Friday, April 07, 2017


North Carolina State defensive back Josh Jones makes a catch as he runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Monday, March 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
North Carolina State defensive back Josh Jones makes a catch as he runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Monday, March 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
As I will definitely do, I got carried away again. I meant to cover all the possibilities for the Cowboys at picks Nos. 28, 60 and 92 on defense. I didn't have time to go deep enough to cover the last few picks in Round 3, but I did have about 11 or 12 weeks to go as deep as I could at examining the prospects for this year's draft.

Alas, this is the end of Week 9, and here we are, 45 players deep into the draft (one per weekday is the pace, if you want to study 200 snaps on each player). However, now I see there are less than three weeks left before the picks start coming off the board, so my optimism of doing much of anything on the offensive side of the ball seems like a lost cause.
That said, it also appears the Cowboys are in total lock-step agreement. It appears that, according to many reports, they have decided to go 28 of 30 on the defensive side for top 100 picks. Well, then maybe we are on the right track.
The idea is to have a reasonable base of knowledge on any possible picks for Days 1 and 2, and to know what each player can do well and not so well and how they may fit with the Cowboys. Like I said, it is far from a perfect or complete process, but it is the best one I have time to pull off from the Super Bowl until the draft. And, on top of that, I really enjoy learning about new players every day. For some of us, that is actually fun.
So, if you wish to know a bit more about any of the top 40 defensive names in this draft, you should be able to catch up on those profiles from previous weeks here. Otherwise, here are five more names -- none of them to fall in the first round, but probably all of them going on Day 2 (Rounds 2-3), where the Cowboys have had their issues for sure. But the league knows this is where you need to find some starters to build a quality roster.
And, now, here are the next five -- players Nos. 41-45 (not in ranking, but in random order of crossing them off the list) on our agenda:


Jordan Willis

DE - Kansas State - #75
Senior - 6'3 - 255  - 4.53
Last 2 years -26 games - 88 tackles - 33 tackles for loss, 21 sacks, 7 forced fumbles
Willis was a very productive four-year player at Kansas State and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
POSITIVES: It doesn't take long to find the positives in Willis' game. He is a flat-out productive and destructive force on the defensive side of the ball with 33 tackles for loss and 21 sacks in the last 2 seasons as well as forcing 7 fumbles. That is really impressive stuff as everyone knows. He can crash down and get on run plays as well as have enough awareness when the pass is being thrown to knock plays down at the line of scrimmage. He also ran some unreal 3-cone times at the Combine which puts him in the list of guys with fantastic attributes. There is something when he turns the corner to the QB that makes you think he has the ability to bend as a pass rush defensive end should on Sundays. He also had a really good Senior Bowl where he demonstrated he could handle himself against some of the best.
CONCERNS:  Honestly, he just doesn't really pass the eyeball test, which I concede can be something that is frustrating for those who really want to see him more celebrated. For a guy his size, we have come to expect a blurring level of explosion at the snap -- which seems consistent with his 3-cone times, but for whatever reason, on Saturdays there was not a consistent explosion.  He seemed to have lumbering qualities of a guy between 275 and 280. This usually doesn't translate for a guy this size. Yet, here is Willis who has the stats and the combine numbers that tell you not to worry about his bend and his ability to dip because he does well with what he has. He is the type of prospect that generates all sorts of disagreement because he seems to say "10-year pro" with lots of his information, but then "just a guy" with other parts of his evaluation. Confusing, and I am curious which bin he ends up in.
-- Willis will likely go in Rounds 2 or 3 and from there, his fit in the NFL will be a real key.

Tyus Bowser

DE - Houston - #81
Senior - 6'3 - 247  - 4.65 40
Last 2 years -22 games, 97 tackles, 18.5 TFL, 14 sacks, 2 FF, interception
Bowser is a very talented player who has had to play 2 different positions and is looking for a perfect fit.
POSITIVES: Bowser has tremendous athletic talent -- so much so that he was getting offers for both football and basketball which is normal for WR/RB types, but less often for guys who might play linebacker for you. But, he has that type of twitch to his body and can really cover a lot of ground on the field. Houston would ask him to play in a 3-4 defense after their coaching change 2 seasons ago and drop him into coverage going backwards mixed in with rushing to the QB at other times and playing run and hit LB. He was very solid in pretty much every aspect. He battles his lil off and gets after the point of attack. He was used to spy Lamar Jackson at Louisville and showed some burst  and gets held regularly. He is a real explosive guy with that coveted "upside."
CONCERNS: Well, finding the fit for him will be key. He would be extremely small in a 4-3 and I am not sure where you put him if you don't think he is your "Will" LB. Additionally, he lacks a whole lot of pass rush moves other than his stutter step with quickness. He is raw from that standpoint and may be the victim of being asked to play in so many different spots that he did not really become the master of any. That said, this offers some real boom possibilities. He missed time this year that resulted from an injury taken in a fight -- which is never a great development in football season.
-- In the right fit -- for me, a 3-4 with creativity -- this seems to be a player with tremendous intrigue. I just have a hard time thinking that Marinelli's defense is a real fit.

