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Cowboys Options at Pick #14 (Cowboys Draft Blog #4)

April 25, 2012

Fletcher Cox: He ended up at #5 on my Big Board ahead of more well known prospects like Morris Claiborne and Justin Blackmon who both lack the elite athleticism you look for in top draft picks. Obviously with that high of a ranking I would love to see him fall to the Cowboys at #14 but I don’t see it happening. If he’s available at #9 I think the Carolina Panthers will have a no brainer type decision as DT is one of their biggest needs and Cox has the frame, production, athleticism, and character teams look for in a Top 10 pick. If he somehow falls to the Cowboys I think they will take him, no matter who else is on the board, and slide him in at 3-4 DE where he and Ratliff would be an extremely formidable 3 man front and would collapse the pocket on a regular basis which would open things up a bit more for Ware and Spencer on the outside. I don’t see him being available but if he is I think the Cowboys take him and it’s a home run pick.

Courtney Upshaw: Up until Dontari Poe had his dominating Combine performance it was Upshaw that I regarded as the most overhyped player in this draft. It’s been quite awhile now that I’ve had that opinion as he wasn’t in my Top 50 at any time last season, he underwhelmed at the Senior Bowl, and ended with a terrible pro day which surprisingly no one has talked about. I think that too many people focus on the strength and run stopping abilities of him and not enough on the fact that he’s slow, put up DT measurements in most drills, and at 275 lbs will be going up against OL 20-40 lbs heavier than him but his game is based on strength? He is short, lacks a burst, never had a double digit sack season in his career, and has limited upside. With the Cowboys he would replace Anthony Spencer and might be a slightly better pass rusher (not saying much) but would be inferior in coverage and I think fans would eventually realize they replaced one pass rusher who rarely gets sacks but is good against the run with another player who gets similar results. Upshaw to me is a severely flawed player who was used schematically at his best and will be exposed as an average player once he leaves Nick Saban’s scheme that was filled with talented players around him. Thankfully I no longer hear that the Cowboys are interested in him at #14 and Upshaw will only be in the Cowboys plans if they trade down. Since I have an early 3rd round grade on him even drafting him after a trade down wouldn’t be a good idea but at least I no longer have to worry about them taking him at #14, I think.

Michael Brockers: Brockers is a guy I probably like more than my ranking of him would indicate (27th ranked player) as I think he fits the Cowboys defense perfectly. He’s only 21 years old and already is 320 lbs and a “good” 320 as he has no gut and is long and lean. I fully expect him to be in the 320’s by the time his rookie season starts and think he’ll eventually grow into a 6’5 340 lb DT with extremely long arms, a good motor, and the ability to ruin running games. Those types are rare and most top 3-4 defenses have one of those guys so I understand the logic of taking him at #14. Yet with only one year of production under his belt he’s a bit of a risk and I don’t agree with scouts who think he has pass rush potential as all I’ve ever seen him do is push the center 3-5 yards into the backfield and raise his long arms to reduce the QB’s field of vision. He will be an impact in the passing game by collapsing the pocket and batting balls at the line of scrimmage but I doubt he ever has more than 2-3 sacks a year as he lacks the agility to penetrate and split the interior lineman. At #14 I understand the Cowboys interest in him but think it’s a little rich and would be a much bigger fan of trading down with him in mind. Most mock drafts have him taken in the early to mid 20’s so that is the range I think they could trade back into and still expect him to be there. If taken at #14 I’m okay with the pick but if taken later in the 1st after they trade down then I would be a huge fan of the pick as he’s a risk but has legit Pro Bowl potential and would fit a 3-4 defense perfectly.

Stephon Gilmore: Long regarded as a 2nd or 3rd round pick Stephon has recently risen due to his elite Combine where he blew away the competition with his elite size, speed, quickness, and hips. He’s had a pretty fast rise up draft boards but that’s partially due to him being underrated pre-Combine as people forget that the SEC coaches voted him 1st Team SEC in 2010 ahead of Claiborne, Jenkins,Hayward, etc. He’s being regarded as a project with elite upside but I would argue that he has the tape the past two years that is comparable to any of the CBs in this draft and is neck and neck with Josh Robinson for most athletic player in this year’s cornerback class. What excites me the most about Gilmore is that he has the athleticism to play man but actually played zone most of his career and appears to be the rare player who excels at both. Gilmore settled in at #13 on my board and flirted with the Top 10 at one point but eventually was kept out due to his inconsistent play in 2011. Cornerback is a premium value position that is worth taking with an early 1st round pick, Gilmore has a higher ceiling than Claiborne (lower floor too though so more of a gamble), and I really would like to see the Cowboys show the door to Mike Jenkins so Stephon Gilmore is my preferred pick at #14 for the Cowboys. Few people agree with me and I understand those who say your sort of doubling up your talent with the pick as the Cowboys already are well established, for this year at least, with their top 3 cornerbacks but it’s a passing league and I think Gilmore will surprise some people as to how good he becomes. I would be ecstatic if they selected him at #14 but think it’s a long shot and don’t expect him to be available if they trade down.

