Dallas Cowboys: 5 first round targets that are smokescreens

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LAS VEGAS, NV – DECEMBER 16: Tony Brooks-James #20 of the Oregon Ducks fumbles the ball under pressure from Leighton Vander Esch #38 of the Boise State Broncos during the first half of the Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium on December 16, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Boise State won 38-28. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

The Dallas Cowboys 19th overall pick sits right on the cusp leaving much speculation. These five targets don’t pass the smell test.

With the Dallas Cowboys picking outside the top 15, the strategy is to signal wide open intentions. While effectiveness is debatable, smokescreens are a draft norm.

The use of smokescreen is not implying the players to be mentioned aren’t first round caliber. They also received real consideration and met with team officials.

A week away from that draft, I’m confident Dallas has narrowed choices down to offensive line, linebacker, or wide receiver if selecting in their natural 19th position.

The desire for an edge rusher, nose tackle, or safety is real. Though less than ideal options or inferior position need should remove those from top consideration.

Let’s take a closer look at five of the assumed first round targets for the Dallas Cowboys and why they remain in play as a smokescreen for more realistic options.


Dallas could use an immediate impact, physical middle linebacker in the worst way. Unfortunately Leighton Vander Esch doesn’t fit that mold.

Despite looking the part (6’4, 256), Vander Esch’s game does not revolve around smashing lead blockers and shutting down interior traffic.

He’s a physically gifted player with heavy production.  However, his forte is avoiding blockers in space with quick pursuit angles, virtues best suited for weakside LB.

Those skills have worth if targeting insurance for Sean Lee. However, he’ll need time and experience to become more physical and disrupt in the middle.

At most, Vander Esch is the fourth best MIKE linebacker option in the class. He won’t walk in as a better middle fit than Jaylon Smith. That’s a textbook reach at Pick 19.

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