NFC East: michael brockers

They sat out the second round after trading up to take cornerback Morris Claiborne in the first, and when the Dallas Cowboys came back on the clock they were still thinking defense. With the 19th pick of the third round of the draft (81st overall), the Cowboys picked Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford.

Crawford is a project pick. Most of the scouting reports had 4-3 defensive end as his best fit, with potential to develop into a good 3-4 end. He's not an impact pass-rusher, at least not right away, and is better against the run. But he's got long arms and a big frame and potential to grow into a better pro player as time goes along and he's coached by Rob Ryan and the rest of the Dallas defensive staff.

I don't see this as a move that would allow them to part with Kenyon Coleman or Marcus Spears for salary cap relief, but assuming it's a player in whom they see big potential, the Cowboys are wise to be stocking up on depth in their defensive front. There are decisions and potential changes looming on the defensive line in Dallas in the coming years, and this is a player who could be major asset if he takes the next step he needs to take as a pro.

It was my opinion that the Cowboys needed to find three defensive starters in the first three rounds. After they made the deal to move up to get Claiborne, the best they could do was two. Crawford may not be a starter right away, but he's certainly got a chance to be down the road. Good depth move.

As for that second round, the obvious pick the Cowboys could have made had they not traded up and kept pick No. 45 was not a defensive player but rather Wisconsin's Peter Konz, the draft's best center, who lasted until Atlanta at No. 55. Konz would have solidified the Dallas offensive line at their biggest position of need there, but to stay in position to take him they would have had to sit tight at 14 in the first round and be content with a defensive lineman such as Michael Brockers. I still contend that this would have been a wiser way to go, but the Cowboys believe Claiborne is an elite talent, and if he turns out to be, they'll be happy with the deal they made.

I was thinking this morning about the Dallas Cowboys' draft and I remembered the scene in "The Wire" in which Proposition Joe tells Stringer Bell that boredom is what kills more cops than bullets and liquor. "You keep it boring, String," he says.

Now, I know things didn't turn out so great for Stringer and Prop Joe, but I think this is good advice tonight for the Cowboys. The aspect of Dallas' offseason so far that has earned them so much praise is that it hasn't been flashy. Yeah, they spent big on cornerback Brandon Carr, but that was a matter of filling their biggest need with a free agent, and paying what top free agents cost. They didn't jump into the Mario Williams sweepstakes, or overspend on the top offensive linemen. They picked and chose players they liked at the positions they needed, bringing in lesser-known linemen to compete with the youngsters they already have. They have stayed patient, rather than jump out and make the big, headline-grabbing moves for which they used to be known.

This should continue tonight and this weekend. The Cowboys have eight picks, and they need them. What their roster lacked most detrimentally last season was depth, particularly on defense. This isn't the year to make a dramatic first-round trade-up. Somebody asked me this morning on Twitter if they should go up and get Morris Claiborne. They should not. I don't even think they should move up into the top 10 if that's what it'll take to get Mark Barron or Fletcher Cox, two guys who should be at the top of their wish list. I believe they will find a good defensive player at No. 14 who can help them, and I think their best bet is to sit right there, keep all of the later-round picks to help address that depth problem, and take whoever's the highest-ranked defensive player still on their board.

In the blogger mock draft Monday, this is what I did for Dallas, and the guy I took was Michael Brockers. Cowboys fans yelled at me. Said I copped out. That I should have made a bold move up like I did with the Eagles. But the fact is, the Eagles have 10 picks, including two second-rounders, and a deeper NFL roster than the Cowboys have. They're in position to move up to get Cox if they so choose. The Cowboys would be making a mistake.

This Cowboys draft must, as the last two offseasons have, reflect Jason Garrett more than it reflects Jerry Jones. Everybody knows Jones has the final say in the draft room. Everybody knows Jones likes the splashy move. But this isn't the year to trade up for Dez Bryant. Jones has said all of the right things about wanting Garrett to be in a position to succeed, and he appears to be making good on those words. He will need to resist temptation tonight and continue along that same path. The Cowboys need as much help and as many players as possible. No. 14 isn't a bad place to be sitting in this first round. They'll get somebody there who can make an impact, right away and in the long term. There's no need to make a rash move up and sacrifice later picks. Keep it boring, Jerry. Keep it dead boring.

Breakfast links: Two more days

April, 24, 2012
Good morning. It's Tuesday. The draft is the day after tomorrow. Let's link.

