Latest News and How it Impacts the Dallas Cowboys Draft

Vaccaro

Things are happening at a quicker pace with the NFL draft just a few weeks away now. A look at the latest news and how it just might impact who Dallas drafts and why.

Cowboys Sign Detroit Lions free agent LB, Justin Durant:
Currently the Cowboys actually don’t have salary cap space to sign Durant yet but it is expected to come when they work long term deals with Spencer and Romo. Going to a 4-3 defense, it’s expected to have Carter and Lee at LBs but kind of up in the air as far as the Will LB spot. Durant a veteran, gives them a solid option now that Dan Connor was released.

Durant had 103 tackles last season (a career high) and was ranked 8th best LB in the NFL in 2012 by Pro Football Focus.

My Take: Now I don’t look for Dallas to draft a LB with any of their six picks in the draft. With Durant, they have added depth at least and maybe even a starter at LB. Considering the Cowboys are a team with very limited money to spend in free agency, Durant is a good pick up and considered an upgrade over Connor.

Cowboys bring in prospects:
Earlier I blogged of the players Dallas has brought in to meet and take a closer look. HERE. Of the visitors, so far three of them are potential first round picks, safety Kenny Viccaro, guard Chance Warmack, and OT D.J. Fluker.

The Cowboys need a starting guard in a bad way so getting Warmack would be a good draft pick however looking at the mocks and prospect rankings, I don’t think Warmack will be available at #18. OT Fluker is a late first round prospect and it’s very likely that he will be available for Dallas at #18. Vaccaro would fill a big need at safety but may or may not be available at #18. It’s going to be close with him.

The Cowboys secondary coach, Gerald Henderson, gave Vaccaro a workout during his visit but it was cut short due to a hip flexor issue. The Bengals also worked out Viccaro but they pick at #21 in the draft later than Dallas. More on Vaccaro…

Kenny Vaccaro has his Texas Pro Day:
On Tuesday March 26, Texas had their pro day and offered another look at safety Vaccaro. Well at least a partial workout for Vaccaro. Due to his hip flexor, Vaccaro had a partial workout and did not run the 40 which many scouts wanted to see since he had a slightly disappointing 4.63/40 time at the combine.

My Take: Vaccaro impresses on video and moves quick enough to cover WRs and delivers a nice pop in run support often causing fumbles. His body of work while playing at Texas, should out weigh his combine numbers and workouts. I think a little too much is being made of the 40 time. More and more mocks have the Cowboys selecting Vaccaro at #18 and for now, I think that’s who Dallas will take if he is available. He will improve their run and pass defense and be a nice fit in Kiffin’s Tampa 2.

Safety free agent Michael Huff visits Cowboys:
The Cowboys brought in FA safety Michael Huff to take a look. However they didn’t sign him and Huff moved on to other scheduled visits. Huff who is originally from the Dallas area, played safety and CB for the Raiders and was bothered with injuries last season. In 2012, he had 56 tackles and 2 INTs.

My Take: With salary cap challenges, it’s not clear if Dallas intends to sign Huff. All indications are he had a good visit but with visits to the Packers and Ravens ahead, another team may sign him. If Dallas signs Huff, it could be after the draft and based on what safety they are able or not able, to get in the draft. Huff may be a little insurance policy so to speak, but he may not be available for long. UPDATE: HUFF SIGNED BY RAVENS
DE Marcus Spears signs with the Ravens:
The Cowboys parted ways with Spears who joined the super bowl champ Ravens.

My take: I thought the Cowboys would give Spears a shot at playing DT in the new 4-3 since that was his position at LSU. By all accounts, Spears appeared to be a high character, good locker room guy, and I thought he just might excel at DT better than he did at DE.

As a former first round pick, Spears career with Dallas has been disappointing but perhaps he wasn’t at the right position in trying to play DE in a 3-4. Evidently the super bowl champ Ravens are thinking that anyway.

Draft: Many mocks have had the Cowboys selecting a Defensive tackle in the first round. With Spears gone, I think they will draft a DT but not in the first round since they have more pressing needs. They can actually get a good DT that can fit into their rotation in about the 3rd round or so.

