Dallas Cowboys: Stephon Tuitt

Same pick for Kiper, McShay in recent mock

April, 30, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- ESPN Insiders Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have offered up their fifth mock drafts of the season, and while they do not agree on much, they have the Dallas Cowboys selecting the same player.

Louisville safety Calvin Pryor.

Here’s Kiper’s take on the pick:
Depending on how you feel about the prospects of J.J. Wilcox, you could argue the Cowboys need not just one safety, but two. I know defensive line is a pretty big need here for Dallas, but it's a big leap to target either defensive tackle or an edge-rusher here. I actually think the Cowboys could consider moving down if they run into a scenario like this, but I'm not projecting trades, and Pryor, a likely immediate starter at a position of need, makes plenty of sense here.

Here’s McShay’s take on the pick:
Defensive end, defensive tackle and safety are all need positions for the Cowboys, and in this scenario, they get a potential starter opposite leading tackler Barry Church in the secondary. Pryor is an intimidating presence in the middle of the field who does his best work in the box but is capable of holding up in deep-half zone and deep-third coverage. He sets the tone with his relentless playing style and willingness to deliver the knockout hit.

The Cowboys do not need two safeties with Church handling the free safety role in this defense. Remember, the free safety in this scheme is not the typical free safety. The Cowboys’ need at safety is a center-field type, which McShay does not believe is Pryor’s strength.

I did two mock drafts with some media friends and Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was available. To me, he is more what the Cowboys need than Pryor, but I stayed away from Clinton-Dix as well and selected Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin.

In Kiper’s mock, Anthony Barr was still available. As were other pre-draft visitors Ryan Shazier and Kony Ealy. In McShay’s mock, Barr was also available, as well as Martin, Shazier and Ealy.

In their 10 mock drafts, Kiper and McShay have had the Cowboys select a defensive player each time. Timmy Jernigan was the pick three times (two McShay, one Kiper). Clinton-Dix was the pick three times (two Kiper, one McShay), Pryor twice with Aaron Donald and Stephon Tuitt rounding out their picks.

You have to be an Insider to read the full mocks, but click here for McShay and click here for Kiper .

McShay Mock 3.0 reax: Cowboys

March, 6, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- ESPN Insider Todd McShay has his third mock draft available and he has the Dallas Cowboys picking a defensive tackle with the 16th pick in the first round. But not the one that has been most linked to the club so far in the offseason.

Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan is McShay’s pick in part because he had the Chicago Bears take Pitt’s Aaron Donald with the No. 14 pick, which would be crushing to some Cowboys fans who believe Donald would be the perfect guy for Rod Marinelli.

The question I would have is whether the Cowboys see Jernigan as a three technique or more of a one technique. If they think he is more of a nose tackle, then I think the Cowboys would pass on Jernigan at No. 16. If they think he can get to the passer, then they would be OK.

I can’t tell you what the Cowboys really think at this point because they don’t even know. They are in the beginning stages of the draft process.

To a degree this is the Sharrif Floyd argument from a year ago where the coaches did not feel Floyd had the pass rush they wanted to make him a first-round pick.

A one technique is a run stopper and a two-down player. For a first-round pick, he better not have to come off the field in passing situations.

In McShay’s first two mocks he had the Cowboys taking Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt (Dec. 18) and Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Feb. 6).

Kiper/McShay mock draft reax: Cowboys

February, 6, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Mel Kiper Insider and Todd McShay Insider have many differences in their mock drafts, but when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys the two ESPN Insiders have the same name: Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

The Cowboys could use a safety opposite Barry Church, but the biggest need for the Cowboys is along the defensive line.

Kiper and McShay had five defensive lineman drafted by the time they had the Cowboys pick at No. 17 (evidently they believe the Cowboys will lose the coin flip to the Baltimore Ravens at the NFL Scouting Combine): Jadeveon Clowney, Anthony Barr, Khalil Mack, Timmy Jernigan and Louis Nix were gone by the 15th pick.

Kiper did not have another defensive lineman going in the first round. McShay had two more: Stephon Tuitt, whom he projected to the Cowboys in his first mock draft, and Ra'Shede Hageman.

If evaluations of Kiper and McShay hold true through May, then the Cowboys could find themselves in a dead spot for defensive linemen with the No. 17 pick, which is why Clinton-Dix makes sense. Louisville’s Calvin Pryor could also get into the mix as well.

But what about an offensive lineman like Notre Dame’s Zack Martin? The Cowboys have taken Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick in the first round in two of the past three years to build a core on the line. Martin could be the third.

Is there playoff hope for Cowboys in '14?

