Saturday, February 20, 2016

2/19/16 - Cowboys Mailbag - DMN

Another week has come and gone and in seven more days we will be opening the NFL combine.  This offseason is about to get crazy with the opening of Free Agency in the first week in March.  That means there is no shortage of questions from you - the hardcore football fan.  
Here we go!
Q:  You're in the Cowboys' "War Room" and have to choose between Bosa, Ramsey or Jack ... Who's the pick and why?
A:  Well, I have yet to do a profile on Jalen Ramsey from Florida State, but I have had my eye on him for a couple years now so I am quite familiar with his work.  The profile will be done on the player very soon so that we will have all of the best candidates for #4 overall in our basket.  
Now, Bosa vs Ramsey vs Jack.  My first instinct is to say Bosa because I really think he will affect games greatly from a spot where the Cowboys have almost nothing right now - strong side DE.  They have invested a lot (2 2nd round picks and a 3rd round pick) in acquiring DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory for the weak-side, but they don't have much on the other side.  That said, I feel like Lawrence is developing into a player you could consider on either side but it is true that Lawrence and Gregory are a little light to be complete defensive ends and that is not what they are here for.  They are here for sacks.  Bosa looks complete and very solid against the run - I remember in the games I broke down of Ohio State that the opponent seldom ran to his side of the field.  
Myles Jack might be the best player for versatility and upside, but he plays a position that I think is dangerous to over-invest in, and at #4, I would not feel great about drafting a non-pass rush LB at a position where it is very difficult to stay healthy and have a long career.  The statistics do not encourage you to place too many chips on that hand.  Ramsey might be something I have wanted since Darren Woodson roamed the secondary - an exceptional safety.  But, I wonder if they took him that high if they would be wanting him to be a corner for them and still have replacement level safety play like they have received.  If I knew Ramsey would be their new dynamic safety, which they need if they are going to run as much Cover 1/Cover 3 with a single-high player, I can definitely do that at #4.  
Right now, I am thinking Bosa - Ramsey - Jack, in that order.  But, let me really dive into Ramsey for his profile next week and get back to this question very soon.  I think Ramsey deserves 200 snaps at both corner and safety, so his profile might be a bit more involved.
Q: Jon Machota recently put Tony Romo among his Top 10 NFL quarterbacks. Would you do the same?
A: I was looking at my esteemed colleague's work the other day and if you are wondering about his list, here it is. It looks like he has Romo as the #8 QB in the NFL at the present time which will sound lofty to some people but when you dive in doesn't seem that crazy at all. He has listed in front of Romo the following: Rodgers, Brady, Roethlisberger, Luck, Wilson, Newton, and Brees.
So, then you get into the range of the following QBs: Romo, Eli Manning, Phil Rivers, and Carson Palmer. Also, you would need to consider Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, and Jay Cutler. Additionally, the kids, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, and Teddy Bridgewater.
I agree with each of the 7 that he placed in front of Romo, so now, in your question, would I rather have 3 guys from that other list over Tony Romo for the foreseeable future? Manning, Rivers, and Palmer are all his age although all have better health. I would still roll with Romo, though. I think if you could flip 36-year old Romo for Stafford, Flacco, or Ryan, you might want to give that strong consideration. And, if you could trade Romo for Mariota, I would do that today.
That said, I think Jon's methodology was based simply on the premise of ranking their present day status, and for that, I have no problem with Romo ranking at the bottom of the Top 10. But he must have a year of full health to have strong convictions about that. The thing I keep coming back to is that we haven't seen 16 starts from Tony since 2012. That has to change or we will have to admit the end is near for #9.
Q:  Sports gun to your head, you have to take a QB at 4: who is it?
A: I imagine by now people know my answer to this if they follow my stuff on Twitter.  I have been pretty loud about my belief that A) I think all 3 QBs are worth investing in.  If the Cowboys leave the draft with any of the 3, I think you could rest easy that the end of the road for Romo will not signal the end of the world for Cowboys fans.  And B) I think Jared Goff is the best of the bunch.  I am basing this all on where each player will be in 2018 when I expect they would need to take over as starter in Dallas.  
I think Goff has some very interesting traits and is superior to the other two in his reading and manipulating defenses.  That isn't to say that Wentz can't be very good, I just believe I lean more to Goff for upside potential.  I think Lynch is 3rd, but still a 1st round prospect.  I just think he has further to develop, although some of his amazing work last fall makes you wonder if that is being exaggerated.  Unlike many of you, evidently, I am pretty fired up about this QB class at the top.  We haven't had 3 legit 1st round prospects in a while.  I suppose 2011 would be the last one like it, and that likely has everyone freaking out because Jake Locker, Christian Ponder, and Blaine Gabbert all fell way short of projections after Cam Newton. 
