Barron, Buffalo Bills, Chargers, and the Coach in the Hoodie: Draft Plot Thickens

What a difference a few weeks can make. Early in the draft process it appeared that picking Safety Mark Barron at #14 was going to be a bit of a reach for the Cowboys. But now Barron appears to be one of the hottest prospect in the draft. Perhaps even moving into the top 10 players taken.

On the day before the draft, the Bills at pick #10 seem very interested in Barron. LINK  Also the Chargers seem interested in moving up to take him and even Bilichick and the Patriots have been rumored interested in moving up to take Barron, considered the best safety in the draft. PATS

Are the Bills bluffing their interest in Barron in order to orchestrate a trade down? The Bills have expressed an interest in trading down to add picks but to do that, you need a partner. If a team is locked in on Barron, like the Chargers or Cowboys, they just might dance with the Bills to make a deal.

It’s not clear how sincere the Bills’ interest in Barron may be, but most mocks have had the Bills taking a WR or an offensive lineman. Two areas of need for sure. The Bills may actually have their eyes on a WR or OG later in the first round and are willing to trade down.

Will the Cowboys be willing to trade up to get Barron?

I don’t think so. From the start, coach Jason Garrett has made it clear that his approach is to get the best available with their pick. In fact he addressed many of their needs in the off season in order to keep their options open on draft day. So Dallas is not in a position where they must pick a safety, guard or any other position in the first round for that matter.

It’s also not for certain that Barron is the guy Dallas wants to draft the most. They have had several top players visit Valley Ranch before the draft so I don’t get the impression that they are locked in on Barron in the first. I do think they like him a lot but may not be willing to trade up to get him.

If the Cowboys sit tight at 14, it is pretty likely that Barron will come to them but if he doesn’t, there are several prospects in the first round that could impact the Cowboys immediately. In fact, if Barron goes off the board before 14, that means that some pretty darn good players are going to drop farther down than expected.

Locking in on a specific player in the draft can often lead to paying too much to get that guy. Teams will take advantage of that “man crush”. It’s just the way the game is played. I think back to last year when the Falcons were fixated on WR Julio Jones and mortgaged their future in order to move up in the draft to select him.

Jones has been a good WR for sure but I just think the Falcons are going to see the day they wished they had all those picks back. Look how Dallas discovered Laurent Robinson in free agency and he was a highly productive wide receiver that cost them little.

Buckle up Cowboy fan because Thursday night may be a bumpy ride with lots of prime time drama. It may not be for the faint of heart.

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My 8 Picks For the Cowboys in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Safety Barron with a pick against the Gamecocks. Will he be the Cowboys first pick in the draft?

The 2012 NFL draft is less than a week away so it’s time to get it on. Time for Mel Kiper to tell us who the “best available” is and for the Jet fans to boo their first pick no matter who they select.

I’m speculating who I think the Cowboys will draft based on who they have worked out and needs. Also based on where these prospects are ranked and expected to get drafted which of course can change. That’s what makes it exciting. No one knows what drama will unfold as some prospects slide while other prospects come off the board sooner than expected.

The Cowboys have 8 chances to get better next weekend….

First Round: SS Mark Barron, Alabama 

This pick could change on Thursday but the Cowboys are definitely considering drafting Barron based on Coach Jason Garrett’s Pro Day visit and conversations with Bama Coach Saban. Barron along with free agent CB Brandon Carr will help solidify a secondary that was very shaky last year. Barron is a good character guy that fits Jason’s criteria.

Second Rd: DE Vinny Curry, Marshall.

Another area on the Cowboy fans wish list is a bona fide pass rusher. Curry can develop into a pass rushing specialist in the Cowboys rotation. He can play DE in the 4-3 and 3-4 which indications are the Cowboys will line up in both next year. Bringing in a pass rusher with fresh legs on passing downs and during 2 minute offense would be a good idea. Curry reminds me of a former Cowboy pass rusher Charles Haley.

Third Rd. CB Ron Brooks, LSU  

Brooks is from Irving, Texas and he worked out for the Cowboys recently. So at least I know he is being considered a prospect. I like it that he was a punt team “gunner” at LSU and can contribute to the Cowboys special teams which is needed with the departure of WR Jessie Holley. Ron also had success returning kickoffs too.  Brooks is experienced at playing in the Nickel and Dime packages which I think would be his role for Dallas as well. Helping the secondary in passing situations. Check out this highlight video of Ron. He is an effective blitzer and hey he has got gunner skillz y’all. Dallas really can’t draft too many CBs as it is a position that often has injuries and under performers.

Fourth RD. *Cowboys have Two picks: Center Philip Blake, Baylor and WR Joe Adams, Arkansas.

BLAKE

The center who snapped the ball to RG3 worked out for the Cowboys offensive line coach earlier. LINK Last season the center position was a weak spot so it makes sense that they would bring in someone to compete for the position next year. At the least, Blake provides more depth on the offensive line where it has often been needed.

ADAMS

The Cowboys did not resign WR Laurent Robinson who went to the Bucs and they also let Holley go as well.Ogletree will compete for the 3rd WR spot along with a few guys on the practice squad that Jerry Jones thinks can get it done. Fact is those guys are unproven and this spot is wide open on the Cowboys roster so why not bring in a quick play making WR like Adams?

