Friday, April 13, 2012

Cowboys Mailbag - 4/13

This week's mailbag could potentially be a bit different. Since we have spent the last 3 weeks profiling so many of the choices at #14 for the Cowboys and their potential pick, I have literally dozens of emails from many of you asking me to rank one against two others.

Do I like Poe over Brockers? And Brockers over Coples? And Kirkpatrick over Barron? And what about Upshaw and DeCastro?

So, rather than bouncing too far around a number of wide ranging topics, I think we should set up my own, "14th pick big board".

The idea here is simple. We have looked at the 9 players that I think are the finalists for the #14 pick. There are a few more I want to sift through next week - DontA Hightower, Stephon Gilmore, and Cordy Glenn, but these are the 9, that in my own research and visiting with those who are in the know, were the players that we needed to know best when it comes down the Cowboys 1st Round pick.

From here, the idea would be simple. We simply work down on the list and take the highest ranked player left when Dallas is on the clock. I will do this from my perspective of who I like the most and then alter the list as I think the Cowboys see the list.

Incidentally, I think we can operate under the assumptions that Morris Claiborne is #1 on their list. I did not do a breakdown on him because I don't see a scenario for him to get past #6 in the draft and I honestly don't see the Cowboys spending the assets necessary to get up to the Top 6. So, know that if he somehow got to the Cowboys, they would take Claiborne before anyone on this list. Beyond that, I think the Cowboys war-room cheers every time a player that is not on their plan goes off the board.

Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, Justin Blackmon, Matt Kalil, Ryan Tannehill, Trent Richardson, and perhaps even Michael Floyd and Riley Reiff are all expected to be in the Top 13 and not fits for what Dallas wants to do, anyway. So, add Claiborne to that list and you have 9 players who will not hurt the Cowboys at #14. Now, we build our list and say how they should be stacked if everyone else was still on the board from a Dallas perspective.

Let's begin.

1. Fletcher Cox - DT - Mississippi State

If I could have any player left on the board and therefore my dream scenario for the 26th of April, it would be the impressive Mr Cox from Mississippi State. He can do so many things and make this defense so much better immediately after he arrives. He is both already developed as a ready-to-go player, and had tremendous upside moving forward where he can only improve. He is a difference maker in the backfield where he destroys plays, he holds up against the run very well, and he gets to the QB with some surprising pass rush gifts. He would be the best choice as far as I am concerned from everything I have looked at. A premium defensive lineman? Jump on it and run to the podium if he is still there.

2. David DeCastro - G - Stanford

Here is where i think the Cowboys and me have our first disagreement. I think the Cowboys did what they did in free agency so they would not be tempted to take another offensive lineman this high. But, I think that David DeCastro is actually the safest pick of this entire list. He is solid. He is as near to a "can't miss" guy as you might fine. He will fill the interior of your offensive line for the next decade and you would have almost no doubt about it. He can play guard or center and he seems to be the type of guy that the only bad thing people will ever say about him is that he plays a position that you just shouldn't take that high. Well, I have seen the Cowboys struggle at offensive line long enough. If you are telling me that with this pick I could take offensive line off my need list for the next several years, then sign me up. DeCastro would be a huge addition for the Cowboys and they should not apologize to do so.

3. Mark Barron - S - Alabama

There is a bit of a drop off between #2 and #3 in my mind. After the top 2, I am now looking at players that I wish I felt were bigger slam dunks. But, they are not. They all come with some level of concern. But, I am placing Barron next and the reason is that he is the guy on the list who I think I trust the most to generate game-altering moments in 2012 and shortly thereafter. I think he can be one of those real difference making safeties that have defined defenses in this generation. Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, Brian Dawkins, Laron Landry, Darren Sharper and so many more are all at the heart of their team's takeaways. They are the guys who find the football and change games. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have had generic safeties that seldom make an impact of the positive nature. Barron looks like he could be special and he also looks like he could be a guy with a real voice on the team in time.

4. Courtney Upshaw - Alabama

Courtney Upshaw is next on this list, but it is not without reservation. I think he could be an exceptional replacement for Anthony Spencer, but I have a hard time convincing myself that the Cowboys defense improves if I make that trade. I want to add to my good pieces and replace my poor ones. And I will not accept this idea that the defense has been held back by Spencer. It just isn't true. So, while i think Upshaw is the 4th best player on my list from a Cowboys perspective, I think it would be unfortunate to settle for him because then I still have gigantic voids at safety and both defensive ends. This team has too many holes to simply swap out Spencer for a guy who could be slightly better in the short term.

