Friday, January 15, 2016

1/15/16 - Cowboys Mailbag - DMN

Another week gives us another bag full of questions from you our faithful readers in the ol' mailbag.  Let's get through as many as we can here:
Q:   RGIII, Johnny Manziel, Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch. Rank these from most ideal to worst for the Cowboys as a backup QB next year. -- Uri
Well, Uri, this is 2 completely different categories of acquisition.  The first 2 are damaged former first round picks that are at similar, yet different spots in their careers.   The other 2 are top prospects in this draft and while they are very exciting players who could potentially be that guy, the fact is that it would require the Cowboys to give up their biggest draft asset in years and years to pull the trigger on the guy.  So, let's examine each one here:
Griffin is the veteran you would want most.  He is 25 and unlike Manziel, seems to understand what is required of him to be a professional QB1.  There is so much to this, but the first step is understanding that anything else in your life cannot be a priority if you want to do this for a living.  Wide receivers or corner backs can live dual lives, but for the most part, you will find that your general superstar QBs in the NFL live very boring and/or anonymous public lives outside of football.  Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and even Tony Romo and that group either don't go out hardly at all, or do so in a way that TMZ doesn't know nor care about it.  They also haven't used the bullet in their gun of being seen as party guys or borderline alcoholics in the first place.  Griffin seems to get all of this and then handled himself this season in the face of controversy like a pro.  Now, can he still play?  Can you trust his body?  Can his head still handle the pressure of NFL defenses asking him to take a hit to make a play?  The physical toll on his knees and body have been tremendous for a player his age and the hopes would be that this year has gotten his body right and his head right, too.  However, Griffin also might be high on the list of teams who desire a starter and he has to know if he comes here he is still a backup for now.  That may not be appealing for a player who sees the clock is ticking and that he has just wasted a year in his prime in Washington.
Manziel is not appealing to me in the slightest.  I had hopes for his career, but at the age of 23, he doesn't appear to "get it" which can mean a number of different things, but they all apply.  I wish he understood what his job requires and I wish he understood how rare his talents are and I wish he realized how many top prospects wasted everything because they were young and dumb.  I really think he has a lot of talent inside him, but he is not willing to sacrifice the life for the job.  That is his prerogative, but the road is paved with guys who make similar choices and then live the rest of their lives with regret.  I wish this made more sense, but I don't believe I would pick Manziel at this point of his life over just about anyone.  Not here.  Not this organization and the full time party that Dallas and Cowboys' football could mean to a guy like that.
Now, to the draftables.  Both Lynch and Goff are fantastic prospects.  I need to finish my Goff write-up, but I already know his quality and have no doubts I would take him if he is still there.  Lynch is someone people argue a bit more about, but I think Lynch is pretty special and is worth a top pick.  Here is my profile of his fine work.  So, if you want ideal, the idea must be to get your stater for the next decade after Romo, but that will be expensive.  I would do it, but just understand the costs involved.  And, as many of you understand, there are no guarantees when you take a college prospect.  But, understand, this is football.  There are no guarantees anywhere.  See the 2015 Cowboys.
Q: When Dez Bryant went out it was too easy to limit Jason Witten's production. Time to draft the next Hall of Famer? -- Mark
Time to draft the next hall of famer to play tight end or time to draft the next hall of fame-caliber wide receiver who will never get hurt?  
This was a rough year and it certainly shows how a receiver is made much better when someone else is attracting coverage.  For every time Dez Bryant has helped Jason Witten, Witten has also helped Bryant get open.  They are both coverage magnets, although at this point of his career, we have to concede 82 is not quite the same challenge he was in 2007 to cover.  He simply is not going down the seam on linebackers as much anymore and that makes him easier to account for. But, yes, if Dez is there, Witten has a much bigger year because now Dez is drawing the safety and there are easier numbers elsewhere on the field.  Romo's arm threatening the whole field also makes things easier underneath for Beasely and Witten.  Too many things killed the passing game this year.  In order, Romo, Bryant, and even Dunbar all went down - in the first month - and brought this machine to a grinding halt.  
