Dallas Cowboys: Kenny Vaccaro

Chat recap: A look at safety play

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
10:45
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IRVING, Texas -- We had another lively Dallas Cowboys chat on Wednesday with a wide range of topics.

We touched on the Cowboys possibly trading down in the first round if a player like Aaron Donald was not available, the non-issue (to me anyway) of Tony Romo, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray in Jerry Jones’ suite at the NCAA title game, if the scheme change was just an excuse for some of the poor defensive play in 2013 and, as always, drafting a quartrerback.

If you want to read the whole chat, click here.

If you have more questions, send me one on Twitter (@toddarcher) and use the #cowboysmail hashtag. The mailbag posts will go up Friday and Saturday.

But Geno in Plano asked a question I’d like to expand upon.

Church
Thomas
Geno: the Cowboys seem to undervalue the safety positions- always seem to back fill or try a stop-gap; any chance of signing a more proven commodity this year pre- or post- draft?

Todd Archer: I don't think so, Geno. There's not a real proven guy worth it right now. Look at Marinelli's safeties in Chicago. They were solid players but hardly stars. Maybe they look in the draft, but I really think they try to see what they have in J.J. Wilcox, Jeff Heath and Matt Johnson.

To expand, I have received a ton of questions about the safety spot this offseason because there is no doubt the play was poor in 2013 next to Barry Church. The Cowboys have not expressed interest in any veteran safeties that I have been able to determine, so it looks clear they will go with Wilcox, Heath and Johnson, as I stated in the answer. Personally, I’d take a look at Steve Gregory, but they are not about to take me up on that suggestion.

Jimmie Ward is among the pre-draft visitors, so they could look at him as well.

But the notion is that the Cowboys have to have an Earl Thomas to succeed in today’s NFL. Sure, but how many teams have an Earl Thomas? Five years ago everybody was saying the Cowboys needed to get a safety like Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed. Sure, but how many of those guys are rolling around?

They are rare players. I think the Cowboys would have selected Kenny Vaccaro last year if he wasn’t scooped up by the New Orleans Saints before Dallas picked in the first round. He was gone, so they traded down.

In his three years with the Chicago Bears, [Rod] Marinelli’s safeties were Danieal Manning and Chris Harris in 2010, with Chris Conte and Major Wright handling the duties in 2011-12. The Bears let Manning walk as a free agent when the Houston Texans offered him a big deal. Conte and Wright were third-round picks in the 2011 and 2010 drafts, respectively.

Wilcox was a third-round pick last year by the Cowboys.

Since 2000, the winning Super Bowl teams have had five All-Pro safeties: Rodney Harrison (New England), Polamalu (twice), Darren Sharper (New Orleans) and Thomas.

You can get by with functional safeties. Marinelli did it in Chicago. He will try to do it here as well.

The question should be do the Cowboys have a functional safety next to Church, not whether they can get a Thomas.

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 1

April, 4, 2014
Apr 4
12:00
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IRVING, Texas – Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
  • Realistic expectations for the season.
  • The future of Jason Garrett.
  • Offense or defense with their first pick.

Part 2 of the mailbag comes on Saturday.

Away we go:

 

Cowboys trade down to No. 31

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
9:19
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys made their 60th draft day trade under owner/general manager Jerry Jones on Thursday night.

SportsNation

Did the Cowboys make the right move trading down in the first round?

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    32%
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    10%
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    58%

Discuss (Total votes: 27,504)

The Cowboys switched spots with San Francisco, moving from No. 18 to No. 31 in the first round. The Cowboys also acquired a third-round pick, the 74th overall selection.

The 49ers drafted LSU safety Eric Reid with the 18th pick of the first round.

Dallas was interested in several players, including Sheldon Richardson, Kenny Vaccaro, Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper, but those players were off the board by the time the Cowboys' turn came to pick.

However, the Cowboys left highly-regarded Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams on the board.

The Cowboys have two third-round picks, 74th and 80 overall.

