Clearing Away the Smoke: Wes Bunting Looks at the Draft

Part One of Cowboys Nation’s weekly chat with The National Football Post’s Wes Bunting looks at draft rumors involving Dallas’ first pick, players with medical and character concerns, 2nd and 3rd round options and the top fullback prospects:

Cowboys Nation:  I want to follow up on the Aldon Smith rumors.  On the weekend you tweeted that you’ve heard the Cowboys really like Aldon Smith.  Yesterday, I saw Michael Lombardi say the same thing on the NFL Network.  Can you say more about what you have heard?

Wes Bunting:  I’ve heard they have some interest. They like Aldon Smith and they like Tyron Smith and those are the two players who could be the pick.  That’s about as much as I can say.  They like a pass rusher and they like an offensive tackle and I agree.  I think they’re both excellent players.

CN:  You’ve talked about Aldon Smith for a while.  I think you mentioned back when the underclassmen declared and DaQuan Bowers was the hot name that you liked Smith’s rush better.  That gets me to question two.  Bowers re-tested his knee and it does not seem to have gone as well as he expected.  Can you add more to what’s already on your site?

WB:  People are worried that’s it’s a chronic knee, an arthritic knee, and that it could affect him long-term.  That’s the big concern.  I don’t think he falls outside the top 20, but I think he falls outside the top 10 now, and Aldon Smith and Robert Quinn will be the beneficiaries.

The Cowboys think Aldon Smith has some Demarcus Ware in him, and that’s why they’re so intrigued, and I’ve heard they like him more than Robert Quinn.  I’m not sure Quinn would be there anyway at pick 9.

CN:  Did another other players re-test besides Bowers, who had a lot riding on their new medicals? Are there any other big medical risks?

WB:  I heard one, but I don’t have a name for him.  I was told there’s a top 100 rated player who has a career-threatening back injury, but I could not get a name for him.

CN:  Are there any other wafflers, for medical reasons or character reasons?

WB:  Jimmy Smith continues to be the guy.  He’s not going to fall as many people has suggested.  That’s a bit inconvenient for the Cowboys.  Ben Ijalana’s fine.  His legs checked out.  The one player still iffy is Deunta Williams, the North Carolina safety.  He had a severely broken leg in their bowl game and that’s still a big concern.

CN:  Where does he rate now, because of the injury, 4th to 5th round?

WB:  I’d say that’s pretty fair, 4th to 5th.

CN:  You had your two round mock and I have to say I liked the picks, but it left me shaking my head.  You had the Cowboys taking Tyron Smith in the 1st and Brandon Harris in the 2nd, and I’m okay with those two selections.

I was shaking my head because a lot of the players we’ve talked about as potential 2nd rounder or as potential 3rd round options at pick 71 fly off the board.  In the 10 selections after Dallas takes Harris at 40, Martez Wilson, Aaron Williams, Christian Ballard, Mason Foster, Stefan Wisniewski and Jon Baldwin all go. They’re all gone by pick 50.  You even have Kenrick Ellis, a defensive lineman we’ve talked about for a long time, going at pick 37.

Then, in the 51-60 range, Marcus Cannon, Will Rackley, Titus Young, Rahim Moore all go.  Man, give us some hope for the third pick!  Who do you have in that next 10-12.  Who were the names you considered for the back of round 2 who didn’t make it in?

WB:  Let’s see.  I have Ricky Stanzi, the QB from Iowa; Quan Sturdivant, the linebacker; Stephen Schilling and Jon Barnes, two interior offensive linemen.  Marvin Austin, the DT from North Carolina;  Johnny Patrick, the CB from Louisville;  Quinton Carter the S from Oklahoma; Rodney Hudson, the interior lineman from Florida State; Dontay Moch, the LB from Nevada.  That’s the next tier, starting off.

CN:  I want to ask about Stefan Wisniewski, because I’ve seen him all over.  Some mocks push him into the 3rd, and there’s one big list that doesn’t even rate him in the top 100.

WB:  I’ve heard from most scouts that he’s the 1st or 2nd interior lineman on most teams’ boards, either before or after Mike Pouncey.  There may be a shot that he falls into the early 3rd, because he’s not the most sexy of players, but if he’s the number two, I can’t really see him falling into the 3rd if Pouncey is going somewhere in the 15-20 range.

