Dallas Cowboys: Trai Turner

Five Wonders: Cowboys moves that weren't

May, 13, 2014
May 13
10:15
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IRVING, Texas -- There are lots of things to wonder about after the NFL draft, but we're just wondering about five things right now.

It's always a good time for Five Wonders.

Away we go:
    SportsNation

    Which 7th-round pick has the best chance to make an impact for the Cowboys this season?

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      10%
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      48%
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      21%
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      10%
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    Discuss (Total votes: 7,574)

  • I wonder how active the Cowboys could have been in making trades during the draft. Stephen Jones referenced a potential move back into the third round that would have cost the Cowboys a 2015 pick (probably their second rounder). The target was LSU guard Trai Turner. I wonder if the Cowboys almost moved back into the first round, which could have been why Jones abruptly left the press conference. Once the Seattle Seahawks saw the New England Patriots draft Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley in the first round, the Seahawks called everybody about a trade, including the Cowboys. The Seahawks eventually swung a deal with the Minnesota Vikings, who took Teddy Bridgewater. If the Cowboys were willing to part with their second- and third-round picks to move to No. 34 with the Washington Redskins, you don't think they contemplated taking Demarcus Lawrence at No. 32?
  • I wonder what direction the Cowboys would have gone had they not traded up to take Demarcus Lawrence with the 34th pick in the draft. The easy thing to do is look at the players the Washington Redskins took at picks Nos. 47 and 78 (Trent Murphy, Spencer Long) and grade the Cowboys that way. The need for a right defensive end was too great and Lawrence would have gone quickly in the second round. But would a combination of Scott Crichton and Josh Huff been better? Would a combination of Cody Latimer and Will Sutton have been better? Would they have taken a safety in the third round? Giving up two players for one is always risky (see Morris Claiborne) but it can also work out (see Tyron Smith). The Cowboys passed on a chance to trade down from the No. 9 pick with Jacksonville in 2011 but stood firm and took Smith, who the look of a dominant left tackle for years to come. The Cowboys used a similar strategy in the fifth round to take wide receiver Devin Street. They viewed Street as the last receiver ready to make an impact in 2014, so they gave up their fifth- and seventh-rounders to get him.
  • I wonder if the Cowboys start to look for another tight end. They didn't draft one and added two in college free agency in Baylor's Jordan Najvar and Illinois' Evan Wilson. They liked Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz, just not at the top of the third round where the Houston Texans grabbed him. The Cowboys need more of a blocking tight end to a degree with Gavin Escobar and James Hanna backing up Jason Witten. Escobar's role figures to increase greatly in 2014 but they need to use him at what he does best, which is working the seams and being a mismatch outside. Hanna was OK as a blocker but he is better in space too. Of course, this could all mean the Cowboys will be a fullback team again. They liked what Tyler Clutts brought to the running game after joining the team late last season, and they signed LSU's J.C. Copeland as a college free agent.
  • Is it too early to wonder about the 2015 draft? I wonder if the Cowboys look for Tony Romo's successor in 2015. The way Jason Garrett explained it, the Cowboys will not be in the business of developing a mid- to late-round quarterback to be the starter in the future. If the offensive line plays out the way the Cowboys hope, they won't need to look for early help there. The defensive line could be the top option again with Anthony Spencer, Henry Melton, George Selvie and Nick Hayden playing on one year deals. The Cowboys hold an option on Melton for three years, but won't exercise it if he is not close to Pro Bowl form. So for all of the defensive line work this offseason, they could be back in the mix to upgrade in 2015. Cornerback could also be a position of need if Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne do not bounce back.
  • I wonder how many of the undrafted rookie free agents can make the 53-man roster. There will be some, which happens every year. On the spots in which the Cowboys are thin, Missouri wide receiver L'Damian Washington offers size and speed. He caught 50 passes for 893 yards and 10 passes last season. His story is uplifting, too. Click this Grantland video to see. Najvar has a chance at the moment. Punter Cody Mandell could push Chris Jones and has already hit the digital board at AT&T Stadium. The Cowboys have kept four tailbacks in the past, so Glasco Martin and Ben Malena have opportunities. Defensive tackle Davon Coleman faces an uphill climb, but he was among the Cowboys' national visitors, so that gives him a leg up. It will be nice to get a look at these guys at the rookie mini-camp.
IRVING, Texas -- If the past is any indicator, the Dallas Cowboys will make their draft selections from players that were among their national visitors.