Dallas Cowboys

I thought about cornerback Stephon Gilmore with the No. 14 pick in Monday's ESPN blogger mock draft, but as you know I went with defensive lineman Michael Brockers instead. I don't think Dallas would be wrong to pick a corner if that's who they believed was the best defensive player available at 14, and here's a look at some possibilities.

I know how much you guys love it when I link to Tony Romo golf stories, so here you go! He's playing quite well, it appears.

New York Giants

It's been about two and a half years since Marvin Austin played in a football game in which result counted in the standings. He knows this, and is eager to end that drought. The Giants' second-round pick in 2011, Austin would be a big help to the middle of that defensive line if he could get healthy.

Be honest: When you heard the story about the New Jersey State Police officers and the high-speed race down the Garden State Parkway, a little part of you -- maybe not even one you could hear -- wondered whether Brandon Jacobs might have been involved somehow. Yeah. There's a report that he was. Wait. That makes this a 49ers link, right? Where's Sando? Ah, slow day. Which March 30 on the Parkway apparently was not.

Philadelphia Eagles

Rich Hofmann says that the numbers don't do Brian Dawkins' Eagles career justice -- that you had to be there to understand what he meant to the team and to the fan base. Dawkins retired Monday, in case you missed it, and the Eagles are honoring him Sept. 30.

Despite Howie Roseman's new best-player-available pledge, Jeff McLane believes we'll learn what the Eagles think about their young secondary players by whether the team picks any new ones in the first three rounds of the draft Thursday and Friday.

Washington Redskins

We all believe the Redskins' draft focus this year will be on offense -- starting, of course, with quarterback in the first round and continuing with offensive linemen when they can start picking again in the third and fourth. But if they do draft defensive players, Mike Jones writes, expect them to be cornerbacks and safeties. They have quantity, but they still need what Jim Haslett calls "stability" in the secondary.

Burgundy Blog has a nice interview with second-year Redskins receiver Niles Paul, who discusses a few things, including why he thinks the coaches have asked him to work at tight end this offseason and whether he thinks he can make that switch.
Things didn't work out exactly the way I planned for the Dallas Cowboys in the ESPN blogger mock draft Monday. Yes, the Eagles traded up to No. 7 to take Fletcher Cox, a player the Cowboys like a lot. But for the Cowboys I decided not to get into such excitement. First of all, they don't have the cushion the Eagles have with two second-round picks. And second of all, they need to add depth all along the roster, so I decided that if they traded they'd come away with more picks rather than fewer.

As the draft wound on into the middle of the first round, I was thinking my top Cowboys target, Alabama safety Mark Barron, would be there at No. 14. So when James Walker of the AFC East blog called on behalf of the Patriots and offered a first-round pick (No. 27 overall) and a second-round pick (No. 48), I said no. James pointed out that each side of the deal added up to exactly 1,100 points on the NFL draft trade value chart, and for a second I thought we should make the deal just based on that coincidence alone. But I held off, thinking Barron would fall to 14.

Little did I know, James was also talking to Mike Sando about the Seahawks' No. 12 overall pick. James offered Mike both of the Patriots' first-round picks (No. 27 and No. 31) for the No. 12 pick and a fourth-rounder (N0. 106). Guess I should have asked James for more, because that's a steal for Sando, who happily gave up the No. 12 and began making plans for what to do with his two first-rounders. James moved up to 12 and took Barron for the Patriots, and I started fielding offers for the No. 14 pick.

No one was interested, though, so when 14 rolled around, I took the player I believed would be the highest on the Cowboys' board at that point -- LSU defensive lineman Michael Brockers. What I like about Brockers for the Cowboys is that he's a more polished, NFL-ready prospect than is Dontari Poe (who would fall all the way to the Steelers at No. 24!) and that he's versatile enough to play any spot on the Cowboys' defensive line. He can play inside as a defensive tackle alongside Jay Ratliff when they line up in 4-3 sets. He can play end in a 3-4 (and allow them to move on from Kenyon Coleman or Marcus Spears if they so choose). He can spell Ratliff at the nose when and if they decide to move Ratliff outside. I just felt as though he'd appeal to Rob Ryan as a guy who could do a lot for him -- and do it right away -- in a defense that relies on constantly changing looks and fronts.

I thought about Poe, and Quenton Coples, and Stephon Gilmore, and Dre Kirkpatrick, and Courtney Upshaw. But in the end, I believe that, of the post-Barron choices, Brockers was the one that fit the Cowboys the best.

(NOTE: Stanford guard David DeCastro was also gone, at 11 to the Chiefs, but as you know I believe the Cowboys should be focused on defense in this round. And probably all of them.)

