We’re less than a month away from the 2018 NFL Draft and now is as good a time as any to start narrowing down our favorite targets. In this series, we’re going to give you options for each Cowboys draft pick through round four to see who you believe is the best option.
We’re just going to assume that the Cowboys stay pat and pick so no trade options here. Using Dane Brugler’s prospect rankings at NFLDraftScout.com and hints from their pre-Draft visits, we’ll give you options of guys with a chance to be on the board. Let’s begin with the Cowboys pick in the first round at 19th overall.
DT Vita Vea, Washington (Brugler: 10th)
Where he fits: Vea is perhaps the most talked about Cowboys prospect this season as he fits a position they truly need. It’s been some time since the Cowboys valued the 1-tech position to spend the capital it would take to land Vea. However, if they truly value a guy that can play both tackle spots, Vea is about as complete as it gets. He is extremely powerful at the point of attack where he can almost effortlessly stack blockers to free up the 3-tech but he’s also a good rusher himself. Vea is a well-built athlete with short-area quickness and agility that most men his size don’t have. He’s a tenacious competitor with a seriously imposing Hulk-like frame.
Vea is a skilled bull-rusher, showing the ability to push the center or guard deep into the pocket, making it difficult for a quarterback to operate. There is a reason that Vea gets comparisons to Haloti Ngata, he’s an incredibly valuable talent to have on defense.
WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama (Brugler: 16th)
Where he fits: If the Cowboys are truly ready to totally revamp their receiver corps, they could take a first-round receiver. It could also affect their dealing with Dez Bryant and his contract negotiations. Ridley is widely considered the top receiver in this draft with his ability to routinely create his own separation.
Ridley is a player with multiple gears to his game, he has good speed, he is a technician when it comes to the details of route running and offensive concepts, plus he’s got excellent control of his body. Now, he’s a bit thin-limbed in his legs and could use some more muscle definition there. Ridley could step right in and be a team’s WR2 from day one as his ability to stay open will intrigue all NFL clubs.
G/C James Daniels, Iowa (Brugler: 18th)
Where he fits: Daniels is another late-riser that has found himself earning definite first-round consideration. The Cowboys will like the versatility that Daniels has to play guard and center but he would be their starting left guard immediately. He’s got the right compact frame and amazing balance to anchor down and take on all defenders. Daniels is a very smart player, his awareness shows big in pass protection with stunts and blitzes. He’s a dedicated run blocker at the second-level where his agility and athleticism really jump out at you.
He’s certainly among the top interior linemen in this deep class but his best position projects at center, where he was the best in college football. Daniels has tremendous upside and could be one the league’s best in due time.
LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State (Brugler: 22nd)
Where he fits: The Cowboys are rumored to be rather high on the former Bronco linebacker that is described as a tackling machine. With the Cowboys losing Anthony Hitchens, linebacker does make sense because they’re vulnerable at the position. Dallas typically deploys two linebackers. They still have big plans for Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith to be their starters but the front office doesn’t want to re-live life without Lee again in 2018. Vander Esch would step in as the primary insurance policy for both guys and the eventual replacement for the 32-year old Lee.
Vander Esch is extremely athletic and has the best SPARQ scores of this linebacker class. He’s very well-built with length in his arms and legs with little to no wasted movement. He’s got the instinctual attributes that you want in the position. Though it’s Roquan Smith and Rashaan Evans that dominate most of the buzz, Vander Esch is the perhaps the best open-field tackler of the bunch.
G Will Hernandez, UTEP (Brugler: 23rd)
Where he fits: If the Cowboys want a starting left guard akin to what they had with Ron Leary, Hernandez is their best bet. He’s an absolute mauler, behemoth of a man that carries 340 pounds and looks good doing it. Hernandez would step right in at left guard and return the Cowboys offensive line to the undisputed champions of the league.
He’s got 49 starts to his credit with incredible ability to match agility on stunts or twists. For as big as he is, it doesn’t effect his ability to get out and move in the run game where he excelled. Hernandez is very athletic with elite quickness and explosive ability that comes from his background as a high school defensive tackle. He still has some polishing to do with technique and can get a little ahead of himself at times. With that said, he’s still a plug and play starter that Bryan Broaddus dubs the “Coke machine with arms.”
WR D.J. Moore, Maryland (Brugler: 29th)
Where he fits: Moore is the perfect receiver for what the Cowboys need. He’s a polished route runner just like Ridley but Moore has a more durable body type at 210 pounds. Moore was productive despite having eight different quarterbacks in his collegiate career. In a scheme like the Cowboys, Moore’s ability to make himself an easy target is intriguing. He’s got great top end speed in the 4.4’s but his physical nature for a guy just at the six foot marker is impressive. Moore possesses great balance as well to come down with the tough catches.
With Moore, you have a volume receiver with excellent vision and he looks the part of today’s successful receivers. He’s not the big ‘X’ receiver-type but he kills defenses by being very detail-oriented and working his tail off. A team with a young, developing quarterback, needs receivers like Moore that create their own separation when the initial plans don’t work out.
LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama (Brugler: 36th)
Where he fits: Evans is an interesting player because he’s not the athlete of a Roquan or Vander Esch. It sounds cliche but Evans is a football player first, athlete second. Evans is a skilled pass rusher that would be a fun toy for Rod Marinelli to deploy on blitzes because more often than not, Evans will get home. Though he ran in the 4.7 range, his tape shows a sideline-to-sideline player that doesn’t look slow. Evans is a disciplined player that is very technically sound at all three spots.
If he were the Cowboys pick, he would offer up a tremendous run-stopper that levels people when he tackles. He’s just as good at diagnosing the opponent as any of the linebackers ahead of him. He was the Tide’s vocal leader and when you watch his play tape, he reminds you of a smaller Rolando McClain with his thumping ability.
Of these seven prospects, who is your pick for the Cowboys at 19?
This poll is closed
DT Vita Vea
WR Calvin Ridley
G/C James Daniels
LB Leighton Vander Esch
G Will Hernandez
WR D.J. Moore
LB Rashaan Evans