5. Dontari Poe - Memphis

This is controversial, but I am sticking with it. If the Cowboys were to pick Poe at #14, I am now comfortable with it. I wanted to know that his motor runs high and after watching his film, I feel good about that. Yes, I wish he was more productive, but for the Cowboys specific needs, the idea of a nose tackle who would demand a double team on each down which frees up Ratliff to kick out to defensive end and make me better there is very intriguing. I think he is a bit raw and needs some coaching, but I really think his potential upside is too much to ignore at this juncture. He could really fill a need with a guy who could be a very, very disruptive player for years to come.

6. Dre Kirkpatrick - Alabama

Now, I am filling a real position of need with Kirkpatrick. I want to consider Gilmore here, too, but for now, Kirkpatrick's size and physical makeup is the type of zone or press corner that I think could really change things with Brandon Carr on the other side. If the Cowboys left their draft with 2 starting wide corners who were both 6'1 or 6'2 and physical, then I think you could finally feel really good about where the secondary is at. I am a bit concerned about his top end speed and whether or not the Cowboys would be able to deal with the smaller wide receivers in Philadelphia and the Santana Moss types, but with Mike Jenkins coming up for free agency, I believe I would be pretty pleased to leave with Dre.

7. Quinton Coples - UNC

These last three players would not be of great interest to me with regards to Dallas. Coples has all of the tools and is a player I personally like, but I have heard it on rather strong authority that the Cowboys just do not trust his motor and have no plans on allowing Coples to bring his talents to Dallas. For me, I think he could be a wonderful 5 technique and offers some of the best natural pass rush skills of anyone in this draft, but if Jason Garrett only wants players who "red line" their RPMs at all times and all snaps, then I endorse the Cowboys not dancing with someone they don't fully trust. He is very talented but they don't like him.

8. Melvin Ingram - South Carolina

I actually like Melvin Ingram's game. He is a very exciting player at South Carolina and I think he is the type of player that can really help plenty of teams. I just don't think the Cowboys are one of them. He needs to go some place where a team has the luxury to use his skills with creativity. But, to expect him to plug a spot in a traditional defense where you want 900 snaps out of him a season just doesn't seem reasonable in a 3-4 defense, unless you would play him at the weak side OLB. And DeMarcus Ware is your weak side OLB until further notice. He could not play on the strong side in my opinion and matchup with double teams and heavy run traffic. He just doesn't seem big or tall enough and strong enough at the point of attack. 4-3? Sure. Not here. The interesting thing here is that of all 9 players on my list, I feel he is the most likely to go in the Top 10. But, not a fit in Dallas.

9. Michael Brockers - LSU

Brockers is a player I just don't like. Unlike Poe, there are not great reasons why he had almost no production to speak of. Poe was double teamed. Poe was keyed upon. But, Brockers had other players on that LSU defense attracting all of the attention and he still didn't make too many impact plays. He is not ready for the NFL and has a major learning process in front of him, I do believe. And, to top things off, Poe ran a 4.98 while Brockers ran a 5.35 in the 40. Poe lifted 44 bench press reps and Brockers had about half as many in his pro day. I feel Brockers is hanging his hat on arm length, and I need way more than that to fall in love. I would pass.

So, that is my list. I like each player more than the players ranked below him. Simple, right?

Now, how does the order change from a Cowboys standpoint? What do I think THEY feel about these players?

1. Cox
2. Barron
3. Upshaw
4. Brockers
5. Kirkpatrick
6. Poe
7. DeCastro
8. Ingram
9. Coples

I may be affected by smoke screens or poor information that I am being fed, but I think that if Fletcher Cox and Mark Barron are both on the clock at #14, there will be a massive tug-o-war in the war room over which direction they go. Beyond that, I think they are settling and happy, but not over the moon. I may have my 3-6 rankings a bit off, but that is where I think they are today.

I think they just don't want to deal with taking a guard, and the Coples thing is explained above.

Surely an odd version of the mailbag, since I used dozens of emails but reprinted none of them, but hopefully this helps answer so many of the questions that are up right now in my email box and on twitter.

Speaking of email, send me your Cowboys questions at or follow on twitter (@sportssturm).

Have a great weekend.

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