Posted by Adam Kaplan on Saturday, February 12, 2011
Game Of Inches Mock Draft (so far):
1) Carolina Panthers- DT Nick Fairley (Auburn)
2) Denver Broncos- DE Da'Quan Bowers (Clemson)
3) Buffalo Bills- CB Patrick Peterson (LSU)
4) Cincinnati Bengals- WR A.J. Green (Georgia)
5) Arizona Cardinals- QB Blaine Gabbert (Missouri)
6) Cleveland Browns- OLB Von Miller (Texas A&M)
7) San Fransisco 49ers- CB Prince Amukamara (Nebraska)
8) Tennessee Titans- QB Cam Newton (Auburn)
The Dallas Cowboy were predicted to at least make the playoffs in 2010 and had ambitions to play the Superbowl in their home stadium. Well, look at how their season turned out. Wah wah, sad trombone. The problem with the Cowboys was not a lack of talent but a lack of caring. The team gave up on head coach Wade Phillips, didn't tackle as well or run as hard with Phillips as the head coach. Therefore, the Cowboys, for the purposes of the draft, are not a bad team. Dallas can focus taking players and positions that they need as opposed to be "forced" to take the best player available. Although that might be one in the same.
Let's look at the Cowboys offense. When the three Game Of Inches' football blog authors created their quarterback ranking all three of us put Tony Romo as the eighth best quarterback and really the last of the "elite" quarterbacks. A collar bone injury to Romo also hurt the Cowboys season but needless to say, they don't need to focus on their passing game. At the other end of the passing game, the Cowboys have a great set of receivers in Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Roy Williams as the teams number three guy. They also have a great tight end in Jason Witten.
The running game on the other hand is a little suspect. I know the team has three capable running backs in Marian Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice, but the team was middle of the pack in rushing yards- ranking 16th out of 32 in 2010. The problem is that this team doesn't have that back who can carry the ball 20-25 times a game. Marion Barber can get that tough one yard and has shown throughout the season to break off some greats yards, but can't be that every down back or even the first and second down back. Felix Jones is talented like nobody's business and is a darn good pass catcher, but I think he's just a guy who can only get 15 carries total a game. And Tashard Choice seems like just a complement guy/ a fill in guy if/when Barber or Jones gets injured. I think the offense (and eventually team overall) could improve if the team traded away both Barber and Jones for draft picks and took Alabama RB Mark Ingram here. But I think more realistically new head coach Jason Garrett can find a way to use the talent he has more effectively and efficiently.
Going back to Dez Bryant for a second, another overlooked position so far in this draft series as been the special teams. When you're a bad team, your special teams should be the last of your worries. Plus, the vast majority of your special teams come from back up players of your main positions anyways. But the one position you can draft is kick returner- which they got in Bryant last year.
Last year, the Cowboys had the 12th best run blocking offensive line and the 11th best pass blocking offensive line. Pretty good but always room for improvement. No one area of blocking on this line was all that impressive so any first round lineman is bound to be a better blocker than any current Cowboy, but the biggest hole in this line (no pun intended) was at left guard- which ranked 28th out of 32 in blocking.
On the defensive side of the ball, Dallas has the 25th best run blocking defensive but the 10th best pass blocking. Now Football Outsiders doesn't separate defensive lineman from linebackers as long as they started the play on the defensive line. So with an elite linebacker like DeMarcus Ware and the effective Dallas 3-4 scheme they run, this high pass block ranking doesn't surprise me at all.
But the biggest flaw in Dallas' defense was in their secondary. They were the worst team in 2010 in defending their opponents number one receiver, fifth worst at defending their opponents number two receiver, and below average at defending their opponents other receivers. Former first round draft pick CB Michael Jenkins looked awful and his counterpart Terrence Newman didn't look much better- and their safeties were even worse.
Now, there are two basic ways to improve a secondary- especially one like Dallas that has talent on it. The most obvious way is to just replace the current players with even better players. But the other way and the way probably most feasible for the Cowboys, is to improve the defensive line and add players that send constant pressure to opposing quarterbacks which will have a domino effect back to the secondary. This current Dallas 3-4 scheme is extremely beatable with short screens and a solid rushing attack which will force DeMarcus Ware back into coverage. This then brings less pressure to opposing quarterbacks who in turn can scorch the bad Dallas secondary. However, a good pass defending defensive lineman allows the Cowboys to bring constant pressure with or without linebacker pressure. Of course if that defensive lineman is also a good at run blocking as well, then you have a win/win.
The choices for Dallas here is Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Darceus and North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn. Scouts Inc says Darceus is a fantastic pass rusher and a pretty darn good run blocker as well, but admits he needs improvement. They say Quinn is above average against the pass but just average against the run. Mel Kiper ranks Darceus as the fifth best player in this draft and Todd McShay have Darceus as the 7th. Both men, as well as myself, believe that Darceus is the better player therefore....
With the ninth pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys select.... Marcell Darceus. Defensive tackle. Alabama.
Later in this draft they should focus on improving their offensive line and secondary.
- Run blocking linebackers
Guys like DeMarcus Ware is amazing but they need a Brian Urlacher/ London Fletcher type linebacker- a guy who have great speed and can make open field tackles.
Great safety play over the top will help Newman and Jenkins perform at the level they should
- Defensive Ends
Same reason the 'Boys should draft Darceus