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Cowboys draft 2018: The positives & negatives of the Cowboys’ draft haul

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Looking at what these new Cowboys do well and what they struggle with.

Texas v California Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Over the final week leading up to the draft we had a series where we looked at most of the positions the Cowboys would be looking to draft. In that series, we examined the positives and negatives of the prospects at each position grouping. Now that the draft is over, let’s re-visit some of those we completed but also a few more that we missed. Before we do that, a nice and neat chart to recap the picks:

Position Name School Proj. Round Selection Overall
LB Leighton Vander Esch (6'4, 256 lbs) Boise State 1 19
OL Connor Williams (6'5, 320 lbs) Texas 1 50
WR Michael Gallup (6'1, 205 lbs) Colorado State 3 81
DE Dorance Armstrong (6'4, 257 lbs) Kansas 4 116
TE Dalton Schultz (6'6, 244 lbs) Stanford 4-5 137
QB Mike White (6'5, 224 lbs) Western Kentucky 3-4 171
LB Chris Covington (6'2, 245 lbs) Indiana 7 193
WR Cedric Wilson (6'2, 197 lbs) Boise State 5-6 208
RB Bo Scarbrough (6'1, 228 lbs) Alabama 5 236

LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State

Positives Negatives
Elite athletic profile and length Limited experience (1 year)
No delays in change of direction Needs to improve play strength
Quick-twitch agility Struggles to free himself from blocks
Great instincts in coverage with recovery ability Hasn't mastered hand technique
Very quick but also very smooth as an athlete Takes himself out of tackles by overpursuing
Show true talent as an edge rushing linebacker

Cowboys fit: This pick has received mixed reviews but most draft experts are pretty high on his ability in the Cowboys defense. Vander Esch is an ascending player who is nowhere near his ceiling but still is impressive. Under Kris Richard’s new approach to the defense, do not be surprised to see Vander Esch on the field with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith. By now, we know that this player was the one first-round possibility that they were in love with. They want a linebacker that can start and above the quality of what they lost with Anthony Hitchens. The athleticism is off the charts and is such a underrated quality to have defending the offenses in today’s NFL.

OG Connor Williams, Texas

Positives Negatives
Lives in the weight room, unabashed leader Lack of length
Great lean muscle mass Needs improvement with hand placement
Established technician Core strength is average
Quality finisher with mean demeanor Gets straight-legged at times
Efficient blocker when out in space Overall mirroring ability declined in 2017
Footwork and vision are top notch Soft against counters, bad habit of punch and lean
Smooth athlete with elite body balance

Cowboys fit: When the Cowboys went down to Austin to work him out, we heard rumblings of just how impressive he looked and equally impressed the coaches were. He put some bad things on his tape in 2017 but was still a first-round consideration for what folks know he is, when healthy. Williams not only brought the Cowboys great draft day value for getting him over half a round later than his projection, he also brings them the ability to reclaim some hefty titles. He’s an incredible athlete build like the modern day warrior rather than the guy sneaking McDonalds in at camp. Acquiring him, a technically sound, agile, mean-streak athlete to bolster their strength was an incredible move made by one of the best drafting franchises of late.

WR Michael Gallup, Colorado State

Positives Negatives
Extremely light feet Needs to turn head a lot sooner
Good height-weight-speed combo Needs adjustments to poorly thrown balls
Consistently drives corners off their backpedal When plays are off schedule, needs to scramble with QB
Really strong burst and brakes Tendency to coast on balls not coming his way
Improved route running with elite separation More effort needed as a run blocker
Very competitive after the catch
Thrives on back shoulder throws

Cowboys fit: When you watch Gallup’s tape, you see an all-around receiver that does all the little technique things it takes for success. He doesn’t have a single trait that makes your mouth water but he’s just solid in every single facet of being a receiver. So, he doesn’t have elite speed? Well, he led college football in yards after catch for two straight years because he’s as route savvy as they come and will dominate those contested catches. In six games last season, Gallup had over 100 yards receiving, in two of those games, Gallup went over 200 yards receiving. Gallup was fifth in college football with over 1,400 receiving yards and was third in receptions at 100 for 2017. Gallup is the perfect complement to put with Dak Prescott, he’ll be open early and late, working back to his quarterback, helping him grow.

DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas

Positives Negatives
Great build, well-defined, musculature is great Will need to add bulk for fulltime 4-3 end
Smooth, explosive, elite agility Must stay balanced at point of attack
Pursuit, change of direction is fantastic Will opt for athleticism over technique, must improve
Experienced rusher with hand down or up Production dropped significantly from 2016 to 2017
Phenomenal motor, active hands, developed rush moves Needs improvement to not be one-note rusher, trust himself

Cowboys fit: At first, rush end seemed like an afterthought in this draft process but give credit to the Cowboys for thinking ahead. Armstrong was almost a Cowboy one night earlier as the front office tried to swing a trade back into the third round when everyone thought it was for Tarvarius Moore. Dallas believed that Armstrong’s motor and athletic profile was too outstanding to pass on. In 2016, Armstrong blew up with 56 tackles, 20 TFL’s, 10 sacks, and three fumbles. His production dipped big time this past year to just 9.5 TFL’s and two sacks. Those close to the situation feel as though he wasn’t let loose in 2017 and often played him out of place. Armstrong will add to the pass rush rotation that is one of the most improved units in the NFL.

