Semi-Official Loose Cannon
Bear's Annual Look at the Draft, v. 2007
Bear’s Look at the Draft, v. 2007
In today’s NFL, the building of a roster is achieved by a combination of a number of approaches. According to the conventional wisdom, a team uses free agency to plug holes in the roster, the occasional trade supplements this approach (player for player trades are becoming increasingly rare). Then, if you’ve done your job well in free agency, when you get to the draft, your team has the luxury of employing the classic “best player available” approach.
This is pretty much what the Cowboys have done this offseason; the signing of Leonard Davis plugged the hole at right guard left when Marco Rivera had to undergo another back surgery, a surgery that most seem to think will end his career. The re-signing of Andre Gurode and Marc Colombo further solidified the offensive line. Then the Boys went out and got themselves a much-needed veteran backup for Tony Romo at quarterback, Brad Johnson. He wouldn’t have been my first choice, but he’ll do fine. Most recently, the Boys signed Ken Hamlin to a one year, “make good” kind of deal, at a cut-rate price, to plug their gaping hole at free safety. There is some disagreement among the so-called experts about whether Hamlin is the cover specialist free safety we need, some sources saying he’s quite good in coverage, others saying he’s more of a hitter than a cover guy. One thing that seems clear is whatever his cover abilities, he’s an upgrade over what the Boys lined up at free safety last year, and should afford young Patrick Watkins the chance to develop at a bit more leisurely pace.
Going into the offseason, any semi-serious fan of the Boys could have told you that their most pressing needs were for a right guard, a backup quarterback and a starting free safety. So it would appear that this offseason should be labeled “mission accomplished” for our favorite team, and the Boys would be safe to go to full-blown BPA mode in the draft.
Well, yes and no. Yes, there are no needs so urgent that the Boys need to address them on the first day of the draft, but there ARE still a few lesser needs they’d almost certainly like to address later in the draft. I refer to the need to find a quality backup for Jason Ferguson at nose tackle, and to the need to find a good blocking fullback (it is widely rumored that Jason Garrett will be moving away from all those two tight end sets that Parcells loved, and back to an offensive approach that uses a classic fullback, as we saw in the old Norv Turner offenses), and to the need for a quality backup center for Gurode (right now, the competition would be between Joe Berger, Cory Procter or Trey Darilek, none of whom has ever taken a snap at center in the NFL). A final priority will likely be to find a developmental quarterback on the second day.
The good news is the Cowboys are indeed free to pursue the best player available with their premium picks, without having to focus on any specific positions. They can take advantage of those positions that are deepest in this draft (wide receiver is the single deepest and most talented position in this draft, there are also a lot of good outside linebackers, and a fairly gifted assortment of defensive backs).
All of the above is little more than a preamble to the main thrust of this article, time now to get to the meat and potatos of this draft analysis. It’s time to attempt to project who the Boys should be targeting in each round. As always, I’ll try to offer a few options for each pick, then at the end offer my one choice for each round.
Reggie Nelson 5-11 200 FS Florida 4.35 sec. 40
Ted Ginn Jr. 5-11 180 WR/KR Ohio St. 4.35 sec. 40
Darrell Revis 5-11 195 CB Pitt 4.4 sec. 40
Robert Meachem 6-2 216 WR Tennessee 4.45 sec. 40
Justin Blalock 6-3 325 OG/OT Texas 5.1 sec. 40
Dwayne Bowe 6-2 216 WR LSU 4.45 sec. 40
Comments—you can probably tell by this projection for the first round, I look for the Boys to go either WR or DB at pick 22. There are actually other players I could have projected at each position for the Boys to target in the first round (Dwayne Jarrett from USC and Sidney Rice from South Carolina at WR, Chris Houston from Arkansas and Aaron Ross from Texas at CB, Michael Griffin from Texas at FS), but I have some reasons for not really caring for any of them. Some of you who know my background will undoubtedly be astounded to know that I don’t care much for Ross or Griffin, given that I’m a devoted Texas Longhorns fan, but the truth is the Horns’ pass defense last year was not very good, and they were a big part of the reason why. Yeah, the have the “measurables” to be very good in the NFL, but they really weren’t that good in college. However, I have read that the Cowboys like both players, and will be bringing each in for a predraft visit, so perhaps it’s not a good idea to write off their chances of ultimately playing for the Boys altogether.
