Feb 23, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Central Michigan offensive lineman Eric Fisher runs the 40 yard dash during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys Receive Good News from the NFL Combine

Observations from the NFL Combine and how it affects the Dallas Cowboys:

Offensive Tackles

OT Eric Fisher (6’7” 306lbs) from Central Michigan is making a run at the #1 OT spot currently occupied by Luke Joeckel (6’6” 306lbs). They are so close it’s no longer clear which will be the top tackle taken. Why? Fisher showed he was considerably faster in the 40 and had quicker feet in general than Joeckel. That’s not all. OT Lane Johnson  (6’6” 303lbs) blew scouts away with his athleticism and intelligence. This kid has probably pushed his way into the top half of the first round and if still available at #18, would need to be considered by the Cowboys. This means it is perfectly reasonable to think 5 or 6 OL (3 OT’s, 2 OG’s, and possibly a Center) will be taken in the top 20.

Defensive Tackles

November 17, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (92) during a game against the Arizona Wildcats at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The Wildcats defeated the Utes 34-24. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

DT Star Lotulelei (6’2” 311lbs) from Utah did not work out because of a recently diagnosed heart condition. He is seeking a second opinion so he can work out at his pro day without restrictions. This is the kind of news you can’t unhear. Even if he is cleared teams will be hesitant to use a top 10 pick on a player with a physical question mark of this magnitude (you can rehab a knee but not a heart).  As a result, Sharrif Floyd (6’3” 297lbs) from Florida is moving into the top DT spot on many draft boards.

Mocking the draft it appears the Cowboys will have a shot at the 3rd ranked DT whether it be Star, Shariff, or Sheldon Richardson (6’4” 295lbs) from Missouri. Richardson would fit the best as the playmaking 3-technique undertackle but any of these 3 guys would be a great addition in the middle of the Cowboys defense.

Pass Rushers

DE/OLB Dion Jordan (6’6” 243lbs) from Oregon looked amazing at the combine. He has an injury that will require shoulder surgery but his speed and agility are making everyone overlook it. He’s so undersized he doesn’t really project to a defensive line position for the Cowboys but if the Giants taught us anything, it’s you can never have enough pass-rushers. It really doesn’t matter because even with the surgery, Dion has probably pushed himself into the top 10 (if not top 5) making him highly unlikely to be within reach of the Cowboys.

DE/OLB Ezekiel Ansah (6’5” 274lbs) from BYU has also launched himself up draft boards into the top 10. As expected, he wowed scouts with his speed and athleticism. He is without the injury concerns of Dion and could play as a pass-rushing DE or OLB in almost any NFL system. Here is another player Dallas would have to consider if he was available but also like Dion Jordan, he will probably be long gone.

Quarterbacks

Feb 24, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Arizona Wildcats quarterback Matt Scott participates in a passing drill during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

QB Matt Scott (6’2” 230lbs) from Arizona turned some heads in Indianapolis this weekend. Earlier thought of as a late round QB he is now moving up boards into the 3rd-4th round territory. Scott wasn’t on many teams’ radars prior to the 2012 season. The one year starter posted 3620 yards with a completion percentage of 60.3, and 27 TD/14 INT when finally given the chance for the Wildcats. In 2012 he showed he is a fluid player comfortable in and out of the pocket. He has a better than average arm with average accuracy.

At the combine he posted the 3rd best QB 40 time, 2nd best broad jump, 4th best vertical, the best shuttle and the best 3 cone drill. None of that makes him a better passer but it shows his athleticism and versatility making him a good fit in many different NFL offenses. He has a good quick release but his footwork and timing are in need of coaching.

Combine his physical ability with his intelligence and leadership and Matt Scott is a big riser. The Cowboys are in need of a project QB with good potential. Someone who could be a backup by next year (2014) and a starting possibility after that. Big upside but needs some coaching.

QB Geno Smith (6’2” 218lbs) from West Virginia did enough to remain the favorite for the number 1 overall pick. It’s hard to believe when viewing his college stats (42 TD/ 6 INT and a 71.2 completion percentage), but scouts see him as a little inaccurate and inconsistent. Consider this: Andy Reid’s first pick with the Eagles was a QB with similar concerns (a guy named Donavan McNabb). McNabb also struggled with accuracy/consistency issues but similarly found a way to post an impressive 22 TD/5 INT ratio his last year at Syracuse. His completion percentage was a respectable 62.5% (he would only surpass that one season in his pro career). It’s safe to say McNabb turned out pretty well for Andy Reid.

Reid’s offense loves a mobile (not the same as running) QB. With a suspect offense line and a deadly screen/check down threat in Jamaal Charles, Geno could turn this team around faster than any other player in the draft. Geno Smith wouldn’t be an early first rounder in most drafts but he’s the best of the bunch in 2013 and also a very good fit for the style of offense Andy Reid hopes to install in Kansas City.

How this impacts the Cowboy’s? Every non-offensive linemen or defensive linemen taken in the top 17 means the more likely a one of those top OL or DL falls to the Cowboys at #18.

Running Back

October 20, 2012; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back Le

RB Le’Veon Bell (6’1” 230lbs) from Michigan State ran a 4.6 40. He looked so good he may no longer be a midround sleeper for the Cowboys. His size and strength was always unquestioned but with the 4.6 in the 40 yard dash, Bell showed he could run with speed too. His size, speed, and catching ability may now have made him a low 2nd round pick. With more pressing needs on the offensive and defensive lines, that may too high for the Cowboys to draft a second RB. That said, if he falls late in the 3rd round the Cowboys may have to pounce.

 Take Aways

Early into the combine analysis, Cowboys fans can take away a few very positive points. The major needs of the Dallas Cowboys are clearly OL and DL. This draft is rich in legitimate talent in both of these groups.

  • It appears 3 OT’s are worthy of top-15 status while 2 OG’s are worthy of top 15 status. Barrett Jones may even sneak into the top 20 after interviews and wonderlic tests are reviewed. That means 6 OL possibilities in the top 20. The more possibilities the more likely one of them falls to the Dallas Cowboys at #18.
  • 3, possibly 4 DT’s could warrant a top 15 pick. The deeper the group the more likely one is available to Dallas at #18.
  • It appears pass rushers really stood out at the combine. Teams love pass rushers more than virtually anyone else in the first round so expect 5 or 6 DE/OLB’s to go off the board before the Cowboys pick.
  • Seeing those OL and DL players worthy of the Cowboys first round pick, the Cowboys will surely have a good choice available to them at #18. There are between 8-10 worthy players at DT and OL who would provide value and fill a major need. Because of this Jerry Jones has no reason to move up and every reason to stay put or even move back on draft day. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Either way it’s always good to have too many option rather than too few options.
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