TE Dalton Schultz, Stanford

Positives Negatives
Steals manhoods as a blocker, tenacious at point of attack Underwhelming TE production but stalwart of running game
Ability to sustain & finish, well educated football fundamentals Needs to learn to be better route salesman, allows too much leeway
Elite attacker of voids in zone coverage, bodied USC's Rasheem Green Lacks speed overtop, needs to use big body more efficiently
Short area footwork, creates space, doesn't overcommit to routes Must improve separation in man coverage, use hands better
Has the ability to become a reliable next-level target in traffic Not physical enough as receiver, slows feet at contact, must fall forward

Cowboys fit: Despite popular belief, the Cowboys were never targeting Dallas Goedert at 50. They were not going to draft that position at that spot whether or not Jason Witten retires. They grabbed a solid day three tight end that may end up getting much more of an opportunity to perform early. Schultz is already a very productive inline blocker and is a physical blocker in the run game. He’s got an understanding of how to get open in zone coverage. He certainly has the upside to become a reliable receiver for Dak Prescott moving forward but needs to play.

QB Mike White, Western Kentucky

Positives Negatives
Arm talent is outstanding, former pitcher with great drive accuracy Heavy footwork in pocket, takes time to set up, poor pocket mobility
Velocity & accuracy to attack all points of the field, tight-window thrower No feel for pressure at times and drops eyes to the rush, sacked 46 times
Has a fastball but can move between heat & touch on the ball Needs to process quicker, tends to stay on covered target instead of moving on
Dangerous when protected, 57% comp on deep balls, drops over CB's head Looks lethargic on the roll and throw, relied too much on arm talent
Was asked to make full reads, resets his feet when he leaves the pocket Fumbled 17 times over two seasons, horrible protection shared blame for sacks too

Cowboys fit: Watching him throw the ball is a thing of beauty and he’s one of the more talented arms in this class. White can reset his feet and deliver the ball accurately with the velocity needed at the next level. His game was hindered because he was under pressure so much. When he was protected you saw him shine but mobility was a concern and he needs to process the game a little quicker. He will immediately be able to compete for the backup position.

LB Chris Covington, Indiana

Positives Negatives
Long build with great arm length, former QB with more room for bulk One year starter with below average instincts and play diagnosis
Great speed in pursuit but also has the burst to be a closer Still learning blocking recognition patterns, gets out of place at times
Plays with infectious energy, still inexperienced but ascending Gets trapped in the trash and over runs his assignment sometimes
Playmaking production soared in 2017, 12 tackles for loss Needs to improve playing off blocks and stay balanced
Physical player, good finisher, can cover with striking ability Pursuit isn't always disciplined, needs to improve leverage and protect his gaps

Cowboys fit: There are some that see this pick as somewhat of a reach but this was a move for the special teams unit. Covington needs to play as he’s very inexperienced but he does play with a physical demeanor and has that energy you need to get the unit fired up. He’s got a lot to learn with the technical aspects of his position but Covington made lots of plays with his closing speed.

WR Cedrick Wilson, Boise State

Positives Negatives
Nuanced route runner, former quarterback, experienced football player Step slow into his routes at times, hurts clean release against aggressive DBs
Great confidence that exudes from him, teammates love his winner mentality Needs to keep feet under him, can stumble in routes, tardy to make adjustments
Can change speed well opening up great separation at multiple levels Ball skills & hand-eye coordination needs work
Athletic & competitive with ball in hand, works in and out, extra gear Should finish way more catches outside of his frame
Outstanding route salesman, tracks deep ball, 26% of catches went for 25+ yards Strong worker but will never make those circus catches for the highlight reel

Cowboys fit: Wilson is another quality route runner, salesman and technician. He’s got the great speed to create separation at all levels of the field. Wilson does have some consistency issues, where he can be just a little slow into his routes. Despite that aspect, he does have an extra gear to him and plays with competitiveness, working all parts of the passing game. Wilson most definitely has a shot to make the roster and be a contributor early in this league.

RB Bo Scarbrough, Alabama

Positives Negatives
Great tapered physique, can absorb the blows, keeps coming back for more Can play a little too upright much like Rod Smith, big defenders will hurt him
Plays with great tempo, punishing runner, very powerful runner Play style leads to durability concerns. never saw true potential at Bama because of it
Always gets the "dirty" yards, gathers weight & cuts sharp in ZBS, hard to tackle Impatience leads to closing own escape routes, too big & leggy to counter
Can batter the defense but has surprisingly long speed, heartcrushing finisher Burst & feel need improvement, needs clear lane to reach top-speed
Great at blitz pickup, dominated late last year against AUB, FLA, WAS, & CLEM Long strider that's missing the next-level vision, it's chess not checkers, must learn

Cowboys fit: This was another great value pick as the Cowboys got a back with upside that can join a fantastic running back room. Scarbrough is an extremely powerful runner that has a tendency to come into games late and finish off the opponent. He definitely had some trouble staying healthy and his inconsistency never allowed for him to be “the Man” at Alabama. With that said, he fights for dirty yards, can pick up the blitz, and was given a shot to play late last season, dominating four really good football programs. He’ll step right in to help this running back room stay dominant.