January, 22, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- Coming off three straight 8-8 seasons, there is much doom and gloom surrounding the Dallas Cowboys.

They will not be able to get in the top-end of free agency and likely won’t have enough money to keep Jason Hatcher, who led the Cowboys with 11 sacks in 2013. They are stuck in the middle of the first round, generally where the talent level drops off. They scored on Travis Frederick after trading down in 2013, but a year earlier they missed -- at least so far -- on the trade-up for Morris Claiborne.

Tony Romo is coming off his second back surgery in eight months. Core players are a year older. They still don’t have much depth.

But ESPN Insider KC Joyner writes that the Cowboys are the best bet to make the playoffs in 2014 among the teams that missed the playoffs in 2013.

Here’s what Joyner had to say about the biggest improvement:

“Potential improvement factor: It's hard to do much worse than Dallas did last season in terms of rush defense (128.5 yards allowed per game, ranked 27th), pass defense (63.4 Total QBR allowed, ranked 27th) and pass rush (5.5 percent sacks per attempt, ranked 32nd), so there are many ways the arrow can point upward here. [Ha Ha] Clinton-Dix would be a big plus in pass defense (he is the highest-rated safety in this year's draft) and Tuitt is a high-motor player who led Notre Dame in sacks last season. Further development of Terrance Williams (who had a 10.1 YPA on 73 targets) and improved health for Morris Claiborne (who missed six games this year) could give both the pass offense and pass defense a significant boost.”

Kiper mock 1.0 reaction: Cowboys

January, 15, 2014
The Dallas Cowboys enter the 2014 NFL draft needing to find as much defensive help as possible, preferably along the defensive line.

In Mel Kiper's first mock draft Insider for 2014, he has the Cowboys selecting Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the 17th overall pick. (Kiper has the Baltimore Ravens winning the coin flip that will decide the final positioning at the NFL scouting combine.)

Two defensive linemen -- Florida State's Timmy Jernigan and Notre Dame's Louis Nix -- went to the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers at Nos. 14 and 15. Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt went No. 23 to the Kansas City Chiefs. Oregon State's Scott Crichton went to Denver at No. 31.

Clinton-Dix is a sound pick. The Cowboys need safety help next to Barry Church. J.J. Wilcox, their third-round pick in 2013, and Jeff Heath, who was undrafted, handled that role last season and struggled. Wilcox lost his job to Heath with a knee injury and could not reclaim the starter's role, though he did split snaps later in the year.

Clinton-Dix is athletic and can play the center field safety role. He missed two games last year because of a suspension for accepting a loan from an assistant strength and conditioning coach. He finished the season with 52 tackles and two interceptions. In 2012, he had five interceptions.

The Cowboys' defense is predicated on the pass rush and turnovers. Clinton-Dix could help with the latter, but the Cowboys need a lot of help with the former.

Two years ago, the Cowboys were high on Alabama safety Mark Barron but traded up to get cornerback Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick. Barron went one selection later to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Something else to note is Jason Garrett's relationship with Alabama coach Nick Saban. Garrett was on his staff with the Miami Dolphins and considers Saban one of his mentors. He will know all he needs to know about the Alabama players heading into the draft.

Mock draft: Cowboys upgrade D line

December, 19, 2013
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys might be thinking about the draft a little sooner than they would like if they can’t win the NFC East, but ESPN’s Todd McShay has already offered up his first mock draft. Insider

He has the Cowboys taking Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt.

Here's McShay’s take on the pick: "The Cowboys' choice here could just come down to taking the best defensive player available, given the issues they've had on that side of the ball. But in particular, they need D-line help in a very bad way, and I think Tuitt would be an interesting fit. He makes the most sense as a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 alignment, but given his athleticism and quickness I feel as though he could also work as a 3-technique D-tackle who gets up the field and disrupts. Tuitt is still a work in progress, but his ceiling is awfully high. Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan is another option here."

McShay hits the Cowboys’ biggest need. They passed on taking Sharrif Floyd, who was their fifth rated player, when they were initially on the clock last April and traded down with San Francisco. The move has worked out pretty well with center Travis Frederick and wide receiver Terrance Williams.

But they ignored the defensive line for the entire draft because they felt it was already a position of strength. The claim was dubious even before the Cowboys suffered a ton of injuries along the line from the first day of training camp into the regular season.

There is another reason for the Cowboys to go after the defensive line in the 2014 draft. Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer will be free agents, and they could have to make a contractual decision on DeMarcus Ware.

So file Tuitt’s name away and if you hear people talk about his “quick twitch,” then realize he would be a fit for the Cowboys.