Q: Bob, Do you see Randy Gregory as a break out player this Lawrence...or is it gonna be one more year before we see something like that? --Rowdy
Yes.  I really expect big things from Gregory in Year 2.  It is odd, of course, to have a rookie pass rusher excel in year 1.  Only 3 rookies had more than 5 sacks in 2015 and none of them were the premium sack guys taken high in the draft.  Washington's Preston Smith (pick #38) from Mississippi State was the league leader for rookies with 8.   Minnesota's Danielle Hunter from LSU (pick #88) was 2nd in the league with 6.  And then, Baltimore's Za'Darius Smith from Kentucky (pick #122) finished 3rd with 5.5 sacks.   This shows you that rookies don't get 10 sacks.  It almost never happens.  
Now, the fact that Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence both had freak injuries that pretty much ruined their rookie years has nothing to do with this.  It is just an added on issue that doomed things even further.  I never lost much faith in Lawrence and his 2nd year put him right on the map as a very strong player.  Now, Gregory must do the same thing.  He hardly made a play all year and never looked right after looking fantastic in the preseason.  It happens, and you try to shake it off and move on.
The real question for me is whether they can play them both together in normal down and distance spots and whether that makes the defensive line too light and easy to run against.  The Cowboys still need a stout defensive end on the strong side to stand up to physical runs and while Jeremy Mincey and Greg Hardy are that type, they both are free agents.  So, it will be interesting to see how the Cowboys see this group.  I know most fans will want those two kids starting at each end, but I don't think Rod Marinelli and the front office will like how small that makes the front, especially with smallish linebackers behind it (and even smaller defensive tackles).  You don't want to be undersized up front and the Cowboys risk that at the moment.
Here is even more sifting through your queries from this week:
Q: Have the Cowboys decided where Byron Jones will play? If safety does that make CB a higher priority than, say DE (assuming Hardy is not coming back)? Or do you think they should go for one of the two highest rated QBs left to them (cannot imagine the Browns will not go for a QB with their pick ahead of the Cowboys)? txnva
This is a good one that I am not positive about at this time.  As we look at the ideas for the top 2 picks, the ultimate destination of Byron Jones is a key component in this discussion.  I would argue that cornerbacks are the main priority, so if he is a top corner (potentially) we should encourage that.  But, I have wanted the Cowboys to address safety for so long.  I feel that we could make a list of mediocre safeties around here for the last decade and see that this is a mistake of the Cowboys to constantly under-value the spot.  This safety class has some real impressive players, but the best safety, Florida State's Jalen Ramsey is either your pick at #4 or he is gone before you get another crack at it.  He is special, but that is a huge investment (and, of course, many see him as a corner, too).  
I don't wish to spend too heavily on defensive end again, but as I have said, starting Gregory and Lawrence together is too very undersized weak side guys who might make you vulnerable to the run game.  It would be nice to have a 290 lb guy on the strong side who doesn't mess around, but the cost for that is right there with a great corner.  I think at DE, I might like to get something done with Jack Crawford and then maybe work around a rotation at DE with Ryan Russell and whoever else emerges without any massive investment at that particular spot.  
But, for me, at the moment, if Goff/Lynch are there at #4, I just don't see a big argument against it.  I know fans don't want to invest so heavily in a guy I don't want to take a snap in 2016, but 2 thoughts:  1) there is no single investment that could pay off more than a young QB that is that talented and 2) the Cowboys were able to snag 3 1st round talents in 2015 with Jones, La'el Collins, and Gregory.  This put them in a spot where they have stockpiled and it puts them in a position to invest in the future.  I think it is the best play.

