War Room experiment: How the Cowboys’ 2019 draft might look from inside The Star - Jeff Cavanaugh, The Athletic
Cavanaugh takes us through his yearly war room exercise where he contemplates his option during each round.
We’re left to choose from three players: Gardner-Johnson (S-Florida), Layne (CB-Michigan State) and Winovich (DE-Michigan). I have them all graded as second-round players. I’m going to add the guy who can impact the team right now and fit perfectly. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (who Kevin Turner wrote about here) is a great complement to Xavier Woods. He can play in coverage and the box. He’s played nickel cornerback and he’s played deep safety. He’s a reliable player who creates turnovers, and he’s your new starting safety opposite Xavier Woods. The need matched up with the available players perfectly.
The pick: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson – S – Florida
With the draft less than two weeks ago, Bleacher Report sifts through each NFL team and determines their draft needs. What did they come up with for the Cowboys?
Biggest Needs: TE, S, EDGE
The Dallas Cowboys’ biggest need remains improving the receiving corps. Yes, they have a No. 1 wideout in Amari Cooper, and they added a terrific slot receiver in Randall Cobb this offseason. Yes, they brought out Jason Witten from the broadcasting booth. But he turns 37 years old in May and hasn’t played in over a year. Adding a pass-catching tight end should be the final piece to the offensive puzzle.
Defensively, the Cowboys need to find a complement to pass-rusher Demarcus Lawrence. They retained Lawrence with a five-year, $105 million deal, but they lost Randy Gregory to an indefinite suspension for another violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. The Cowboys produced a middling 39 sacks during the 2018 regular season and only one in two postseason contests. The trade with the Miami Dolphins for Robert Quinn is a good start, but it shouldn’t be the end of the pass-rusher search.
After Dallas missed out on Earl Thomas and did not reach a deal with Eric Berry, safety is also likely a position the team will prioritize in the draft.
There are several burning questions heading into the draft, including...
#2. Who will fall in the second round?
If the Cowboys do not trade up and indeed make their first selection with the 58th overall selection in the second round, it’s going to be a long, gut-wrenching wait. And there are several intriguing prospects Dallas is undoubtedly hoping fall to them. The fact as many as five quarterbacks could get selected in the first round should help.
On top of the Cowboys’ wish list at No. 58 could be prospects like Washington safety Taylor Rapp, Boston College defensive end Zack Allen, South Carolina wide receiver Deebo Samuel, Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram, TCU edge rusher L.J. Collier, Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr., and Vanderbilt cornerback Joejuan Williams.
Don’t believe everything you hear, however it’s good to keep your ear close to the ground. After last year’s late buzz with Leighton Vander Esch turning into reality, this year - we are all ears. Two players are hot topics right now, including the NCAA’s all time leading sack leader.
This year you are started to hear speculation about two potential targets. The first player and the one gaining more steam is NCAA career sack leader, defensive end Jaylon Ferguson out of Louisiana Tech. His draft stock took a hit during his pro day where he ran a 4.82-4.83 forty and had an 8.08 three-cone drill. Both horrible numbers for a defensive end hoping to be taken high in the draft. That could drop him right into the Cowboys’ lap at pick No. 58.
The name I keep hearing the most Cowboys-related buzz about over the last two weeks is Louisiana Tech DE Jaylon Ferguson.— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) April 11, 2019
And now a safety that was once thought to be out of reach, might be falling within striking distance.
The next player gaining steam is Washington safety, Taylor Rapp. His ability to play both strong and free safety makes him a very intriguing prospect for the Cowboys who missed out on Earl Thomas in free agency. While his pro day like Ferguson was disappointing for some teams due to his slow 4.74-4.77 forty time. Rapp’s ability to cover, tackle, rush the passer and high football IQ still make him a top target for the Cowboys.
Rob Phillips and Bryan Broaddus over at the Mothership answer questions, including how not having a Day 1 pick might dial in their focus on later candidates.
Since the Cowboys don’t have a first-round draft pick, do they have an advantage over other teams on Day 2 and 3 draft picks? I understand the team does its due diligence on all draft players, even those rated in the first round, but was this team able to spend more time and resources (30 visits, pro days) focusing on players rated Rounds 2-4? - JOHN BUI / ORANGE, CA
Bryan: I promise I won’t tell all those guys in that draft room what you just said. You never know what’s going to happen in a draft until it actually gets started. You have to put the best 150 names on that board regardless if you have 2 or 12 picks. Any other plan, you’re cheating yourself.
