The growing consensus is that the Cowboys will draft a prospect from at least one of the following positions in the first two rounds: wide receiver, linebacker, and offensive guard; but what about out-of-the box options? This new short series will lead up to the draft and take a look at other positions the Cowboys can consider early. Today, we’ll look at offensive tackle.
Following the release of Dez Bryant, many in draft circles believe that the Cowboys will look to spend a premium pick to add a wide receiver to the mix. The hot names in that regard include Maryland’s D.J. Moore, Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, and SMU’s Cortland Sutton. While you can argue that other positions would be smarter to address before receiver, Dallas surely needs help at that position.
Other realistic options include offensive guard and linebacker. With Jonathan Cooper off to The Bay and La’el Collins at right tackle, there is a need at left guard. Will Hernandez and Isaiah Wynn are two of the top three guards in the draft and both have a great chance of still being on the board by the time that pick 19 comes on the clock. Additionally, Anthony Hitchens is now playing for the Colts, so, do the Cowboys spend a premium pick on linebacker? Rashaan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch are the two names to know if so.
But what happens if the Cowboys decide to shock everybody and think outside of the box? Is there a chance, for example, that an offensive tackle is the pick come April 26th or early Friday night?
Why it could make sense
Offensive tackle is one of the least of the Cowboys’ worries — for now. All-Pro tackle Tyron Smith anchors the line at left tackle, and Collins is growing into a formidable tackle himself on the right side. Aside from quarterback, running back, corner, and center, the offensive tackle position is probably the least likely pick in the first-round.
But, there could be a slight chance that the Cowboys decide to go this route next Thursday.
Why? Well, because of two reasons. First, Tyron Smith is one of the best in the game at his position, but his back injuries are beginning to mount up. The ninth overall selection of the 2011 NFL Draft only missed one game from 2011-2015, but injuries have plagued him over the past two seasons.
In 2016, Smith missed three games of the Cowboys’ exciting and surprising 13-3 regular season led by rookie phenoms Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott due to back injuries. The former USC Trojan missed back-to-back games against the Bears and then 49ers in 2016 due to complications with his back. Then last August, Smith was shut down for an “extended period of time” for, again, his back.
Last season, Smith again had to miss time — and the Cowboys felt the effects of it. Chaz Green was tasked with replacing Smith at LT against the Falcons, and all that happened was Adrian Clayborn having the game of his life and Dak being on the ground more times than not. Byron Bell filled in the next week against the Eagles, and it was more of the same. The offense never regained its mojo with Smith out of the lineup. Dallas signed Cameron Fleming in free agency, but will the Cowboys want to find an insurance plan early this draft cycle? Fleming only signed a one-year deal.
Secondly, La’el Collins began his NFL career at left guard. The former LSU Tigers offensive lineman was a projected first-round selection before an off-the-field investigation cost him his draft moment. The Cowboys added him to an already talented offensive line and he was set to start at guard before going down with a torn ligament in his toe three games into his rookie campaign. Collins was moved to RT this past season and appears to be locked there; however, there has been some speculation that Dallas may consider moving him back to guard to get “the five best offensive lineman” in the game.
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said the team has had some talks with La'el Collins about moving back to guard. With the signing of Cameron Fleming, Jones said the goal is to play the best five offensive lineman. Collins started every... https://t.co/AmNRbS8HhN— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) March 26, 2018
I’m not necessarily advocating for moving Collins back to guard, but if that is in the potential plans, perhaps the Cowboys decide a first- or second-round pick on a new tackle.
Why it doesn’t make sense
Drafting an offensive tackle early doesn’t make sense because, well, there is just simply too many needs to address.
The Cowboys don’t need an offensive tackle, but there are definitely needs at receiver, at guard, at linebacker, and also at safety. You can say that moving Collins back inside will fill the need at guard, but will you really want to do that? For one, he’s now preparing for his second offseason at right tackle. Additionally, he’s already make it clear that he wants to stay there.
“I am going to be where I am,” Collins said. “I like playing tackle. I think that is where we will be. I’m here to help the football team. But I think we will be where we need to be.”
“I played against a lot of great players in my first year at right tackle,” Collins said “Going against those guys last year was a big stepping stone for me going into next year. Right now I’m focused on playing tackle. That is where my mindset is.”
So, it wouldn’t make too much sense to spend a premium pick on a player that won’t come in start his rookie season. The Cowboys need to fill a need at inside linebacker, will more-than-likely consider at least one of the two receivers at 19, and will surely think about Hernandez at Wynn. That’s not even considering if a player like a Derwin James or Marcus Davenport falls.