Playing out Cowboys' scenarios at No. 18

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
3:08
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IRVING, Texas – With the 18th pick in the first round, the Cowboys could make their pick sometime around 10 p.m. That’s a lot of time to sit around and wait.

PODCAST
Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what we can expect in the first round of the NFL draft and how it relates to the Dallas Cowboys.

Listen Listen
Throughout the week, the Cowboys have run through every possible scenario so when they are on the clock (or even a little earlier than that) they will have a pick ready. It’s like going in with multiple game plans on a Sunday.

Best-case scenario: Somehow, some way Jonathan Cooper or Chance Warmack are available. History says they will there because five offensive linemen have not gone so early in thirty-plus years, but it seems like there is a lot of evidence to the contrary.

Cooper would be the preference but Warmack would be a nice pickup, too. They would walk in as Day 1 starters, which has become something of a catch-phrase around the Cowboys here this week. They would upgrade the weakest part of the team.

The only way this happens is if a quarterback or two or a wide receiver or two go early. Perhaps a running back. They need some unexpected moves that would push Warmack (most likely) down to them.

Likely scenario: The Cowboys take a defensive lineman, like Sheldon Richardson or Sylvester Williams, or safety Kenny Vaccaro.

As of this moment, I believe they would take Richardson if they cannot move back and the offensive linemen are gone. He can play both interior spots with the idea of him becoming the Warren Sapp for this Monte Kiffin defense. Williams is more of the traditional run stopper. Both would bring value to the defense.

Vaccaro is the top safety and he would fill an immediate need. Does he slip to No. 18? The Cowboys worked him out privately and had him at Valley Ranch for a visit.

Of the three, Williams figures to be the guy most likely to be available.

Second-best case scenario: Trade down in the first round and pick up extra picks.

Some might believe this would be the best-case scenario, but the offensive line needs big help.

If the Cowboys can move down, then that would open up more players to them and fit with their draft board more. They are in a no-man’s land right now where there is a gap in talent.

Depending on how far back they go, this would give the Cowboys looks at offensive lineman D.J. Fluker and Justin Pugh, defensive end Bjoern Werner and safeties Eric Reid and Jonathan Cyprien.

A pick of Fluker would seem to mean Doug Free would not be back. Pugh could be a walk-in starter at guard. Werner would fill a need as a backup defensive end with the eye on him starting in the future with Anthony Spencer on a one-year deal. Reid and Cyprien would be walk-in starters, too.

Worst-cast scenario: Everybody listed above is gone and they can’t trade down.

They must be willing to make a pick and this is where Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert comes into the mix. He could be their best player available but drafting a first-round tight end doesn’t help them that much in 2013 or give Jason Garrett the best chance to win now.

Eifert will be a terrific player, but Garrett has not shown the ability to work multiple tight end packages effectively like New England has. The Cowboys couldn’t make it work with second-rounders Anthony Fasano or Martellus Bennett behind Jason Witten.

Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, Werner, Cyprien and Fluker would also be in this mix. Picking any of them at No. 18 would likely be higher than the Cowboys would want.

First-round preview: Dallas Cowboys

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
12:36
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Where they're picking: No. 18

Conventional wisdom tells us the top six offensive linemen will be gone by 18, depriving the Cowboys of the chance to address their most significant short-term and long-term need. The mock drafts in which this happens have the Cowboys taking a defensive tackle such as Sheldon Richardson or Sylvester Williams at No. 18, and some are still connecting the Cowboys with Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, since safety is a need as well. Everybody seems to agree that the Cowboys' dream scenario is that they get one of the draft's top two guards, either Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper, but no one seems to think either will fall to 18.

PODCAST
Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett live from Kansas City to discuss Jerry Jones' attendance at the Bush Library on NFL draft day, what he expects the Chiefs to do with the No. 1 pick and tell a funny tale about Bill Clinton and Jerry Jones.