I am pretty sure that I think he can be my #2 in my favorite scenario at this point.  Now, I reserve the right to change my mind here, but in my scenario, the Cowboys are going to get their QB high in this draft.  Let's say it is Jared Goff or Paxton Lynch.  Well, my scenario doesn't want them to have to play at all in 2016, therefore, Kellen Moore is my bridge until they are ready.  That could be 3 months or 2 years, but either way, I think Kellen Moore is the type of player that I can trust to be a solid #2 under Romo until Goff/Lynch is ready to take over.  
As I have said a number of times, the thing I value most in a backup QB is their intelligence and their ability to grasp the "do's and don't's" of the position.  I think Moore can do all of that, even though his ceiling is a #2.  I don't think you want him as a long-term starter, so the risk with my plan is Romo breaks his collarbone in Week 2 and is gone for 10 weeks again.  Moore is likely not going to go 6-4 if he has to fill in for 10 weeks, but he might get you 2-2 in a month.  The bottom line is that I am fine with giving Moore a real chance at the backup spot if you are drafting a QB high.  
Now, of course, if the Cowboys want a veteran like RGIII, then the need/use for Moore drops considerably.  So, it would be great to know what the plan is at Valley Ranch.
Q: There's a lot of talk about Manziel and RG3, but isn't Colt McCoy really the perfect back up for Romo? Intelligent, prepared, and can run the same offense as Tony. JAllen
I dont hate this idea.  He is also unrestricted and would sort of be a more capable version of Kellen Moore if he needed to play.  He made $1.5 million last year, but I assume is more than welcome back in Washington to backup Kirk Cousins if he should want to remain.  I am cautious to entertain every single former Big 12 South player because they are all quite popular in these parts, but the 29-year old McCoy certainly knows his role and also has proven capable in small doses to play QB.  In fact, a few times in Arlington, to be fair.
Q: What would be a realistic haul should the Cowboys trade back from the No. 4 pick?  Timmy Two Shoes
Timmy, that all depends on how far down you are willing to go.  There are a number of instances where a team has broken the bank trading back, but the only time you should entertain this idea seriously is if you are ok with any number of picks.  For instance, in 2004, when the Cowboys traded back with the Buffalo Bills, it was suggested that the Cowboys were fine with any of the 5 Running Backs that were on the board.  The 5 were Steven Jackson from Oregon State, Chris Perry from Michigan, Kevin Jones from Virginia Tech, Tatum Bell from Oklahoma State, and Julius Jones from Notre Dame.  I remember at the time someone on the inside suggesting to me the they were all about the same and the Cowboys would be happy with any of them.  But, and this was recorded on the radio at the time, I really wanted Steven Jackson and I thought he was a cut above the others.  The Cowboys could have had any at pick #21 but if they traded back to #43, the Bills would give them pick #144 and next year's 1st round pick, too.  It seemed like a great plan.  But, by the time #43 showed up, the four of the five RBs were gone and the Cowboys had to take who was left.  
So they could have had the best, but settled for the last one.  As of right now, Jackson has 11,000 yards, Perry finished with 600, Jones had 3,100, Bell ended up with 2,700, and Julius Jones actually had a nice career with just over 5,000.  The Cowboys did get the 2nd best player, but he was a mile (actually about 4 miles) behind Jackson.  I said then and I will say now, take the best of the bunch.  Now, not only did they get Jones, but they also got Sean Ryan and Marcus Spears, so the deal might not have been a complete disaster, but I assume if Steven Jackson is a Cowboys RB in 2004, they win more games over the course of his career as he is paired with Tony Romo.  That is a long way of saying, trade backs are not usually what we hope they are.
The one in 2013 is equally interesting for Dallas. That time, they decided to pass on Sharrif Floyd, the DT from Florida, to trade back and get Wisconsin's Travis Frederick and a 3rd that became Baylor's Terrance Williams.  This time, they got 2 solid starters (including one elite center) for a DT who is very good, but certainly not a dominating Floyd who ended up in Minnesota.  Anytime you can trade 2 starters for 1, you might have to think it through unless the one you pass on becomes all-world. It would seem the Cowboys did very well on this deal.  

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