Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Barr

For Lawrence, it starts with his hands

May, 20, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Demarcus Lawrence is considered a speed rusher by many, but the Dallas Cowboys can’t stop talking about the second-round pick's hands.

It’s not that they ever expect him to catch touchdown passes, but the strength in his hands allows him to control and direct blockers.

“He’s got 10-inch hands,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “Real heavy-handed. He's got some, as DeMarcus Ware called it, his club.”

Lawrence considers himself a technique junkie. He watches players over and over again to get tips. He did it with Ware. Combine his strong hands with good speed and awareness, and you can see why the Cowboys believed he was the third-best right defensive end in the draft behind Jadeveon Clowney and Anthony Barr.

“Really just technique and fundamentals, learning how to use your hands the proper way is a great key and fundamental to have in the game of football,” Lawrence said. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot on using my hands, and I feel like I can get better at using my hands”

Leon Lett, the assistant defensive line coach, knows about the importance of strong hands.

“We were working on a hand drill on the field and he grabbed my wrist. I was like, ‘Good grief, let me go. We’re going slow, three-quarter speed here,’” Lett said. “He has big, strong, powerful hands. That was the first thing I noticed about him. I mean, he’s just a hard worker. I like the way he works. I like the passion in his eyes and his approach right now. He came in ready to go.”
Totally spit-balling here, like just about every other draft prognosticater out there, but if the Dallas Cowboys are as hot and heavy for Johnny Manziel as Twitter would have you believe, the Oakland Raiders might be sitting in prime position.

So long as two scenarios play out.

Manziel
The first, obviously, is that Manziel is still on the board when it comes time for the Raiders’ choice at No. 5 overall.

The second, is that both Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins are already gone, because if either of those guys are still available, that has to be Oakland’s pick, at least, in this corner.

In that combined development, though, the Raiders could reach out to Jerry Jones and offer up that No. 5 selection for a boatload of picks. Using the Trade Value Chart, the No. 5 pick is worth 1,700 points. The No. 16 pick, which is where the Cowboys currently sit, is worth 1,000 points.

So, for the swap to work, the Cowboys would have to come up with 700 more points in draft picks, or a player. Dallas’ second-rounder this year (No. 47 overall) is worth 430 points and its third-rounder (No. 78) is worth 200 points, while its fourth-rounder (No. 119) is worth 56 points. That gives the Raiders two seconds, two thirds and two fourths, but still nothing in the fifth or sixth rounds to go with three seventh-rounders. It also still leaves the Cowboys needing 14 points to make up the difference.

Of course, the Trade Value Chart is more of a guideline for teams than a hard fast rule, and the Cowboys would have to stomach gutting the middle of their draft, though they could conceivably involve future picks in such a deal.

Plus, from the Raiders’ perspective, going from No. 5 to No. 16 is a pretty big drop (last year, they went from No. 3 to No. 12). Because as has been mentioned in this corner, Oakland needs an impact player with its first pick, rather than a developmental one like in general manager Reggie McKenzie’s first two seasons in Tony Bergstrom and D.J. Hayden.

So who could potentially be there at No. 16? Think UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr, or Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, or Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III, or USC receiver Marqise Lee, or even Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.

Or should the Raiders simply stay put at No. 5 and take the best player available?
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:

.

Five Wonders: Never land at No. 16

May, 6, 2014
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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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**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.

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 2

May, 3, 2014
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IRVING, Texas – Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys’ Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss the futures of Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray,a great scenario for the Cowboys if Aaron Donald, Anthony Barr and Zack Martin are there at No. 16 on Thursday, drafting a quarterback later in the draft and the future of Doug Free.

For Part 1 of the mailbag, click here.

Away we go:
 
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

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

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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?
IRVING, Texas -- Another lively chat Wednesday with more than 100 questions from you guys wanting to know this, that and everything about the Dallas Cowboys.

SportsNation

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

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    49%
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Discuss (Total votes: 11,576)

In the chat we talked about:

  • The return of Anthony Spencer.
  • The chances of Johnny Manziel coming to the Cowboys.
  • The chances Kony Ealy comes to the Cowboys.
  • The Morris Claiborne "trade" talks. I put quotes around that on purpose.


  • To read the whole chat, click here.

    Let's talk about the whole 'need vs. best player' debate some more:

    Kyle from Virginia asked: With Will McClay playing a bigger role in this draft, do you see Dallas taking the best player available regardless of position more often this year or just filling their needs? I am hoping they are focusing on the long-term, not just the upcoming season.

