Friday, March 30, 2012

Cowboys Mailbag - 3/30

It is the end of the week - so let’s knock out another Cowboys’ mailbag, where we take actually queries and premises from the good readers and kick around some good football conversation in March. There is clearly no offseason for those who of us who are obsessed by this great game.

Before we get to those emails, let’s review one small piece of the puzzle that was filled in since our last freeform blog regarding the Cowboys’ offseason. It was the final release order of the draft picks around the league as all the coin-flips and compensatory picks were dished out, so now we can actually look at a giant chart to see where every pick shakes out for next month’s league selection meeting.

Here is the Cowboys’ full haul:

Rd 1#14#14
Rd 2#13#45
Rd 3#19#81
Rd 4#18#113
Rd 4#40#135
Rd 5#17#152
Rd 6#16#186
Rd 7#15#222

HTML Tables

The one extra 4th that was compensation for losing Stephen Bowen to the Redskins falls between the 4th and 5th rounds and you would hope that would provide you some ammunition to plug another hole. Why get all fired up about a 4th round pick? I trust you really don’t need a lesson in late picks in the draft, but if you do, just know that Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick were both hits in the 5th round of the 2008 draft and are now substantially rich cornerbacks for the Cowboys. Add to that players of great substance all over the roster (Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Jay Ratliff) are players that either went 200 picks deep in the draft or were not picked at all.

I readily admit that I don’t have the time or knowledge to go 135 players deep in my draft preparation and simply try to focus on the top 3 rounds and top 100 players, but the teams that do damage in this league are the teams that accomplish way more than simply picking their top 2 players and then start grabbing names out of a hat. This should be treated as a very exact science and the best personnel departments run laps around those that don’t deal with deep picks well. I hesitate to make too much of that, because this Cowboys team has much to prove when it comes to finding diamonds in the rough since Bill Parcells left town. Not to say that Romo, Austin, and Ratliff were his idea – they undoubtedly were not his specifically. But, given that those players and DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten were all part of an era that ended in 2006 (a lifetime ago in the NFL), we can see that the Cowboys have too many holes and a real need to not get 2 or 3 useful players from this draft, but rather a half-dozen. The best players since Parcells left on the Cowboys roster: Sean Lee, Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, Doug Free, Anthony Spencer, Mike Jenkins, DeMarco Murray, and Felix Jones are all players that would be considered top picks with the exception of Free who was a 4th Rounder and Murray a 3rd. But, beyond that, late picks that have hit might just be Scandrick and perhaps Sean Lissemore. Useful, but hardly Ratliff/Romo/Austin types.

In case you missed it, this week we spent blog entries on 3 different players who I think are real candidates for consideration at pick #14. I think the Cowboys prefer to go to the defensive line at that pick (although corner, safety, and even OL are also reasonable ideas) and I want to break down as many players who might be targets at #14 and #45 as we have time for. Feel free to email me names ( you want to see covered, but I plan to hit all of the hot names at a rate of 3 or so per week. Here are this week’s profiles in case they slipped past you:

Michael Brockers – DT – LSU

Fletcher Cox – DE – Mississippi State

Quinton Coples – DE – North Carolina

And now, to your emails for this week:

Bob - what do you think of trade scenarios where the cowboys package Jenkins with some pics to move up and get Claiborne?

Ah, a delicious, time-killing draft rumor that has the Cowboys spending valuable resources to cruise up into the Top 5 or so to snag the top corner in the draft. I seem to recall a similar trade rumor last year when the whispers threw out the idea that Pat Peterson was the apple of Jerry’s eye and the Cowboys were looking to hop from #9 to #6 if Peterson would slip to Cleveland. Well, it is another LSU corner and another Dallas rumor, but the one I heard was laughable to me. Mike Jenkins, #14, and a 4th to get up to say #5 or #6 to get Claiborne?

Please. That is absurd. Mike Jenkins is not the most attractive stock out there and every team in the league is looking to trade players the year before they hit free agency if they are not sure they want to sign him. Of course the Cowboys would do this move. Why wouldn’t they? They get a better corner. A younger corner. And a cheaper corner (starting next season when it is highly possible that Jenkins could be your next $8 million a year corner out there. And, we know that in free agency if the corners are few and far between, $8m can become $10m over dinner).

Now, ask yourself why the other team would do it? They drop 9 spots, get a corner who has had uneven performances, can't always stay healthy, and is on the final year of his deal, and a mid round pick? That is one of those great Cowboys rumors that is so slanted in the Cowboys favor that every fan quickly wants to know if this could really happen. Let me respond to that. No. Nobody is going to do that. If you want to tell that same team that you are willing to go #14, #45, and #113, they might listen, but just like last year, the Cowboys have more holes than they can handle as it is. Clear out all of your picks for a corner and that will be most of your draft. I pass.

This next one technically wasn’t an email, but rather a response to my Brockers’ profile where I basically suggested I would pass on that big of a project when better choices like Fletcher Cox were available:

Tyron Smith was "raw" compared to other prospects like Gabe Carimi and Anthony Castonzo, but Dallas still pulled the trigger based on his upside. Similarly, I can see them taking Brockers. This guy is massive and a good athlete. It is just too bad his college numbers and YouTube videos do not tickle the fancy generally.

