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Cowboys news: Defensive back draft targets review, some with crucial pro days coming

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 02 Northwestern at Indiana Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Cowboys positional review: Trevon Diggs and Donovan Wilson are a start, but they need more - Jon Machota, The Athletic

The Athletics takes a look at the defensive back position. How things could change this offseason:

The most significant changes are expected to come in the draft. Even if the Cowboys had money to spend on one of the top free safeties or cornerbacks in free agency, it’s unlikely they would. Judging by where they are currently set to pick in April’s draft, the Cowboys could address cornerback and then safety with their first two picks. Many mock drafts have suggested as much.

Taking a top cornerback with the 10th overall pick is certainly in play. Although they didn’t get great results, the Cowboys traded up to draft Morris Claiborne sixth overall in 2012. They also drafted Byron Jones at the back end of the first round in 2015. The top three corners in this year’s draft are Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley, Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II and South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn.

Two other cornerback names to remember are veteran Maurice Canady and last year’s fourth-round pick Reggie Robinson II. Canady opted out last season because of COVID-19 after signing a one-year deal. Robinson was drafted to play corner but was moved to safety in training camp. He has the ideal size to play cornerback in Quinn’s scheme. A move back shouldn’t come as a surprise.

5 potential Cowboys draft targets whose pro days are crucial to their stock, including a pair of cornerbacks - John Owning, Dallas Mornings News

Pro days are super important without the combine, and here are five potential draft targets to keep an eye on.

Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern

If the Cowboys are unable to grab a cornerback in Round 1, odds are they’ll target the position in the second round because it’s easily one of the most pressing needs on the roster (pre-free agency, anyway).

There are many cornerbacks the Cowboys may consider in Round 2, but Northwestern’s Greg Newsome II could be one of the preferred targets. He proved to be an effective top-down zone cornerback at Northwestern, which is similar to what he’d be asked to do in Quinn’s Cover 3 base defense.

Currently listed at 6-1, 190 pounds, it’s important for Newsome to have the size and length Quinn covets in cornerbacks. And much like Surtain, it will be important for Newsome to prove he’s not deficient in the long speed department.

Playing in a top-down zone coverage defense can often mask a cornerback’s subpar long speed because they’re always primarily defending against the vertical shot. While the Cowboys will play a lot of top-down zone coverage in their scheme, there will also be plenty of snaps where the cornerbacks will be locked in man coverage, when it’s much tougher to mask subpar speed. So, it’s important for Newsome to ease any concerns there may be about his deep speed.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Newsome proving to have legit long speed could be a double-edged sword. Not only would it likely solidify Dallas’ interest in him, but it may also raise Newsome’s stock to the point where he isn’t available when Dallas goes on the clock in Round 2.

Dallas Cowboys: One helped, one possibly hurt by defensive changes - Steven Mullenax, The Landry Hat

The addition of new defensive coaches could both help and hurt the stock of certain players.

There are two defenders that will likely be impacted the most by these defensive changes. One positively, and one potentially negatively. The player that figures to benefit most from this change is linebacker Jaylon Smith.

After playing on a Pro Bowl level in 2018, and actually getting his first Pro Bowl nod a year later, Smith’s play has been in steady decline over the past two seasons. Despite posting a career-high 154 total tackles in 2020, Smith earned a career-low overall grade of 54.2 from Pro Football Focus for his performance. And there was some speculation the Cowboys may decide to move on from the 25-year old linebacker this offseason.

Instead, the Cowboys seemingly gave Smith a boost of confidence after an unnamed source recently revealed the team is not considering releasing their young linebacker. This could be in large part to the hiring of Quinn and the hope Smith’s career can rebound because of it.

What’s Next For RB: The Long-Term Outlook? - David Helman, Dallas Cowboys

The Mothership takes a look at the Cowboys running backs and what could be next for the position group.

What’s The Long-Term Outlook?