Mark Barron: Barron is a player that has been a fixture at #14 in most mock drafts for months now as he’s clearly the best safety in this draft and safety is clearly the Cowboys biggest need remaining for the upcoming year. It’s a fit that’s too good to be true from the outsider’s perspective but when you talk to a lot of scouts you hear the same thing from most in that he’s a good safety but far from the Eric Berry type talent of a few years ago and a guy who is similar to Michael Griffen in talent. Michael was a 1st rounder and has been to a Pro Bowl so it’s not a comparison that paints Barron in a poor light but I feel that too many people think Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, or even Earl Thomas when thinking of Mark Barron and that just isn’t the case. He’s a consistent player with a lot of leadership skills but to me he looks to be a step below a Pro Bowl player and a guy who will be valued but will never be a star. Considering he also plays the safety position which isn’t considered a premier position and that this is a very rich draft where I gave 37 players 1st round grades I could argue that he’s one of the more overrated players if taken in the top half of the 1st round. The Cowboys seem to share my opinion as Matt Mosley is reporting that he isn’t even on their radar at pick #14 and only could come into play if they trade down. With the Eagles, Jets, and Chargers all interested in him I can almost guarantee he won’t be available on a trade down and now there is talk of the Bills at #10 seriously looking at him so he might even be off the board when pick #14 comes around. That could be the case but Barron is my #19 rated player and I think the Bills would regret drafting him at #10 almost as much as when they surprisingly drafted Donte Whitner in the Top 10 a few years ago. At #14 Barron is a safe, sensible choice for the Cowboys but I don’t think it’s the home run a lot of local media personalities characterize it as. He’ll be a good player for a long time but at #14 there almost certainly will be players with much higher upsides still available and I would characterize the Cowboys drafting him at #14 as a safe pick but probably not the best pick.

David DeCastro: David is a player who I officially have a late 1st round grade on but am more and more getting comfortable with him as a mid 1st round pick. The reason for my change is that David is a player who has never played a snap at center in college but rumor has it that the Cowboys regard him as a center prospect and not a guard prospect. Moving David to center would dramatically increase his value in my eyes as center is neck and neck with RT as the 2nd most valued position on the offensive line as they make the line calls, have to anchor against 3-4 nose tackles, and have a bigger impact on a game than guards do. I still contend that Peter Konz is a superior player to David DeCastro as I had a higher grade on him after the 2010 season and after the 2011 season with Konz late season injury impacting his grade less than by other scouts yet the gap in the two players would be substantially less if DeCastro also played the more coveted center position. It does worry me any time a player is drafted to play a position they’ve never played before but the shift from guard to center isn’t that big and DeCastro’s quickness and ability to pull all make me comfortable that he could make the transition. I’ve been a big fan of moving back into the late 1st to make a play for Peter Konz and, while I still prefer that strategy, I am coming around to the idea of DeCastro at #14 and having him replace Phil Costa who is neck and neck with Brodney Poole as the worst starter on the Cowboys starting 22.

Other Options: The 6 prospects I listed above are the players most often linked to the Cowboys the past few months. Others like Melvin Ingram, Whitney Mercilus, Chandler Jones, Shea McClellin, Dontari Poe and Dre Kirkpatrick are all intriguing but I think can be classified as options for the Cowboys only if they trade down. I like Ingram a lot but rumors suggest Valley Ranch isn’t enamored with him and Poe also appears to have fallen out of favor with them, thank God. The others most likely will be in play only if they trade down and their targets (Konz, Brockers, Upshaw) are also taken by then. No matter what happens I’m growing excited by the new direction the Cowboys have taken lately to the draft and free agency as they appear to be more interested in depth, competition, and character when making their decisions. That’s the style of management used by the Patriots, Steelers, Packers, and other successful franchises so it excites me that it appears to be taking hold with the Cowboys. Hopefully the Boys stay away from Upshaw and Poe as almost every other player on this list intrigues me in some degree or another and I would expect the 1st round to go well as long as they avoid these two.

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