Now, as to the players who have made my top 6 as listed above. Nelson is, in my estimation, the second best safety on this draft board, behind only Laron Landry. Given that Landry will be long gone by the time the Boys pick at 22, Nelson will almost certainly be the top rated free safety left on the board. He has good size, terrific speed, and has been a playmaker in college. The Cowboys are bringing him in for a predraft visit as well, so we know they have some interest in him. The other defensive back on the board here is cornerback Darrelle Revis, who will likely be the best corner not named Aaron Ross still available at this point.
As for the wide receivers, Ginn is the smallest of the bunch, but is also the fastest, the best pure speed threat on the board. His advantage, to my mind, lies in the way he’d provide the team with a dangerous kick returner while he’s trying to earn playing time at WR. Meachem and Bowe are a good deal bigger, but not quite as fast. Both these players are intriguing to me; what I’ve read about Bowe reminds me a lot of what they said about Michael Irvin coming out of college—he’s big, physical, a good blocker downfield. Meanwhile, Meachem’s scouting reports set me in mind of another big wideout from Tennessee that the Boys once drafted, kid by the name of Alvin Harper. So, would the Boys rather have another Michael Irvin-type wideout, or would they like to have a poor man’s Alvin Harper? They could probably get either with this pick.
The wild card is the sixth player considered for this first round pick, offensive lineman Justin Blalock from Texas. I just HAD to work one of my Longhorns into the equation here, LOL. Though the offensive line isn’t the need position it was going into free agency, it looks to me like the arrival of Jason Garrett to oversee the offense foreshadows a move away from the smaller, more mobile offensive linemen that Parcells preferred, in favor of bigger, more smashmouth linemen like we all got used to back in the glory days of Jimmy and Jerry. Blalock is very much that sort of player, and I believe he’s going to be a very, very good pro—at guard, not at tackle. Though I was focused on wideouts and defensive backs in the first round, when I read Jennifer Floyd Engle’s (a beat writer covering the Cowboys) claim that the Boys “love, love, love” Blalock, I thought it made sense to include him in our considerations here. That said, if the Boys opted to go this route, they could probably trade down 10-12 picks and still claim him, which would result in them adding another third round pick.
Personal Preference—the final option discussed; trade down a short way, and draft Blalock. There will be good wideouts and defensive backs looking for work in the next two rounds, but the crop of offensive linemen isn’t as deep or talented as it has been in recent years.
Manuel Ramirez 6-3 325 OG Texas Tech 5.2 sec. 40
Arron Sears 6-3 320 OG/OT Tennessee 5.1 sec. 40
Jason Hill 6-1 206 WR Washington St. 4.4 sec. 40
Doug Free 6-6 325 OT N. Illinois 5.25 sec. 40
Dan Bazuin 6-3 265 OLB/DE Central Michigan 4.75 sec. 40
Paul Williams 6-1 206 WR Fresno St. 4.45 sec. 40
Comments—The Boys have historically enjoyed some success drafting offensive linemen in the second round, and if they did not go with Blalock in the first, this would be a good time to draft a solid blocker. Remember, this draft is not quite as deep and talented on the offensive line as most drafts are, so if you want to upgrade your offensive line, you probably want to look to address that need early. Ramirez and Sears both played tackle in college, but are not tall enough to play there in the pros. They should, however, make nice guards, they have the requisite bulk for inside warfare, and they run well enough to pull and trap for you. Alternatively, the Boys might want to recognize the age and impending free agent status of Flozell Adams (next offseason), and draft a big young tackle to groom for the future. Free fits that bill perfectly.
