In the NFL draft the Dallas Cowboys picked 5 players in the 7th round where it can be challenging to not only find players who can help your team, but even make the final 53 man roster.
All of the picks are defensive players where Dallas could use the most help. A look at each player to evaluate how their role may benefit the team and how they possibly make the final cut. Instead of ranking them in order picked, I start with the guys who appear to have the best chance to contribute and work my way down.
1. LB Will Smith 6-2, 231:
His Fit: Clearly by selecting Smith, their 2nd LB drafted, the Cowboys are determined to upgrade depth at LB. With his nice 40 time of 4.59, I think Dallas is looking for Smith to provide depth at the weakside LB spot. With the way Smith reacts and runs to the ball, he seems like a very good fit in a Tampa 2 defense in my view. I think he could play the MLB as he drops into deep middle coverage well but his best contribution will likely be at the Will. On video, he displays enough quickness to cover backs out of the backfield where he may prove to be a real asset. I didn’t have Smith on my pre draft radar, but Dallas found a good one here.
Final Roster: For Smith to make the final roster, I believe he must find an area to contribute on special teams which he certainly has the athletic ability to do. He will provide depth at LB and likely see opportunity when injuries occur. I like his chances to make the roster as a backup to Bruce Carter but if Carter struggles again this year, Smith’s opportunity may come even sooner.
Player Comparison: Luke Kuechly– A big comparison here no doubt, but not only does Smith have similar size but he really runs to the ball well like Kuechly. Smith was also a tackling machine at Texas Tech recording 34 tackles in back to back games. Kuechly has proven to be a very good fit in the Panthers 4-3 defense.
2. DT Ken Bishop 6-0, 301:
His Fit: Coming into the draft, the Cowboys needed to get younger on the defensive line and I was actually surprised they didn’t select a DT sooner than the 7th. But in Bishop, who visited Valley Ranch prior to the draft, I think they found a good one considering his 7th round status.
Bishop uses his hands well to fight off blocks and has decent quickness. At Northern Illinois against lesser competition he was clearly a man among boys. Able to push blockers out of the way, penetrate the back field, and blow plays up. In my view, he is a one technique that will compete with Hayden for playing time. Bishop can prove to be an effective run stopper in the middle.
Final Roster: The Cowboys are bringing in more defensive linemen than they will carry on the final roster. It’s going to be tough competition but I think Bishop offers play in the middle of the line that can separate him from the pack as a run stopper.
Player Comparison: DT Marvin Austin– Bishop’s quick movement at DT reminds me of the former UNC defensive lineman that the Giants selected in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. Currently Austin is with the Broncos.
3. Safety Ahmad Dixon 6-0, 212:
His Fit: Dixon has good size and is a physical safety. A hard hitter who’s strength is coming up in run support. Last season, the Cowboy’s weakness at safety was often exploited in pass defense and I thought they could use a ball hawk safety in the draft. While Dixon is a solid in the box safety, he doesn’t offer many solutions in coverage. He is capable of backing up Barry Church at safety and can compete with Wilcox and Heath for playing time. He comes up in run support with no fear and I think fans will like his physical style of play.
Final Roster: The Cowboys released safety Danny McCray so there is a spot open. For Dixon to make the roster, I think he will need to become a special teams ace like McCray offered. Dixon’s ability to separate from the pack of current safeties on the roster will be challenging.
Player Comparison: SS Roy Williams- Dixon’s physical play at safety compares to former Cowboys safety Roy Williams a large safety who could sure bring the proverbial wood. However Dixon’s cover skills compare to Williams as well, and that’s not a real compliment.
4. CB Terrance Mitchell 5-11, 198:
His Fit: I didn’t look for Dallas to draft a CB at all and they waited until their final 9th pick to take Terrance Williams. At the combine Williams performed well in the cone drill and the 20-60 yard shuttles. His straight line speed is not special but he can change directions very quickly and smoothly.
As a corner, he is a bit of a ball hawk and came up with 5 interceptions at Oregon last year. I believe that’s what the Cowboys like about Mitchell and are seeking guys who create turnovers.
Against the run, Mitchell is not a very willing tackler in video I watched. Tends to let the back come to him instead of coming up to take on the ball carrier. His tackling brings a minimum effort too much like corners who have played for Dallas in the recent past like Mike Jenkins for example.
Final Roster: The Cowboys have Carr, Scandrick, and Claiborne as their three corners as well as the dependable veteran Sterling Moore brought in late last season after injuries. 2013 Rookie B.W. Webb never really got into the groove of things but returns to see if he can show improvement this year.
I see Mitchell competing with Webb for the 4th spot and I believe Mitchell will need to be a good special teams contributor to make the final roster. If Mitchell makes the roster, it could be an indication that Dallas is ready to move on from Webb.
Player Comparison: CB Orlando Scandrick– Mitchell has very similar size to current Cowboys corner Scandrick who has developed into a reliable defender of receivers in the slot. They have similar playing styles and Scandrick was a 5th round selection for Dallas that paid off pretty well. Like Scandrick, Mitchell would rather avoid tackling RBs.
5. DE Ben Gardner 6-4, 262:
His Fit: Gardner Plays with a good motor and brings a lot of effort. he is the kind of player that I think fans will find it easy to pull for to make the team. Has nice size for the defensive line but it isn’t clear what position he will play in the Dallas defense. At Stanford Gardner was a DE in a 3-4 and I think Dallas will look at him as a run stuffing left DE. However he may actually be best suited to play a three technique defensive tackle position.
Final Roster: Gardner may benefit from going to the practice squad where he can adapt to the new defense and his position that may change. Making the final roster will be very challenging for Gardner his rookie season but I see what the Cowboys like in him.
Player Comparison: DT Sean Lissemore– Former Cowboy and current Charger that was drafted by Dallas in the 7th round of the 2010 draft in a very similar spot as Gardner was selected. Lissemore brought a good motor and played well for a 7th round pick. Dallas released him last year because of the change to a 4-3 defense. Like Lissemore, I think Gardner will make the most of the opportunities he gets.
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