In the past nine years, the only top picks not to visit the Cowboys were DeMarcus Ware (2005) and Morris Claiborne (2012).

Last year, five picks -- Travis Frederick, Terrance Williams, J.J. Wilcox, B.W. Webb and Joseph Randle -- met with the coaches, scouts, medical staff and front-office personnel before the draft.

Here are the 25 known visitors to Valley Ranch before the draft.

Keep this list handy over the next three days:

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Five Wonders: Never land at No. 16

May, 6, 2014
May 6
9:30
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IRVING, Texas -- With the draft finally within site, unless there is some sort of rain delay, it’s time for Five Wonders to return.

We’ll keep them focused on the draft.

** I wonder if the Cowboys are in never-never land with the 16th pick when it comes to first-round defensive linemen. That’s what an 8-8 finish will do for you. You’re stuck right in the middle and have to do too much to move up significantly and won’t get enough (some of the time) to move down big either. After Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack, there is a drop-off on right defensive ends. Anthony Barr is a project and somebody I believe the Cowboys would pick at No. 16. Will he be there at No. 16? The rest of the options available, like a Kony Ealy, Scott Crichton, Kareem Martin or Demarcus Lawrence look more like second-round picks. That’s why I think if the Cowboys move up it’s only a couple of spots for a specific player. The more likely option is to move back where they’d have better choices at the right value. Now if only some team would be willing to move up.

** I wonder what the reaction of people who live in the best-player-available world would be if the Cowboys took North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron in the first round. If Ebron is there at No. 16 and is the best player, then the Cowboys must take him, right? If you live in the best-player-available world in which there is no gray area, then Ebron is your guy. Hooray. But after taking Gavin Escobar in the second round last year and seeing Jason Witten make another Pro Bowl in 2013, do the Cowboys need a first-round tight end? You might hate the word “need” but I don’t. Need has become the four-letter word in draft circles. If they take Ebron, they are saying the Escobar pick was a mistake and Witten is on his final legs. Ebron is a terrific talent, but the Cowboys can’t pick him. I do think, however, the Cowboys would take a tight end (more of a blocker than receiver) later on in the draft.

** I wonder how much scheme versatility will factor into the Cowboys’ decision making Thursday-Saturday. The elephant in the room is that Jason Garrett must win now. He is in the final year of his contract. If he doesn’t win, then Jerry Jones doesn’t have to fire him. He just needs to pick a new coach. But let’s say Jerry falls in love with a coach who has a 3-4 background or an offensive coach who wants to bring in a 3-4 coordinator. Can the Cowboys make the switch again? They felt they had the tools to move from a 3-4 to a 4-3 somewhat seamlessly and we saw how that worked in 2013. If the Cowboys picked Aaron Donald in the first round, then would he fit in a 3-4 scheme next year? He doesn’t look like a 3-4 player. It is a fatalistic view to have going into a draft, but the Cowboys could find some defensive prospects that offer versatility in a 3-4 or 4-3, like Barr, Ealy, Lawrence and possibly Ryan Shazier.

SportsNation

Which position should the Cowboys address first in the draft?

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Discuss (Total votes: 11,844)

**I wonder if third round is the area in which the Cowboys target an offensive lineman. Of the linemen not named Zack Martin who visited Valley Ranch before the draft, almost all of them are in that Rounds 3-4 neighborhood like Gabe Jackson, Trai Turner, Jack Mewhort and Billy Turner. To be clear, in just about every mock I’ve been asked to participate in, I have the Cowboys taking Martin at No. 16. If they go offense there, I think they need (there’s that word again) to go defense with the second- and third-round picks, provided the grades match up. I’m breaking all ties in the defense’s favor. I’ll add this note: The last middle-round (Rounds 3-5) offensive lineman to pan out for the Cowboys was Doug Free (fourth round) back in 2007. And it took him well into his third season to get on the field. Since then the Cowboys have missed on Robert Brewster (third, 2009) and David Arkin (fourth, 2011). I’ll give them partial credit for Sam Young (sixth, 2010) since he’s still in the league. Their best middle-round offensive lineman in the last 10 years has been Stephen Peterman (third, 2004) and his playing time came with the Detroit Lions after he was cut.