Adams was a very effective punt returner for Arkansas with an impressive 15.8 career return average while being named the 2011 SEC Special Teams player of the year.The Cowboys productivity  in punt returns last season was very minimal. This punt return by Adams against Tennessee is SICK! VIDEO I’ve watched it several times and every time I think they are going to tackle him. Adams was productive as a slot receiver at Arkansas and could provide the Cowboys with a much needed spark on special teams as well as offense.

5th Rd. Travis Lewis OLB, Oklahoma

I think the Cowboys could use a little more depth at linebacker and Lewis can provide that for them. Lewis was less productive last year due to injuries (broken foot) but he has shown signs of being an outstanding linebacker in previous years with Big 12 Freshman of the year and First team Big 12 honors. A 3 year leading tackler for the Sooners with enough versatility to provide depth at ILB as well.

Sixth Rd: TE James Hanna, Oklahoma

The Cowboys parted ways with Marty Bennett so there is a need for depth after Witten and Phillips. Hanna who is from Flower Mound, Texas has excellent speed for a TE and demonstrated his athletic ability at the combine. In fact Hanna posted the second best time in the 40 (4.49) for TEs and posted the top times in both the cone and shuttle drills. Not only that, he was first in the vertical jump and third in the broad jump. Oh and he managed to be fourth in bench reps. Had it been a decathlon, Hanna wins it going away.  James Hanna could be a challenge for opposing LBs to cover.

Seventh Rd: RB Bobby Rainey, Western Kentucky

Too often the Cowboys seem to lack depth at RB and that certainly was the case last year when both Murray and Jones were injured. I think it makes sense to get a RB late in the draft and particularly if you can land one that is durable and Rainey demonstrated he is durable with 369 carries last year. He was the second leading rusher in the country and named Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year for the last two years.  A true work horse.

In my view, Rainey is flying under the radar and some team is going to get a pretty darn good RB at this point of the draft. Maybe it will be Dallas.

Next weekend’s NFL draft is an exciting event for NFL fans as they anticipate the picks that will hopefully improve their team. I named the eight guys that I think could help get the Cowboys over the hump.

The RG3 Factor: Does He Affect the Cowboys Draft?

The Redskins have traded up to the 2nd pick in the draft to take Baylor’s talented and very athletic quarterback Robert Griffin III. It’s pretty much a given that he is their guy. Does that affect who Dallas will select with their first pick at number 14 in the draft?

According to Stephen Jones, the answer to that question would be “yes”. That makes sense to me as RG 3 is a game changer and probably a division changer too. The Cowboys will face the Redskins twice a year and also play Vick of the Eagles twice a year too. Another athletic QB that Dallas has had trouble defending.

Looking at the prospects that are on the Cowboys radar screen for the first pick, which one helps them the most to defend against a QB that can pass and runs a blistering 4.41/40 time? Stephen Jones indicates that he is interested in getting help to pressure the QB which is a good place to start. Pressuring the QB is definitely an area that Dallas could improve in however will that be enough?

Can a big defensive lineman chase down a guy like RG 3? I don’t think so and that is what is frustrating about defending a QB that can run. You get the pressure on him then in a blink of an eye, he is running down the field for big yardage. To defend RG 3 you will need guys who are very fast and are outstanding open field tacklers. (Mostly you need speed because these QBs usually take the slide anyway).

Last year the Cowboys open field tackling, to put it nicely, left a lot to be desired. Some may say it stunk or was non existent. The Cowboys brought in free agent CB Brandon Carr which should be a big help in improving the tackling in the secondary. I was not impressed with Jenkins tackling last year which too often consisted in a back pedal, then a long pursuit angle that pushed the runner out of bounds 50 yards down the field. That is not going to get it with RG3 who will put it in the end zone before you can say “Holy crap he is fast!”

Looking at who Dallas can draft at 14, here are the guys who can help keep this RG3 guy boxed in a little bit anyway.

DE/DT Fletcher Cox– A guy who can definitely help pressure the QB and disrupt a QB’s timing. His relentless pursuit and light feet will help make RG3 feel uncomfortable. May not be around when 14th pick rolls around however.

Safety Mark Barron– The safety on college football’s best defense is an impressive open field tackler who likes to hit. I think this is the kind of guy that can spy a running QB and effectively minimize his yardage running with the ball. Has the kind of speed to get up field in a hurry. I just think RG3 finds that sideline a little bit sooner with a guy like Barron running up. He is speculated by many mocks to be the Cowboys pick. Is it because he can help defend RG3?

CB Dre Kirkpatrick– Alabama’s shut down corner with good size and a reputation as a sure tackler. He could be much better at coming up to tackle than Jenkins and he can cover too. With the signing of Brandon Carr, some think Dallas will not pick him. But when you think about the passing teams Dallas faces and now the running QBs, I like this pick.

LB Luke Kuechly– No indications that Dallas is interested in the leading tackler in the ACC but he is expected to go around 14 in the draft. Luke is a tackling machine and has good LB speed as he ran a 4.58/40 time at the combine. I think Luke is a good pick and if Dallas doesn’t take him then the Eagles at 15 just might. Luke could help spy a QB like RG3 and minimize the run damage.

With the Redskins making a big move to get their franchise QB, Dallas will be wise to make sure they draft defenders that can help keep this type of QB in check.