The 2012 NFL Draft is a mere t-minus 7 days away and counting. This year’s new collection of Dallas Cowboys will impose extraordinary consequences upon immediate and future team success. That may sound like a declaration from Captain Obvious, however 2012 offers an unusually deep defensive draft. A rookie crop loaded with potential high-level starting talent stretching into the middle rounds.
The current Cowboys roster is still littered with holes at positions which must be counted on heavily to contribute next season. Securing a significant improvement at safety, adding an imposing pass rusher, or finding a solid run-stuffing defensive tackle could pay immediate huge dividends to the Cowboys defense next season. Finding two or three of these upgrades together could transform a lacking defense into an imposing force overnight. Not to mention, there are many available wide receivers who could dangerously elevate the passing game for Tony Romo and company.
The critical implications surrounding the impending draft demand that Dallas focus strongly on the here and now. Avoiding the pet project or next-year syndrome Jerry Jones is known to consistently favor is paramount. In the early rounds, the team must find players highly accomplished at the role they will immediately fulfill, and maximize the value at which they select them. Reaching early beyond a player’s proven football performance value in the hopes of striking gold (Dontari Poe), is not an option Dallas can presently afford.
The early picks spent by the Cowboys need to not only contribute immediately, yet also should be solid bets to fulfill their position’s needs for the coming years. When the 2013 off-season rolls around there will be another substantial collection of holes set to open up once again. There’s no excuse to add even more voids to address next season when the 2012 draft is overflowing with potential to fulfill current demands.
- ROUND ONE – PICK 14
MARK BARRON (SS) ALABAMA
Rankings: Consensus First-Round Selection
Barron is the most complete and talented safety in both the 2012 and 2011 draft. A winner at every level he competes. In high school he was the MVP of the HS State Championship game, All-State team selection, and track state champion in both shot put and long jump. Was a 3-time All-American for the University of Alabama. Much more than a ‘box’ safety, Barron is definitely a terror inside the box, yet also has the range and instincts to play deep. He excels at covering TE’s one-on-one as well. The Rob Ryan defense could unleash an aggressive, talented, heady player like this in creative, disruptive ways on opposing offenses. Would be the starting strong safety in Dallas for many years and a likely Pro Bowler.
NOTES: If Dallas passes on Barron, there’s a strong chance Philadelphia will snag him with the very next pick. First losing Nnamdi Asomugha to the Eagles in 2011 and now passing a talent like Barron to them in 2012 would be a hugely painful mistake for years to come. Also, David Decastro is VERY attractive at this slot but Jerry Jones has made it fairly clear he doesn’t feel a guard is needed here. Although I strongly disagree with his aloof happiness at guard and center, I’m very comfortable with the benefits of Barron at this spot. One must desire a nasty defense if the interior o-line is going to cause concerns.
- ROUND TWO – PICK 13 (45)
IDEAL PICK: SHEA MCCLELLIN (OLB) BOISE STATE
Rankings: CBS Sports – RD 1-2 , NFL.com – RD 5 , Pro Football Weekly – RD 4-5
MORE LIKELY: BRUCE IRVIN (OLB) WEST VIRGINIA
Rankings: CBS Sports – RD 2-3 , NFL.com – RD 2 , Pro Football Weekly – RD 3
Both players would fulfill the pass rushing specialist role from the OLB position with tremendous speed, burst, and pocket pressure being their calling card. Also both players will need time to develop their ability to set the corner and defend the run. With Anthony Spencer returning the Cowboys have the ability to utilize this player in likely passing situations to heavily pressure the QB. McClellin is 6’3, 260 and ran a 4.63 40-yards at the Combine. He registered 19.5 sacks for his career at Boise State. Irvin is 6’3, 245 and ran a blazing 4.50 40-yards at the Combine. In just two years starting at West Virginia he recorded 22.5 sacks.
NOTES: With Shea McClellin’s stock recently elevating to a borderline 1st or early 2nd round pick, it’s most likely Bruce Irvin will be the one available at pick 45. Either player would provide the dynamic pass rush desired to compliment DeMarcus Ware.
- ROUND THREE – PICK 18 (81)
RYAN BROYLES (WR) OKLAHOMA
Rankings: CBS Sports – RD 3-4 , NFL.com – RD 3-4 , Pro Football Weekly – RD 3
At first glance this looks like another injury project like Sean Lee and Bruce Carter that won’t pan until a year later. However, less than 5 months after ACL surgery, Broyles decided to hold his own workout for pro scouts on 4/12/12. With all on hand well-aware he was not be fully healed, Broyles posted a 4.57 40-yards, ran several routes, and vertical leaped 32.5″ to show his progress is well ahead of schedule. A tremendous display of character and hard work was conveyed in this gutsy showing. It’s now estimated Broyles will be ready or very close to returning to the field just as the season begins. His rookie year will not be a medical loss, and Broyles will strongly contribute on game day before October at the latest.
An All-American at OU, Broyles was an outstanding WR who recorded 349 career receptions, 4,586 yards, and 45 TD’s. At 5’10, 192 he will be an excellent slot receiver on the next level. Very explosive athlete with great hands, separation, and elusiveness in the open field. Dallas could certainly use his talents filling in at the 3rd WR position vacated by Laurent Robinson. It’s also widely accepted Broyles has the skills and intelligence to make a quick adjustment to the NFL game. Has excellent punt return skills (All Big12 punt returner).
NOTES: Strongly considered massive DT Alameda Ta’Amu from Washington in this spot. Would be an excellent 3-4 nose tackle at 6’3, 348 and allow Jay Ratliff to move out to end. Recent buzz is Ta’Amu is moving up the charts and likely will be gone by this pick. If available, it would be another alternative to grab him here and then Joe Adams of Arkansas in Round 4 to fill the 3rd WR and return specialist role.
- ROUND 4 – PICK 18 (113)
PHILIP BLAKE (C) BAYLOR
Rankings: CBS Sports – RD 4 , NFL.com – RD 5 , Pro Football Weekly – RD 3-4
Blake is a guy the Cowboys seem to be high on at center. Would be highly beneficial to bring in some stiff competition for Phil Costa at the uncertain center position. At 6’3, 311 Blake has good size and uses his weight well in both run and pass blocking, explosive off the ball. Needs to improve hand placement to maximize his good strength. Performed well at both the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. Has been rising up the draft charts since the end of last season. Shows great consistency with shotgun snaps to QB. Started all 38 games in 3 years at Baylor, first year at tackle and final two at center, giving him multiple line blocking skills and experience. First-team All Big 12 last season.