As if one mailbag wasn't enough, here is Part 2.  It really asks the greater question.  If you take a 2,500-word mailbag and cut it in half, are there now 2 mailbags, or 2 halves of one large mailbag?
As you ponder that....Here are more of your questions:
Q: I am always nervous about players with a draft stock rapidly going up after the college season is over. My question is related to Carson Wentz' draft stock, does it makes you nervous that without playing any games his stock suddenly heated up?
A:  In general, that usually bothers me as well.  There is nothing more important to me than the college tape that these guys produce through playing football games.  No amount of workouts, meetings, interviews, or other information should alter their status (with the exception, of course, of a thorough medical examination when needed).  I don't care for the underwear Olympics altering our thinking although getting a 40-time and making sure a guy measures as tall as we thought all along are relevant information - it should not turn a 3rd rounder into a 1st just because he bench pressed 225 more than the next guy.
That said, Wentz is a different animal, because he was not discovered by scouts in January.  Rather, the pundits do not watch BCS football when the season is going on because they are too busy with major college football.  He didn't move up the ladder because of anything with scouts, he moved up with the rest of us who had no idea who he was last summer.  I think Wentz is really impressive and if he can prove to all of his doubters about his level of football being able to produce a QB1 in the NFL by throwing well at Senior Bowl week or the Combine, good on him.  But, I don't think we should place him with the combine creations who played major college football, went unnoticed, and then because of a workout rose up the board.  He isn't one of them.
Q:  I've been reading your draft profiles, and while you may not call yourself a pro scout, I'm curious: What's the toughest part about evaluating a top prospect?
A:  Well, let me start by saying I am far from those guys and I spend 3 hours on a guy per day, which pales in comparison to the hundreds of hours the scouts spend on this stuff.  They know their craft and I am just trying to do it on the side for fun with no consequences when I get something way wrong and the only accountability is my archived articles and not the fate of the team. 
That said, to answer your question, I would say the toughest part of evaluating any prospect is trying to figure out how hard they want to become the best.  From the time you draft them to the time they become what they are going to become is the biggest mystery in all of sports.  You never know what handing a kid more money than he has ever had, but putting him in a strange city, and surrounded by strange people yelling at him will do to his desire.  Will they do the bare minimum or will they be tireless in driving themselves?  Will you be able to reach them and to develop them to be the best?  Or is the best for some of them the $20 million that they get the moment they are picked in the 1st round?  If you have $20 million, wouldn't most 21 year olds think they have "made it" and no longer need to strive for something even higher?
I think about this all the time in all sorts of sports and with all types of athletes.  Can you imagine how hard it is to be drafted in the NFL?  You must rise through the ranks of high school and college football and make it to a spot where you are one of the 250 highest regarded football players that are your age on the planet.  For most humans, this would constitute the highest road of accomplishment that you can imagine.
But, to us, in this process, it is only the beginning.  You haven't done anything, kid.  It all starts now.  Well, that is a neat theory, but I bet many athletes don't think that way.  Now, they can get the house they want, the car they want, the girl they want, and still have plenty to run to Vegas or Mexico.  
Bob Gainey, the brilliant hockey mind,  always said that "it is hard to be hungry when you are full."  I think about that saying every time this topic comes up.  These kids are all being evaluated on their hunger to get to this point and the games they played when they wanted to be drafted.  But, what we don't know is what happens to their internal drive when they do get drafted.  Do they wish to find a new dragon to slay or do they want to rest on their laurels and spend their new fortune while living it up? 
If there was a way to distinguish those two types of people from each other, the draft would be so much easier.  In effect, I am suggesting to you that draft success is largely based on how bad an athlete wants to be great AFTER he is drafted, not before.  I hope that all made sense.
Q: The 'Boys clearly need a running back out of this draft. My question is, can we wait to take Derrick Henry in the 2nd, or do we have to trade back and take either him or Ezekiel Elliot in the middle of the first? And if we did that which RB would we rather have?
A:  I will be evaluating the running backs in March.  I don't mean to avoid your question, but I think I need to view 4 games of each before I get carried away.  But, my first reaction is that this might be a spot to consider the veterans on the market because you might find a decent acquisition amongst the many NFL vets at running back that might not require you spend a premium pick on the player.  That said, Elliot and Henry were both fantastic prospects last fall and I would be quickly talked into enjoying seeing them at camp next August.  
Let me get to running backs as soon as the schedule allows.  
Have a great weekend, everyone.  

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