Plus, the signing of Cameron Fleming likely negates the Cowboys’ thoughts of adding an OT early in the draft.
But, if, on the off-chance that it happens, the Cowboys want to look at offensive tackle, here are four names to know...
- Connor Williams, Texas Longhorns
Connor Williams entered the 2017 college football season with top-ten hype after performing like one of the elite players at his position as a true-sophomore for the Longhorns; however, he injuries and an awful game against Maryland hurt his draft stock.
Still, though, the 6-foot-6 and 288 pound offensive tackle still has first-round talent and will likely be a top-25 selection next week. He has the potential and the ceiling to grow into a starting-quality tackle, but will likely struggle early in his career as he transitions to the NFL level.
A lot of mock drafts have the Jaguars taking 6’5 320 lb Tackle out of Texas Connor Williams. Could be pro ready day 1. pic.twitter.com/epmnZfic2C— Another Jags Podcast (@AnotherJagsPod) April 17, 2018
Based on pure raw talent, ceiling, and measurables, Williams is the best offensive tackle prospect in this class. Could Brugler’s 24th ranked prospect be Tyron Smith’s eventual replacement?
- Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Mike McGlinchey is another tackle garnering top-25 hype. McGlinchey gets overshadowed by his former Notre Dame teammate and future top-ten pick Quinton Nelson, but he is a strong offensive line prospect himself. In fact, he is one of the five linemen that Dallas brought in for pre-draft visits.
McGlinchey (28th on Brugler’s board) is expected to be a first-round pick and could be picked higher than what most project due to the value of the OT position. The 24-year old Pittsburgh native is a strong athlete with upside, but struggles with pad level and strength.
Would Dallas pair another Notre Dame lineman next to Zack Martin on the right side?
- Kolton Miller, UCLA Bruins
Like McGlinchey, Kolton Miller was also one of the lineman that the Cowboys brought in; however, the former UCLA tackle doesn’t get the same kind of love that the former Notre Dame and Texas tackles get.
Miller, the 31st ranked player on Brugler’s board, used a big combine performance to jump up the draft boards. The former UCLA Bruin measured in at 6-foot-8 and 309 pounds in Indianpolis, while also running the third fastest 40-time by an offensive lineman (4.95) and recording the best broad jump at his position (10’1).
STONED LACK DRAFT WATCH - Kolton Miller— STONED LACK (@StonedLack) April 18, 2018
Kolton Miller, T, UCLA
6’9“ 309lbs#rannfl #rannflsuechtig #PathToTheDraft #nfldraft #ProDay #UCLA #UCLAproday #GoBruins @alex_lacki @UCLAFootball pic.twitter.com/gLsFg6CUgG
Miller may not be worth the 19th pick, but he will surely be long gone before 50. The fact that Dallas brought him in for a visit signifies that there may be at least a little interest. Could he be a darkhorse pick?
- Martinas Rankin, Mississippi St. Bulldogs
Martinas Rankin is the least likely of these prospects to go in the first-round, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have the talent to grow into a quality NFL lineman. Unfortunately for the Mississippi State product, Rankin was hampered by nagging injuries in 2017.
With that past him, Rankin is set to prove that he is one of the best tackle prospects in this class. The former top-5 overall JUCO prospect in the 2015 class anchored an offensive line that was among the best at protecting the quarterback last fall. Brugler’s 49th best overall prospect has been put in the late first-round and early second-round territory by most mocks. Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports calls him a potential “day two gem”.
56. Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State: Rankin might be the most fundamentally sound offensive tackle in this class. He’s quick and balanced in his kick slide, times his punches well and has light feet to mirror pass-rushers. With a bit more strength, he can handle power-rushers slightly better than he does now. The former Mississippi State is one of the Day Two gems in this class.
Versatility is probably Rankin’s most attractive trait. Last Spring, then-Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen talked about potentially moving his left tackle inside to play center. That ultimately did not happen, but the 6-foot-5 and 305 pound lineman has the ability to play all five positions if needed.
Taking a look at some tackles tonight. Martinas Rankin from MSU is a good athletic tackle. Really good at mirroring rushes and can be dangerous when he locks on and drives pic.twitter.com/rhPyOOE6i8— Packers Film Room (@PTTF_ChalkTalk) April 11, 2018
If the Cowboys decide against picking a tackle in the first and miss out on Hernandez, Wynn, and James Daniels, maybe Rankin is in consideration for pick 50 due to his position flexibility. I’m sure Dak would love another Bulldog on the roster.
In this very unlikely scenario, who would be your guy?