Justin Evans

S - Texas A&M - #14
Senior - 5'11 - 199  - 4.57
Evans is coming off a season full of accolades in the SEC and combines accomplishments with attributes for the next level.
POSITIVES: Evans looks like a guy who has some real utility to a team that wants to take advantage of his ball-hawking skills with the ability to play deep safety, also offer some nickel or corner attributes including the ability to cover in man and turn his hips, and then even give you the added element of a kick returner (which is an awfully rare feat for a safety). He gets around the ball and baits QBs and shows you some real awareness that you want from a deep safety. The ability to see what is going on around you and the attributes to turn and get to the play in time. He had enough moments in the UCLA game alone to show you that he is worth looking at. He has real elusiveness in the open field once he gets the ball. And he battles in the air to get that ball as well.
CONCERNS: He simply doesn't do much hitting. In fact, you could argue he is a corner trying to play safety in the fact that he doesn't like to hit and tackle and does neither very well. He is definitely the guy who looks faster when getting to a pass than when trying to deal with a big RB. He lets others beat him to a tackle. He may have been hurt a lot, but either way, his aversion to contact is generally a deal-breaker for my eyes. He really doesn't give you much in run support, either, which makes him more of a hugger at the point of impact. He will get drafted for traits.
-- I think he can work, but it might have to be as a corner where you don't need physicality.  

Josh Jones

S - N.C. State - #11
RS Junior - 6'1 - 220  - 4.41
Jones was allowed to do everything for N.C. State which makes him another potential hybrid joker defensive force.
POSITIVES: This is a very big and rangy safety who plays in the underneath role where the hybrid defender lives -- in that strong safety/linebacker role. He has tremendous size and speed and has an intriguing combination of run support and pass coverage. He will hit very hard and he is hungry to get into the mix and cause problems. He is confident in moving forward and spent a big part of the Notre Dame game as a player who would mirror and spy DeShone Kizer and did so very well. He will bring the pain and has a real linebacker mentality. In today's game, a guy who can roll from deep safety to linebacker could prove to be incredibly available. Then, he runs a 4.41 and his stock took a real shot up the board.
CONCERNS: As with any player who plays like this, he will miss on a big shot in the open field which certainly gets frustrating at times. He also will fall for play-action fakes at times. He could also fight a bit more to get to the ball in traffic. Again, the question with this player is whether he is elite at any one place, but his ability to help in all spots would definitely add to his value rather substantially.
-- Overall, if you are looking for an all-around safety pretty far up the board and into the top 50, Jones seems rather convincing and his instincts can be coached.

Marcus Maye

S - Florida - #20
RS Senior - 5'11 - 210  - 4.50
Maye is yet another talented member of that Gator defense that should offer some deep help at the next level.
POSITIVES: Maye seems quite a bit like the opposite of Justin Evans. Whereas Evans is a better deep safety without much regard for contact, Maye is more of a player who is better in the box, with solid and strong run support as well as solid pass defense underneath. He is much better in the box than he is in a deep half. He can really get to the ball and when he gets there he is trying to dig the ball out -- which he is successful at. He goes looking for contact and plays at times with a linebacker's mentality. He will take on guys and absolutely allow his attitude to set a tone with a big hit and a big play. He plays at full speed an awful lot. He has a very aggressive disposition.
CONCERNS: Unfortunately, this type of player does not hold a ton of value unless they are exceptional, and I think Maye has attributes that say he is might be short of that. In deep coverage, he seems to arrive late and not always read things as quickly. He gets lost in coverage -- especially man -- a bit too much. He also pays a price with the way he plays as he has dealt with a number of injuries over the course of time that suggest he may not have great durability -- which always will be on the radar when someone his size tries to play physically at the next level. This is what holds the value down, usually. I don't dislike his game, but I don't know where I can feel comfortable that he will be above average in the NFL. He is also age 23, which puts him at the older end of the prospect spectrum.
-- He will go in the top 50-100, but I suspect he will be down a bit in my safety rankings next week.


OK, next week, we are going to knock out a little on the offensive side. But, time is running short, so perhaps it will resemble how much Dallas is looking over there. Have a good weekend.

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