Following a disappointing loss to the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional round of the playoffs this year, the Cowboys look ahead to the off-season to improve an already Super Bowl-caliber team. I took my first shot at a seven round mock draft using FanSpeak.com. Assuming the Dallas Cowboys top needs are: DE, CB, WR, TE, OT, and S, the draft seemed to work out fairly well for Will McClay and myself.
Round 1, Pick 28 – Quincy Wilson (CB Florida)
Wilson is regarded by most as the most promising defensive back in the draft, and Matt Miller even has Wilson as his highest rated cornerback in the draft. The highlight for me with Wilson is his fluidity and ability to flip his hips and keep pace with the fastest wide receivers in the SEC. Despite being extremely athletic, Wilson relies more on his knowledge of the game to fly to the football on every play. For the highest rated cornerback in the draft to fall to the Cowboys at 28 is a blessing. Even if cornerback isn’t the position of greatest concern, I believe the Cowboys would continue on their “best player available” mindset, and pull the trigger on Quincy Wilson.
Round 2, Pick 60 – Dawuane Smoot (DE Illinois)
Again, this is an example of a player falling very low for the Cowboys to get a chance at, as many mock drafts have pointed at Smoot going to the Cowboys in the first round. With someone of Smoot’s caliber falling to the late second round, there’s no way the Cowboys wouldn’t fill their biggest need with a dominant speed rusher. The Cowboys desperately need someone who can fly to the quarterback, and that’s exactly what Smoot brings to the table. Putting Smoot in the Rod Marineli rotation next season, along with Charles Tapper’s return and a healthy Demarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys edge rushing could improve tremendously.
Round 3, Pick 92 – Juju Smith-Schuster (WR Southern California)
Both Brice Butler and Terrance Williams are about to be free agents, and the Cowboys cannot afford to keep both. This is where Smith-Schuster would come into play. While Terrance Williams had the speed and route running to be an elite wide receiver, he usually had a bad case of Butterfingers. Smith-Schuster’s greatest strength while at USC was being able to make insane catches over defenders. If that production can translate to the next level, the Cowboys could be looking at someone with the hands of Randy Moss being their WR3.
Round 4, Pick 132 – Conor McDermott (OT UCLA)
Offensive Tackle is an interesting position for the Cowboys this next year. Tyron Smith has proved himself to be one of the best left tackles in the NFL since being drafted in 2011, but the right tackle spot is a revolving door at this point. If Doug Free somehow stays with the Cowboys, this pick is useless. However, with Free likely leaving, and Chaz Green’s injury status unknown, Dallas could aim to use a mid-round pick on a tackle for the future. McDermott has some league-worthy skills, including how he uses his hands to stop rushers and zone block. The biggest flaws for McDermott are technique-based, which can be easily fixed by NFL coaches. Give McDermott a couple years behind Doug Free, and he might turn out to be a solid addition to the best offensive line in football.
Round 6, Pick 212 – Joe Mixon (RB Oklahoma)
Yes, I know Joe Mixon punched a co-ed in a bar. I also know he hasn’t played football in a year, and might be rusty. However, if you were alive for the days of the White House in the 90s, where Charles Haley constantly flashed people, cocaine was standard for away games, and Michael Irvin stabbed a teammate in the neck, then you’ll know drunkenly punching an aggressive co-ed isn’t the worst action Jerry Jones has corrected. Obviously with the selection of Ezekiel Elliott at number 4 last year, the Cowboys won’t use a high pick on a running back. But with Lance Dunbar and Darren McFadden both due to be free agents, a fresh pair of legs out of the backfield might be just what the Cowboys need in 2017. Elliott, Morris, and Mixon could allow the Cowboys to keep their title of best running back core in the NFL.
Round 7, Pick 231 – D.J. Jones (DT Ole Miss)
Everyone knows about Rod Marineli’s defensive line rotation, and with multiple DTs hitting the market this off-season, it would help for the team to add another tackle. For Jones, the most impressive attribute is his hands. There were plays where he completely throws an offensive lineman off balance and puts pressure on the quarterback. However, Jones cannot take on a double team to save his life, and that might tend to be a problem in the NFL. Getting a prospect like Jones in the 7th round would be a steal for the Cowboys defense.
Round 7, Pick 249 – Peter Kalambayi (LB Stanford)
Odds are, a pick this close to the end of the draft doesn’t make the 53-man roster. In 2016, the worst defensive sub-unit was by far the linebackers. Without Rolando McClain or Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee carried the load for the defense. This pick adds a little bit of depth and competition in OTAs and training camp.
Yes, it’s only January, but it’s never too early to begin scouting for the draft. This draft fills all the Cowboys needs, and then some. This off-season is a big one for the Cowboys. There’s nothing quite like working for that 6th trophy.
I was wrong about Leighton Vander Esch
On Thursday, April 26, 2018, I sat inside my friend’s dorm in Commerce, TX, and stared anxiously at his television while the NFL Draft played.
Every year since 2014, Draft Day has been a holiday of sorts for me. I request the day off from my job, find a couple of friends, get some food together and enjoy watching 32 NFL franchises attempt to build the future of their team.
The Dallas Cowboys had just come off a disappointing 9-7 season that had fans and analysts across the country pushing for the firing of head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
America’s Team held the 19th overall pick in the first round. Several names flew through my head as I thought about which rookie I wanted to don the Star in 2018: Vita Vea, Derwin James, Calvin Ridley and Harold Landry just to name a few.
