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Three defensive ends the Cowboys should target for the second round of the NFL Draft

What type of edge rushing talent will be available when the Cowboys are on the clock?

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DXL Frisco Bowl - Louisiana Tech v SMU Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Quality players who can rush the quarterback are precious commodities in the NFL which is why the Cowboys are always looking out for them. The team has selected a defensive end in each of the last five drafts and with so much uncertainty with their current group, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if they draft another one this year.

The search to discover the Dallas Cowboys 58th overall pick continues today as we examine potential edge rushers that could fall to the team in the second round. On Monday, we identified three safety prospects and yesterday we looked at defensive tackles. Tomorrow, we finish it up with tight ends and then on Friday - we’ll put it all together to form a mini-board we can use as a checkoff list when the Day 2 of the draft rolls around.

For this exercise, we are identifying a long-shot player (blue), a hold your breath player (green), and a reasonable chance player (yellow) that could be available at pick 58. Obviously it would be ideal if one the long-shot players somehow fell to Dallas. That would be the best case scenario, but it’s good to have backups in place as a contingency plan. With that said, here are three possible candidates (ranks courtesy of Dane Brugler’s top 100) at the defensive end position.

Long shot...

Jachai Polite

There are six elite pass rushers that could end up coming off the board in the first 20 picks. It might even be seven had in not been for the risk involved with Florida Gators edge rusher Jachai Polite.

Polite is a talented pass rusher who has a wide arsenal of moves to get to the quarterback. He has outstanding get-off and is extremely bendy to slide around the edge. He looks fast on tape and has great closing speed in pursuit of the ball. Polite is a great finisher as he led the nation with six forced fumbles.

Polite is a little on the light side at just 258 pounds and will need to add some bulk. But keep in mind, DeMarcus Lawrence is the same height and entered the league even lighter at 251 pounds. His size means he can be pushed around when bigger linemen get their hands on him. Polite doesn’t have violent hands to shed blockers. And right now, he looks like his contribution is exclusive to rushing the quarterback so he has a lot of work to do in order to be a three-down player.

There is some risk involved with a player like Polite. His character has come into question and he was even benched for a series last year for not meeting team standards. He’s definitely a guy the team would need to have in for a pre-draft visit to get a feel for what type of character they’re getting.

Chances of being available at 58: Doubtful. It’s really hard to say with Polite and he reminds me a little of the Randy Gregory situation in terms of risk/reward. He could go late first or drop all the way until late second. Of course, the Gregory situation has been a nightmare in terms of availability and the Cowboys may not want to go down that path again.

He just might make it...

D’Andre Walker

The Georgia product is a talented pass rusher and is trending up. Despite not being a starter until his senior year, Walker put together a 7.5 sack season with 45 tackles, 11 of which were for a loss. He has good maneuverability to get around blockers. He plays with a relentless effort. And despite being just 251 pounds, he plays with good pad level and doesn’t get tossed around by offensive linemen. He has long arms to thwart blockers. Walker is a very strong run defender and reads plays quickly. With a good anchor and long reach, he’s able to abruptly close up the running lanes.

Walker is more of a 3-4 outside linebacker, but we’re not putting too much stock in that as good edge rushers are good edge rushers. Still, he’s undersized and that will be a problem going against huge NFL tackles. He’s more of a straight-line pursuer and doesn’t change direction well. Walker also needs to refine his pass rushing technique, but that’s something that can come later. He might not be able to step in and produce right away, which is not really something you want to hear about the team’s first draft selection.

Chances of being available at 58: Fair. He’s enough of a project to where it’s not hard seeing him fall that far.

Good chance of being there...

Jaylon Ferguson

The Louisiana State edge rusher has been extremely productive throughout college career, recording an NCAA best 45 total sacks. Ferguson diagnoses plays quickly and has great lateral quickness. He has violent hands and uses them well to disengage from blockers. He uses his hand effectively to find weak spots in leverage and then will power through when he finds them. Ferguson uses a variety of different pass rushing moves to always keep his opponents guessing. He’s not a one-trick pony as his ability to read plays allows him to hit gaps and be productive stopping the run.

So why is that college football’s all time leader in sacks would drop this low? Ferguson doesn’t explode off the line of scrimmage and his lack of bend limits hims effectiveness. He plays with too much of an upright style which will be taken advantage of at the next level. His lack of bend means he’s taking extra steps to get around the edge.

Chances of being available at 58: Reasonable. Nobody is going to expect him to be the sack demon he was in college, but he should be a solid contributor to any defensive line.