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History tells us that the conventional wisdom is wrong. The last time six offensive linemen went in the top 17 picks was 1966, when the league only had 15 teams in it. Guards don't tend to go early, since most teams don't assign top-half-of-first-round value to that position. History tells us the Cowboys will be able to get offensive line help if they want it in the first round. But history also tells us that the Cowboys tend to pick out a guy they really like in the first round (Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith and Morris Claiborne are the recent examples) and do what they can to get him.

They probably won't end up with Vaccaro. First of all, it's possible he goes earlier than 18 (say, to St. Louis at 16). Second of all, their needs on the lines and the comparative value at those positions likely will push them to take a linemen of one sort or the other in a draft whose second round is packed with starting-caliber safeties. Sure, it's possible Vaccaro is this year's Jerry Jones crush and there's nothing anyone else in the braintrust can do to talk him out of it. But I'd be surprised if they end up with the Texas safety.

They could shock us by taking a tight end. The Blogfather, Matt Mosley, says he's been hearing the Cowboys love Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, and if that's the case they could be making plans to move up to get him. While that would seem silly with Jason Witten still in place and at the top of his game, it's not completely crazy to find another weapon for Tony Romo in the passing game. If Eifert is the Cowboys' best player available, they could go for it. It would be foolish, and would leave them too short in too many other areas, but I'm not sure that would stop them.

My prediction: I'm leaning on history here and saying the mocks are all wrong and the Cowboys are going to be able to get one of those guards. Since we're making a pick, I'll say it's Chance Warmack who falls either all the way to 18 or at least into the 14-15 range that would allow them to make a sensible, cost-effective trade-up to get him. Not like last year's trade for Claiborne, which cost them their second-round pick, but maybe for a later-round pick or even a 2014 one.

Names to keep an eye on for Cowboys

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
11:00
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IRVING, Texas – Over the last few years, the Cowboys’ top-30 visitors before the draft have been a good indicator into who they end up selecting.

PODCAST
Nate Newton went undrafted in 1983, but he still feels like he was part of one of the greatest draft classes in league history. Newton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss his draft experience from 30 years ago and his journey to three rings.

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Guys like Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford and Matt Johnson, among others, visited Valley Ranch and ended up getting picked by the team.

Here is the list of this year’s invites to keep handy for the next three days:

S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
S Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
S Eric Reid, LSU
G Chance Warmack, Alabama
RB Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State
RB Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
DL Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
RB Knile Davis, Arkansas
G Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
OL Justin Pugh, Syracuse
DT Kawann Short, Purdue
DT Jordan Hill, Penn State
C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
S Phillip Thomas, Fresno State
WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
LB Sio Moore, Connecticut
LB Gerald Hodges, Penn State
CB B.W Webb, William & Mary
WR Charles Johnson, Grand Valley State
RB Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
OL Kyle Long, Oregon
S J.J. Wilcox, Georgia Southern
LB Brandon Magee, Arizona State
TE D.C. Jefferson, Rutgers
TE Dion Sims, Michigan State
WR Markus Wheaton, Oregon State
S Jakar Hamilton, South Carolina State
DT Bennie Logan, LSU

2013 #bloggermock: Cowboys get OL help

April, 24, 2013
4/24/13
10:43
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There was concern, I won't lie, as I sat there with the No. 18 pick for the Dallas Cowboys in the ESPN.com blogger mock draft. Dallas absolutely needs to come out of the first round with a new starting offensive lineman, and they were going off the board quickly. The top three tackles went in the top five picks, and when guard Chance Warmack went to Arizona at No. 7, I got worried.

Eyeing North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper, who was still on the board at No. 10, I reached out to Paul Kuharsky to ask if the Titans wanted to trade down. He said they did. I offered Dallas' first-round pick and third-round pick (Picks 18 and 80) for the No. 10. Paul countered by offering Picks 10 and 142 (fifth round) for Picks 18 and 47 (second round). I said I couldn't do that, after ripping the Cowboys for giving up their second-round pick last year to move up for Morris Claiborne. Don't want to be hypocritical, right?

