The Cowboys continued to add length in the secondary late in the draft, and might have a steal in DaRon Bland.
“The Cowboys were my first visit,” Bland said after he was drafted. “It’s a surreal moment at this stage. I worked very hard for this. I’ve spent most of my life trying to get to this point.”
Again, so much of the focus is trained on the big-name prospects at this time of the year. Like all NFL teams, the Cowboys were allowed to bring 30 potential draftees to their facility this spring. And while the headlines trended toward first-round talents like Treylon Burks and Zion Johnson, if you look closely at that visitor list, there is Bland – the 6’0, 197-pound Fresno State cornerback whose traits make him plenty intriguing.
“Big, long, athletic corner. It fits the prototype of what we are looking for when we build our defense,” said Cowboys executive vice president of player personnel Will McClay. “You want big outside corners that have vertical control – can stop the vertical routes and run with those guys and then make plays on the football. Then you add the athleticism that he has.”
Bland doesn’t possess the mind-bending height or length of Nahshon Wright and Israel Mukuamu, the 2021 draft picks who tower over most of the members of this roster. Still, with 32-inch arms, a wingspan that measures roughly six-and-a-half feet and a 35.5-inch vertical leap, Bland clearly possesses many of the attributes that defensive coordinator Dan Quinn covets in a defensive back.
Free Agent Michael Badgley Could Bring Experience to Kicker Competition - Jess Haynie, Inside The Star
The Cowboys current kicker competition is between Chris Naggar and UDFA Jonathan Garibay.
Chris Naggar, added this offseason as a free agent, has just one field goal and two extra points attempts from a single game with Cleveland last year. But that’s still more than undrafted rookie Jonathan Garibay from Texas Tech.
Experience isn’t everything. If it were, Greg Zuerlein wouldn’t have been released. Dallas has to get most consistency from the kicker position but currently are relying on two young prospects who’ve yet to prove anything on the professional level.
Badgley has some skins on his wall. As a rookie for the Chargers in 2018, Michael went 15-of-16 (93%) on field goals and 27-of-28 on extra points. He hit a 59-yarder that year which set a new franchise record.
Unfortunately a groin injury cut Badgley’s next season short and derailed his rookie rhythm. He only made 73% of his field goals in 2020 and wound up getting released by Los Angeles the following offseason.
However, as a backup for the Colts last year, Badgley looked more like his old self. Coming in off the practice squad after Rodrigo Blankenship was injured, Michael went 18-of-21 on field goals (86%) and was perfect in 39 extra points.
Turning just 27 in July, Michael Badgley still has a young leg and has been in the pressure cooker of NFL action. He’s hit multiple game winners over the last four seasons and finished last year with superior stats to Greg Zuerlein’s work the last two years in Dallas.
NFL Draft hindsight is always 20/20.
1. Tyler Linderbaum
Swapping Smith for Linderbaum might not make sense to some fans, but drafting the consensus top-rated center – a generational one at that – over the fifth or six-ranked tackle who might be relegated to a guard in the NFL would’ve been our preferred move if we had to pick an offensive linemen.
The last time the Cowboys spent a late first-round pick on a center – Travis Frederick at No. 31 overall in 2013 – it worked out pretty well. Presented with another seemingly can’t-miss scenario, Dallas opted for upside in Smith.
While the Cowboys have Tyler Biadasz to start at center, he struggled with consistency, snapping and penalties in 2021.
Drafting Linderbaum would’ve bumped Biadasz back to his more comfortable bench role, and Dallas could’ve turned around and used some of their remaining cap space to sign free agent Ereck Flowers to start at left guard.
In that scenario, the Cowboys would have more reliable presences at center and left guard. Instead, they have a development project in Smith and an unproven commodity in Biadasz who committed 11 penalties last year.
We like Smith’s potential, but the fact Linderbaum went one pick after to the Ravens makes the Cowboys subject to criticism if the Iowa center turns out to be the franchise center every analyst has pegged him to be.
Maybe a little early to be talking about things like this.
Do you guys feel Sam Williams has the closing speed similar to Micah Parsons rushing the passer? Man, he seems to close the gap quick. — MICHAEL WILLIAMS / PHOENIX, NY
David: I see what you’re getting at. Williams is only a 10th of a second slower despite being an inch taller and 20 pounds heavier than Micah. His athleticism is impressive. I’m still reluctant to compare him to the Defensive Rookie of the Year — especially since Micah often had a free run at the QB by virtue of playing linebacker a lot of the time. But his athleticism is what will give him a chance to be successful right away, to your point.
Rob: There’s a highlight of Williams against Louisville disengaging from the tackle and catching up to QB Malik Cunningham for a trip-up tackle all the way at the sideline, preventing him from turning up field. I thought, “Yeah, that’s kind of Micah-like.” I’m not making a direct comparison, but I do think you’re on to something in that regard. The biggest thing I noticed is he’s a smooth natural pass rusher with bend, and that’s what Randy Gregory had when he was here.
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