CN:  I want to return to the fullbacks, which we discuss about once a month.  I was looking at a photo from the Cowboys war room last year, when their pick came up in the 4th round, the 21st in that round, and it shows Jerry Jones pointing to fullback John Conner’s card.  At that time they had three names at the top of their board — Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Conner and tight end Clay Harbor.  They had an offer were weighing trading down or picking in that spot.  In the end, they moved down seven spots and took Owusu-Ansah.  They went with their board, but they were clearly considering a fullback in the late 4th.

This is a strong fullback class this year.  You’ve talked it up since November or so.  How do the top guys, the Owen Marecics and Henry Hynoskis, compare to Conner, whom the Jets took eight picks into the 5th round?   Dallas has to be considering fullback at that same spot, because it appears they came close to drafting Conner last year.

WB:  I’d say they’re on the same page.  I gave Marecic and Hynoski the same grade I gave Conner last year, a 7.0.  I think these guys can both start for you and it’s a matter of figuring out when you’re going to go after your guy.  If the Cowboys had taken Conner in the 4th last year I don’t think anybody would have had any qualms about it.  I think Conner is going to be a Pro Bowl fullback in the NFL.  I think Marecic and Hynoski are both 4th to 5th round picks who are going to contribute on run downs and help you out on special teams.

They’re similar players.  I think Conner is a lower lower, has a little more thump.  Hynoski is bigger and he’ll just grind you and finish you.  Marecic is the most technically solid of the three.  He’s more fluid and changes directions better.

CN:  If you’re looking for a lead blocker, and you’re Dallas and you’re chasing the ghost of Daryl Johnston, the player (the real guy is still very much alive) which player or two would you prioritize?

WB: Hynoski and Marecic.  Those are the two best lead blockers.  I think Anthony Sherman can get a look late but those are the two guys I’d want.  Honestly, I’d take Marecic first, because he’s more flexible, but I think they’re both solid 4th to 5th round picks.

Tomorrow:  Part II of the Wes Bunting chat looks at the scouting calendar and Wes answers readers’ questions.

Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Senior Analyst Cowboys at Sports Talk Line
Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for
Rafael Vela

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  • Smooth

    The more I think about it the more I see us setting ourselves up for a couple of trade downs or at least picking up some extra picks by baiting and throwing names out there.

  • Sid

    Aldon Smith? Smoke Screen. We know Wade is going to lobby for his own “Demarcus Ware” to get his 3-4 going. Move down 2 spots. No biggie.

  • cowboyny

    I don’t buy for one second that A. Smith is on the team’s radar:

    -Historically, the team typically takes a prospect who has visited their facility before the draft. Yes, there has been exceptions, most recently Mike Jenkins, but it is not the norm. A. Smith and no other OLB edge rusher came to Valley Ranch. The team brought in each and every 1st round Tackle prospect, there is all the evidence we need to support the direction the team will look to address with their 1st rd selection.

    -It is a lateral move by taking Aldon. Spencer is the team’s starter and will not be either released or beaten out by him. You can even make a case that Butler would be ahead of him on the depth chart. Rookie OLB’s have a big development curve, where his impact would only be in sub-package formations and will need a big injury to see alot of snaps.

    -Taking an edge pass rusher is a luxury the team can’t afford, with a OL that needs to be totally blown up. Would you rather start Spencer or Sam Young?

    In my opinion, the team leaked out this misinfromation to show teams they aren’t locked onto one player. Everyone knows who the team wants, like every draft, which makes any trade down virtually impossible to make.

    • Smooth

      Makes sense and i sure hope you’re right

    • I agree. The depth chart doesn’t lie and while Spencer may be a dissapointment he’s definately average. We can’t say the same about Sam Young, especially not after what we went through in 2005.

  • mareic is the only fback i would take n the 5th because he was also a starting lb and played steams played more down than any player so he must b n great shape

  • hmmm
    so the Aldon Smith talk is for real
    I would love the pick I will support whatever we do this year
    if they think Aldon has Ware type stuff, then draft him
    im just going to be sweating bulletts for a OT in round 2

  • valmont

    “I was shaking my head because a lot of the players we’ve talked about as potential 2nd rounder or as potential 3rd round options at pick 71 fly off the board.”

    this is so silly, man bites dog news. Wes Bunting does a mock draft and he projects that the draft order will be similar to the order Wes Bunting ranks players. It’s a tautology.

