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Cowboys Draft 2019: Pick 90 provides several options but more bang for buck at DT

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The Cowboys may be able to squeeze the most value out of their third-round pick by taking a defensive tackle.

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Arizona Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In our first part of this series looking at pick 58, it was determined that the Cowboys will likely take a run at the safety position. All but two of the six safeties the Cowboys will visit with are projected right in that second-round range. Now, we shift to the Cowboys pick in third round at 90.

The Cowboys will have a big decision to make in the third round because it’s shaping up like a great spot for receiver help and interior defensive linemen. The Cowboys have a crowded room at receiver with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup at the top. Then you have to consider Randall Cobb and Tavon Austin factoring in as well. After those four, there are a few returning from injury like Allen Hurns and Cedrick Wilson. We’re not saying that they should write-off receiver but their lineup is pretty strong as it is.

It might be best served to get more help on the interior of their defensive line. The Cowboys need more production from their tackles and their run defense broke down toward the end of last season. They aren’t likely to replace the freakish athleticism of David Irving but he’s not worth the headache to keep around either. In the third round, there will be some solid defensive tackles that can contribute immediately and help the Cowboys strengthen their depth.

(Here is a chart of 15 defensive tackles entering this year’s draft with various round projections. We’ll include all pre-draft visitors. All rankings are based of CBS’ Draft Scout prospect rankings.)

DEFENSIVE TACKLE SCHOOL OVR RK PROJ. RD 3-CONE TCKL TFL SCK FF
CHARLES OMENIHU TEXAS 37 2 7.25 115 30 16.5 6
DREMONT JONES OHIO STATE 69 2-3 7.71 114 22 9.5 4
RENELL WREN ARZ STATE 82 3 7.65 81 14.5 3 1
KHALEN SAUNDERS W. ILLINOIS 86 3 7.57 172 21.5 16 0
DAYLON MACK TEXAS A&M 87 3 8.02 108 27 8 4
GERALD WILLIS III MIAMI 89 3 DNP 59 18 4 1
DANIEL WISE KANSAS 91 3-4 7.53 152 43 17 3
ISAIAH BUGGS ALABAMA 106 3-4 8.01 103 17.5 11 3
KINGSLEY KEKE TEXAS A&M 128 3-4 7.55 150 21 12.5 4
CHRIS SLAYTON SYRACUSE 155 4-5 7.71 82 20.5 14.5 0
DEMARCUS CHRISTMAS FLORIDA ST. 174 5 8.13 106 11.5 3.5 3
TRYSTEN HILL UCF 182 6 7.70 71 20 6 1
ARMON WATTS ARKANSAS 184 6 DNP 56 8.5 7 3
DONTAVIUS RUSSELL AUBURN 192 6-7 7.81 156 17 6 2
MICHAEL DOGBE TEMPLE 196 7-FA 7.49 158 19.5 8.5 5

The Cowboys have official visits with three defensive tackles on this list thus far and two of them are projected in the late-third to early fourth round. There are five potential third-round fits for the Cowboys that we’re going to examine.

RENELL WREN

SR-ARZ ST. 6'4 295 LBS PROJ RD:3

Strengths

Weaknesses

Great get-off burst, explosive attacker
Amazing power & strength, great length & moldable frame, fantastic motor, very physical
Violent hands, very rangy w/ impressive athleticism

Needs a plan to counter, has trouble with pad level, hand usage inconsistent, slow to navigate through gaps. Needs serious work on technical aspects & somewhat reckless, processing is slow

Now, in terms of explosiveness in that first-step, Renell Wren is exactly what the doctor ordered. Rod Marinelli wants violence from his interior linemen, they must be able to penetrate up-field and attack the pocket. Wren is an impressively sculpted athlete that has that balance of speed and strength at the point of attack. The only issues with Wren is that he’s not very polished and will need a heavy workload on technique refinement. He struggles with pad-level and hand-placement routinely, which will get you beat quickly in the NFL. He needs to spend time learning how to plan his attack rather than relying on his athleticism to win out each and every time.

