Dallas Cowboys: Draft

ESPN's NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. predicts the Cowboys will select offensive and defensive linemen in the first three rounds.
It's not something I hear mentioned often, but the age of the Dallas defensive line has crept up. By the time the season starts, Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware will be 32, 31 and 31, respectively.

You have to be an ESPN Insider to get the complete three rounds for every NFL team. Kiper also has the Cowboys taking a guard and another defensive lineman in Rounds 2 and 3.

Kiper makes a valid point regarding the line. If the Cowboys draft North Carolina's Sylvester Williams, it could make Ratliff expendable. However, the team might keep Ratliff and create competition for what could be a young, deep defensive line.

Under the new 4-3 alignment, Anthony Spencer and Ware will move to defensive end, where they haven't played since college. The Cowboys also will move Hatcher to tackle, keeping double-teams off Ratliff.

Sean Lissemore, Tyrone Crawford, Rob Callaway and Ben Bass are young players who also will compete for playing time.

Danny Coale: I get compared to Wes Welker

May, 1, 2012
Cowboys fifth-round pick Danny Coale talks about his road to the NFL and his chances of competing for a starting wide receiver spot in training camp.

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On his chances of competing for a starting receiver spot

"Well my goal is just to compete, and come in there and try my hardest, work my hardest. Whether it be special teams, receiver, whatever I’m willing to do it. Whatever. So, I want to come in there and compete on everything I can, and at the end of training camp if that, if I find myself in that spot then that would be terrific but I’m just, my goal right now is short term just to go in there and compete, and get coached up, and learn as much as I can and we’ll see where it takes us."

On getting compared to Patriots WR Wes Welker

"I get it frequently, which is, it’s a tremendous honor to get compared to someone like that. He does things that, if I have a fraction of the success that he’s had I would call it a success. I think we’re similar and I think we’re different, but it’s really nice to get those comparisons."

Cowboys news and notes

April, 29, 2012

IRVING, Texas -- The NFL draft is finally over and with that we've got some leftover items from what happened over the last three days.

*Yes the Cowboys are shopping cornerback Mike Jenkins for a trade, but there appear to be no takers. A couple of big problems for Jenkins. While the front office has praised Jenkins, there appears to be some concern about his participation in the offseason program. It's voluntary, but when you're coming off shoulder surgery it would be nice if the medical staff saw you regularly. Jenkins is working out in Florida, and his conditioning is never a question, but working out at Valley Ranch would benefit him.

*You've seen the rest of the Cowboys draft and some of you don't like the picks. Look at it this way. Say the Cowboys hadn't made the deal for Morris Claiborne. The first-round pick would have been defensive lineman Michael Brockers from LSU and the second-round pick would have been, ready, hold on to your seats .... Utah State inside linebacker Bobby Wagner. He went to Seattle at 47 overall. Claiborne vs. Wagner/Brockers: Which is better?

*Seventh-round pick Caleb McSurdy got a visit from running backs coach Skip Peete and worked out at fullback. The Cowboys want McSurdy to play linebacker and special teams for now but down the line maybe McSurdy can move to fullback. The Cowboys have failed to develop a fullback the last few years. Shaun Chapas, a seventh-round pick last year, couldn't play it consistently.

*At the start of the fourth round, the Cowboys targeted outside linebacker Kyle Wilber and strong safety Matt Johnson. Both were acquired, Wilber at 113 overall and Johnson at 135 overall. "We targeted Wilber and Johnson as guys we wanted," team executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "And to get them both was a very pleasant surprise because those were the two when we started [the round] we had the one-two in terms of hoping one of them might be there for that first fourth-round pick and then to turn around and get them both was a good situation for us." Wilber is a strongside pass rusher with tremendous upside. Johnson has 17 career interceptions in college. He makes plays on the ball and can play center field and in the box.

