As the draft grows closer upon us on April 26th – 28th, The experts and gurus of the NFL are out in full force. The mock drafts and opinions are stacking and changing by the minute. And when the Dallas Cowboys finally hit the clock with the 14th overall pick that Thursday evening, Everyone that is a Cowboys fan will be waiting impatiently to see if that card is turned in, or if a trade made will be involved as the War Room just can’t find the value, and trades down with another team.
I have been studying a few so called draft experts mock predictions. Some seem to make alot of since, some seem to be pretty far fetched. Now of course it is possible Jerry Jones & Company may select some quality player they see in the starting lineup in a year or two. But in my opinion, when you are selecting in the 1st round, you are searching for an immediate starter that will make a remarkable impact on your team on Day 1.
Now some of the mock drafters have the Boys selecting top players such as Stanford’s Guard David Decastro. An excellent player with huge pass blocking and run blocking skills, but didn’t they just shell out $30 million on Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau just a month ago ? And if I am not mistaking, they drafted Guards David Arkin ( 4th round ) and Bill Nagy ( 7th round ) in 2011. I just don’t see the Cowboys selecting back to back offensive linemen in the first round. Especially after selecting USC’s Tyron Smith ( 9th overall ) last year.
Then I started noticing that some of the experts started thinking the way that I have been. It was time to see this team rebuilding that Defense. You may remember them, the Defense that helped lose the last 4 out of 5 games. The defense that gave up almost 5500 passing yards along with 24 thrown touchdowns. And the defense that gave up close to 1600 rushing yards along with 10 rushing td’s. That would be the culprits.
Players like Terence Newman, Bradie James, Keith Brooking, Abram Elam, Alan Ball, and Frank Walker are no longer around. But this is only part of the problem. There is much more the Cowboys need to do if they plan on having a shot of competing in the NFC East, and getting a chance to move on into the playoffs.
Now there have been a few names thrown out there on defense that the Cowboys may write down on that card when they finally get the opportunity. Player’s like South Carolina’s OLB Melvin Ingram, Alabama’s OLB Courtney Upshaw, Memphis’ NT Dontari Poe, Mississippi State’s DE Fletcher Cox, LSU’s DE/DT Michael Brockers, Alabama’s CB Dre Kirkpatrick, and Alabama’s SS Mark Barron. All of these players could make some type of splash on Day 1, but possibly some more than others.
It is no big secret the Cowboys franchised OLB Anthony Spencer on a 1 year $8.8 million deal. And it is also possible they may have intentions of turning that into a long term contract before the season starts. Spencer, 28, was basically franchised to protect the Boys from losing a player, where they didn’t have anyone behind him to replace him with. They had no idea at the time that they could have the opportunity of drafting Ingram or Upshaw, and its possible these players wouldn’t be an upgrade over Spencer. And they may not be on the board when the Boys select as well.
In my honest opinion, with Spencer’s services guaranteed for 1 year, I see the Cowboys finding better depth and a future replacement for him, but not at 14.
Moving on to the front line of where it all starts, Dallas needs to find the right pieces for Rob Ryan’s 3-4 puzzle. As far as the Defensive Left End of the line, I like the combination of Jason Hatcher and Sean Lissemore rotating on a regular basis. They both seem to have a natural high motor that wreaks havoc on the opponent’s right tackle. This tends to form some pressure on the quarterback. And between the two, I can’t see why they can’t combine for 8-10 sacks in the 2012 season. But this is where the momentum stops. Nose Tackle Jay Ratliff, 30, 6′-4″, 285 lbs. provides ” some ” pressure, but at his size, and with all of the double teaming he faces on most plays, He is becoming very ineffective as the season winds down.
Ratliff, in my honest opinion, is playing out of position. Many critics and fans alike have stated that if Ratliff is going to play in a 3-4 scheme, He needs to be playing DE. There is also speculation that he may not be able to provide the outside pressure, and take on stopping the run like a 3-4 end is required to do, and may best be used in more of a 4-3 Defensive Tackle position. This situation reminds me alot of the 2005 season where Pro Bowler La’Roi Glover was asked to play NT for the Cowboys at 6′-2″, 290 lbs. where his production dropped tremendously to only 23 tackles and 3 sacks. He just didn’t fit the scheme, and went on to finish his career in St. Louis, going back to his 4-3 roots.
The only big difference between Ratliff and Glover is that the Cowboys extended Ratliff’s contract before the season began to a 5 year deal worth $40 mil, with $18mil of that guaranteed, and they let Glover walk. Talk about digging yourself in a contract hole. Ratliff will be 31 when the season begins, and it is highly doubtful he will play out the contract. But regardless, I think this was bad negotiating all the way around. Now sure, Ratliff has been to 5 straight pro bowls in the last 5 seasons, but with his age, and declining skills in a wrong scheme, this may become a regretful resigning.
This is where names like Poe, Brockers, and Cox come into play. Poe would definitely give the Boys that big body they are missing at NT, 6′-4″ 340 lbs. But playing at Conference USA Memphis, would he be able to pick up the speed of the game, and replace what Ratliff has provided the last few seasons ? In my opinion, I think the Cowboys should think long and hard on this one. Poe had good games, and had games where he didn’t show up at all. And that being in Conference USA competition. He just doesn’t seem to be a dominating player.
I am still going to stick with my concept on this, The Detroit Lions has a proven player in Sammie Lee Hill, 25, who when given the opportunity, has provided pass rushing, and run stopping skills. At 6′-4″ 330 lbs., even though not in a 3-4 scheme, He shows more promise than an unproven Poe. And since the Lions only tendered Hill with a 4th round pick since he is a Restricted Free Agent, it is something to consider. Especially since the Boys have 2 4th round picks ( 113 & 135 overall) to play with.
Cox and Brockers would also make great additions to the team at DE, but with the NT position unsettled, and with Ratliff’s contract, I see Dallas moving Ratliff to the right side, and see how he responds and holds up through the year.
Mark Barron is the #1 Safety prospect in this draft. And even though the Cowboys extended Gerald Sensabaugh’s contract to a 5 year $22.5 deal. And they signed former Jets and Browns safety Brodney Poole to a 1 year deal, along with Barry Church and Danny McCray, the Cowboys could always use a top rated player in an area that is considered ” weak ” in the secondary.
And finally Bama’s Dre Kirkpatrick, considered by most as the #2 CB ( only behind LSU’s Maurice Claiborne ) on draft boards. Kirkpatrick may not be a starter in 2012. Even though the Cowboys signed Brandon Carr to replace Newman, and extended the contract of Orlando Scandrick, who is better suited for slot duty and top backup, Mike Jenkins will be an Unrestricted Free Agent in 2013, and may not be resigned. Carr has played his whole NFL career as a Right CB, he will be playing LCB in 2012. Kirkpatrick has played his entire college career at LCB, and if the Cowboys decide not to retain the rights of Jenkins next offseason, there could be some switching positions next offseason as well.
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