**I wonder if the extra time in the draft has led teams to overanalyze things. The New Orleans Saints attempted to bust up the boredom by spending some time in Las Vegas. Some other teams took a week’s break earlier in the process. The Cowboys altered their schedule some but not that much. Too often we hear teams talk about the importance of watching the players play and not putting as much stock into the combine or pro days. And every year there are guys that come out of nowhere, like Pitt quarterback Tom Savage, and small-school gems, like Pierre Desir. Maybe they will be great finds. Who knows really? The extra time served up plenty of interest, which the NFL craves, and allowed for more mock drafts than ever before, but did it really serve the teams well? We’ll find out in a couple of years.
ESPN Insiders Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay held a three-round mock draft on Thursday in which they alternated picks.

You have to be an Insider to see all of the picks. If so, click here.Insider

Here were their rules:
1. We rotate picks: Todd has odds, Mel has evens, and picks are made for each slot through Round 3.
2. These are our picks: Each selection reflects our call, not what we think teams want.
3. It's about the board: The analysis is less a scouting report, and more about why the pick was made.
For the Dallas Cowboys, Kiper took Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round (No. 16 overall). In the second round, McShay took Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (No. 47) and in the third round Kiper took Stanford guard David Yankey (No. 78).

The picks hit on the Cowboys’ needs in the secondary and defensive and offensive lines.

Remember, this is what Kiper or McShay would do; not what they think the Cowboys will do.

In examining their mock, the Cowboys will not be happy with the St. Louis Rams. At No. 13, the Rams took Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin. In the second round (No. 44 overall), they took Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward, and in the third they took LSU guard Trai Turner (No. 75). All three were pre-draft visitors to Valley Ranch.

Let’s take a closer look at the picks:

First round

SportsNation

Who would be the best first-round pick for the Cowboys?

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    21%
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    49%
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    19%
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    5%
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    6%

Discuss (Total votes: 11,576)

In Cinton-Dix, the Cowboys get a safety to pair up next to Barry Church. In his reasoning for the selection, Kiper acknowledged he would rather take a defensive lineman here but he doesn’t see the value.

UCLA’s Anthony Barr did not go off the board until No. 30 to the San Francisco 49ers. Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy lasted until No. 37 to the Atlanta Falcons in the second round.

If those two are available – and Martin is gone – I’d go with Barr or Ealy before Clinton-Dix, but I’d really consider Ealy because of his position flexibility.

Second round

In Jernigan, McShay took a player that he twice projected to the Cowboys in the first round. If this scenario played out, then the Cowboys would be OK with it. They view Jernigan as a one-technique, which is not valuable enough to take in the first round. They would be getting a disruptive player in the second round.

But let’s say the Cowboys do not select a defensive lineman in the first round next week. In this mock they have Demarcus Lawrence (No. 54, Philadelphia Eagles), Daquan Jones (No. 61, San Francisco) and Dominique Easley (No. 66, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) available.

I’d go with Lawrence, who would be the best available right defensive end. Easley is intriguing but the knee injuries are troubling, even if the medical re-check went fine for him. To me, No. 47 is a little rich for Jones.

Since I went with Barr in the first, then I think Jernigan would be a good pick here.

Third round

The Cowboys can use a guard, and the third round seems to be a good chance to get one. Yankey had a good career at Stanford. He started 40 games. He is smart. But is he athletic enough? He was slooooow at the combine. Hey, so was Travis Frederick and that worked out for the Cowboys last year.

The Cowboys like Turner, but he’s gone. Brandon Thomas will require a redshirt year with his knee injury, but he was available, going to Cleveland at No. 83. Billy Turner, another Valley Ranch visitor, went No. 92 to the Carolina Panthers. He might be a better fit than Yankey.

There are some receivers available, like Penn State’s Allen Robinson. Princeton defensive tackle Caraun Reid is there, too. There is a safety I like, Minnesota’s Brock Vereen, available. If they don’t take Clinton-Dix, and can’t get Ward, then he would be a decent pickup but perhaps a little rich for him in the third. Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton was also available. I’d consider doubling up at end even with Barr in the first round.

I’d go with Robinson or Rutgers receiver Brandon Coleman, who went a pick later to the Baltimore Ravens.

So that would be Barr, Jernigan and a receiver (Robinson or Coleman) with the first three picks.

Thoughts?

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