*The Cowboys spent their first four picks on defensive players before selecting wide receiver Danny Coale from Virginia Tech. Team owner/general manager Jerry Jones said a defensive player was considered for the fifth-round pick as well. But Coale, a slot receiver, was taken instead. The Cowboys were not alone in thinking about improving their defenses through the draft. New England and Green Bay used their first six draft picks on defensive players. It was the first time two teams did that since 2002 when Tennessee and Indianapolis did it.
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys agreed to terms Saturday night with Memphis guard Ronald Leary as an undrafted free agent.

Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan attended a private workout for Leary in late March and came away impressed. The key for Leary is his knee. Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said the team gambled by not selecting an offensive lineman in the three-day NFL draft because they figured Leary would not get drafted. Leary's knee issues scared off several teams.

After extensive research, the Cowboys determined Leary has a chronic knee problem that will allow him to play now but might limit his long-term future.

"The issue for him is how long [he can play], it's not now. It's how long he can play," Jones said Saturday night. "That's why he fell the way he fell. We had our coach think he might be the readiest of any [drafted] offensive linemen."

In free agency, the Cowboys signed guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau to contracts worth $30 million. As the draft approached, the Cowboys were linked to Stanford guard David DeCastro, but instead moved up from the No. 14th overall spot to No. 6 and selected LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.

The Cowboys picked defensive players with their first four picks, the first time that's happened since 1982.

And while the Cowboys still wanted to draft an offensive linemen at some point during the draft, team officials saw getting Leary as a positive.

"Here's a guy who gives us a chance to [play him] now," Jones said. "It helped me because there's risk here, and it helped me talk about [playing] now as opposed to development. He can get in here and play now."

Leary, at 6-foot-3, 325 pounds, was a second-team All Conference USA selection in 2011.

The Cowboys also agreed to terms to an undrafted free agent contract with North Texas running back Lance Dunbar.

Arkansas WR/PR Joe Adams a target?

April, 27, 2012
IRVING, Texas – After the free agency departure of Laurent Robinson, the No. 3 receiver ranks as one of the bigger questions marks on the Cowboys’ roster.

Just not in Jerry Jones’ mind. He has praised Andre Holmes, a speedy, 6-foot-5 undrafted receiver who spent most of last season on the practice squad. He is intrigued by Raymond Radway, an undrafted former track star out of Abilene Christian who had earned a spot on the 53-man roster before suffering a season-ending broken leg in the preseason finale. And there is still some hope around Valley Ranch for Kevin Ogletree, who lost the third receiver role to Robinson last season and returned to the Cowboys on a one-year, make-good contract.

But Jones acknowledged that the Cowboys could target a receiver in the third day of the draft, as long as the prospect has the potential to be an impact special teams player.

“I’m more interested if they have return ability and can do some things for us on special teams,” Jones said. “We’ve got to look at fourth receiver, if you will. I like the guys we’ve got here, but we would like to see -- and more than likely will see -- somebody there who has some special teams aspect to them if we go receiver.”

There just happens to be a receiver from Jones’ alma mater who fits the bill: Arkansas’ Joe Adams, ranked by Scouts Inc. as the No. 9 receiver and No. 78 overall in the draft. Jones just smiled when Adams was mentioned.

Adams was one of college football’s most dynamic punt returners the last two seasons, averaging 16.3 yards and scoring on five of 35 attempts. Jones has repeatedly expressed his reluctance to use Dez Bryant as a punt returner, and the addition of Adams would make that an easy decision.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Adams was also effective as a slot receiver at Arkansas, catching 164 passes for 2,410 yards and 17 touchdowns during his college career.

Rapid Reaction: DE Tyrone Crawford

April, 27, 2012

Pros: Boise State’s Tyrone Crawford (6-4 1/4 , 275 pounds) is a 3-4 defensive end with a long frame that should fill out. He was a disruptive player in college, making 27 tackles for losses and 13.5 sacks in two seasons at Boise State despite starting only 11 games after transferring from junior college. He also forced five fumbles and recovered three. He has a reputation as a high-motor, relentless player who plays with power. He has good speed (4.85 40) and quickness (7.09 three-cone drill) for a down lineman.

