As I have stated before, the Cowboys need great football players in the upcoming draft. This seems a bit simplistic, yet Jerry and Co. routinely draft the flashiest or most troubled player and attempt to “fix” them. Or, the Cowboys organization picks for a specific need (lately it’s been skill positions) and get burned drastically when that player does not pan out (Bobby Carpenter comes to mind).
I understand Jerry’s desire to “make history,” as he has often put it or his wont to make headlines by doing things differently. In this draft, however, the Cowboys need to stick to the script. The rest of the division has long since passed the Cowboys in terms of talent with the exception of the woeful Redskins. The 2007 Cowboys are a distant memory and if we’re all being honest with ourselves, the 2007 defense wasn’t very good and the team had the benefit of a favorable schedule. The 2009 Cowboys also benefited from a favorable schedule and the decline of Donovan McNabb.
I believe in Jason Garrett and I believe Jerry will allow him juuust enough control to make this thing right. (Why no, I have not been drinking. Why do you ask?) I also believe that the Cowboys realize they are not the New York Giants (especially on defense), the Eagles most likely will not have as bad of a year as 2011 and the team is in desperate need of an influx in talent. I have also said (since the drastic cuts of veterans last summer) and continue to believe that Dallas is in full rebuilding mode. Jerry Jones may never utter those words, but it is quite obvious to those paying attention. The fact they competed (and probably should have beaten) a Giants team that is going to the Super Bowl, speaks volumes about Garrett given the facts. Let me make myself perfectly clear, the Cowboys COULD NOT have equaled the Giants accomplishments in the playoffs had Miles Austin laid out for that pass on 3rd down. Nonetheless, competing well with a Super Bowl team (both, actually) is still impressive for a team in full rebuilding mode. My praise for this “accomplishment” goes to Jason Garrett.
Last week we looked at potential 1st and 2nd round cornerbacks. I did not go much deeper because I believe the Cowboys will be actively looking to upgrade that position in those rounds come April. Today we will examine the linebackers in the 2012 draft, with a focus on those that the Cowboys could draft in Rounds 2-4. These are in order of Gil Brandt’s (longtime Cowboys scout and NFL.com Senior Writer) Top 100 Prospects with my own observations from the Senior Bowl included.
Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
When I first saw this list, I was surprised Brown was the top rated linebacker. After doing my research, I’m convinced Gil Brandt correctly rated him. He freely admits Brown will not go in front of Upshaw (Alabama) but he thinks he is the best linebacker in college football because of his accomplishments at North Carolina, which includes a first-team All-ACC spot this season. He has great speed (track team speed, actually), gets to the quarterback, stops the run and appears to be smarter than Courtney Upshaw. All that being said, I don’t believe he makes it out of the first round for Dallas to draft him.
Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama
He is widely considered to be the best linebacker in the draft. Many scouts and other leagues sources are high on him after an MVP performance in the National Championship Game and an impressive Senior Bowl practice week. Even if the Cowboys decided to pick him in the first round, they would most assuredly have to trade up to get him. Again, I think he is out of the question for the Cowboys.
Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Kuechly had an outstanding season for the BC Eagles, but he does not impress many with his speed. He also plays inside and he is projected to go in the first round. He is a solid player but Dallas would be looking to draft outside linebacker before inside.
Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
The scouting report on him is simple. He is a very talented player that does not take coaching well. Next.
Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
Hightower plays inside but I think he is so talented that he could be easily converted to an outside linebacker to replace Anthony Spencer, who should be leaving in free agency. Classic “dog” that I think Dallas would be more than happy to scoop up in the second round. Whether he makes it there is to be determined but it would not surprise me.
Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
This is where the prospected talent starts to drop a bit and Dallas could pick some of these guys in the 3rd or 4th rounds. McClellin played DE at Boise but, again, because of his versatility and strength, he could be easily converted to a 3-4 outside linebacker. He reminds me of a faster version of former Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt. He loves to hit quarterbacks. I would have to question his pass coverage, though.
Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State
This is the steal of the Cowboys draft. He was just named the North’s Most Outstanding Player in the Senior Bowl (which is sure to have him rocketing up draft boards). He is strong and plays with passion. He does not get beat very often because of his size and strength. If the Cowboys can get him in the 2nd or 3rd round, I believe he would be a core player for many years to come.
Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma
Lewis is an impressive athlete in his own right but I do not believe he would fit a switch to a 3-4 outside linebacker. Dallas should avoid him unless they decided to draft an inside linebacker to compete with Bruce Carter.
Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska
Inside linebacker that always seems to be trailing the play. I believe he is only on this list because he is a “black shirt.” The Cowboys should not even consider this player unless he is available in the 5th round or later.
Sean Spence, LB, Miami (FL)
He seems like a team leader that hits with the best of them and has a nose for the ball. He has drawn comparisons to other great Miami linebackers but he lacks the size to translate to the next level. I believe the Cowboys should and will look at him if he lasts to the 3rd round (maaaybe late 2nd). I am most impressed by his heart and “dog” mentality.
James-Michael Johnson, LB, Nevada
He is an inside linebacker that could be converted to a 3-4 outside linebacker with time and strength training. He is not a plug and play guy for 2012. In fact, he reminded me a lot of Anthony Spencer. Pass.
That will do it folks. Leave your comments and let me know who I left off, who I should not have included and other reasons why I should stop drinking. See y’all next week for defensive lineman!
Topics: Bobby Wagner, Courtney Upshaw, Cowboys, Dallas, Dallas Cowboys, Dez Bryant, Donovan McNabb, Dont'a Hightower, James-michael Johnson, Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones, Lavonte David, Luke Kuechly, NFL, NFL Draft, Sean Lee, Sean Spence, Shea Mcclellin, Travis Lewis, Vontaze Burfict, Zach Brown