Fluker
So Paul and I talked about some possibilities involving 2014 compensation, but we couldn't agree on it, and he ended up taking Sharrif Floyd for the Titans at No. 10. My next move was to reach out to Bill Williamson, who was picking for the Chargers at No. 11. I made the same offer to him -- the 18 and the 80 -- but he said he was going to stay put and make a pick. He picked Cooper, which obviously disappointed me-as-Cowboys.

Now I had my eye on D.J. Fluker, the Alabama tackle who would allow the Cowboys to bid goodbye to Doug Free and help solidify the run game. I think he's the absolute perfect guy for the Cowboys at 18 if the guards are gone by then, and the only team I was still afraid might snatch him away was Carolina at 14. Fluker didn't feel worthy of trading up for, so I decided I'd stay put and hope he fell to 18, and if he didn't, I'd look into trading down and going after someone like Syracuse's Justin Pugh.

But Pat Yasinskas took Sheldon Richardson for Carolina at 14. And (because I know you guys want to know) Mike Sando took safety Kenny Vaccaro for the Rams at 16. And lo and behold, there was Fluker still sitting there at 18 for the Cowboys. I ran to the podium.

Will the Cowboys do the same if the same situation plays out Thursday night? It doesn't sound like them. But I think they'd be wise to take Fluker. And I don't even think they'd be nuts to take an offensive lineman in the second round as well. The need -- short term and long term -- is that significant.

Eight in the Box: Ideal first rounds

April, 19, 2013
4/19/13
11:46
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NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

What would be the ideal first-round scenario for the Cowboys in next week's NFL draft?

Dallas Cowboys

PODCAST
Arlington and Texas A&M product Luke Joeckel, the potential No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Richard Durrett to discuss the draft, coaches and advice from his dad.

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Because of the perceived lack of top-level skill-position talent in this year's draft, a lot of the mock drafts and projections have the top offensive linemen going off the board early. Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock Insider, for example, has six offensive linemen going in the top 12 picks, which means well before the Cowboys pick at 18 and probably too early for them to make a sensible trade-up to grab someone like Alabama guard Chance Warmack or North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper. This would be unfortunate and far from ideal for the Cowboys, but history offers hope. The last time six of the first 17 picks in the draft were offensive linemen was 1966, when there were only 15 teams in the league. Only three times since then -- 1977, 1985 and 2008 -- have as many as five offensive linemen been picked in the top 17. The Cowboys probably can't expect any of the top three tackles to fall to them, but their ideal first-round situation would be for Warmack, Cooper or even Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker to fall to 18 and allow them to shore up their most significant area of short-term and long-term need. If only one of those guys is still available by 14, the Cowboys should look into trading up to get him.

To see the ideal first-round scenario for the other NFC East teams, click here.
In a conference call with reporters, ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. dismissed the notion that guards Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper will be around when the Cowboys select at No. 18.

Safety Kenny Vaccaro, who is projected to be the first safety taken, is falling in Kiper's eyes.

"To see them drop all the way down to 18, if they don't, Vaccaro could be there," Kiper said. "Vaccaro has slipped down, I think into the 20s, but he would be a possibility. I bet Sylvester Williams from North Carolina, you need a defensive tackle to fit that Monte Kiffin scheme. Then you look at the second-round possibilities, a Justin Pugh."

Kiper said the Cowboys need to upgrade the interior of the offensive line and believes Warmack and Cooper are "all going very high."

So to improve the interior, Kiper offers Pugh, from Syracuse, "who's a left tackle, can be a guard, can be a center. They have to improve the interior of the offensive line, Dallas does, and Pugh would be a very nice addition at that point."

Cowboys visitors from need positions

April, 2, 2013
4/02/13
9:43
AM ET
PODCAST
Stretch Smith takes Galloway & Company around the NFL, discussing quarterback moves, Tony Romo's contract and Chip Kelly's first season.

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IRVING, Texas – It is no secret that the Cowboys need help along the offensive and defensive lines and at safety entering the NFL draft, so it’s not surprising the team is meeting with some of the best available at those positions this week at Valley Ranch.