Cons: Crawford weighed 275 pounds at the scouting combine, which is light for a 3-4 defensive end, although he played 10 pounds heavier. A native of Ontario, Canada, Crawford is considered a raw prospect who will need coaching. According to Scouts Inc., Crawford has adequate initial quickness but needs to develop a better arsenal of pass-rush moves. Crawford also needs to learn how to play with his hands better.

Cowboys fit: The Cowboys need more playmaking from defensive end corps. Kenyon Coleman and Marcus Spears are solely run stoppers. Crawford probably will make Coleman expendable. If Crawford isn’t ready to start right away, he might be able to challenge Jason Hatcher and Sean Lissemore for playing time in the nickel and dime packages as a rookie.

Could have had: Clemson NT Brandon Thompson, Washington NT Alameda Ta’amu, Oklahoma OLB Ronnell Lewis, Arkansas WR Joe Adams, Florida International WR T.Y. Hilton
Moving up for the best defensive player on their board probably cost the Cowboys the best center in the draft.

Wisconsin center Peter Konz was available with the No. 45 overall pick, which the Cowboys gave that up along with No. 14 overall to acquire the sixth overall pick from the St. Louis Rams and select cornerback Morris Claiborne. If the Cowboys had drafted Konz, he likely would have immediately replaced Phil Costa at starting center.

Konz did not make a pre-draft visit to Valley Ranch, but the Cowboys did attend Wisconsin's pro day.

The Rams ended up trading the pick to the Chicago Bears, who selected South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffrey.

IRVING, Texas -- The 45th overall pick was the price for the Cowboys to move up eight spots for the player they considered by far the biggest defensive difference-maker in the draft.

ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer reviews the first round of the draft and looks ahead to the rest of the weekend. What grade do the Cowboys get for moving up to No. 6 for LSU CB Morris Claiborne?

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It was, according to Jerry Jones, the most consensus decision made during a draft in his 24-year tenure running the show at Valley Ranch.

“No one takes picks around here for granted and it’s painful to lose the second-round pick,” said Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones, the man who negotiated the deal with the St. Louis Rams. “But to move from 14 in the draft and get one of the premier players in the draft, obviously you’ve got to give up something significant. And by a lot of charts, it will probably show that we should’ve given up more.”

There are impact players drafted in the second round every year, but that mid-40s pick is a bargain price to pay if Claiborne is even close to as good as the Cowboys scouts believe.

To put it in perspective, here are the last 10 No. 45 overall picks, a collection of players with a combined three Pro Bowl appearances: Rahim Moore, Zane Beadles, Clint Sintim, Jordon Dizon, Dwayne Jarrett, LenDale White, Lofa Tatupu, Jake Grove, Bethel Johnson and Tank Williams.

And the Cowboys’ last 10 second-round picks: Bruce Carter, Sean Lee, Martellus Bennett, Anthony Fasano, Kevin Burnett, Julius Jones, Justin Rogers, Al Johnson, Andre Gurode and Antonio Bryant.

Deion on Claiborne: 'I really like this kid'

April, 27, 2012

IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys’ pick of Morris Claiborne gets the Prime Time seal of approval.

“I like this kid. I really like this kid,” Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders said during a Friday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s Ben and Skin Show, adding that he had to cancel recent plans to work out with Claiborne. “I watched countless amount of film on him. I like him. I really do.

Deion Sanders shares his thoughts on Morris Claiborne and tells us if he think the Cowboys paid too much.

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“The only thing I would say is he plays a little bit high at times, but that can be fixed. It’s just not been taught well. I like the kid. He’s been consistent over his career. He’s been dominant. He played with some good players. He played in a tough conference. I really like him.”

Any cornerback the Cowboys draft in the first round will automatically be compared to Sanders, who played in four Pro Bowls and won one Super Bowl ring during his five-year stint in Dallas. Jerry Jones took that comparison a step further when the owner/general manager said that the Cowboys’ scouts hadn’t graded a cornerback in the draft as high as Claiborne since Sanders in 1989.