RECAP:
-Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro appears to be high on the list of Cowboys potential first round picks.
-Drafting an OT and an OG would appear to be a high priority for Dallas as well.
-Adding LB Justin Durant was a solid pick up and makes drafting a LB not necessary.
-Releasing Marcus Spears makes drafting a DT more likely but in the middle of the draft I think.

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These NFL Prospects are Meeting with the Dallas Cowboys

A list of prospects that Dallas has or will meet with prior to the draft so far. It gives us some insight on where the Cowboys are looking to fill needs on their team. As expected, they are talking to offensive linemen and safeties.

1. Safety Kenny Vacarro, Texas
2. Safety Eric Reid, LSU

My Take: I think Dallas picks Vaccaro in the first round if he is available. If not, then they look to get Reid in the 2nd round. Vaccaro is the best safety in the draft who would improve the Cowboys run and pass defense immediately.

3. Offensive tackle D.J. Fluker, Alabama
My Take: The Cowboys are focused on getting an offensive tackle if possible. It’s likely that Fluker will be available at #18 when Dallas picks. And if they do select Fluker, Doug Free will be at home packing his suit case because he won’t be on the team much longer. While Fluker will need to develop his pass protection skills, his 36.38″ long arms (longest of any of the OT prospects) will be an asset. Fluker’s outstanding run blocking could be just what the Cowboys run game needs.

4. Offensive tackle Terron Armstead. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Armstead (6’5″. 306 lbs) is an intriguing prospect that is intelligent, very athletic, and probably has a high ceiling. But he is a bit of a project and may not be a day one starter. He is expected to go in the 2nd round so if they don’t get Fluker in the first (let’s say they get Vaccaro) then perhaps Armstead is their man in the second round. He is a left tackle so perhaps Smith would move back to right tackle where is more comfortable.

5. Guard Chance Warmack, Alabama
My Take: Warmack is expected to go early in the first round however he had less than a spectacular NFL combine which could cause him to slide a bit. But I think his body of work at Alabama makes him a top 10 pick. I like that Dallas is looking at guards and they need a day one starter.

6. DE Stansly Maponga, TCU
My Take: The Cowboys kept Spencer to start at one DE but the postion still needs depth and I think Dallas is looking to add a DE late in the draft. Maponga is expected to go in the 6th round. Maponga is only 6’2″ which is smallish for a 4-3 DE but he displays outstanding quickness off the edge and uses his hands well.
Checkout Mapnoga chasing down RG3 (Baylor), causing a fumble, and then hustle to the sideline to recover the ball. Nice plaY! VIDEO

More prospects are likely to be announced between now and draft day but these early visits give an indication of the Cowboys approach to the draft.

Dallas Cowboys Draft Analysis: Running Back

DeMarco Murray

DeMarco Murray


Earlier I have blogged of Cowboys draft needs by covering positions that will likely be of higher priority than running back but make no mistake about it, the Cowboys could use another RB.

DeMarco Murray
Murray is an outstanding RB when healthy. But health has been an issue in his short career with the Cowboys. In two seasons, Murray has participated in 23 of 32 games. Last year, the Cowboys had to play 6 games without Murray so it’s very clear that having a solid backup RB is required.

Last year Murray was not as productive as he was his rookie season in 2011, which could be attributed to a weak offensive line and/or a new fullback. Probably a combination of all the above. Improving the blocking for Murray should be a high priority in the 2013 draft.

Felix Jones
Currently, Felix is an unsigned free agent and it’s not clear if Dallas will bring him back another season or not. Jerry has shown interest in signing Felix but it may depend on what happens in the draft. In the 2012 preseason, Felix failed his conditioning test and his productivity has declined steadily each season since 2009 as it is clear injuries have taken a toll on Jones.

It makes sense for Dallas to look for a Felix Jones replacement at some point in the draft.

Lance Dunbar
Dunbar was an undrafted rookie free agent last season that has turned out to be a good find. With injuries, the Cowboys called on Dunbar and he had 75 yards on 12 carries last season. It certainly appears that Dunbar figures into the Cowboys plans next season as a RB with impressive speed that provides depth behind Murray.