These players all filled glaring needs for the Cowboys. Vea and Landry would cement the defensive line that had seen major improvements in 2017. Derwin James would allow Byron Jones to move back to cornerback and would give new defensive backs coach Kris Richard an amazing slew of talent to use. Calvin Ridley would give the offense a tall, powerful receiver that could learn alongside Dez – prior to his eventual release from the team over the summer.
Vea and James both went before Dallas was on the clock, leading to those of us in the room to argue over whether Ridley or Landry would get their name called. I was pulling for Landry, as I knew he was one of the best defensive talents in the game and our offense would be fine without a cat like Ridley.
One name did not come to mind, however, and that was the name that was announced by Roger Goodell.
“With the 19th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select Leighton Vander Esch, linebacker, Boise State,” Goodell said.
First, there was shock. Then, there was disgust. Finally, there was sadness. Over the course of the next hour, I ignored the television and instead went to Twitter to let everyone know how upset I was.
I wasn’t alone, either. Most Cowboys writers, fans and analysts were upset with the pick. It seemed like a stretch.
Surely Vander Esch could’ve been drafted at a lower spot, right? What if they traded back a few spots and grabbed another second rounder? This was the third year in a row I was disappointed with Dallas’ first-round draft pick.
I didn’t like the Ezekiel Elliott pick at the time, but he proved me wrong very quickly, leading the Cowboys to a 13-3 regular season record alongside fellow rookie Dak Prescott.
I still don’t like the Taco Charlton pick. His production has been disgustingly low for a first-round draft pick, tallying four sacks, 25 tackles and a forced fumble in 24 games.
And now Leighton.
I didn’t want to blindly hate the guy, so I went to watch some film, and I found one glaring constant – he played softly. He couldn’t get off blocks, and if he did, he got trucked by the ball carrier. Exactly what the Cowboys needed: another soft defender.
I was unhappy about the pick for the next 5 months. When the season came around, he didn’t start, which I expected as much. Vander Esch’s first start came in Week 4 against the Detroit Lions. The Cowboys were 1-2 heading into the game and were without starting linebacker Sean Lee.
Prior to this game, Dallas was 1-7 in the past three years when playing without defensive captain Lee. That’s how big of an impact he has on this defense. Vander Esch’s six-tackle stat line wasn’t jaw-dropping, but it got the job done. The Cowboys won the game 26-24 and improved to .500 on the season.
In the following week’s loss to the Houston Texans, Vander Esch led the team in tackles with 14. This caught my eye. In Dallas’ second straight game without Lee, Vander Esch balled out.
Through the Washington Redskins game on Thanksgiving, Vander Esch has tallied 93 total tackles, two interceptions with 56 return yards, six pass deflections and two stuffs. He currently leads the Cowboys in tackles, 15 ahead of fellow linebacker Jaylon Smith. He is the NFL’s leader in solo tackles with 72. According to @BobbyBeltTX on Twitter, Vander Esch has only played 73.6% of Dallas’ snaps, making this even more impressive.
He is tied for the lead with safety Xavier Woods in interceptions AS A LINEBACKER. His two interceptions lead safety Jeff Heath, cornerback Anthony Brown and defensive lineman Demarcus Lawrence.
But, the stat lines don’t reflect just how well Vander Esch has played this season. His ability to recognize the play, change directions and make the tackle in open space is incredible. He’s much more powerful than his college film showed, stopping offensive players running full speed in their tracks.
Vander Esch has the potential to be the next General Lee, but hopefully with better hamstring and ACL health. If he can stay on the field, Vander Esch could be the best player wearing the Star for years to come.
So, this is my official statement on the matter.
I was wrong about Leighton Vander Esch.
Troy Aikman Rips Cowboys Organization, Calls for Overhaul of Organization
Former Dallas Cowboys signal caller, Hall of Famer, and current color commentator Troy Aikman has seen enough of the Cowboys ineptitude following Monday night’s embarrassing loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Aikman, who won 3 Super Bowl titles with the Cowboys, is calling for a major organizational overhaul in order to get things right.
“Go through the list and this team, over a long period of time, has been what it’s been,” Aikman said Tuesday on 1310 The Ticket, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer. “It hasn’t always mattered who the head coach has been. So to me, if you’re asking me, I’d say there has to be a complete overhaul of the entire organization.”
Aikman is probably like a lot of fans, and even analysts, who believe that changes are needed in Dallas, particularly along the sidelines that head coach Jason Garrett currently roams.
Change beyond that seems unlikely as Jerry Jones still rules supreme and has since the late 1980s.
Cowboys Cut Dan Bailey From Team
Over the weekend, when teams are finalizing their 53-man roster, the Dallas Cowboys makes Cowboys fans say… why? Why did you cut Dan Bailey?
Eight-year veteran kicker out of Oklahoma State Dan Bailey was released from the Dallas Cowboys. When Bailey arrived in 2011 as an undrafted free-agent, he became the highest scoring Cowboys player in multiple games. Also, during those six seasons, he has made at least 95 percent of his kicks becoming the second most accurate kicker in the NFL.
In 2017 during the San Francisco 49ers game, Bailey injured his groin and had to miss four games. When he returned he would miss at least one kick dropping his accuracy to about 70 percent.
During the 2018 off-season, the Cowboys cautiously signed Kicker Brett Maher. Maher kicked for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Redblacks from 2014-2017. Since he is the only kicker on the roster, he is expected to start in week 1 when the Cowboys travel to Charlotte, NC to battle against the Carolina Panthers.
Now that Bailey is on the market and has cleared waivers, he is on the free-agent market. With that, he is expected to work out with the New York Jets this week.
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