KHALEN SAUNDERS

SR- W. ILLINOIS 6'0 318 LBS PROJ RD:3

Strengths

Weaknesses

Violent hands & jarring punch, speedy, incredible fluidity that doesn't make sense for his size, very good hand technique, play
strength is solid, phenomenal change of direction abilities,
versatile athlete, excels at NT

Dominated opposition w/o much effort, needs total re-haul
of technique, sub-par vision, gets driven off ball, burst wasted by
lateness, motor runs hot & cold, one-gap player until he
develops & refines skill set

There is a lot to like with Khalen Saunders, he’s the type of player coaches want as he has a reputation of an overachiever. When you watch the way he carries his squat frame and moves so effortlessly for a 300+ pound guy, it’s truly a marvel. He has excellent strength and power with the upside to be a fantastic nose tackle in the NFL. However, you cannot ignore the low level of competition or the lack of size. He’s a small-school guy that has a lot of boom potential but there is a large amount of bust, too. Saunders will need a truckload of technique work because he rarely had to do much to win his matchups at Western Illinois.

GERALD WILLIS III

SR- Miami 6'2 302 LBS PROJ RD:3

Strengths

Weaknesses

Great burst & get-off speed, raw power to toss aside blockers.
Deadly pass rush moves, big & strong enough to push through line & take down ball carrier.
Very agile athlete, doesn't miss tackles & very physical

Issues w/ leverage, past character concerns,inconsistent hands, struggles to stack & shed, solely reliant on power, too much time on ground, not very flexible, must learn to play with control, must watch weight

Gerald Willis is that prospect that a coach like Rod Marinelli could really mold into a dominate presence on defense. Willis is the exact prototype mix between raw athleticism and explosive power to wreck pockets in the pros. What he needs most is someone to teach him how to control his movement and work with him on the importance of leverage in this game. Willis has some off-field concerns and found himself in the doghouse once or twice due to his temper. Willis also will need to watch his weight as he has shown up in the past with a few extra around the midsection.

DANIEL WISE

SR-KANSAS 6'3 290 LBS PR. RD:3-4

Strengths

Weaknesses

Uses length well w/ good hand placement & effective shedding technique, long limbs to reach-through blocker, powerful finisher, elite first-step quickness, violent ripper at ball-carrier, polished pass rusher

Gets turned too quickly & looses focus when first move doesn't win, needs to develop lower half for NFL, pad level is inconsistent, footwork needs refining, projected 3-tech only

The Cowboys are fans of the defensive line teachings at Kansas, drafting Dorance Armstrong last year. With Les Miles leading KU in the future, we might be in for some more excitement in the BIG 12. Daniel Wise is strictly a three-tech prospect but he’s got a little “David Irving” in his play. Wise attacks his blockers with controlled violence in his hands, he’s going to rip at every ball-carrier, and it helps his cause that he’s got an incredible first-step. The dude has 43 tackles for loss and that’s just flat-out impressive. Wise will surely need to learn a few more moves as well as develop his lower body for the pro game but he just seems like someone Marinelli would love.

KINGSLEY KEKE

SR-TX A&M 6'3 305 LBS PR. RD:3-4

Strengths

Weaknesses

Nasty pass rusher, a load for blockers, A+ change of direction abilities, very sudden & makes plays in space, has wheels to chase down ball-carrier, incredible bend for big man, athletically-gifted contortionist

For all the bend, he lacks the next gear of explosiveness, a little late on his first-step, struggles with leverage, hand usage is behind the learning curve for a SR, slow to find the ball, & slow to process counters

Kingsley Keke is a really difficult prospect to figure out because teams are going to fall in love with his bend. At the same time, all of that bend and agility doesn’t add up to much explosiveness at all. Though his ability to turn and change direction is incredible, you are mainly seeing him chase the ball-carrier because of his tardiness at the snap. His timing is way off as is his footwork but if a team is patient to develop Keke, maybe these things can be corrected.