With the draft three weeks away, the Cowboys are scheduled to meet with 28 national prospects, including offensive linemen Chance Warmack (Alabama), Jonathan Cooper (North Carolina), Jonathan Pugh (Syracuse) and Travis Frederick (Wisconsin), safeties Kenny Vaccaro (Texas), Jonathan Cyprien (Florida International) and Eric Reid (LSU) and defensive linemen Sheldon Richardson (Missouri) and Kawann Short (Purdue).

Among the other players visiting are Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas, running backs Knile Davis (Arkansas), Joseph Randle (Oklahoma State) and Le’Veon Bell (Michigan State) and defensive tackle Jordan Hill (Penn State).

A two-round Todd McShay mock draft

March, 28, 2013
3/28/13
4:00
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Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Todd McShay's latest mock draft Insider is out and it covers the first two rounds, which means Redskins fans get to play too! Here's what Todd projects, along with my thoughts on his picks for each NFC East team:

Philadelphia Eagles

4. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

35. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State

Yes, even with cornerback Dee Milliner still on the board, I like Fisher for the Eagles at 4. I think they need to get a long-term building block at that spot, and an elite tackle is just that. As for Manuel at 35, I like it find if they think he has franchise quarterback potential. If not, they're just adding to a stable of caretaker backups and developmental guys, and the pick could be used better. I do know which of those categories fits Manuel, and I imagine if the Eagles are talking about him, they're trying to figure that out as well.

Dallas Cowboys

18. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

47. Kyle Long, G, Oregon

I have no problem with the Cowboys coming out of the first two rounds with a safety and an offensive lineman. I just think they need to pick them in the reverse order. In Todd's mock, the top five offensive linemen go in the first 17 picks -- something that's only happened once in the last 15 drafts. But even if that happens, I'd have no issue with the Cowboys taking the tackle Todd projects to go with the very next pick to the Giants. They need elite offensive line talent more than they need this draft's top safety.

New York Giants

19. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

49. Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State

Got to be honest, I have no idea what the Giants will or should do in the first round, and it doesn't seem as though most of the draft analysts do either. Offensive line seems to make sense, but they don't like to draft offensive linemen in the first round. I keep thinking they'll take the highest-ranked defensive lineman on their board in the first round, or maybe a defensive back. But maybe I'm relying too much on Giants draft history and this is a year in which they'll go against it.

Washington Redskins

51. Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State

Obviously, this is a pick that assumes they don't re-sign Fred Davis. If they do, I have to think they look for a safety here like D.J. Swearinger or Jon Cyprien.

Safety should remain Cowboys' priority

March, 27, 2013
3/27/13
4:29
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IRVING, Texas – Last week the Cowboys had a private workout with Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. They saw him again Wednesday at the Longhorns’ pro day in Austin.

Today the Cowboys signed veteran Will Allen to a one-year deal.

So does it relate to Vaccaro or the team’s potential to select a safety early in the draft?

It shouldn’t.

Allen has started 33 games in his first nine seasons. He started seven last year in Pittsburgh during Troy Polamalu’s absence. He has four interceptions and 11 pass breakups in 130 games. He played in Tampa Bay for coordinator Monte Kiffin, so that helps.

But the Cowboys did not sign (or pay) Allen to be a starter. He offers some veteran protection with Barry Church, Matt Johnson and Danny McCray the only safeties on the roster.

The Cowboys are expected to bring Vaccaro in for one of their top-30 visits and also had a private workout with LSU’s Eric Reid. ProFootballTalk reports that Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprien will also make a pre-draft visit to Valley Ranch.

Safety remains very much in play for the Cowboys early in next month’s draft, as it should.

The signing of Allen only gives them some insurance.

Texas pro day observations

March, 26, 2013
3/26/13
4:21
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AUSTIN -- The University of Texas held its annual pro day Tuesday. Here are some observations from the event:

PODCAST
Calvin Watkins joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett from the Texas Longhorns' pro day to discuss potential Cowboys draft pick Kenny Vaccaro, Vince Young and if any other pro prospects stood out.

