Analysis of Dallas Cowboys 2015 First Five Draft Picks

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1. CB Byron Jones 6-1, 199

Strengths: Excellent athletic ability on display at the NFL combine in vertical and broad jump. Has the quickness and size to cover top receivers in the NFL. Potential to be a shut down corner. Excellent character and team captain type, that should be very coachable and therefore develop quickly.

Weakness: Needs to become more physical when battling receivers for the ball. Could use more strength. A willing tackler but often comes  up on the short end of collisions. Not a very physical tackler and NFL backs/receivers may break the tackle. Jones could benefit from an additional 5 pounds of muscle on his wiry frame. While not great in run support, he can cover and that’s why Dallas drafted him.

How he fits: Jones could be a day one starter at corner where Dallas has had issues in the past with an often injured and disappointing Claiborne. I think Jones may be Mo’s replacement sooner than later. Jones should also be capable of covering receivers out of the slot and he has experience at safety.

Player comparison:  Broncos All Pro corner Aqib Talib who has similar size at 6-1, 205 and Talib wore #31 while a Patriot. Talib was drafted by the Bucs in the first round (20) in the 2008 draft. Talib was also a NFL combine stand out.

2. DE Randy Gregory 6-6, 245

Strengths: Outstanding quickness and good pass rushing instincts. Relentless in pursuit of the ball in run or pass. Long arms serve him well against offensive linemen.

Weakness: A little under weight for the position at 245 and the Cowboy coaches are going to want to put 20 pounds or so on him quickly. Needs to develop more pass rush moves for next level. There are the obvious off field character issues which have the potential to keep him from reaching his full potential.

How he fits: With Greg Hardy starting the season with a suspension, the Cowboys will expect help from Randy right away. A potential day one starter at DE and for sure we will see him in the rotation. Should have an immediate impact on the Cowboys pass rush struggles.

Player Comparison: Former all pro Cowboys DE Charles Hayley who was a bit undersized but had a real ability to get to the QB finishing his career with 100 sacks. He helped the Cowboys win a super bowl in 1992. Randy will wear #94 which was Haley’s number. Let’s hope he plays at that level.

3. OT Chaz Green 6-5, 300

Strengths: Good pass blocker in college, with nice feet work. Identifies and picks up blitzes well. Versatile along the line.

Weakness: Needs to develop as a run blocker. Not very physical and will need to become more physical to hang with the linemen Dallas currently has. Recently during rookie camp he struggled with the heat and with blocking as well. His technique needs work for sure. History of injuries (ankle) must be a concern too.

How he fits: With the departure of tackle Jeremy Parnell to the Jags, Green was drafted to provide depth at left and right tackle and I expect him to do just that. Not yet ready to be a starter but may eventually develop into an effective option when injuries dictate he play.

Player comparison: I’m comparing him to tackle Jeremy Parnell who was a solid backup for the Cowboys and I believe Green could develop into one as well.

4. LB Damien Wilson 6-0, 243

Strengths: Displays some instincts at the position. Good tackler and brings a hit with his tackles. Good at blitzing. Appears to have good size for the position.

Weakness: Average athletic ability and is often not particularly outstanding in his play. At times appears a step behind. Functional but not outstanding in any area.

How he fits: Appears capable of making the roster in a crowded position for Dallas. Likely providing depth at LB and seeing some action if injuries open the door. Appears to be a good blitzer and may be useful there. Stays low, finds the opening, and then adjust to the play. His ability to contribute on special teams may have a lot to do if whether or not Wilson makes the final 53 man roster.

Player comparison: LB Justin Durant who left Dallas in the off season to join the Falcons. Like Durant, Wilson should be a decent option at LB when needed.

5. DE Ryan Russell 6-4, 269

Strengths: Ideal size for the position. Good run defender and displays nice strength too. May have a lot of upside.

Weakness: Doesn’t appear to have great quickness like you would want from a DE. Looks the part of an NFL DE, but it feels like he has been a bit of an underachiever so far in his career. Just an average pass rusher (3 sacks his senior season).

How he fits: Russell should get an opportunity to contribute to the team as a backup DE. His size and run defense should be of use right away but he will need time to develop as a pass rusher at the NFL level.

Player comparison: DE Anthony Spencer played at Purdue like Russell, and was an OLB for Dallas before they switched to a 4-3 defense where he played DE. Spencer had a breakout season in 2012 with 11 sacks. Like Russell, Spencer was a better run defender than pass rusher.

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Analysis and Grade for Dallas Cowboys 2015 Draft.

war roomNow that the NFL draft is complete, a look at how effective Jerry and Stephen were at taking care of some needs for the Cowboys in a pick by pick grade and a final grade. There were some surprises and definitely some solid picks, but their draft provided some questionable moves too as they often do.

Jerry Jones started off with a bang on days one and two but kind of fizzled out on day 3. More on that later.

Round 1:
CB Byron Jones
Fits a need: YES for sure.
Value– Exactly where he was ranked
In my mock draft, I had Dallas taking a CB with their first pick and they did. I didn’t think Jones was the best CB in the entire draft but he was the best one available at 27 when Dallas picked. Jones is considered a high character guy (could use some of that in Dallas) and was outstanding at the shorts and t-shirt Olympics, NFL combine. Described as a “freakish athlete”.

