When you’re a draft nut such as Norm and myself are, it is never too early to begin looking ahead to draft time next year as it pertains to potential Cowboys needs. Taking a snapshot of the Cowboys as they emerge from camp and into the season and of the potential candidates coming from the college ranks, here’s just some interesting prospects to keep your eyes on as you watch football on Saturdays. It’s a small inside look at what a scouting department does year round in preparation for the NFL draft in April.
As the Cowboys are currently constituted (and given potential Free Agents), I believe their needs for next year to be the following:
1. Interior Offensive Line
2. Defensive Line
3. Outside Linebacker
4. Running Back
6. Wide Receiver
7. Tight End
The list of potential Free Agents in 2013 are as follows:
- RB Felix Jones
- CB Mike Jenkins
- OLB Anthony Spencer
- LS L.P. Ladoucer
- DE Kenyon Coleman
- OLB Victor Butler
- TE John Phillips
- SS Barry Church
- C Phil Costa
- DB Danny McCray
- OG Derrick Dockery
- WR Kevin Ogletree
- QB Rudy Carpenter
- CB Mario Butler
- S Mana Silva
Of this list, Jones and Jenkins are almost assuredly gone unless they take a large pay cut. Spencer was franchised this year and due a healthy pay day, and Butler could be squeezed accordingly. Players just beginning to emerge like Church, Ogletree and Phillips could play their way into bigger money. And depth players such as Butler could face competition from undrafted FAs or late round picks.
With that being said, let’s take a look at some players in the college ranks to keep an eye on that currently may fall in the realm on Cowboys interest. Of course, all these evaluations are subjective and can change at any moment. The Draft is by no means an exact science, and ebbs and flows with the whims of GMs, owners or in the Cowboys case, Jerry!
1st Round Prospects
Now, as much as Norm and I may plead with Jerry to take Interior OL in the first, that seems to be relatively unrealistic and very against Jerry’s draft profile. So, we will focus here on the DL and pass rushers. Also, I am projecting the Cowboys for a lower half of the round pick, probably in the 20’s but will include players of surrounding talent levels.
1. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah Height: 6-4. Weight: 325. Projected Top 10 Pick
2. Johnathan Hankins*, DT, Ohio State Height: 6-4. Weight: 325 Projected Top 25
3. Jonathan Jenkins*, DT, Georgia Height: 6-3. Weight: 351. Projected 2nd round
As is becoming increasingly apparent, Jay Ratliff is not getting any younger and has being the warrior he has in the middle of that 3-4 defense has taken a toll. So adding so real beef on that D Line would be very nice. The Lotulelei kid is a Vince Wilfolk starter kit and unattainable without a massive trade up. Hankins from Ohio State intrigues me greatly. He could fall right in that sweet spot and his versatility could have Rob Ryan salivating.
3-4 Defensive Ends:
1. William Gholston*, DE, Michigan State Height: 6-7. Weight: 278 Projected 1st-2nd
2. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama Height: 6-4. Weight: 320 Projected 2nd round
3. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU Height: 6-8. Weight: 275 Projected 2nd-3rd
With Coleman most certainly gone and Spears potentially a cap casualty, the DE position could definitely be a need next spring. Gholston, the cousin of Jets 1st round bust Vernon Gholston, shows lots of potential, but not much consistency. Williams is from Australia and very raw, but will get some great training in that Saban 3-4 defense. Hunt from SMU is also foreign, from Estonia, and is much more a project, but does have an amazing proficiency at blocking field goals
1. Jackson Jeffcoat*, DE, Texas Height: 6-5. Weight: 245 Projected 1st round
2. Brandon Jenkins, DE/OLB, Florida State Height: 6-3. Weight: 260 Project 1st round
3. Alex Okafor, DE, Texas Height: 6-4. Weight: 265 Projected early 2nd round
This year’s draft class looks rich with potential 3-4 OLBs, and with Spencer’s and Butler’s impending free agency and DeMarcus Ware clearing the 30 year old mark, this may be the time to add that complimentary pass rusher. Jeffcoat, the son of former Cowboys great Jim, seems like a natural fit, but isn’t asked to drop in coverage often. Jenkins is an amazing talent, but suffered a season ending Lyfranc injury in Game 1 this year. Okafor is an all round athlete who puts up great numbers.
2nd-3rd round Prospects
In this section we will focus on the OL, RB and CBs. All 3 of these areas could suffer due to free agents losses and are primed to have an infusion of talent. Keep in mind, a good solid draft should yield 1-2 immediate starters, 2-3 contributing backups and at least 2 more developmental backups.
1. Khaled Holmes, C, USC Height: 6-4. Weight: 305 Projected early 2nd
2. Graham Pocic, C, Illinois Height: 6-5. Weight: 305 Projected 3rd-4th
3. Gabe Ikard*, G/C, Oklahoma Height: 6-2. Weight: 295 Projected 3rd-4th
As with most years, the Center position is pretty thin. Holmes is far and away the finest pure center candidate, but as we saw in last year’s draft, Peter Konz wasn;t picked until well into Day 2. Pocic has great size but needs to use better leverage and Ikard isn’t a natural center, but his size suggests he should be.
1. Barrett Jones, T/G/C, Alabama Height: 6-5. Weight: 311 Projected Top 25
2. Chance Warmack, G, Alabama Height: 6-3. Weight: 320 Projected Top 25
3. Travis Frederick*, G, Wisconsin Height: 6-4. Weight: 338 Projecte 2nd round
When you want Guards, you go to either Alabama or Wisconsin! Jones’s versatility will make teams drool and could make him out of reach for Dallas. Warmack is a road grader who is SEC tested. Frederick is a physical wonder, but benefitted from being surrounded by a lot of talent.
1. Nickell Robey*, CB, USC Height: 5-8. Weight: 165 Projected 2nd- 3rd
2. Branden Smith, CB, Georgia Height: 5-11. Weight: 182 Projected 3rd
3. Carrington Byndom*, CB, Texas Height: 6-0. Weight: 180 Projected 2nd-3rd
I know the Cowboys just bought and drafted 2 corners, but with continuing disappointment in Scandrick and Jenkins and Butler being free, the depth at that may position may be significantly weak. Robey is a little Bulldog who just won’t quit, Smith is SEC tested but needs to fill out some more, and Byndom is great, but unlikely to declare in next year’s draft.
Later round Prospects
With the other positions, here’s just a few names to watch out for during the college football season:
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia Height: 5-9. Weight: 176 Projected 4th round
Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M Height: 6-1. Weight: 206 Projected 3rd-4th
Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson Height: 5-10. Weight: 190 Projected 2nd-3rd
Michael Dyer*, RB, Arkansas State Height: 5-9. Weight: 210 Projected 3rd-5th
Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse Height: 6-2. Weight: 229 Projected 4th-5th
Michael Williams, TE, Alabama Height: 6-6. Weight: 270 Projected 4th-6th
D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina Height: 6-0. Weight: 210 Projected 5th