Hitchens, Wilson, and Kyle Wilber on the roster.
Dallas could actually be in the market for a linebacker on Day 1 if the right player falls to them. And that right player could in fact just be Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds.
What does Edmunds do well?
An absolute physical specimen, Edmunds has unbelievable athleticism at 6-foot-5, 255 pounds. He has 34.5-inch arms and he comes from a football family where his dad played in the NFL. In today’s NFL, linebackers who can cover sideline-to-sideline and match up with tight ends and some receivers are at an absolute premium.
The NFL has gone away a bit from the tackling machines that come out of the Big 12. Guys like Paul Dawson and Arthur Brown. Instead, freakishly athletic guys like Deion Jones and Telvin Smith are the talk of the league. Edmunds is just like that. He is a guy who plays with unbelievable tenacity.
Edmunds has athleticism and length, and he harnesses both of these traits to engage with incoming traffic and find the ball-carrier. He can also provide an impact as a pass rusher as well.
Tremaine Edmunds runs unofficial 4.55, 40-yard dash on first attempt at NFL Combine. pic.twitter.com/UNCmBk51fk— Football Dungeon (@DuaneLively) March 4, 2018
What does Edmunds struggle with?
At only 19 years old, Edmunds’ game is still a bit raw. But with refinement and an offseason to hone in on his technique, he could meet his potential. At this stage of his game, Edmunds relies too heavily on his athleticism to beat opponents. In the NFL, that will not work for him.
He is sometimes a bit too jumpy and quick with his decisions. Nevertheless, even when he does mistakes, his athleticism gives him the advantage of correcting his mistakes and making plays. The athletic skillset is all there for him to be productive against the pass, but at this point, he is much more adept against the run than he is against the pass.
Pros of the Cowboys drafting him
By using a first-round pick on Edmunds, the Cowboys would be ensuring their starting linebacker corps for at least the foreseeable future. Edmunds is a guy that is only going to get better with more time on the field. Of course that will lead to some rough patches from the start, but he has the potential long-term to be a perennial linebacker.
Edmunds would provide the Cowboys with one of the more athletic second levels in all of football. With a secondary that is now rebuilt, this is the next area the Cowboys need to shore up on their defense. Edmunds is a player that can do a variety of things for a defense once his potential is fully tapped.
Cons of the Cowboys drafting him
The main con is that linebacker really is not the Cowboys biggest weakness. As of now, their biggest weak spot looks to be either somewhere on the offensive line, in the defensive trenches, or at the free safety/center fielder position in the back end.
Depending on what the Cowboys want to do on defense, Edmunds may not “the” guy they want. But there is no denying his talent and what he is capable of being once he is a finished product. The production is all there, the athletic makeup is definitely there, but there needs to a good amount of refinement.
Should the Cowboys use the 19th overall pick on Tremaine Edmunds?
Would you draft Edmunds if he makes it to the Cowboys at #19?