With the Dallas Cowboys picking in the 28th overall slot in the first round they’ll likely have their minds set on targeting one or two positions. It’s no secret that the Right Defensive End (RDE) position is one of the weakest on the Cowboys roster.
Right now Dallas currently has two players that I would say fits the mold as a RDE. Let me explain to the readers on what an ideal RDE should look like. A player that is 6’2-6’4 tall and weighs between 255-275 lbs with long arms and the ability to bend the edge. Right now Benson Mayowa and Charles Tapper (Randy Gregory suspended takes him out of conversation) are the only two guys who fit that mold and we have yet to see how Charles Tapper will handle the NFL. Those two guys are not what you would hope for entering the season as one of the top five NFL teams entering the 2017 season. Mayowa had a solid 2016 for the Cowboys leading the team in sacks with six. Six sacks is not a bad total for a player that was a healthy inactive for four games in the middle of the season for underperforming but not the number you’re looking for out of your lead dog. And Charles Tapper has not played a snap in an NFL game. Not a good scenario to put it nicely.
But that’s what the drafts for and luckily for the Cowboys they may have struck gold on a draft class for pass rushers that fit their needs. I will be touching on a few names that the Cowboys should look to target in the first three rounds. Below I will list nine guys who should be at the top of the Cowboys board in all three rounds.
Takk McKinley – UCLA
Carl Lawson – Auburn
Charles Harris – Missouri
Takk McKinley is one of my favorite players in this draft. At 6’2 260 McKinley is the ideal size that fits the RDE mold we’re talking about. McKinley has almost all the traits you look for in a great pass rusher; ability to bend, first step explosion, and a motor that doesn’t stop. McKinley is one of if not the most athletic players in the draft. A majority of mock drafts and draft boards have McKinley right in the Cowboys range in the first round. In my opinion a shoulder injury that has been lingering around for a few years now is what could be scaring teams away, if not for that I’d have Takk in my top 10 overall players in this draft.
Carl Lawson has been all over the board for some guys, anywhere from top 20 to falling to the end of the second round, I think some people need to take their glasses off clean them down and turn some tape back on because Lawson is a freak of nature. Lawson also fits the idea size mold weighing in at 6’2 260 lbs. Lawson wins with speed, power, and his ability to use his hands to shed and get around blockers. The Auburn stud missed the entire 2014 season with a torn ACL and half of the 2015 season with a hip injury. He had great production in 2016 though with 9.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. The injury history for Lawson is what really leaves you scratching your head he had good production in the games he played in but missed almost half of his college career due to multiple injuries.
Charles Harris is a defensive end from Missouri that played both left and right DE in college. Harris has a variety of ways to win that he showed in his film. His first step and spin move are two of his better pass rush traits. Harris also weighs in at 255 lbs and stands at 6’3 inches tall. Harris plays with good upper body strength and shows it in his ability to win with a bullrush move. The knock on Charles is he isn’t the speedy quick twitch player that a lot of 4-3 teams look for in a RDE speed rusher but does offer enough talent and has a lot of tools in his tool box for Rod Marinelli to use.
Myles Garrett and Jon Allen were both left off the list due to them being selected way before the Cowboys pick. The only chance Dallas has in landing either one of the two players is to trade up, which I don’t see them doing. Derek Barnett was left off because I don’t see him as being a quick twitch speed rusher even though I do see Barnett as being a force rushing from either the left or right side. Solomon Thomas was left off due to I have him graded as a left defensive end, and unfortunately for the Cowboys they have plenty of those.
Tim Williams – Alabama
Derek Rivers – Youngstown St.
Joe Mathis – Washington
The only reason Tim Williams will be available at this point in the draft is due to his off the field issues, which he has plenty of them and will likely be drilled with question after question about them at the combine. But if we’re evaluating a player off of skill Tim Williams is right up there with Myles Garrett talent wise. Williams plays with outstanding speed and above average power for a 250 lb man. Williams for his size plays the run extremely well but offers a pass rush that not many people come close to. Williams is the definition of explosive and has the ability to bend. Without the off the field issues Williams is likely a top 15 pick but sliding to the second round wouldn’t surprise me, does Jerry and Co. have the guts to take another flier on a second round pick that has a high first round talent?
Derek Rivers is going to make one NFL team really happy and make the other 31 NFL teams think about cleaning house in their scouting department. Rivers along with everyone else listed above can bend and has the speed to be very successful at the next level. Derek Rivers has one of the most explosive first steps off the snap out of anyone I’ve studied in the draft this year and maybe ever. Rivers will fit in perfect in Dallas’s defensive scheme and would add some serious talent to the position. Oh, and he’s about as clean as you can possibly be off the field.
Joe Mathis is an interesting story. Mathis waited his turn on the talented Washington defensive line until his number was called. In 2016 that happened and he answered with a bang. Mathis had five sacks in the first six games of the season before injury his foot and deciding to take the rest of the year off to get healthy for the NFL Draft process. Mathis is a very smart football player and uses that football knowledge to his advantage to beat blockers. Mathis offeres an impressive speed to power transition. Mathis has a very strong upper body to go along with his quick feet. Joe Mathis is still growing as a player which is one of the most intriguing things I notice from his film to get a player that still hasn’t hit his ceiling yet is a great thing, especially with a player that has the skillset of Mathis.
Jordan Willis – Kansas State
Duwaune Smoot – Illinois
Tarrell Basham – Ohio
When you get into the third round you’re looking for talented players that may not be walk on starters but have traits that show they could potentially help the football team. Jordan Willis is just that. Willis is by no means an elite pass rusher right now but has a lot of traits that could potentially turn into someone great. Willis plays with outstanding speed and matches that with a motor that doesn’t stop. Willis will need to work on his run defense in order to be a three down player in the NFL but could be a great steal in the third round as a pass rush specialist.
Duwaune Smoot is what we would call a work in progress. Smoot has all the physical attributes you’d like in a NFL player. Smoot wins in multiple ways and doesn’t quit playing until the whistle is blown. Smoot has a LDE skillset in a RDE body getting Smoot to play like the 255lb man he is instead of 290lb man would be the first thing I’d work on if I was a defensive coordinator. Smoot is a raw player with tons of upside that has yet to be unlocked yet.
Tarrell Basham is a fantastic option late in the third round. Basham looks the part weighing in at 6’4 260 lbs Basham played at a small school in Ohio but was productive against his competition. Basham uses his long arms to shed blockers in the run game and uses his hands well to fight of blockers when rushing the passer. The Ohio stud plays the run just as good as he rushes the passer. Basham has great size, good length, and a high motor. All of those traits make for a great addition as a mid round talent to add in as depth at right defensive end.
All these guys have the ability to be great additions to the Cowboys and all of these guys should be around when the Cowboys are selection in each round. Let’s hope the Jones’s realize how much of a liability this current pass rush is and hope they add a free agent or two and spend a couple of high picks to address this average pass rush.
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