My response is to take issue with Tyron Smith’s reviews last year at this time. The reason I liked Smith better than Carimi, Castonzo, and Nate Solder was simple – he was as good or better than them at that very moment, and had enormous room to grow, too. Smith’s upside was far beyond those other 3, in my opinion. But, he was not a project. He was a very good tackle for USC and was going to be a plug-and-play player from the day he arrived.

Brockers, to me, is a player that needs to learn how to play. I am sorry, but 2 sacks at LSU? LSU spent the entire season ahead on the scoreboard so the opposition becomes one dimensional. Then, he had two defensive ends around him that were the focus of any offensive line when it came time to pass protect. He was getting chances to get to the QB and did not do it. Further, what bothered me was that he wasn’t even being left on the field in a lot of passing situations. Like Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman in Dallas, he was taken off the field on passing downs quite a bit. If, in college, your team decides they have better options than you to get to the passer, then that gives me great pause. This team has been good for years against the run. They need pass pressure. They need Eli Manning to feel the rush. They need to get home and with more than just Ware.

I cannot compare the present tense of Brockers to that of Tyron last year on any level. I know that many who have looked at him and have much better resumes than me project him to be a special player in a few years. But, I don’t like that risk. I need results quickly and I am not interest in rolling the dice on a project. Yes, I think college production should be strongly considered when evaluating a prospect and I don’t care for his production at LSU in the pass rush department.

can you compare Brockers vs Cox? Brockers better vs run, Cox better as pass rusher is what I see. Thoughts? –

I would buy that, Mike. But, I think Cox can be a perfect fit in Dallas against the run and pass as a DE in both their 3-4 fronts and the 4-3 fronts. He is a real athlete with great quickness and a wonderful motor. I really loved the fact that Mississippi based their entire defense around him and moved him around constantly. The opposition knew that they had to watch for Fletcher and find him in the presnap. And yet, he still rattled off big production and seemed to be a factor in most games. I am very impressed with his tape. I would say Brockers is a bigger load against the run so he will stand his ground, while Cox is more likely to squeeze through a gap and stop a run play in the backfield. Both strategies have value, but the difference between Cox and Brockers in the pass rush is enormous. Brockers advantage in the run game is not substantial to me, although they are asked to do different things.

I want to be clear about Brockers. I don’t care for him, but I have an aversion to players who I think are pushed up the board with measureables over actual proof that they are good players. I know that NFL people cannot resist long arms and a great wing-span and Brockers has that. In fact, listening to Jerry Jones talk about those topics makes you think that he might love Brockers and Dontari Poe. But, I just want them to jump off the screen when you watch him play. I know LSU has many of those players, but still, I needed Brockers to change games and when I watched 5 of his performances from last season, I missed it.

Hi Bob,

I believe the Cowboys need to draft someone that can play both DE and DT in the 3-4 and 4-3 Defense. Spears and Coleman dont do anything for the Cowboys. I want someone that can stop the run and rush the passer. I like Crick from Nebraska, Brockers from LSU and Wolfe from Cincinati later in the draft. What are your thoughts on this?


P1 Marc


I feel like I have said all I have to say about Brockers, so let’s visit about Jared Crick a bit. I really have not watched much of this past season, but when watching Prince Amukamara last year, I watched a load of Nebraska and left each game loving Crick. He is a real stud on that defensive line and seems to have that size and frame to be another candidate to be a DE that might be a nice pick in the 2nd round. I have to say that he could change games in a number of ways and you never were worried about his motor and effort level. I need to make sure that 2011 was similar before I get carried away, but assuming he did not fall off, I have no problem endorsing that idea.

As for Wolfe, he turned plenty of heads at the Senior Bowl, but it is tough to say at this point where the 6’5/295 lineman rates. I have heard he is a 3rd round type, but you know how that goes this time of year. I will try to take a look at him, Marc.

And finally, one last word on our final profile of this week, Quinton Coples. There is no doubt that he is a very controversial type that is eliciting a ton of feedback – both good and bad. But, the biggest thing that I think is worth pointing out is that I feel there is only a slight chance that he will be available. Odds are substantially stacked the other way that he will be long gone. But, this is the situation teams often must deal with on draft day; making sure you plan for any and all scenarios. A team will bill its board and then cross off the names that are taken and then take the next highest player. They must trust the board and follow it so that the emotions of the moment do not make them take a silly chance.

With that in mind, I would build our board with the three names that have been studied so far like this: 1) Coples, 2) Cox, 3) Brockers

Perhaps, as we add more and more names, we can build our highly unofficial board for Pick #14 to 10-15 names. If you are the Cowboys, you are hoping QBs, RBs, WRs, and Tackles all are jammed into the 13 picks in front of them, so that all of the preferred players on their board slide down to them.

And then they can take the name that they have agreed upon. Easy, right?

1 comment:

The Book Dude said...

I know people like Brockers because he is only 20 years old and has potential to be awesome in 3 or so years did that work out for the Texans when they drafted Amobi Okoye on pure potential? DT/DE Seems to have one of the biggest bust rates and when you add that to a guy who couldn't produce at a lesser level of competition it's a recipe for disaster.