Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NFL Draft Junkie: Safeties

I wanted to get back into the NFL Draft picture today, with the Spurs-Mavs allowing us a day to catch our breath.

There are some very interesting things going on in the NFL world this week as the current state of the economy combined with the feeling league-wide that the rookie salaries have gone insane have caused many, many teams to attempt to trade down. Trouble is, if you are going to trade down you are going to need a partner and that is what is troubling many teams.

I have been collecting various informational items that I will be using for our NFL Draft coverage on the Ticket on Saturday, and figured some of you would find this useful as well:

First, let's take a look at the full listing of the 11 Dallas Cowboys Picks ...
Round 2, Pick 19 (51)
Round 3, Pick 5 (69) (From Cleveland)
Round 4, Pick 1 (101) (From Detroit)
Round 4, Pick 17 (117)
Round 5, Pick 20 (156)
Round 5, Pick 30 (166) (From Tennessee)
Round 5, Pick 36 (172) (Compensatory selection)
Round 6, Pick 24 (197) (From Miami)
Round 6, Pick 35 (208) (Compensatory selection)
Round 7, Pick 1 (210) (From Detroit)
Round 7, Pick 18 (227)

Obviously, this 11 pick grouping is not very heavy on the front end (No top 50 picks, just 2 in the top 100), but as the draft goes on, the Cowboys would certainly be able to put picks together to shoot up and get someone they like in Rounds 2 or 3.

I expect they will keep their powder dry for the first 40 picks, but then all bets are off. With a pick late Saturday at #51, and a pick early Sunday at #69, there is a chance that they could add a 4th rounder here or a 5th rounder there and jump 5-10 spots and snag their target.

So, who are the targets and needs?

The good news is that there appears to be no immediate needs that must be addressed. There are some places that need to be fortified, but as far as looking for a guy who needs to start in Week 1, the Cowboys are not in that spot.

The bad news is that this team appears to be very thin at a lot of spots. In order of importance, here they are according to me:

1) Safety - This spot continues to underperform. With Roy Williams and Keith Davis gone, and Gerald Sensabaugh in the fold at a very small contract, the Cowboys would love to find a piece they could plug into the safety position that makes them feel better about this position. Ken Hamlin can play either FS or SS, but he seems to have real weaknesses at both. Sensabaugh signed a 1 year deal, so he can hardly be considered a guy who should not be worried about.

2) Wide Receiver - This team has not spent a top 100 pick at WR since Antonio Bryant in 2002. Before that it goes all the way back to Kevin Williams in 1993. They have had to buy WR's through trade and signing and have not grown their own, or they have tried to find bargains in the late rounds or undrafted free agency. I may not be a huge proponent of a Top 10 pick on a WR, but you must get one on the first day. The Cowboys have drafted 3 Tight Ends in the Top 70 picks since 2003. Crazy, right?

3) Linebacker - This is an annual need in the 3-4 defense. You need edge rushing LB depth, and it is plenty true this year with Kevin Burnett gone. Anthony Spencer still have not proven his worth, and if this team was deeper, perhaps their patience with Greg Ellis and Bobby Carpenter would not be quite as strong. As it stands, they certainly need help here, and I would imagine Carpenter's job is quite safe.

4) Offensive Line - Once again, every year you could get OL help and it would not be too much. It will make you roll your eyes, because we heard how great Jacob Rogers, Stephen Peterman, James Marten, and Doug Free were all going to be. Rob Petitti and Pat McQuistan were going to be darkhorses. And as we sit here, we know half the group failed, and the other half is still a huge question mark. Of the 6 names here, the number of proven nice finds? 0. The Cowboys age on the OL with the starters must give you pause. You need capable replacements developing.

5) Cornerback - Every year. But, with Anthony Henry gone, Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins are already your #2 and #3 corners going into 2009. We all know you need 4-5 corners, so the thin ranks are concerning.

So let's go back to the Safety spot. I have been breaking down the top 5-10 candidates for safety on this team, and I wanted to make sure we are all up to speed with the top 4 names I like.

In this group, we have 2 Free Safeties and 2 Strong Safeties. I think the Cowboys should grab the best of the 4 at #51, unless a WR is too good to pass up at that spot


SPT WMU Football Delmas 9.jpg

Louis Delmas - 5'11, 202 - Western Michigan - 4.49 40

Almost everyone has put Delmas as the best pure safety in this draft since the drop of William Moore. He has been described by Mike Mayock as the best run stopping FS he can ever remember seeing. His biggest weaknesses are his size for his style (he looks frail and yet he goes for haymakers constantly) and his over-aggressive style that makes him bite on Play Action on occasion - something that will drive NFL coaches crazy. But, he is confident, he is ready to hit, and he has the tools. He also has a concussion. There is a lot to like here.

Louis Delmas #9


Rashad Johnson - 5'11, 203 - Alabama - 4.53 40

Johnson is a kid I really like. On tape, he looks to be exactly the type of ball-hawk that you feel the Cowboys have been needing for quite a while. By all accounts, he is sharp as a tack, and able to orchestrate your defense once he gets his feet wet. A walk-on at Alabama that broke out once Nick Saban got the job, he racked up 11 interceptions for the Tide and also showed nice corner skills as you would want from a FS. A bit small, you do wonder, much like Delmas, how his body will hold up at 200 pounds with physical play bein a big part of his game.

Rashad Johnson #49



Patrick Chung - 5'11, 212 - Oregon - 4.53

Chung is another very interesting player who was generally in the box at Oregon. As his career went on, they seemed to become very comfortable with him as more of a "rover" as Troy Polamalu. The questions about him revolve around him being able to cover and to drop into coverage deep. In a league that asks the safety to play alot of deep zone and to run with a Tight End, this is where people are shooting holes in his skills. Beyond that, though, people love his leadership, his smarts, his special teams reckless abandon, and just about everything else. Obviously, we have not had good success with safeties who cannot cover a TE, but I do think he is a quality player who could slide to #69.

Patrick Chung #15

Cotton Bowl Missouri Football

William Moore - 6'0, 221 - Missouri - 4.58 40

You have no doubt heard about Moore. As a junior, he was a no-brain 1st rounder, but during his senior year with the Tigers played hurt and played poorly. He has made a lot of big plays at the college level, but it seems that the way he played as a senior have scared a lot of people off. Also, there are major questions about his on-field smarts, which you should know that NFL scouts count very highly when looking at a safety. At his best, he can play FS or SS and cover and hit. At his worst, he is running 8 yards behind the guy with the ball. Big boom or bust guy at the position.

William Moore #1

I think I would roll with this order: Delmas, Johnson, Moore, and Chung. But, If I can get any of them at #69 I pounce. At #51, I grab Delmas for sure and probably Johnson. But, I also have to see which WRs are sliding. Would I take Rashad Johnson over EDIT Brian (not Terry) Robiskie? Tough call. But, a nice problem to have. I am sure these are the decisions the Cowboys are pondering as we speak.

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