If the Boys did opt for Justin Blalock in the first, another offensive lineman here would constitute a bit of overkill. In that scenario, it might be time to look at the wide receivers available, again to take advantage of the incredible depth at this position (with so many good players at this position, some players who might have been first or second rounders in normal years will find themselves falling a round or even two in this draft). My personal favorite, from way back in preseason, is Jason Hill. Back then, I thought he was a possession-type receiver only, I figured from what I read about him that he’d be a 4.55 second 40 type, 4.5 seconds at the absolute best. But even at that speed, he had a reputation for producing on game day, for running precise routes and catching everything that’s thrown near him. I figured he’d be a good prospect in the 3rd round range. Then he went out and ran a sub-4.4 40 at the combine, speed I never suspected he had, and he moved up my draft board. Williams might be rated a little high here, he might be a better value in the third round.
Beside the offensive linemen and wideouts considered for this pick, my wild card here is Dan Bazuin, the tweener from Central Michigan. I think the Boys will be on the lookout for another tweener like this, a pass-rushing specialist who can line up at OLB in the 3-4, and Bazuin looks like a good one to me. He certainly got a bunch of sacks for Central Michigan.
Personal Preference—I really like Hill here, I think he’s got the potential to give you a solid 50-60 catches a year ultimately. Naturally, if the Boys went wide receiver in the first round, another wideout here wouldn’t make much sense, in which case I’d go for Sears or Ramirez.
Paul Soliai 6-4 346 NT Utah 5.1 sec. 40
Samson Satele 6-2 305 C/OG Hawaii 5.25 sec. 40
Brian Robison 6-3 260 OLB/DE Texas 4.65 sec. 40
John Wendling 6-1 220 FS Wyoming 4.5 sec. 40
Quincy Black 6-1 240 OLB New Mexico 4.5 sec. 40
Johnnie Lee Higgins 5-11 186 WR/KR Texas-El Paso 4.35 sec. 40
Comments—I have an assortment of different positions targeted here, which is not unexpected when your team is able to employ the Best Player Available approach. As mentioned earlier, the Boys need a good backup nose tackle, and Soliai is the best pure NT available in this draft, in my opinion. He’s simply massive, and quite powerful, just what you look for at that position. But the Boys also need a quality backup at center, and Satele is quite intriguing to me at this position. I’d like it if he was a little bigger, but I think he has the potential to eventually bulk up to the 310-315 pound range. He’s awfully quick, and has that “nasty” attitude you like to see in blockers.
Robison is my favorite of the post-first round “tweeners”; I have Bazuin considered a round earlier, but that’s because he’s rated higher by the so-called experts. I’d really rather have Robison. Brian was overshadowed by his more-heralded teammate in Austin, Tim Crowder, but I’m firmly convinced that Robison will be the better pro. At the combine workout, no defensive lineman put up better workout numbers. His athleticism is simply off the charts. Wendling is a big safety prospect, a kid the Boys apparently showed some interest in during the all-star games portion of the offseason workouts. If the Boys haven’t already grabbed a defensive back in the draft, this might be the place to do so. Black is a sleeper of mine, I don’t really know if he fits in a 3-4 scheme, or if he’s a classic 4-3 outside linebacker. You don’t see many 240 pounders who can run 4.5 40s these days, though, and I’d be on board with taking a flyer on another Quincy here. Finally, Higgins is a poor man’s Ted Ginn, small but very swift, and a semi-dangerous kick returner in the bargain. It is my belief that the Boys could use an injection of pure speed in their receiver corps, as it’s currently constituted, and Higgins would give them just that.
Personal Preference—this ol’ Horns fan really likes Robison, almost as much as he likes Blalock. I think Brian will be better in the NFL than he was in college. I also think that Wade will want to take advantage of this better than average group of tweener pass rushers, to upgrade the Boys at that position, remembering his solid background as a defensive coach. Soliai might be a better pick when you consider team needs, though. Remember that if the Cowboys did trade down in the first and drafted Justin Blalock, they’d likely have a second pick here, so getting both would not be out of the question.