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  • Safety Kenny Vaccaro had an impressive day. He didn't run the 40 because of a hip flexor injury, but he displayed a burst, lateral movement and quickness while performing position drills for Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Vaccaro said he's studied various defenses, including the Tampa 2, and is getting ready for the NFL game from a mental standpoint. Vaccaro said he was disappointed he couldn't run the 40, but indicated that he has run it in the low 4.40s during training. Vaccaro injured the hip while working out but re-injured it during his drill session with the Cowboys last week. After three drills, Vaccaro shut it down so he wouldn't further injure himself. Vacarro said his goal is to be the first safety taken in the draft.

  • Defensive end Alex Okafor needed a solid pro day to prove to NFL scouts that he's healthy and worthy of a Day 2 draft selection. He declined the bench press, standing on his combine numbers of 21 times at 225 pounds, but he ran a 4.88 and a 4.96 in the 40 and was concerned about being too stiff when he worked on his individual drills. Okafor ran through some of the drills smoothly and looked comfortable, but he still needs some work. Okafor said he believes he can play defensive end in a 4-3 or outside linebacker in a 3-4. Weight could be an issue. He came in at 262 pounds and might have to pick up more bulk to play end.

  • Vince Young looked slim and seemed to be in good spirits during his pro day. Most, if not all, of his throws were tight spirals and he displayed good arm strength. It seemed that when he threw to a variety of receivers inside and outside, he didn't have that funky shot-put motion. Young is throwing more traditionally and no longer appears to be dropping his elbow low when he throws.

  • Running back D.J. Moore ran the fastest 40 time of the prospective draft picks in 4.41 and 4.38. One negative: Size. He's listed at 5-foot-9, but he measured at 5-foot-7, 175 pounds. That's not to say little guys can't play in the NFL, but it will be hard for him to get significant playing time at running back unless he impresses an NFL team during training camp. He might be a solid return guy on the next level.

  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin measured in at 5-foot-9, 177 pounds -- good size for a slot receiver. He didn't run the 40, however his three tries at the vertical jump were 41, 42 and 42 inches. Goodwin has the speed it seems to make some plays from the slot at the next level. He just needs to make sure he can be a consistent player.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin attended the pro day. The Cowboys had two scouts, and Denver, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Houston, Miami, Kansas City, Oakland, Cleveland, the New York Jets and San Diego also had reps in attendance. ... Texas coach Mack Brown and former running back Ricky Williams were in attendance. ... Most scouts will either go to LSU's pro day Wednesday or SMU's.


  • AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas has its pro day today and, yeah, Vince Young will be there. But the Dallas Cowboys -- and reps from many other NFL teams -- will be in attendance to watch someone much more important. Seriously.

    PODCAST
    Calvin Watkins joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett from the Texas Longhorns' pro day to discuss potential Cowboys draft pick Kenny Vaccaro, Vince Young and if any other pro prospects stood out.

    Listen Listen
    In fact, make that much more important. It’s Kenny Vaccaro.

    The former Texas safety represents a chance for Texas to put a player into the first round of the draft for the first time since following the 2009 season. His selection -- which should be right around the middle of the first round -- will signal an end to a two-year draft slide in which Texas produced one second-round player, a third-round player and five others selected in the fourth round or higher. Before that slide, Mack Brown had not gone two consecutive years without producing a first-round pick. (Defensive end Alex Okafor is currently not in either of the first-round mock drafts done by ESPN’s Todd McShay or Mel Kiper.)

    So let’s see here: Brown had two of the worst years of his tenure at Texas in 2010 and 2011. And then neither of those drafts produced a first-round pick. Anyone else see the correlation?