Rob: I’ll defer to Bryan, who’s been part of many drafts, but I don’t believe there’s a decided advantage. The Cowboys conceivably could spend less time on the top prospects this year, but at the same time you have to do homework on everybody because you never know what will unfold and who might still be around when you pick.
Could the Cowboys stay close to home when going after a new defensive linemen? TCU’s L.J. Collier is a Dallas Day visitor who is on the team’s radar.
At TCU Collier rushed out of both a two point and three point stance. In the NFL he will be expected to rush with his hand in the ground as a defensive end. He mostly rushed off the edge, but teams might be interested in moving him inside on certain downs. Standing at 6-foot-2, 283 pounds, Collier has good size for his position. Collier’s physical traits in particular stand out, possessing a wingspan of 81 7/8 inches and an arm length of 34 inches. He knows how to use his length to great effect and his game film shows a player who often used his long arms to gain leverage against offensive tackles. Throughout games he maintains excellent pad level and a low center of gravity, making him a hard player to knockdown.
Collier has a toolbox of pass rush moves, his favorite being the bull rush. But he also excels with the outside swim move with a stutter step. However, his greatest asset as a player is his play strength. Not many edge rushers can send offensive linemen flying, but Collier managed to do that on more than one occasion at TCU.
DT Trysten Hill comes with baggage, but could add a lot to Cowboys defensive line - Kevin Turner, The Athletic
The Cowboys aren’t strangers to taking chances, and Central Florida’s Trysten Hill could be the type of gamble that pays off in a big way.
There’s a lot to like about Hill. He shows exceptional snap anticipation, getting off the ball and up-field to penetrate the gap. His effort is outstanding, as you’ll see him flying around and chasing plays down even when the ball carrier isn’t near him. He’s very active for an inside player, showing some range to chase plays down laterally. He also plays with powerful hands, violence, and instincts.
A lot of Hill’s negatives originate off the field. However, they aren’t enough to concern me. Sure, he expressed his opinions on his role at the end of the season, but he’s never been arrested and has addressed his so-called maturity issues throughout the pre-draft process. He does have below-average arm length and his contact balance is a tad concerning; on tape, it was clear he often wound up on the ground.
Best Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks From Each Year of the Jason Garrett Era - John Williams, Inside The Star
The Cowboys are known for hitting it out of the park in the first round, but they’ve branched off into other rounds as of late. That’s great news to hear considering they don’t have a first-round pick this year. John Williams runs down the last eight drafts and identifies the best selections.
2017 - Xavier Woods, Safety, 6th Round Pick
The 2017 draft is most remembered for the selection of Defensive End Taco Charlton over now-Pittsburgh Steelers Outside Linebacker T.J. Watt, but it was what the Cowboys did after the first round that was remarkable. Remember that prior to the draft, the Cowboys allowed Barry Church, J.J. Wilcox, Brandon Carr, and Morris Claiborne to walk in free agency. Two of their top three corners and two of their top three safeties were gone.
In the draft, the Cowboys selected four defensive backs in Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods, and Marquez White. The most impressive in their first two years has been Xavier Woods. Initially Woods had to works some as a slot cornerback because of injuries in the secondary and ineffectiveness of free agent signing Nolan Carroll. In 2018, Woods made the full-time transition to free safety and was a bright spot for a Cowboys defense that was in the top 10 in many defensive statistics in the NFL.
The top 5 players Cowboys regret passing on in 2014 draft, including two Pro Bowl DBs - Jon Machota, SportsDay
It’s hard to nit pick at a draft where they landed two of the top players in the entire draft class, but there’s always room for improvement.
5. Adrian Phillips, S -- Texas
The Cowboys were ridiculously successful in the first two rounds of this draft, landing Zack Martin and then trading up to get DeMarcus Lawrence. You can’t do much better than that. The regrets here are minor. Phillips, a Dallas native, was released and re-signed several times during his rookie season before eventually landing a regular role. He has played in all but three games over the last three seasons, starting 17. Phillips made his first Pro Bowl last season. Dallas drafted a safety in the seventh round in 2014, Baylor’s Ahmad Dixon, who never played in a game for the Cowboys.