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Cowboys Draft Blog #3 Offensive Guard

April 9, 2013

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Every time I get into a discussion about drafting an offensive guard in the 1st round I feel like Paul Giamatti’s character in Sideways, “I am not drafting a f#cking guard in the 1st round!” To me it’s insanity as the reality is that guards are simply offensive tackles who aren’t tall enough, athletic enough, or good enough so they are moved inside. I mean it sounds like a punch line: “What do you call a tackle that was a 1st round bust?” A starting guard. Yet the fact is that every year one or two guards a year are pumped up by draft analysts as different from the rest. Last year it was David DeCastro, “(DeCastro) is as ready as I think I’ve ever evaluated a player in terms of being ready to come in and play at a high level,” ESPN’s Todd McShay told the San Antonio Express-News. In 2011 it was Danny Watkins, “Watkins is the safest pick in the entire draft-the one player you can confidently say will be in the Pro Bowl in 2012,” said Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. This year it’s Chance Warmack who McShay says is the best OG he’s scouted in the past decade. All will go in the 1st round yet none really should and the proof is in the stats. In the past two years Danny “I can confidently say will be in the Pro Bowl” Watkins has started only 18 of 32 career games and has been benched by the end of each season due to poor play. Last season David DeCastro couldn’t beat out the undrafted veteran free agent ahead of him (Ramon Foster) for the starting job in training camp and then was injured causing his rookie season to be a waste. In both cases the “can’t miss” OG was a non-factor for their team and quickly they were left wondering why the hell they spent such a valuable draft pick on such an unimportant position. Every position can impact a football game yet outside of a weakside linebacker in a 4-3 there is no position more easily replaced on a football team than an offensive guard. Also history points to the fact that the best OGs in the league aren’t always the early round guys and gives even more credence to my exclamation (say it with me folks), “I am not drafting a f#cking guard in the 1st round!” Of the past 12 All Pros at OG only 25% were players taken in the 1st round while that number goes to 75% when analyzing All Pro tackles. Since 1997 there have only been 3 All Pros tackles (1st or 2nd team) taken after the 2nd round (Jason Peters, David Stewart, Big Cat Williams) which means that in 16 years (4 all pros per year) there have been 59 All Pro selections of OTs taken in the 1st or 2nd round with only 4 selections from players drafted after the first two rounds. Clearly it’s important to draft offensive tackles in the 1st round and clearly it’s not important to draft offensive guards in the 1st round. Whether it’s the greatest guard of all time (Larry Allen-2nd round) or the highest paid guard in the game today (Carl Nicks-5th round) it’s obvious that you can get high level guards outside of the 1st round. Of course that doesn’t mean Jerry won’t draft a guard in the 1st round so even after my rant I’ll breakdown the possibilities for the Cowboys at #18, #47, and in the later rounds. Here’s hoping they take one in the later rounds and address another need position with their two premium picks.

Players possibly available for the Cowboys at pick #18

Jonathan Cooper

Positives: An ultra quick player with elite agility for a man his size. I’ve never graded a quicker or more athletic OG in my dozen or so years studying the draft. He also has great experience and could very easily move to center if a team decided to have him invest the time to learn the position.

Negatives: Well first off he’s an OG. Did I mention how dumb it is to draft an OG in the 1st round? Secondly he’s not the road grader teams usually go after in 1st round caliber OGs. While he is “the quickest, most athletic guard I’ve ever graded,” he’s actually only the 3rd highest graded OG I’ve seen as both Shawn Andrews (Eagles 1st rounder in mid 2000s) and Mike Iupati (49ers 1st rounder 3 years ago) both are much stronger players that can create enormous holes in the run game. Cooper is more of a finesse player that excels in pass protection and in space.

Fit for the Cowboys: I wouldn’t be happy with the selection but I do have a Top 20 grade on Cooper so at #18 it’d be close to as happy as I’ll ever get with drafting an OG in the 1st round. Also he would make a great left side of a line if put next to Tyron Smith and they could spend the next decade together. Wow I’m almost talking myself into this one.