    It would be news if Wes did a mock and he had all the players he’s been hyping all season lasting into the 4th & 5th round.

  • Steel 5

    How’s this for a Cowboy’s 2011 rookie class?

    Round 1 – Tyron Smith, T, USC
    Round 2 – Kenrick Ellis, DL, Hampton
    Round 3 – Clint Boling, G, Georgia
    Round 4 – Curtis Marsh, CB, Utah St.
    Round 5 – Owen Marecic, FB, Stanford
    Round 6 – Cecil Shorts III, WR, Mount Union
    Round 7A – Mike Mohamed, ILB, California
    Round 7B – Alex Henery, K, Nebraska

    No edge rusher here, but I think it hits on a lot of what we need. Pair this group with Eric Weddle in free agency (I hope that’s possible) and I think we get back in the NFC East title hunt sooner rather than later.

    • Rafael Vela

      If you could guarantee it, that would make me smile. Wes has Marsh rated very highly, but I think he could be drafted much lower than his NFP rating. Boling will be in tomorrow’s chat.

      The only pick I question is the kicker and it’s not that I wouldn’t take one to challenge Buehler, but remember, Dallas signed Kris Brown for that purpose.

      • Steel 5

        Yeah, Marsh is a little bit of a wild card in where he could end up, but I’ve seen a lot of other articles and sites with him rated lower than Wes. I was torn between Boling and Schilling (from Michigan), because I think they’re similar. But our pick in the 3rd might be a little high for Schilling. As far as the kicker goes, I thought it might be good to have another young leg on the roster, especially if we can’t talk to undrafted free agents due to the labor situation.

    • henery will not make it to the 6th round ellis at 40 some one should b shot

  • Ridgelake

    Marecic does seem more like our guy. We’ve had thumpers at FB. Jamar Martin and Oliver Hoyte could just flat out destroy LBs in the hole. It was fun to watch them pancake guys. Heck, even Cricket Anderson became an effective lead blocker.

    But that’s all they could do. What made Moose so effective is that he could move outside to the slot and be an effective receiver like a TE. Create mis-matches with LBs. Stay in base personnel and be able to pass or run equally effectively. And be able to use multiple alignments with the same guys.

    Marecic’s apparent better mobility and fluidity would seem to be the better match to Moose’s role. While Hynoski may be a big thumper, if he can’t catch and move effectively in space, he’ll be no better than the previous thumpers of the last decade.

    • Smooth

      Yea i think they will go or should go with the more versatile fullback since it seems like we’re trying to get more athletic at the oline positions.

  • Rafael Vela

    Was re-reading Wes’ piece on Aldon Smith and laughed at his ”he has pterodactyl-like arms.” Look at the photo. It’s true.

    So Dallas’ choice is down to Smith and Smith, the guys with perhaps the longest arms in the draft? Will they take the ”longer” one? LOL!

    • Smooth

      lol that’s funny…….. So is aldon smith a true top ten talent? what do you think of him or compare him to?

      • Rafael Vela

        I haven’t looked at him much, because I didn’t seriously think Dallas would look at OLB in the 1st. That link I put up from late January was the 1st time I heard of him, because he had just declared and Wes was going though his junior stuff. It is interesting that he was described as having a better rush than Bowers, ’cause in late Jan. early Feb. it was all DaQuan Bowers all the time.

        Smith looks like an elite edge rusher, long with Robert Quinn. The interesting line is that he played 3-technique when Missouri went to nickel. That’s a 3-down guy who can roam up and down a front looking for a mismatch.

        I’m thinking this could be serious.

        • Ridgelake

          I see Houston taking him if we don’t. This is a guy Wade would love to have. And they could use pressure guys to pair with Super Mario.

          • Smith was awesome as a nickel DT. Really destroyed guys. You’d swear you’re watching Justin Tuck. I just don’t know how he goes as a 3-4 OLB in the base set.

        • Smooth

          Oh wow! Thats exciting to hear and something i would love to have until i think about our offensive again. lol. I feel like a kid again i want that i want that and i want that too.

        • kameleon_o

          If we’re going for an OLB prospect like that then I’d prefer Quinn. He’s faster and has long arms too. I think he’s more polished than Smith too.