Phillip Tanner
Tanner made the Cowboys team in 2011 as a 3rd string RB and last season he only had 61 yards. Tanner has had injuries and I think he could be replaced on the roster if the Cowboys draft a RB.

If the Cowboys draft a RB, I look for it to happen late in the draft after more pressing matters are addressed. Besides in the NFL, good RBs can be found later in the draft each year. It’s not clear to me exactly what Garrett is looking for in a RB. Will he look for a more durable every down back or will he simply try to find a Felix Jones clone replacement?

Let’s look at some RB prospects the Cowboys may consider:

A Felix Jones Replacement: RB Kenjon Barner- Oregon
Barner is an impressive RB with breakaway speed (clocked with a 4.38/40) that Felix displayed in his first seasons as a Cowboy. He also displays nice hands and turns the corner well on sweeps like Felix has provided in the past. Last season Barner rushed for a jaw dropping 1,767 yards and 23 TDs. Barner can also return kickoffs which could really be of use for Dallas.

Barner is not considered an every down back in the NFL but could fill a complimentary role nicely until Murray gets injured again. Barner is expected to be drafted in the 4th or 5th round and could be a tremendous weapon for Garrett in the offense. Barner on VIDEO

A Durable Everydown back: Jawan Jamison-Rutgers
Considered smallish at 5-8 and 200 pounds but has been very productive as a runner between the tackles and as receiver out of the back field with 36 catches for 351 yards. A solid all around back that can fill in nicely when Murray is unable to play. Jamison compares to Ray Rice the former Rutgers RB that has been very successful with the Ravens.

Expected to be drafted in the 4th round, Jamison represents a good RB prospect for Jason’s offense.

A Murray Replacement: Knile Davis-Arkansas
An intriguing prospect that played at Arkansas Jerry’s college and the school that gave us Felix Jones. Davis is from Missouri City, Texas and has appeared spectacular at times but has had injuries. The injuries are what make it look like he will either be picked in the 7th round or not drafted at all.

On video he runs with a nice forward lean and follows blocks well. Makes nice cuts and runs using his eyes looking for day light. Can provide power but often makes defenders miss instead. Capable of cutting on a dime and giving you nine cents change. Wow.

With similar size as Murray at 6’0 and 227 pounds, Davis also displays soft hands with outstanding breakaway speed running a 4.37/40. He will remind some of current Raider and former Arkansas RB Darren McFadden but reminds me of DeMarco Murray. Davis had 31 reps on the bench at the combine which was the best among running backs.

While the past injuries cast a cloud of doubt, the Cowboys would be wise to take a look at this prospect who has great size and speed like Murray. Davis was also a team captain for two season which Garrett has shown a tendency to draft team captains.

My Take:
With only 6 picks, the Cowboys have bigger fish to fry in the draft but if they can get a quality RB late in the draft to replace Felix Jones, it would be a wise move. Jason and Jerry will need to decide which type back will best serve them next season and it’s almost a given based on the past, that they will play some without the injury prone Murray.

If they are unable to draft a RB, then looking at undrafted RBs will be a must and I think giving Knile Davis serious consideration could pay off for them in the future.

RELATED POST: ANALYSIS SAFETY

For Dallas Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett, the 2013 Draft is going to be Critical

Jason Garrett

Jason Garrett

In 2012, for the second consecutive season the Cowboys failed to win their division or make the playoffs. Owner Jerry Jones was not a happy camper at the end of the season and promised to make things uncomfortable around Valley Ranch.

Jerry fired Rob Ryan his defensive coordinator and many of us waited for the other foot to drop in the possible firing of Garrett. Some even speculated with Monte Kiffin coming in to handle the defense, Jerry would bring in Jon Gruden to replace Garrett. But it didn’t happen and Jason survived as coach for another season however it certainly feels like he is on borrowed time.

It’s pretty safe to say Jason will need to make the post season in 2013, to remain head coach of Dallas. There is a lot on the line for him and his career but fixing the Cowboys is not going to be easy either.

Free Agency an option? Jerry is Tapped Out:
Jason acknowledges that the offensive line must get better but the Cowboys find themselves in a salary cap quagmire so going out and getting a veteran player like they did in signing CB Brandon Carr last year, is not an option.