“I don’t know about that, because a guy named Patrick Peterson, he had to be off the charts not only because of what he did on the field as a corner, but his return ability as well,” Sanders said, referring to Claiborne’s former LSU teammate who was drafted fifth overall by the Arizona Cardinals last year. “I mean, he was the total package, so it would be hard for me to suggest that [Claiborne] was rated higher than Patrick Peterson. I mean, that’s tough. Physicality, instincts, everything -- Patrick Peterson has to be off the charts.”

A quick point of clarification: Jones was referring to grades purely as a corner, so Peterson’s record-breaking return ability doesn’t factor into the discussion.

As impressed as Sanders is with Claiborne, he doesn’t expect him to dominate as a rookie.

“He ain’t going to be no shutdown corner coming right out of college,” Sanders said. “I don’t even know what a shutdown corner is right now outside of Charles Woodson and Darrelle Revis. That does not exist.

“But this guy here, he should be able to start if he can pick up the scheme. It’s not about the physical ability, because you’re going to take your bumps and bruises and you’re going to get beat. That’s how you learn. That’s how you process things in the NFL.”

IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys targeted three major need areas entering the draft, as Jerry Jones detailed after pulling off the deal to land cornerback Morris Claiborne, the No. 2 player on their board.

“We know what a pass rusher does for you, and teaming him up with [DeMarcus] Ware would have been a great combination if it had been there,” Jones said. “We didn’t see it [as a value in the first round]. We know what if we got a good opportunity to really make a difference with a quality interior offensive lineman. We looked at what kind of impact that would have -- [Tony] Romo’s confidence, Romo feeling good about the interior and all that. And then we looked at the secondary.”

Dallas addressed the secondary, but there’s still a need there at safety, where Brodney Pool is a flawed stopgap solution on a one-year deal. And they will definitely be looking at pressure players (defensive ends/outside linebackers) and interior offensive linemen as the draft moves into the second day.

The best available players at those positions (overall rank in parenthesis), according to Scouts Inc., including defensive ends who can make the transition to 3-4 outside linebackers and defensive tackles who can make the transition to 3-4 defensive ends:

LSU’s Brandon Taylor (73)
Oklahoma State’s Markelle Martin (100)

Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw (25)
Clemson’s Andre Branch (43)
Oklahoma’s Ronnell Lewis (63)
Miami (Fla.)’s Olivier Vernon (69)
North Carolina’s Zach Brown (74)
Virginia’s Cam Johnson (97)

Connecticut’s Kendall Reyes (50)
Cincinnati’s Derek Wolfe (53)
Boise State’s Tyrone Crawford (80)
California’s Trevor Guyton (92)
Boise State’s Billy Winn (96)

Georgia’s Cordy Glenn (24)
Illinois’ Jeff Allen (34)
Midwestern State’s Amini Silatolu (40)
Wisconsin’s Peter Konz (41)
Miami (Ohio)’s Brandon Brooks (70)
Iowa State’s Kelechi Osemele (72)
Wake Forest’s Joe Looney (88)
Troy’s James Brown (99)


Cowboys turned CB into strength

April, 26, 2012

IRVING, Texas – Jerry Jones can admit the painfully obvious about the Cowboys’ cornerback situation now.

“We’ve had shortcomings in our secondary for the last three seasons,” Jones said.

No kidding. The Cowboys ranked 20th in passing defense in 2009, 26th in 2010 and 23rd last season. They expect to shoot up those rankings after making cornerback the focus on their offseason spending, recruiting $50 million man Brandon Carr in free agency and paying a steep price to move up in the draft for LSU’s Morris Claiborne.

The Cowboys believe that they’ve turned a glaring weakness into a strength within the last couple of months.

“There’s no question with this draft pick,” Jones said. “Now, with what we gave Carr and what we’re doing here and frankly, we can do some things to get these guys on the field all the time. I’m talking about the corners, for the most part.”

He’s not talking about Terence Newman, who was the last player the Cowboys drafted so high. They cut him last month, a couple of years too late, to be honest. And Jones might not be talking about Mike Jenkins, who is suddenly on the trade block entering the final season of his contract. Asked if he could say Jenkins would be on the Cowboys’ roster this season, Jones quipped, “As long as just because I said it doesn’t make it so.”