So what do you think, Cowboys fans? Did I get it right? Did I pick the wrong guy? Was I wrong to turn down the Patriots' offer? I eagerly await your feedback.
One week from tonight, young men in suits will hug the NFL commissioner and put on brightly colored caps on a stage at Radio City Music Hall. Just one more week. Can you make it that long? I know what'll help. Links.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Witten says that the lesson he and the Cowboys can learn from last year's Giants is that "you've got to be your best at key times." He also said a lot of the right things about the Cowboys having to prove stuff and having plenty of leaders, etc. You know. We'll see.

Stanford offensive lineman David DeCastro visited the Cowboys on Wednesday. His initially planned visit was scratched due to the heavy storms that rolled through the Dallas area a couple of weeks back. DeCastro was a popular pick for the Cowboys once upon a time in mock drafts, and I guess he still could technically be the pick. But the Cowboys seem more interested in taking a defensive player, and Michael Brockers was the Wednesday visitor more likely to be taken at No. 14, I would think.

New York Giants

Ohm's latest Giants draft preview looks at wide receiver. The Giants have two top-line starters in Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, but Ohm lists some of the internal candidates who could replace Mario Manningham as well as some names the Giants could look at in the first or later rounds of the draft if they decide to add to their depth at that position.

Left tackle, right tackle, left guard, whatever. David Diehl doesn't know which position the Giants will ask him to play in 2012, and he doesn't care, either.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles drafted for need last year, particularly in using their second-round pick on a reach for safety Jaiquawn Jarrett. But as Paul Domowitch writes, Philly would rather go back to a best-player-available approach this year. Makes sense, especially early. The Eagles have few clear immediate positional needs, and some of the ones they do have (linebacker, backup running back) are spots where value can be found in later rounds.

DeSean Jackson says he thinks Eagles fans "deserve" for the team to win them a Super Bowl title. Funny. My experience tells me that's exactly what Eagles fans think, too!

Washington Redskins

Jabar Gaffney says he's been told to stay away from voluntary workouts while the Redskins attempt to trade him. Gaffney thinks this has something to do with a profane Twitter rant he went on last week, and he continues to deny that it was actually him doing the ranting. I have no idea on that last point, but to the first: I'm pretty sure this has a lot more to do with the fact that the Redskins are overloaded at receiver and trying to get something for a guy who's unlikely to get another 947 yards this year before they have to cut him.

Want to know what the Redskins are up to this week during the conditioning-only portion of voluntary offseason workouts? Yeah, that's right: Pilates.
All right, fair is fair, and there's been so much Giants stuff on here the past two days it feels like the first week of February again. So here's a little something on the Philadelphia Eagles' portion of Todd McShay's latest mock draft -- the one that puts forth a number of different scenarios for each team rather than just assigning one player. Todd has four scenarios for the Eagles, who have the No. 15 pick in the first round. So without further ado ...

The first scenario is Iowa tackle Riley Reiff, should he fall that far, but Todd believes he will not, and has him gone to Buffalo at No. 10. If he were there at 15, he'd probably represent too much value for the Eagles to pass up, given the unsettled nature of their offensive line with Jason Peters injured and newly signed Demetress Bell a question mark.

Scenario No. 2 is Alabama safety Mark Barron, since as Todd puts it, "the Eagles have lacked a do-everything, physical presence at safety since Brian Dawkins left town." You can't go wrong in Philly invoking the name of B-Dawk.

Scenario No. 3 is "find a way to get a defensive tackle," but that's complex at this point, since he has Fletcher Cox and Dontari Poe already off the board in his projections. Should one of them be available, getting a defensive tackle would be as simple as picking one of the top two. But if Michael Brockers is the best remaining DT on the board, Todd says the Eagles are better off addressing another need or trading back and taking someone like Jerel Worthy later in the round.

And finally, the fourth scenario Todd lays out is the Eagles taking Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly if he falls to No. 15. This is still the best possible scenario for the Eagles, I think, though Kuechly looks as though he'll go much earlier. Jeff Chadiha has a story on Kuechly, if you're interested in reading about him just in case.

That's it for Todd's scenario mock. I'm not doing one of these for the Redskins. Everybody knows their scenarios.
Todd McShay's latest mock draft is what he calls "scenario-based Insider," which is his effort to present a number of different possibilities for each team in the first round, rather than a best guess of one particular player. It's a good way to go, especially the further down the round you go. The Washington Redskins, for example, have only two scenarios, and everyone knows what they are.