Jerry restructured salaries to barely slide in under the cap. There just isn’t money to make a big impact free agency signing.

Jason will have to address his team’s needs in the draft. He can’t just have a good draft, he must have a GREAT draft if he is going to continue as the Cowboys coach. And by the way, he only has six picks to do it with too as Jerry traded away a 7th round pick to pick up center Ryan Cook.

BPA? Forget that crap, Jason:
You have heard Jason, and others, talk of the BPA (Best Player Available) approach to the draft. That may work if your team has all the pieces in place but that’s not the case with the 2013 Cowboys or hardly any other team in the salary cap era of the NFL.

For example, let’s say WR Tavon Austin is on the board at #18 as the best available player. Be nice to have Austin, but Dallas really is fairly stocked with WRs. Jason needs to find offensive linemen who can give Romo time to throw to those WRs.

Jason will have to go into this draft very focused on players that can come in and fill a critical need right away.

COWBOYS DRAFT NEEDS:
Here are the draft needs and I will rank them pretty much by priority although he doesn’t necessarily have to pick them in this order.

1. Guard– The interior line is the weak link on the offense. Need a day 1 starter.
2. Safety– Need one that is strong in pass coverage. With Barry Church, they have an in the box safety.
3. DT – Going to a 4-3 defense, it would be nice to have a quick pass rushing defensive tackle in the rotation.
4. OT– With Doug Free at right tackle, Jason can’t feel good about keeping his job. Be nice to replace him this year.
5. RB– Felix Jones is unsigned but Jerry is already talking non sense about bringing him back. HERE Felix failed his conditioning test in the 2012 preseason and just is not healthy or durable. Step up Jason and get you a RB to backup Murray. It’s very likely you will need the backup to play at some point so don’t allow Jerry try to squeeze another few yards out of the tired banged up Felix.
6. Center– If possible, it would be good to pick up a center. Jason, you don’t want to rely on Costa and Cook to get it done in the middle again.

“Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice and I will be looking for another head coach job”.

“Create competition” Let’s keep it real.
When speaking of the draft, Jason likes to talk about “creating competition” among his players. To be frank that sounds so retro and out of date. This isn’t Boy Scout summer camp Jason, you are trying to build an NFL football team that hits on all cylinders on the field. Get the right guys in the right spots like pieces of a puzzle.

Enter the draft knowing exactly what and who you need to put together a championship team while avoiding distraction by highly ranked prospects on the board who won’t fit in the picture.

And one more tip. It may just save your job if you grow a pair and turn to Jerry and his “mini me” Stephen and say, “shut up. I’m trying to save my job here.” It will take the kind of courage that you haven’t displayed before but the reality is if you continue to let Jerry call all the shots, Jerry won’t be looking for a job at the end of the season, you will.

Good luck in the draft, Jason. You need to have your best day ever. Like that Thanksgiving Day in 1994 when you lead the Cowboys from behind in the second half to defeat the Green Bay Packers.

“Success is never final, but failure can be”. — Bill Parcells

Could Jerry Jones Be Looking to Trade Down in the 2013 NFL Draft?

Jerryjonesstephenjones
In the 2012 NFL draft, Jerry Jones traded up to get CB Morris Claiborne at number 6 but might he trade down in the 2013 NFL draft? There are compelling reasons to think he just might look to do that but of course when it comes to Jerry, the word “unpredictable” certainly applies. Trading up doesn’t look like an option this time but moving down and adding a pick may be a good move.

Cowboys have six picks:
Remember that last season out of desperation to find a center, Jerry traded his 7th round pick in the 2013 draft to the Dolphins for center Ryan Cook. That means Dallas has only 6 picks in the 2013 NFL draft. I think Jerry would like to add a pick some how, some way, so we have our motive to make a trade down.

While Jerry may have his eyes on some top offensive linemen in the draft, such as Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel, Lane Johnson, Jonathan Cooper, and Chance Warmack, reality is these prospects are likely to be off the board when the Cowboys pick at 18.

Trade down with Vikings?
I think the Vikings may offer the best opportunity for Jerry to work out a deal to move down in the draft and add a pick in the process. The Vikings have two first round picks however both of them are late in the first round at #23 and #25. Recently, the Vikings traded WR Percy Harvin to the Seahawks so it goes to figure that they just may want to draft a good WR early in the draft.

