The Cowboys have some glaring needs at defense. The draft is their best shot at upgrading at these positions. Free agency will be a hard process because we have to worry about Dez and Demarco. There have been some rumors that the Cowboys could be looking to make a splash with Ndamukong Suh, but that is a wish list item, and to even think about that we have to determine what happens between Dez and Demarco. Since our season is over, and it is officially draft season, I thought what a better time than now to do a little draft preview. Now I am not a draft expert in the slightest, but I can see where our needs are, and by looking at different highlight and game videos, mock drafts, scouting reports, and stats I compiled a short list of players I think will be names to remember when it comes draft time. Without further ado, these are the prospects I think the Cowboys should be looking at when they are officially on the clock.
Eli Harold #7 UVA
Eli Harold from the University of Virginia is a defensive end that has come on strong this season. He has had quite the career at Virginia with 36.5 TFLs which is good for 10th in UVA history, 141 tackles, 4 fumbles, 17.5 sacks, and was a 2nd team All-ACC selection this year. He is 6’4” 250 lbs., so he is a little on the small side, but he is quite the athlete. From what I saw watching some of his highlights I noticed that he is fast, and very quick off the ball. He ran a 4.6 40-yard dash, and is very good at chasing down the ball carrier. He does a great job of using his hands to get off of blocks. He’s a tall guy, and can get his hands up in the QBs face, and bat down balls. I think he can be a great guy to add to our defensive line, and can be a great upgrade to our pass rush. He’s a speed guy, and if he can add some muscle, and weight to him he will be a force against offensive tackles. Harold is rated as the 8th best outside linebacker on Mel Kiper Jr.’s board, and that can be another role that Harold can fill for Dallas. He is a raw talent so his technique needs some work, but in the hands of Rod Marinelli, I think Harold can become a great pass rusher, and great defensive player.
Senquez Golsen #21 Ole Miss
From Ole Miss this defensive back is a player who’s stock is currently on the rise. He is a small player, and that is his major drawback. At 5’9” 176 lbs. scouts think that Golsen will have an issue when it comes to defending the taller receivers in the league. I will say that having a smaller corner is something to be weary about, but after watching him play, and reading scouting report he is a guy that should be judged off of his play rather than his size. He is only an inch shorter than Orlando Scandrick, and I think once he is in an NFL strength & conditioning program Golsen can get his weight up. He is projected at a 2nd round pick, and his stock is rising. He could benefit from the combine, and shoot up higher. I hope the Cowboys could pick him up in the 2nd round because I think our first round pick should be spent on defensive line, but if Golsen proves to be a much better player, and shows great improvement he could be a solid pick at 27. He does a great job of sticking to the opposing receiver, and has great ball skills. He has good footwork, and fluid hips that make breaking on the ball easy for him, which is apparent by his 16 picks this past season. He is currently ranked as the 9th best corner on Mel Kiper Jr.’s board, was a unanimous All-American pick, and helped close out the win for Ole Miss against Alabama with a game ending pick. He is a playmaker that I think can seriously upgrade our secondary, which has been suspect for the past couple seasons. The addition of Golsen would allow Scandrick to play outside more, and possible move to safety. I will be for sure keeping an eye on Golsen throughout the draft process, combine, and pro days because if his stock continues to rise we could see Senquez Golsen holding the Cowboys jersey on the first night of the NFL Draft.
Xavier Williams #98 UNI
This big boy from Northern Iowa is flying under the radar, but after looking good all week at the East-West Shrine Bowl, looking unblockable during practice, he is getting some attention. Williams is 6’2” 309 lbs. and is a force at the 1-technique. This past season Williams had 66 tackles, 12 TFLs, 8 sacks, 3 pass break ups, and a blocked kick. I watch some plays of Northern Iowa vs. North Dakota State University, and Williams did a good job of creating pressure, getting in the backfield, and getting to the ball carrier. For being a bigger guy, he is quite fast, and has some better than average lateral movement. He was a former wrestler, and that background is quite the extra skill to have playing in the trenches.. He has a great low center of gravity, which allows him to create penetration, and cause havoc amongst the offensive line. There is nothing more frustrating to an offense than to have a defensive player constantly being in the backfield, or getting push on your offensive line, and that is what Williams does. He has natural grown-man strength, and being 6’2” and playing with such great center of gravity he is able to gain leverage on offensive linemen. Now the drawback for Williams is that yes he played at Northern Iowa, so the talent drop off is significant. However, with better competition and better talent he will be able to improve his play. What he definitely needs to work on is his explosion off the line. In the NDSU game it seemed like he was slow off the snap count, which in the NFL will get you demolished. He is the 7th rated defensive tackle on Mel Kiper Jr.’s board, so he is making some noise and getting his name out there. He is projected as a 4th round pick for now, and could be a steal for Dallas if we were to pick him in the 4th round. I think his stock will definitely rise during the draft process, and we could see him move up to the 3rd round. Being from a small school he has no pressure on him to be something his is not, so if he goes into the combines, pro days, and interview process he can truly make a name for himself.
Za’Darius Smith #94 UK
Za’Darius Smith (new favorite name I might add) is a defensive lineman out of the University of Kentucky who has also been a name to look for at the Senior bowls. A 6’4” 273 lbs. defensive end Smith was a force for Kentucky’s defensive line. He plays with a sense of urgency, and with great power at the point of attack. He is a bigger defensive end so his speed is not much to brag about, between a 4.7 and a 4.9 40-time, but he is quick. He is 273 lbs. though, which at defensive end is a big boy. I watched some highlights from 2013 against Fresno and what I noticed was he definitely read blocks well, and did a good job of getting up field, but it was getting off those blocks and bending to the ball carrier that he needs to improve on. He does a good job of setting tackles up with an outside rush, and counters back inside. What Smith has working for him is that he can shed some weight and work on his speed and technique to become a faster more technically sound defensive end, or he can gain some muscle and move inside. Dallas has been rotating guys in and out at the defensive line, so a guy like Smith can be one of those guys that can fill in at both defensive end spots and 3 technique.