How he fits: I think Jones will contribute immediately in the Dallas secondary in replacing Mo Claiborne a bust pick they would like to move on from it appears. He can play safety as well but I look for him to play corner for now.
GRADE: A

Round 2:
DE Randy Gregory
Fits a need: Yes
Value: Gregory was ranked a top 25 pick so some value here.
Jerry signed Greg Hardy in the off season to help the pass rush but he will serve a 10 game suspension to start the season. Last year Dallas invested a couple high picks in DeMarcus Lawrence who is expected to start this season. They will look to Gregory to help right away with Hardy out.

Gregory’s athletic skills and ability to get after the QB are undeniable as his off field issues are undeniable too. He and Jerry Jones have discussed it evidently, and a support system (baby sitters) will be in place to keep Gregory out of trouble so he stays on the field. So much for Jason’s “right kind of guy” approach, we need somebody to get to the darn quarterback!

Randy can potentially provide a huge boost to one of the weakest areas of the defense. One day we all look back at this pick as either the steal of the draft or a failed Jerry Jones indulgence.
GRADE: B (a slight deduction for the character stuff that makes it a risky pick for rd.2)

Round 3:
OT
Chaz Green
Fits a need: YES
Value: Ranked as a round 5 pick so a bit of a reach here.
Parnell who backed up Free last season at right tackle, has gone to Jacksonville. Dallas drafts Green to replace Parnell and back up the right tackle position but it appears Green is versatile enough to back up the entire offensive line which makes this an insurance pick for the team.

I don’t hate this pick as Green seems like a solid player but I do think there were some very talented prospects on the board at the time who could fill more pressing needs than a backup lineman who they could have likely picked later than round 3 any way. This kind of pick frustrates me a bit with Jerry and Stephen.
GRADE: C (a reach and good talent remained on the board at DT, RB and WR)

Round 4:
LB Damien Wilson
Fits a need: Perhaps
Value: Projected as a round 6 pick so a bit of a reach here.
Bruce Carter left Dallas for Tampa so there is an opening at LB however the Cowboys had 12 LBs on the roster entering the draft. Sean Lee is expected to return after injury and Dallas found a good LB last year in Hitchens and actually a great one in McClane.

Wilson looks like a LB that covers the passing lanes well and could develop into a solid backup LB but no one should expect him to be a starter real soon. It’s another pick that may have been better used to address other needs.
GRADE: C (bit of a reach for a depth player)

Round 5:
DE Ryan Russell
Fits a need: No
Value: Picked about where ranked
At this point someone should have checked the Cowboys’ war room to make sure the old man (Jerry) hadn’t fallen asleep at the wheel. Were Stephen and Jason even in the room?

DE was addressed earlier when they waited for the highly ranked Randy Gregory so this pick becomes a head scratcher and indicates a point in the draft where the Cowboys seemed to lose draft momentum.

Russell ran a nice 40 time of 4.75 but production wise, only had 8.5 sacks at Purdue in three seasons. He is described as raw and a bit of a project at DE. An athletic looking prospect with potential but not a lot of production. Other needs should have been addressed here since Dallas didn’t have a pick in the following round.
GRADE: D (a project player that will struggle to make the roster)

Round 7 first pick:
LB Mark Nzeocha
Fits a need: No unless stocking practice squad a priority
Value: Not easy to reach in the 7th round but Jerry managed to do it. A likely FA.
Mark was a pretty good player on his club team in Germany (Franken Knights) so he will do well to make the Cowboys practice squad. Not sure why Jerry felt the team needed yet another LB but at this point what the heck, can’t have too many evidently.

Fact is at the time, there were several good value picks who should have gone earlier in the draft, so why grab a guy who would go undrafted? Don’t get it.
GRADE: D

Round 7 second pick:
OT Laurence Gibson
Fits a need: Perhaps
Value: Right about where ranked and maybe a little value here.
Gibson put up some impressive numbers at the combine and while Dallas already drafted an OT in round 3, I get the impression they felt they couldn’t pass on Gibson in the 7th. I’m not sure that Gibson becomes anything other than a backup lineman but he has enough skills making him worth a pick in the 7th. Described as “inconsistent” in college play but very athletic.
GRADE B

Round 7 third pick -from 49ers:
TE Geoff Swaim
Fits a need: No
Value: CBS Sports had Geoff ranked #726 while “Mr. Irrelevant” is #256. Sums it up I guess.
Another draft pick wasted on a player who was not going to get drafted and Jerry cut a deal with the 49ers to make sure of it. Last chance to actually attempt to fill a need but not accomplished. Don’t ask me what they were thinking here?
GRADE F

Summary:
Entering the draft, most fans and experts realized the Cowboys needed another RB in the mix with the departure of their top RB DeMarco Murray. Jerry signed Darren McFadden but no one knows how that will work out for them in 2015. Not drafting a RB was a miss and this draft was well stocked with some good ones worth giving a look.

Also the DT position is in need of some serious upgrade particularly at the 1 tech where Hayden has gotten them by. Several good matches at DT were passed up during the draft and I’m not even counting Malcom Brown in the first.

The secondary was a glaring weakness last season and while they added Jones to help, they failed to pick up a ball hawk safety. Some may point out that Jones can also play safety, that may be true but he can’t play both corner and safety at the same time. Safety is another miss in the draft.

This draft had some nice splashes at the top with a solid pick in Jones at CB in round one and a surprise pick up in a very talented DE Randy Gregory however it ran out of steam and finished with a rather, “content with who we have” vibe that failed to address some critical areas of need.
OVERALL GRADE: C