Yes they did recently sign Greg Jennings from the Packers but he was injured a lot last season and will soon be 30. Besides, their young QB could use all the help he can get at wide receiver.

WR Tavon Austin:
I’m speculating that the Vikes would love to have WR Tavon Austin who has great speed and made spectacular plays while at West Virginia. Earlier Austin was projected to go late first round in the draft but after a solid combine performance, his stock is on the rise. At CBS NFL prospects, Austin was ranked in the 20s overall but has recently moved up to #18 overall. That’s where the Cowboys are picking in the first round.

Can the Vikes afford to wait back at 23 and hope Austin falls to them? And with two picks in the first, why take that risk? I think the Vikings may be willing to make a deal to move up and get Austin at 18. Jerry could move down to 23 and perhaps pick up a 6th or 7th round pick from the Vikings. By the way, the Vikes have two picks in the 7th round so they have room to deal.

Who could Dallas draft at #23:
If the Cowboys moved down to #23, there are some prospects that should be available who also could fill needs for the Cowboys.

OT D.J. Fluker- Alabama:
The big 6-5, 339 tackle could start right away at right tackle for Dallas and allow them to part ways with the disappointing and way over paid, Doug Free. A move that would likely turn out to be quite popular with the fan base. Fluker’s physical blocking style could help Dallas get their very weak running game going.

DT Kawann Short-Purdue
Recently Dallas cut DE Marcus Spears who had been with them for 9 seasons. I thought Spears could possibly go back to DT (his position at LSU) in the 4-3 defense but Spears signed with the Ravens. Now Dallas sure could use a 4-3 DT to rotate in on a defensive line in need of some youth.

Short has ideal size and experience to play DT in a 4-3 defense. Draft analyst Rob Rang has the Cowboys picking Short at #18 in his mock draft but I think they still could get him at 23. Making it a smart move.

DE Alex Okafor-Texas
Jerry franchised DE Anthony Spencer but it’s still possible that Spencer will be traded for more draft picks. If that should happen, then they could use a DE and drafting Alex Okafor in the late first round would be a solid selection for Dallas. Okafor is outstanding against the run and will also provide pressure on the QB. I think he could replace Spencer nicely and cost significantly less money than Spencer, under the rookie pay scale.

MY TAKE:
Trading down to add picks while still managing to draft a player you need, just makes good sense. If Tavon Austin is available at #18 then Jerry should call the Vikings and tell them he loves this WR. And then ask “how bad you guys want him?” Believe me, I would like to see Dallas draft Austin for themselves but I think Jerry will perceive his WR situation is all good.

While the teams drafting 19 thru 22 may not be in the market for a WR, if Austin is the best player on the board at that point, then there is a significant possibility they will pick him before the Harvin-less Vikings get an opportunity.

The Cowboys have many areas that need to be addressed and they are transitioning to a new 4-3 Tampa 2 defense, which means they could certainly use some additional picks. On draft day, things just may fall into place allowing the Cowboys to add a pick.

Gerald Sensabaugh Released and Anthony Spencer Franchised: Impact on Cowboys Draft?

Sensabaugh

Sensabaugh


Last month I blogged about the Dallas Cowboys NFL draft scenario after comments from head coach Jason Garrett and owner Jerry Jones. In that blog, I deduced that Dallas would focus on drafting either a safety, guard, or defensive end with their first round pick.

Additional information has surfaced so let’s have a look at what we recently learned and how it may impact the Cowboys draft in April.

Safety Gerald Sensabaugh Released:
Primarily a decision driven by salary cap challenges, Sensabaugh will not be signed which saves the Cowboys $1.4 million in salary cap space. Sensabaugh has been with Dallas since 2009 and his best season with them was 2010 when he had 5 INTs, 2 sacks, and 71 tackles. His productivity in 2012 was dismal and actually the lowest since coming to Dallas, with 0 INTs and 58 tackles. It’s probably time for Dallas to move on from Sensabaugh and I don’t disagree with the move to not sign him, at all.

