Earlier today, we talked about the center position as being one of the competitive spots for a battle at Cowboys training camp. The idea behind that was to examine the idea of the team just going with trusted veterans in the face of no preseason games, no OTAs and minicamps, and an altered training camp. Unknown players could have a hard time making a name for themselves.
But there is one player who is getting some love to break through this year. That is second-year offensive lineman Connor McGovern. The Cowboys were thrilled when they got McGovern in the third round of the 2019 draft. They felt he was too good of a talent to pass on even though at the time an interior lineman wasn’t among their pressing needs.
ESPN is ranking 25 players under 27-years-old that could break out in 2020. These are guys who were drafted in the third round or later, not the expected starters of the earlier rounds. McGovern makes their list.
25. Connor McGovern, OL, Dallas Cowboys
Age: 23 | Draft: Pick 90 in 2019 | Career snaps: 0
Not to be confused with the other Connor McGovern who is an offensive lineman drafted by the Broncos in 2016 — yes, we’ve somehow got multiple Connor McGoverns in the league — this McGovern was the latest out of the Penn State offensive line factory. While the Cowboys’ McGovern did not play any games last year after an offseason pectoral injury, he’s likely to be involved in any sort of Dallas offensive line play going forward following Travis Frederick’s retirement.
McGovern is one of those players who seemed to be high on every pre-draft list we could find. He did extremely well at the NFL combine, doing 28 reps in the bench press, running the 20-yard shuttle in 4.57 seconds, and showing off a broad jump of 112 inches that implied a lot of explosiveness. McGovern played 9 of 13 games at right guard as a freshman at Penn State, moved to center as a sophomore, and then back to right guard as a junior. He’s a good fit for the gap schemes that Dallas likes to run with Ezekiel Elliott. The knock on him was in pass protection.
Dallas has talked up a couple of different versions of the future in the interior of their line. Joe Looney took a few snaps at center, and Dallas has also talked about potentially moving Connor Williams there. They also drafted Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz in the fourth round. But given how Looney hasn’t been deeply impressive in most of his stints, the path of least resistance probably has McGovern starting at either guard or center while Biadasz gets acquainted to the NFL.
One of the good things about McGovern is his position flex. He has experience playing both guard and center in college. In the end, guard may be the position he ends up at; some of his college coaches believe that is his natural position. But they weren’t afraid to use him at center.
Long-time Cowboys writer Todd Archer even went as far as making a bold prediction that McGovern would be the starting center this year.
Connor McGovern will win the starting center spot, replacing Travis Frederick, who retired in the offseason.
McGovern did not play a snap as a third-round pick in 2019 because of a pectoral muscle injury, but the Cowboys valued him in the draft because of his ability to play guard and center. He started 14 games at center in his last two years at Penn State. Joe Looney started every game for Frederick in 2018 and performed well, and his experience will give him the edge on McGovern early, but the Cowboys will go with the younger player with more room to grow over the veteran. Looney could still win the left guard spot as the starter, Connor Williams, battles back from last season’s major knee surgery. — Todd Archer
It will be interesting to watch this battle unfold. Do the Cowboys want to plant McGovern at guard ahead of Connor Williams? Could he grab the center position for 2020, only to keep it warm for Tyler Biadasz down the road? Or is all of this folly and the Cowboys will go with Looney at center, keep Williams at guard and play the continuity card for 2020?
It feels like McGovern and Biadasz could be the future of the interior line, along with Zack Martin, of course, but will that future start this year? If only we had preseason games to work this out.