Carr, Claiborne and nickel back Orlando Scandrick, who signed a five-year, $27 million contract extension last summer, give the Cowboys supreme confidence in their cornerbacks corps for the foreseeable future.

The Cowboys clearly believe Carr, 25, a four-year starter for the Kansas City Chiefs, has Pro Bowl potential based on the contract they gave him. They believe Claiborne has Hall of Fame potential.

The only player above Claiborne on the Cowboys’ draft board was quarterback Andrew Luck. According to Jones, you have to go all the way back to Prime Time to find the last cornerback the Cowboys scouts considered better than Claiborne.

The Cowboys love everything about Claiborne, but his ball skills really stand out. He had 11 interceptions the last two seasons, including six as a junior in 2011 when opponents attempted to avoid him as much as possible.

The Cowboys think Claiborne has the ability to take a No. 1 receiver out of a game and make a quarterback pay if he is tested. That made it an easy decision to give up two premium picks (14th and 45th overall) to move up eight spots to get one player.

“We didn’t think it was realistic that we’d ever get a player like that,” Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said.

The Cowboys had Newman as the No. 1 player on the board when they drafted him fifth overall in 2003. The Valley Ranch brass, who have no regrets about the Newman pick, believe Claiborne is a cut above because of his ball skills.

“He was one of the top cornerbacks in my eyes around on coverage, but not necessarily going up and making the plays,” Jerry Jones said of Newman.

Nobody would argue that Newman has been one of the league’s top corners the last couple of years. Now that Newman has been replaced, nobody at Valley Ranch would argue that the Cowboys have had decent cornerback play in recent years.

“We’ve been needing to work on the secondary,” Jones said. “When Wade [Phillips] was here, I talked to Wade about it. This is not something that’s new. We had hoped upon hope and certainly Rob [Ryan] had hoped with the head of the pack that Terence could really be what we wanted him to be. So obviously that didn’t work out. That’s just the way it is.

“But I like the way we’ve come back.”
Pros: Morris Claiborne, the 2011 Jim Thorpe Award winner, is a ballhawk who is the best cornerback in the draft. He has excellent quickness and possesses long arms (77-inch wing span). He’s a technician with phenomenal athletic ability and outstanding instincts. He’s comfortable playing press and off coverage. He has excellent ball skills after originally being recruited to LSU as a wide receiver. He’s also extremely dangerous once he picks off a pass. In two seasons as an LSU starter, Claiborne had 11 interceptions that he returned for 274 yards. He has the ability to play outside or in the slot. He can also return kicks, averaging 25.3 yards per return for the Tigers.

Dallas Cowboys draft pick Morris Claiborne says he was surprised to be picked by the Cowboys. Claiborne talks about his offensive skills on defense.

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Cons: The biggest con is that the Cowboys gave up two premium picks (14th and 45th overall) to move up to get Claiborne. As far as on the field, the one knock on Claiborne is that he isn’t physical enough. He doesn’t always use his long arms to his advantage in press coverage and misses more tackles than he should. He doesn't have blazing speed by NFL cornerback standards, but a 4.50 40-yard dash certainly isn't slow.

Cowboys fit: The Cowboys have turned one of their biggest weaknesses into a position of strength this offseason with the additions of Claiborne and free-agent cornerback Brandon Carr, who signed a five-year, $50.1 million contract. Mike Jenkins can forget about the lucrative long-term contract extension that he wanted from the Cowboys. Assuming Jenkins is still on the team, he’ll have to fight off the sixth overall pick to keep his starting job. At the minimum, Claiborne should be an outstanding slot corner as a rookie. Claiborne and Carr could be one of the NFL’s top cornerback combos for years to come.

Could have had: Alabama S Mark Barron, Mississippi State DL Fletcher Cox, Stanford OG David DeCastro, LSU DL Michael Brockers

Is Michael Brockers just a bigger Spears?