Safety Danny McCray was recently signed to a one year deal. My take is that he is mostly being kept for his strong performance on special teams and not to help at safety based on his poor play at safety last season.

Draft Impact:
The odds that Dallas will draft a safety just increased. I already speculated that Dallas was interested in Kenny Vaccaro (Texas) and that they should jump on him if he makes it down to 18 where they pick. Now I think they would like to have Vaccaro replace the departing Sensabaugh at the free safety spot.

If they don’t get Vaccaro in the first, Dallas has also shown interest in safety Eric Reid (LSU). They could possibly draft Reid in the second round. Either way, unless Dallas picks up a safety in free agency, which I doubt happens due to the salary cap issues, they will need to put Vaccaro and Reid high on their list of prospects.

DE Anthony Spencer Franchised:
In a rather surprising move, Jerry Jones placed the franchise tag on Spencer again. It means he will receive a guaranteed base salary of $10.6 million in 2013. A long term deal could still be worked out with Spencer as they have until a July 15 deadline, to sign him. A long term deal would ease some salary cap strain.

That’s one possibility and it’s also possible that Jerry could trade Spencer for some draft picks. An interested team would have to assume his franchise salary and give Dallas some draft picks.

Draft Impact:
Earlier I speculated that Dallas wouldn’t sign Spencer and would need to draft a defensive end. Now it looks unlikely that Dallas would draft a DE in the first round but might later in the draft. However if Jerry does trade Spencer, which I think is possible, then Dallas would likely pick a DE early in the draft.

My Take: I didn’t like this move to franchise Spencer but would warm up to it if Dallas can get a couple needed picks in the draft. I think Jerry will offer Spencer as trade bait and if he finds a dance partner, he will add a couple needed draft picks. But if no one wants to dance, then Jerry will sign Spencer to a long term deal before the July 15 deadline.

CB Mike Jenkins may not be back:Word from Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas is that free agent Jenkins is attracting some interest from NFL teams but not the Dallas Cowboys. It’s not likely that Dallas will bring Jenkins back next season.

As I have pontificated before, it’s past time for Dallas to part ways with Jenkins who hasn’t shown much interest in being a Cowboy recently and has disdain for tackling.

Draft Impact: Jenkins was not a starter last season so replacing him will not be a huge priority. I do look for Dallas to draft a CB but in the later rounds (5th or 6th). They should seek a CB that can provide depth in the secondary and also contribute on special teams right away.

Conclusion: As far as offensive line goes, I still think Dallas must look for a guard in the first two rounds. With Sensabaugh being released, I look for Dallas to make drafting a safety a high priority and also a need in the first two rounds. Based on Spencer being franchised, I now don’t look for Dallas to take a DE early however don’t rule out Jerry making an attention getting trade on draft day. You know how Jerry likes the spotlight during the draft.

Top 10 signs your team’s top draft pick may be gay.

This week a lot of noise was coming out of the NFL interviews about prospects being asked inappropriate questions regarding their orientation. Predictably, the NFL stepped in and said they were looking into it with an effort to prevent these type of questions being asked to NFL prospects. STORY

So now that teams can’t ask and in the spirit of late night TV,

Top 10 signs your team’s top draft pick may be gay:

10. Sings the song “It’s Raining Men” while in the shower.

9. Insist on wearing the pink uniforms even when it’s not breast cancer awareness week.

8. Game program list favorite movie as “Brokeback Mountain.”

7. Has disdain for wearing white jerseys after Labor Day.

6. Suggest changing team name from Dallas Cowboys to Dallas Jolly Ranchers.

5. Refers to “illegal use of hands” penalty as “getting frisky”.

4. Locker room suddenly receives a make over complete with a walk in closet for cleats.

3. Is late for pregame meetings because he was helping cheerleaders with their hair.

2. Lady Gaga poster in his locker.

1. And the number one sign your top draft pick may be gay,
When a teammate gives him a pat on the bottom for making a good play, he says “there’s more where that came from.”

My disclaimer: This was strictly an attempt at humor and doesn’t necessarily reflect my views of anything. Hey, I would be fine with Jerry Jones selecting a QB who is (a word that rhymes with Romo) if he could win a stinkin’ playoff game which Romo can’t ever seem to do.