But I thought I'd take a look at the Dallas Cowboys' portion of Todd's scenario-based first round. The main reason I picked the Cowboys is that we haven't had a Cowboys post yet today, and I don't want my Cowboys fans to think I've forgotten about them. Perhaps we'll look at the Eagles' and Giants' scenarios Thursday. But we've had lots of Giants today and some Eagles as well, and this thing is Insider anyway, so let's keep it focused on Big D for now, mmmkay?

Todd's first scenario for the Cowboys at No. 14 is Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe, and we've already discussed why a big nose tackle makes sense for the Cowboys even if they aren't ready to move Jay Ratliff to defensive end full-time. Rob Ryan likes to vary his fronts, and Poe's versatility would help. Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox would help in the same ways, but Todd has him gone at No. 9 to Carolina.

Scenario No. 2 is Alabama safety Mark Barron, because "The Cowboys have been searching for some time for a versatile, do-it-all safety who can be a quarterback in the secondary." We've raised Barron here as well, and it would be a sensible pick. As I've said many times, I think the right thing for the Cowboys to do in the first round (and possibly in each of the first three or four rounds) is to take the best defensive player still on their board.

Scenario No. 3 is Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd, who seems like a fast mover these days. Todd actually has him going one pick earlier, as Arizona'a top scenario. But if he's there at 14, he'd be the kind of pick that would remind you of Cowboys drafts past. That might make Tony Romo happy, but it's not necessarily what they should do, given their needs on defense.

Scenario No. 4 is LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who "is a better overall player than Poe but who might not be the best fit in the middle in a 3-4." Again, though, versatility on the line and help for the pass rush, even if he has to play 3-4 defensive end in Dallas.

And finally, scenario No. 5 has the Cowboys taking South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore. As is the case with safety, the Cowboys could stand to add depth at corner, and I don't think they could go wrong taking their highest-rated defensive back at this point.

Notice that not one of these scenarios includes an offensive lineman. I think Todd's on the money here. The work the Cowboys did in last year's draft and this year's free agency is going to have to suffice on the offensive line. I think they could get better at center, but an interior lineman likely doesn't represent good value in the middle of the first round.

We've got new mock drafts

March, 7, 2012
Sure, the attention of the NFL world is on Indianapolis today. But I'm a heck of a lot closer to Radio City Music Hall, and I'm thinking about the draft. That may be because Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have unveiled their latest mock drafts today. They're Insider, but I'm allowed to tell you who they have for your favorite teams as long as I whisper and you promise not to tell anyone else. We do these rundowns in draft order.

6. Washington Redskins: Mel and Todd both leave open the strong possibility that the Redskins trade up, get the No. 2 overall pick from St. Louis and draft Robert Griffin III. But since that hasn't happened yet, they have to mock it as though the Redskins are still at No. 6. So Mel has them taking LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Todd has them taking Iowa tackle Riley Reiff. Todd's reasoning is that, if they don't get Griffin, they'll have secured a veteran quarterback in free agency and will want to protect him. Mel mentions the same possibility in his recap, but I agree with him that Claiborne would be a nice pick, especially if the Redskins have addressed offense sufficiently in free agency. What's interesting to me is that Mel has Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill going 12th and Todd has him going 8th, and if he can go that high, what's stopping him from moving all the way up to No. 6 in the next eight weeks?

14. Dallas Cowboys: Everybody agrees that the Cowboys need secondary help above all else. Mel's sticking with Alabama safety Mark Barron as the Cowboys' pick here, while Todd gives them North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins. This is a personal preference deal. The Cowboys can't go wrong if they pick the best available defensive back at No. 14, even if they've already signed one or two in free agency. They have room for several. I am interested to see, however, if they go for a pass-rusher like Alabama's Courtney Upshaw if he's still available, as he is on Mel's mock but not on Todd's.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Both mocks have Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly long gone by this spot, so Mel gives the Eagles LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers and Todd gives them Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe. The reasoning is that the Eagles were soft up the middle in 2011, and they were. And if there's not a good-value linebacker available, the odds would favor Andy Reid taking a defensive lineman here. He's set at end and needs beef in the middle. Possible wild cards: If DeSean Jackson is traded, they could go wide receiver here. And it's not ridiculous to imagine them taking a quarterback if Tannehill's still on the board.

32. New York Giants: Agreement here, as Mel and Todd both give the Giants Stanford tight end Coby Fleener after also agreeing that he's become the top tight end on the board. That'd be both a need and a value pick for the Giants, who lost two tight ends to serious knee injuries in the Super Bowl. But if there's a player the Giants had ranked much higher than 32 and he's still sitting there when it's their turn to pick, bet on them taking that player, regardless of position.