2014 Senior Bowl Prospects the Cowboys Should Have an Eye On

Each season the Senior Bowl provides a good arena for NFL scouts to evaluate the best college football players entering the NFL draft as they watch them compete against each other. It’s quite possible that the Dallas Cowboys first pick in the draft could be playing in the all star game Saturday January 25.

Previously I made the case in a blog that the Cowboys really should be focused on improving their defensive line and that they need a guard on the offensive line. HERE

A look at the NFL prospects on the North and South rosters that the Cowboys may be keeping an eye on.

Defensive Linemen:
DT Aaron Donald Pitt 6’0, 285
Donald has been described by some offensive coaches as a “one man wrecking crew” as he displays outstanding quickness that makes him very difficult to block. At Pittsburg he was quite productive as he was named the ACC defensive player of the year.
-led the nation in tackles for a loss with 2.2/game.
-ranked 13th in sacks
-ranked 10th in forced fumbles

Donald has an uncanny ability to split double teams leaving one to wonder why offenses even attempt it? Oh and if you are going to ask your guard to reach block Donald, good luck with that. In a game against Duke this year, Donald tackled two players in the backfield at the same time VIDEO (Note the unsuccessful reach block)

How Dallas could use him: It’s not certain at all that Dallas can resign DT Hatcher who had an excellent season and even if they can, depth is a big need on the defensive front as Hatcher turns 32. Donald appears to be almost a perfect fit in the Cowboys 4-3 defense as a 3 technique. Donald would make the Cowboys often exploited defense better against the run with his penetrating tackles for loss, while improving their pass defense by providing pressure on the QB from inside. While smaller than most DT prospects, Donald’s quickness would prove to be a good fit in a 4-3 defense.

Draft Status: Ranked the 6th DT by CBS Sports and currently considered a 2nd round pick which would represent a good value in my view. With a good performance, I look for him to move up after Senior Bowl week.

DT Re Shede Hageman Minnesota 6’6, 311
Hageman offers the combination of good size and decent quickness on the defensive line. He is considered a possible one or three technique upfront as he has the ability to play either in a 4-3. Some consider Hageman a “boom or bust” pick so he has a bit to prove in the Senior Bowl in front of scouts. At times, his effort on plays isn’t always there.

How Dallas could use him: His versatility on the defensive line would be handy for sure as he could be moved around. Capable of stuffing the run inside.

Draft status: Ranked the 2nd DT in the draft and considered a first round pick. How he performs this week could determine if he is an early first rounder or late first rounder.

DE Kareem Martin UNC 6’6, 265
Martin has ideal athletic ability and size to play DE in the NFL. He certainly meets the eye test in other words. However the amount of effort he gives at times is questionable and that’s where he needs to prove to scouts that he has got a good motor.

He reminds me a bit of a talented defensive lineman named Quinton Coples who also played DE at UNC and after a good Senior Bowl week, was drafted by the Jets in the first round of the 2012 draft. Similarly Coples entered the NFL with questions about his effort on every play. Martin has all the tools to be a nice addition to a defensive line but where he should go in the draft is not certain.

How Dallas could use him: With free agent DE Anthony Spencer coming off an injury, it would make sense for Dallas to draft a DE who could get in the mix right away. Martin will be a good fit as a defensive end in a 4-3 defense.

Draft Status: Ranked 9th among DEs entering the draft. Currently considered a 3rd rounder but talented enough to increase interest from scouts this week.

DT Will Sutton Arizona St. 6’1, 315
Named Pac 12 defensive player of the year in 2012 and 2013. Displays nice quickness and he draws a lot of double team blocks because of his ability to get up field.

How Dallas could use him: Appears able to play both the 1 and 3 technique but I think he will be best at the 1 at the NFL level. Will be a solid defender against the run in the middle making Dallas not need Nick Hayden as much.

Draft Status: Considered a 2nd round pick. His numbers dropped in 2013 after a very good 2012 so scouts want to see him perform this week and determine which version they are drafting.

GUARD Cyril Richardson Baylor 6’5, 335
Described as a “mauler” Richardson is big and strong and capable of shoving defenders out of his way. On video, I noticed Baylor preferred running behind Richardson at the goal line and he came through for them most the time. He has experience playing left tackle too. In pass blocking he holds up just fine to bull rush attempts but when asked to handle stunts by defensive linemen, he was inconsistent.

How Dallas could use him: Dallas currently has no depth at guard and last season Ron Leary was the weak link on their improved offensive line. Richardson would help the Cowboys run game immediately as a plug and play pick.

Draft status: He is the 3rd ranked guard and currently is expected to go in the second round. If Richardson can do well this week in pass protection drills, his stock may rise.

GUARD Gabe Jackson Miss. St. 6’4, 335
In watching video of Jackson, I was impressed with his pass blocking ability. His development appears more NFL ready than other guard prospects I have seen such as Cyril Richardson. He moves well laterally and is not confused by stunts.

How he helps Dallas: The Cowboys could use a guard that can play right away and since they pass often, Jackson’s skills will be put to use immediately.

Draft Status: He is the 5th ranked guard entering the draft and is a projected 3rd round pick. With a good week, Jackson could catch the eye of NFL scouts during pass protection drills.

Senior Bowl week will provide many prospects an opportunity to improve their draft status. Each game some move up while others move down during the week. The Cowboys could use a very quick DT like Aaron Donald who is one guy to keep an eye on this week.

They also could use a guard and while Cyril Richardson represents excellent run blocking, Gabe Jackson may offer better pass protection. This week one of them may catch the eye of Cowboy scouts and separate from the pack.