We’ve extensively covered not only Elliott’s cost, but his obvious talent and large role in the Cowboys’ offense. Behind him, Pollard has proven himself very capable as both a backup and a spot starter, if need be.

Considering that, it’s basically impossible to imagine the Cowboys investing free agent money at the position. It would be similarly shocking to see them use a significant draft pick on a ball carrier.

There should always be room for allowances, though.

The front office is expected to wind up with as many as 10 draft picks this spring when all is said and done. The majority of those will come on Day 3 of the draft, between the fourth and seventh rounds.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see them churn the bottom of the depth chart by using a late-round pick on a running back. After taking Pollard in the fourth round in 2019, they followed up by drafting Mike Weber in the seventh round. The year before that they drafted Bo Scarbrough in the seventh round, and they also used a sixth-round pick on Darius Jackson in 2016, the same year they drafted Elliott.

There’s also the possibility of adding talent in undrafted free agency – that’s how Dowdle and Olonilua got here, after all.

What’s Next At Center For The Dallas Cowboys? - Kevin Brady, Inside the Star

A once dominant offensive line may have some questions, and one of them could be the center position.

So, what’s next at center for the Cowboys?

It simply cannot be Joe Looney as the Plan A. That’s for sure. Looney is a free agent and we haven’t heard much about the Cowboys’ interest in him, so it’s safe to assume that Dallas agrees with this evaluation.

Biadasz has three years left on his rookie deal, and was the assumed heir to Frederick’s throne when the Cowboys took him during the 2020 draft. But that doesn’t mean his spot is set in stone.

Now third year interior offensive lineman Connor McGovern is the sleeper candidate to take over the center job next season. McGovern started multiple games at guard in 2020, and given he is a former third round pick, Dallas may be looking to find him a spot this season.

Breaking down Dak Prescott’s options - Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk

With the franchise tag deadline approaching, Pro Football Talk breaks down some options.

Last year, the Cowboys applied the exclusive franchise tag, which paid Prescott $31.4 million for 2020. To tag him again (franchise or transition), a 20-percent raise applies. He’ll make $37.68 million in 2021 under either tag. (Because it’s the same cost, the franchise tag is by far the better option. The transition tag provides only the right to match a long-term offer, with no compensation if the offer isn’t matched.)

That’s just the start of it. When comparing a long-term deal offered by the Cowboys to Prescott’s current circumstances, 2022 becomes incredibly relevant. That’s when Prescott would get $54.25 million under the franchise tag (a 44-percent bump given it would be his third franchise tag), $45.21 million under the transition tag (a 20-percent increase over 2021), or a free and clear shot at the open market.

It’s not easy to turn those three options into a firm two-year value. Still, Prescott currently knows that he will get over the next two years: (1) $91.93 million under the franchise-then-franchise model; (2) $82.896 million under the franchise-then-transition model; or (3) $37.68 million for a year plus whatever he gets as a truly unrestricted free agent in 2022.

In case you missed it...

Cowboys 2021 draft prospects: Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley scouting report - Connor Livesay, Blogging The Boys

Our own Connor Livesay provides a scouting report on one of the elite corners in the upcoming draft.

Overall Summary: Though the injury history and lack of experience at the position can be a bit concerning, many of those concerns are eased when turning on the Virginia Tech Hokies tape. At 6’2” 197lbs, Farley possesses elite size, length, and athleticism at the cornerback position. In today’s NFL, the faster/shiftier receivers are who are taking over as the league’s best, and Farley is the ideal fit to combat that style of receiver, while also possessing the physical traits and toughness to succeed in contested catch situations and in the red-zone. His ball skills, route-recognition, and man-coverage skills are what should have Farley’s named call in the top 10 of the 2021 NFL Draft, and the Cowboys should be hoping he slides to the 10th overall pick. Farley is ready to contribute on day one, while also possessing one of the higher ceilings out of any player in the 2021 draft class.

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