Today is April 16th, 2018 A.D. (after Dez) and some of us are just trying to catch our breath. Whether you’ve been scrambling around trying to get your taxes done (you’ve done that, right?) or just exhausted from all the craziness involving the release of one of the more prolific players on the team, you can now finally relax. If you’re having any trouble finding comfort, this might be a good time to remind you that in 11 short days the NFL Draft will take place. Are you happy now? What if I told you that two weeks from today, all the sadness from the offseason can be quickly flushed away. All the moves that happened or didn’t hadn’t that you didn’t like could be remedied by one weekend of great drafting.
Does that sound plausible? Let’s take a look.
PROBLEM: The Cowboys lost Anthony Hitchens in free agency and now have to rely on two players who have injury concerns at one of the most brutal positions in the game.
SOLUTION: Draft Leighton Vander Esch in the first round.
Vander Esch is coming off a breakout year with Boise State, recording 141 tackles last season. With only one year of amazing college production, the question begs - can he sustain this high level of play or was that just a fluke? A better question might be - is this kid just getting started?
Vander Esch is a smart player who can diagnose plays well. He’s aggressive, sheds blocks effectively, and has great agility to move around and chase ball carriers. If you’re trying to find the superior athlete through SPARQ rating, he’s your guy as The Cool One has him listed as the top-rated athlete based on those metrics. Here is his spider graph, courtesy of mockdraftable.com:
The Cowboys need to keep building their defense and create strong depth across the board. While some may want to go defensive tackle at 19, the team can get a bigger impact from a player with Vander Esch’s ability.
PROBLEM: The Cowboys released Dez Bryant and need to re-stock the wide receiver position.
SOLUTION: Draft Courtland Sutton in the second round.
The Cowboys have done their homework and just like last year, they have a good feel for what players will be available at certain points in the draft. This helped them move away from players like Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne last year because they knew quality cornerbacks were going to be there in the draft.
This year, one of the positions deepest in talent is wide receiver. Look at the top seven receivers ranked by NFL Draft Scout:
The Cowboys don’t have to take a receiver in the first round. They are not looking for the next superstar to fill Dez Bryant’s shoes. Instead, they just want to collect talented players who, as a group, can provide Dak Prescott with the weapons he needs. Our own Tom Ryle explains:
The Cowboys are, according to their own statements, seeking to revamp the offense to better suit Prescott’s game. And that could well mean they don’t see the need for that one big weapon at receiver, instead wanting to focus on a group of pass catchers who can run precision routes in the short to mid-range and then get substantial yards after the catch.
The Cowboys started that collection with the addition of Allen Hurns last month. They can build on it with one of the talented receivers that will still be on the board at 50. Will they get lucky and see a player like Christian Kirk or Courtland Sutton fall to them in the second round? Who knows, but even if they don’t - Anthony Miller and Equanimeous St. Brown are great players to add to this receiving core.
The Philadelphia Eagles are paying Alshon Jeffrey an average of $13 million per year. Could the Cowboys get their version of Jeffrey on Day 2 of the draft?
PROBLEM: The Cowboys don’t have a replacement for last year’s replacement left guard, Jonathan Cooper.
SOLUTION: Draft Braden Smith in the third round.
There are some intriguing offensive linemen options at different points in the draft. Isaiah Wynn and Will Hernandez have been mentioned a lot as possible first-round targets. Then, players like Connor Williams and James Daniels are some late first-/early second-round targets. While those players would be nice to have, the Cowboys don’t have to invest early in an offensive linemen to get a player who can start in the trenches. Players like Austin Corbett, Braden Smith, and Frank Ragnow are Day 2 choices and one of them could make it to pick 81.
If the Cowboys could land a player like Braden Smith from Auburn in the third round, it would be a great value pick for them. Even this late in the draft, Smith has tremendous athleticism and would fit nicely between Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith. He’s even been compared to All Pro guard David DeCastro from Pittsburgh:
From a physical standpoint, these two players are very similar with their power at the point of attack and ability to hold up as both a run blocker and pass protector. DeCastro has developed into a Pro Bowler so this is high praise, but Smith has that type of potential if he improves his technique.
PROBLEM: The Cowboys didn’t trade for Earl Thomas and with Byron Jones moving to corner, the team is weak at free safety.
SOLUTION: Draft Tarvarius Moore in the fourth round.
The Cowboys have four safeties they have shown interest in either through an official 30 visit (blue) or Dallas Day (yellow) who are projected to go somewhere in rounds 3-4.
What is interesting about these players is how they all show up in a good quadrant of the production points/SPARQ comparison for safeties.
Both Tarvarius Moore and Terrell Edmunds rate out as superior athletes and both DeShon Elliott and Kyzir White are two of the highest production points scorers. Moore is the only player who peforms well at both and makes it into the elite A quadrant, which might explain why his stock has been climbing.
Moore is no Earl Thomas, but to get a potential starting free safety with his ability for a grand total of just $3 million total, spread out over four years - that could be the steal of the draft.
What would you think of a draft haul that started out like this?