April, 26, 2012
There is a good chance that the Cowboys will pick LSU defensive lineman Michael Brockers with the 14th overall pick.

That would do nothing to address the Cowboys’ problems rushing the passer.

A case can be made the Brockers is just a bigger version of Marcus Spears, the last LSU defensive lineman the Cowboys drafted in the first round. In fact, that’s a kind comparison for Brockers based on their college production.

The 6-foot-6, 322-pound Brockers recorded 54 tackles, including 10 tackles for losses and two sacks as a redshirt sophomore last season. Spears’ numbers as an LSU junior: 49 tackles, 13 tackles for losses, six sacks.

That’s a comparison of the players at the same age. Spears’ senior stats -- 49 tackles, 17 tackles for losses and nine sacks –- blow Brockers’ numbers away.

The Valley Ranch spin would probably be that Brockers is a raw prospect who would be a valuable run-stopper right away and have potential to develop as a pass rusher. Just remember that a lot of the same people projected Spears to be a star, not just a solid rotation player.

Jason Garrett’s attendance at Alabama’s pro day instantly increased speculation that the Cowboys would pick safety Mark Barron, outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw or cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick in the first round.

All indications are that the Cowboys would be extremely pleased if Barron is still on the board when they get on the clock with the 14th overall pick.

If Barron and other targets are gone, Jerry Jones could attempt to trade down, gaining extra picks to move toward the bottom of the first round. In that scenario, there is a strong possibility that the Cowboys could target the fourth potential first-round pick from the Crimson Tide’s top-ranked, national-title defense: linebacker Dont’a Hightower.

Hightower primarily played inside linebacker at Alabama, but he has the size (6-foot-2 , 265 pounds) and speed (4.65 40) to be a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.

“No doubt,” Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN Dallas 103.3’s Ian Fitzsimmons in an interview that aired on “Galloway and Company” this week. “He can play outside. He’s been a designated pass rusher for us on third down for us. He’s also been a stand-up buck fourth rusher, drop. In X-package, when they put all the linebackers in there, he can play any one of those positions.

“He’s a very smart guy. He’s a signal caller that has really good leadership qualities and understands football really well and has a lot of diversity in terms of how you can use him. When you have guys that size, that speed and that athletic that can do that many things, those guys don’t come around that often.”

Cowboys news and notes

April, 25, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- A couple of notes from two days of news conferences at Valley Ranch.

* There are no new talks involving the team and outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. He signed his $8.8 million franchise tag Monday and reported to the voluntary workouts at Valley Ranch. However, team executive vice president Stephen Jones did say of any contract talks, " No, but they can happen fast."

* Running back DeMarco Murray (ankle) and wide receiver Raymond Radway (leg) are progressing in their recovery from surgeries. Coach Jason Garrett said he expects to see Murray and Radway work out with the team for the veteran minicamps in June, though it hasn't been determined if those two players will be limited in any way.

* In the last two drafts, the Cowboys picked up starters from the first round in Dez Bryant (2010) and Tyron Smith (2011). Sean Lee (second-round pick in 2010) moved into the starting lineup last season and Bruce Carter (2011 second rounder) is expected to compete for a starting role this year. Can it happen again? "But your expectations are certainly first-and second-round players are starters for you sooner rather than later," Garrett said.

* Nice retirement ceremony for tackle Marc Colombo on Wednesday. He rarely spoke with reporters but was polite and always had time to talk Red Sox and Celtics. "He's inspirational," Garrett said, adding later, "A damn good football player." You hope a similar thing can be done for former center Andre Gurode and inside linebacker Bradie James whenever they decide to retire, if they want to retire as Cowboys, which was the case for Colombo.

* Tom Ciskowski, assistant director of player personnel, said the Cowboys don't have any holes and when asked to expound on it said, "Well, I look at our team and what we’re hopefully going to draft over the next three days to upgrade, like I mentioned earlier. But we’ve got some depth at some positions and I just think even we’re not drafting today we can go play tomorrow. And I think Jerry [Jones] alluded to that that we’re just going to try and find the best football players that we can regardless of the position to help us."