    OK, just in case the point slipped by. Texas, with one first-round draft pick, had nine wins last year. The program, as Brown has said repeatedly, is on the right track to getting back to 10-win seasons. So it takes talent to win and sometimes to overcome decisions made on the sideline. The reason Vaccaro is so important is he represents what should be a new wave of talent going from Texas into the NFL and therefore maybe a new streak of 10-win seasons.

    While projections can be shaky, a shake of the crystal ball does appear to show Texas with increasing top NFL talent in the near future.

    Take the 2014 NFL draft. Quandre Diggs will likely be a very hot commodity. The defensive back is versatile and has proven to be the most talented player on the field in several games in his career. Yeah, he might not come out after his junior year. But given that he has a brother, Quentin Jammer, in the NFL and knows the economics of the NFL vs. college, him staying beyond his junior year is not likely. Diggs, if he plays the way he has in his first two years, could very well be a first-round pick. And Texas doesn’t stop there. Jackson Jeffcoat and Carrington Byndom both have potential to reach up into the first round.

    Jeffcoat has the skill set but injuries have plagued him. A solid season without injuries could make him a sought-after prospect. Byndom was a dominant corner as a sophomore, so much so that there was talk he might leave after his junior season. He stumbled in 2012 but still does have the size and potential to be a high value draft pick.

    So Texas has a chance to get two players selected in the first round of 2014. That’s important because, with the exception of 2001, the years Texas had multiple first-round picks (2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007) it produced a 10-win season on the field. Texas has never had three first-round picks under Brown. There is an outside possibility that could happen in 2014. The aforementioned three players all have a shot at being taken in the first round. And added to that is wide receiver Mike Davis.

    In the offseason, Davis did step out of college and into the draft. His toe-dipping lasted about three hours before he decided to come back to Texas. Had he stayed eligible for the draft, Davis might have been a mid-round pick.

    Now he comes back as a top-10 player at his position with the potential to move up. Wide receiver is somewhat of a murky position in the draft because in exceptional years (2007, 2009), up to six wide receivers have been taken among the first 32 players. But then there are years like 2008, when no wide receivers were taken in the first round. So Davis has to battle his position perception as well as produce.

    Additionally to produce, Davis, unlike the defensive players, has to relay on another person. Actually, a lot of other people. He needs quarterback David Ash to be sound, co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to call his number and the offensive line to block long enough for him to get open.

    Add all that up and it is much tougher to project what type of senior season, and therefore draft projection, Davis might have.

    The addition is not all that hard to figure out when it comes to the talent-wins equation. If one player, Vaccaro, equals nine wins, then two or more possible NFL first-rounders should add up to even more for Texas in 2013.
    The Cowboys have a void at the safety position after sending Gerald Sensabaugh home.

    PODCAST
    UT safety Kenny Vaccaro joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss reports that he wants to be a Cowboy, the emergence of A&M as the class of college football in Texas, what he brings to an NFL team and his friendship with TCU quarterback Casey Pachall.

    Listen Listen
    Currently, Barry Church is the lone returning safety, but he's coming off a torn Achilles. Church said he should be ready for the start of training camp.

    Matt Johnson missed his rookie year at safety with hamstring injuries. Danny McCray most likely will return because he's a restricted free agent.

    Which leaves us with the draft.

    Safety Kenny Vaccaro, Mel Kiper's No. 1 ranked safety, will be on display at the University of Texas Pro Day on March 26. The issue with Vacarro seems to be speed. He ran a 4.63 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, which he attributed to physical problems. Earl Thomas of Texas also ran a slow 40 at the combine, but improved on it at his Pro Day a few years ago.

    If Vaccaro doesn't improve on his 40 time, he could fall to No. 18 -- where the Cowboys currently reside.

    "I think I can bring a lot to a team being versatile and being able to play a number of positions," Vaccaro said at the combine. "I played both safeties, strong and free. I played nickel. I played dime. In some instances I played corner. We had two great corners. But most of the time I played corner in one on ones in practice."

    Coach Jason Garrett has preached competition at all positions, and there will be plenty at the safety spot in 2013.

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