Chance Warmack

Positives: He’s the big mauler type that is a force in the run game. He was a 1st team All-American and helped open holes for Alabama despite playing against top level competition in the SEC.

Negatives: I think he’s dramatically overrated as I have a 2nd round grade on him despite some analysts (Mike Mayock currently, McShay previously) having him as not just their #1 OG but the #1 player in this entire draft. The reason I dislike him is that in the run game he’s a force but in pass protection he’s below average and he’s a poor athlete. In reality he’s a fat, slow, strong player that will need to be protected by the players around him or else his lack of quickness will be exploited. I think whoever gets him will be very disappointed to find out that they have nothing more than an above average starting OG. Not great value for a guy expected to be taken with a Top 15 pick.

Fit for the Cowboys: Thankfully I don’t think Warmack will be available at #18 but if so I could definitely see Jerry pulling the trigger. Warmack is the flavor of the month for draft analysts and the praise for him has been laughable to me. McShay says he’s the best guard he’s graded in the past decade, Mayock says he’s the #1 player in the entire draft, and everyone expects him to be a superstar. I just don’t see it and just hope he doesn’t “slide” into our laps as it would be a travesty.

Players possibly available for the Cowboys at pick #47

Larry Warford

Positives: He’s similar in style to Chance Warmack in that he’s a big mauler that is much better as a run blocker than a pass protector. He’s been 1st team SEC each of the past 3 seasons so he’s a battle tested, experienced OG.

Negatives: Just like Warmack, Warford is a poor athlete that can be exploited if a quicker DT is given space to work against him. He is very scheme specific and wouldn’t work well in a pass happy attack like the Packers.

Fit for the Cowboys: I actually have an early 3rd round grade on him so it’s a bit early in my eyes yet most analysts have a 2nd round grade so he likely will be in play at #47. It’s still a bit early for an OG and I think the Cowboys are too much of a passing team for Warford to be a great fit but he’d be a huge upgrade over Mackenzie Bernadeau so the pick would make some sense.

Other intriguing players later in the draft

Kevin Winters-A nasty, physical, cheap player that reminds me of Kevin Gogan. I’d love to add a player of his temperament to the Cowboys offensive line. I have an early 3rd round grade on him and think he’d be a perfect fit in round 3 or 4.

Omoregie Uzzi-One of the more underrated players in this draft he somehow wasn’t invited to the Combine despite being all ACC 3 straight seasons. He’s strong, quick, experienced, and has great technique. He won’t be a dominant guard but I’d be shocked if he wasn’t an average to an above average guard the next 7 years for someone. He’ll likely go in the 4th-6th round and is a perfect example of why you don’t draft OGs too early as there are plenty of guys like him available every year.

Alvin Bailey-Jerry loves to draft Razorbacks and this one is high on potential yet very raw. He has nearly ’35 arms which are long for an OT let alone an OG and ran a sub 5.00 40 so he likely will be drafted in the 2nd-3rd round area. I’m not as high on him as most as he’s inconsistent and raw but Pro Bowl talent is there if he can be given time and coached up.

Every team in the NFL except the Cowboys seem to be able to develop a starting OG from a late round draft pick or undrafted free agent. It’s a common occurrence yet the Cowboys are just atrocious in this aspect of team building. 2 years ago they drafted David Arkin, a converted offensive tackle out of Midwestern State whom I liked a lot, yet he’s been inactive most of his career and in the 2012 preseason he still appeared overmatched. It looks  as if he’s a bust which puts him on the same track as other mid round OL draft picks like Robert Brewster and James Martin. The Cowboys OL last year was terrible so in my opinion their best move would be to sign a cheap veteran like Brandon Moore (long time starter of the Jets who was profootballfocus’ #3 RG in football last year) and then add another player in the middle rounds like Omoregie Uzzi or Kevin Winters. Despite their atrocious record of developing guards they need to continue to try as in the salary cap era there’s only so much money to go around and spending too much on easily replaced positions like offensive guard is the quickest way to get yourself in salary cap purgatory.

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