    Here is my answer: I'm not being a wise guy here, but the answer is: Yes. We always speak in this perfect world of taking the best player available, but you have to factor in need. The key is to not make the need overwhelm the evaluation process so you're inflating a player's worth. I do believe the Cowboys look at the draft as a multi-year deal not specific to one year, but need will always play a part in the process. It just has to. You can't eliminate it.

    To elaborate, much of the draft operates in a gray area. Ideally everything is crystal clear. I'm sure in the past I've said, 'You always take the best player available.' Heck, I probably said it two weeks ago, but I'd like to add two caveats:

    You always take the best player in the first round. You always take the best player when the best player's grade is much higher than the player you are going to take.

    It's clear the Cowboys need defensive line help, though I think the signings they've had in free agency helps steer them away from reaching for a player at No. 16. If they are unable to get one of their top defensive linemen at No. 16, be it Anthony Barr, Aaron Donald or whomever, then don't reach for the next-best defensive linemen if you don't believe he is better than somebody at another position.

    That's why I've had the Cowboys taking Zack Martin in the mock drafts I've been asked about. The Cowboys look to be in no-man's land at No. 16 when it comes to the top defensive linemen. Too low for Donald and Barr. Too high for Ealy or Easley. If they trade back in the first round, then it becomes a little more palatable to take one of the lower-ranked guys.

    In 2009, the Cowboys should have drafted LeSean McCoy in the second round. They had a first-round grade on McCoy but instead of taking him they traded down to get third- and fourth-round picks from the Buffalo Bills.

    At the time the Cowboys had Marion Barber on a big-time deal and drafted Felix Jones in the first round in 2008. They also liked Tashard Choice. They probably thought they were stacking it up at the position if they took McCoy. So what? You had a chance to get a first-round player with a pick in the 50s. Do it.

    We want everything to be black and white when it comes to the draft, but it's not that easy.

    McShay: Cowboys' spot most intriguing

    April, 24, 2014
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    IRVING, Texas -- As ESPN Insider Todd McShay has put together his mock drafts, he has been stuck when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys.

    He has had the Cowboys taking defensive tackles Timmy Jernigan (twice) and Stephon Tuitt, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and in his most recent mock, in which he served as the general manager, he took wide receiver Brandin Cooks.

    “For many reasons I’m as intrigued as to what Dallas will do as with any team in the first round,” McShay said on a conference call with NFL Nation reporters on Thursday.

    McShay views Jernigan as more of a one technique than a three technique and does not see enough value for taking the Florida State defensive tackle at No. 16.

    “He can get pressure on the quarterback and be disruptive,” McShay said. “He’s a really good football player. I think he’s stout against the run. Watch him in the third quarter of the national championship game and he’s the best player on the field. It was one of the best quarters of football I watched for an interior defensive lineman probably all year.”

    But McShay sees him as a late first- or early second-round pick with two weeks to go before the draft. In addition to defensive tackle, he sees defensive end and safety as priority needs for the Cowboys.

    “Every time I get to Dallas, I can’t find a player I feel who is a good value matching a need they have, so I always wind up reaching or going completely off the value chart,” McShay said.

    And that could be the issue the Cowboys have on May 8. Will an Aaron Donald or Anthony Barr be available at No. 16? Safeties Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor figure to be gone by then, too.

    Do the Cowboys reach on a Demarcus Lawrence or Jimmie Ward? Would they take an offensive lineman, like Zack Martin? Do they trade back like they did in 2012 in which they ended up with Travis Frederick and Terrance Williams thanks to the deal with the San Francisco 49ers? What if Johnny Manziel is available?

    With May 8 approaching, the intrigue is certainly there, just as Jerry Jones likes it.

    Dominique Easley to make Cowboys visit

    April, 21, 2014
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    IRVING, Texas -- Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley was scheduled to visit the Dallas Cowboys last week, but the trip was postponed so he could focus on his workout in Gainesville, Fla.

    Instead Easley will visit with the Cowboys' coaches, scouts and medical staff this week, according to sources.

    Of the known visitors to Valley Ranch, Easley will be the 13th defensive lineman. The team brought in more than 20 prospects last week as part of their top-30 visits and also held its Dallas Day workouts for local prospects.

    Teams have serious medical concerns about Easley. He tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in practice last season. He tore his left ACL in 2011. If healthy, he would be a first-round pick. Even with the issues, he could go in the second round.

    The Cowboys have shown a willingness to spend early picks on players coming off serious knee injuries, doing it with linebackers Sean Lee (2010) and Bruce Carter (2011).

    The other defensive linemen with official visits to Valley Ranch include: Kony Ealy, Davon Coleman, Jerrod Black, Anthony Barr, Aaron Donald, Demarcus Lawrence, Timmy Jernigan, Will Clarke, Scott Crichton, Ken Bishop, Chris Whaley and Kerry Hyder.

    Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 2

    April, 19, 2014
    Apr 19
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    IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

    In it we discuss:
    • Why the Cowboys would even consider drafting offense in the first round.
    • Why the Cowboys could draft offensive line in the first round.
    • Why the coaching staff could look a lot different.
    • Why I think the Cowboys would pass on Teddy Bridgewater.

    If you want to see Part 1, click here.

    Away we go:

    Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 1

    April, 18, 2014
    Apr 18
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    IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

    In it we discuss:
    • What I would do with the 16th pick in the draft if I was the general manager.
    • What about a quarterback in the second round?
    • What about Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne?
    • What about the salary-cap implications of letting Kyle Orton go?

    Away we go:
     
    IRVING, Texas -- Once again we had a ton of questions in Wednesday’s chat and I couldn’t get to them all, so let’s pull out some leftovers to answer right now.

    First a leftover question: What’s better warmed up – spaghetti or chicken lo mein? I’m going spaghetti. I think I’d go with the lo mein cold.

    Away we go:

    Blake Tyler (Nashville): I think we all agree that Tony is best when the play breaks down and he can move and find his guy down the field. Big plays. I know this sounds crazy but is there any way with a better line in front of him that it takes away some of our big play ability? The offense just didn’t look that explosive last year.

    Todd Archer: You sort of sound like Jerry Jones when he said if there is a quarterback that doesn’t need protection as much it’s Romo, but I don’t want to pin that on you. I hear what you’re saying, but I think the big plays were down because the offense changed. They were not as aggressive as in the past down the field. Was that Romo protecting the ball or himself? Perhaps. Was it the new playcaller in Bill Callahan? Perhaps. I’d much rather have my quarterback be able to go through his reads and make plays that way than rely on him to create when things breaking down. Romo has done that sort of thing so many times that it seems second nature, but you don’t want to live off that. I wonder if he had a hard time trusting the protection because things broke down in the past that he was getting rid of the ball too early sometimes. Just a though.

    Marco (Houston): If Donald is gone at 16 and Ealy is available do you think the Boys would settle or trade down?

    Todd Archer: I’m not sure how high the Cowboys are on Kony Ealy. They might see him more as a left defensive end so that takes him down a peg. As good as he looks and as good as the numbers suggest, you want more plays. He made a lot but something just seemed missing. I think there might be better players available at No. 16 at other positions that make the Cowboys go elsewhere and trading down is always an option. I’ve said this before, but in order to trade down the Cowboys have to hope there is someone there that another team wants to trade up to get. They must be prepared to make a pick at No. 16.

    Ray (From Southside): Any updates on to who the 30 players will be for pre-draft visits and for Dallas day??

    Todd Archer: The names that I know of so far are Anthony Barr, Demarcus Lawrence, Jimmie Ward, Ryan Shazier and Aaron Donald. They usually don’t use all of their 30 visits at the outset with the chance they can add two or three guys later in the process. For the Cowboys it matters who comes to Valley Ranch. In the last nine drafts the only two top picks not to visit were DeMarcus Ware and Morris Claiborne. Last year they ended up drafting four players who visited and signing a couple of undrafted free agents as well. Dallas Day is another important tool and with so many seventh-round picks, the Cowboys will be able to lock in on their priority free agents. I’m working on a list of Dallas Day guys, so stay tuned for that, but Jackson Jeffcoat is not one of them despite growing up in Plano. Since the family moved to Colorado, I guess he can’t be in the mix.

    Cullen Calabria (Paris, TX): Linehan's RB's combined for over a 100 receptions last year Bush had 50+ and so did Bell? Can we expect similar things this year? Because Murray only has 1 rec TD in his career which I blame on play calling more than him.

    Todd Archer: I wouldn’t expect 100 catches from the running backs here but that’s not a slight on DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar or Joseph Randle. It’s more about the construction of the Cowboys’ offense. The Lions don’t have Jason Witten, so there were more balls for Bush and Bell to catch. They don’t have a Terrance Williams as a No. 2 receiver either. Murray caught 53 passes last year, so I think he’ll be in that range again. As a group Cowboys runners caught 72 passes in 2013. I can see that going to 85 or so if Dunbar can stay healthy. I wouldn’t get carried away with Murray’s lack of TD catches. I think that’s more of a product of having guys like Dez Bryant, Witten, Miles Austin and Williams around here lately.

    Kiper/McShay mock draft reax: Cowboys

    February, 6, 2014
    Feb 6
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    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.

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