Michael Bush 6-2 250 RB Louisville 4.5 sec. 40
Zak DeOssie 6-4 250 ILB Brown 4.65 sec. 40
Antwan Barnes 6-1 240 OLB Fla. Intl. 4.45 sec. 40
Jordan Palmer 6-5 230 QB Texas-El Paso 4.95 sec. 40
John Beck 6-3 216 QB BYU 4.75 sec. 40
Gabe Hall 6-4 316 OT Texas Tech 4.9 sec. 40
Comments—I actually don’t see running back as any kind of need for the Cowboys, I’m quite happy with Julius Jones and Marion Barber, and I even like what Tyson Thomspon brings to the table as the third back. But Bush is a first round talent whose senior season was ruined by a broken leg sustained in the first half of his first game of the year, and he recently had to have another surgery to replace the rod put in that leg. As a result, his draft stock is in free-fall, and he might even slip all the way down to the Boys here. It’s not a certainty, but he could. If he does, the Boys should jump all over him, and thank the draft gods for their incredible good fortune. Getting Michael here would be an even bigger steal for them than getting Chris Canty in the 4th round (again, because of injury concerns) two years ago was. He’s a big, power back with some speed, and if the Boys are indeed in the process of moving to a bigger, more physical offensive line, he’d be a good fit.
DeOssie is the son of former Cowboy Steve DeOssie, but that’s not why I like him here. I am concerned about the level of competition he faced, but he has all the numbers—size and speed—and he was really productive at Brown. The Boys’ depth at inside ‘backer isn’t that great, and I think Steve’s baby boy would look real good in a Cowboys uniform. Barnes has amazing speed for a 240 pounder, but like Black a round earlier, might actually be better-suited to use that speed in a 4-3 scheme. He and Quincy should certainly be able to handle their cover duties.
If the Boys are focused on securing a third quarterback to develop behind starter Tony Romo and veteran backup Brad Johnson, this might be the round to acquire that developmental prospect. Palmer is the younger brother of Bengals’ starter Carson Palmer, but is very, very raw at this point. He has a gunslinger’s attitude not too dissimilar to Romo’s, he has a pro arm, but he throws too many interceptions. It is my belief this is mostly because of his inexperience, that reps will help him recognize defenses better. Alternatively, Beck is interesting to me; if nothing else, he’s a good deal more mobile than Palmer, who is a Bledsoe-esque statue in the pocket. Beck has skills that could be developed.
Hall makes the list at this point mostly because I always like 315 pound tackles who can run 4.9 40s. Having played for Texas Tech, you know he’s been well-schooled in the art of pass-blocking.
Personal Preference—even though linebacker wasn’t a glaring need for the Cowboys going into this draft, and even though I have the Boys taking a tweener OLB with the last pick, I think DeOssie would give the Boys quality depth at inside linebacker.
Courtney Brown 6-1 200 CB Cal Poly-SLO 4.35 sec. 40
Jacob Bender 6-6 316 OT Nicholls St. 5.2 sec. 40
Laurent Robinson 6-2 200 WR Illinois St. 4.4 sec. 40
Kevin Payne 6-1 210 FS La.-Monroe 4.55 sec. 40
Garrett Wolfe 5-7 186 RB/KR N. Illinois 4.4 sec. 40
Kasey Studdard 6-2 305 OG Texas 5.2 sec. 40
Comments—Brown has been rocketing up a lot of draft boards here lately, after some scintillating offseason workouts. I actually don’t know why he isn’t rated higher still, he had 7 interceptions as a junior, then as a senior opposing teams basically stayed away from him. The Boys have some age issues at cornerback (Aaron Glenn, Anthony Henry), adding a corner at this point—if they haven’t drafted one already—makes good sense. Bender is a small-college warrior who has really opened some eyes these last few weeks. Robinson was ultraproductive in college, and in a “normal” draft would almost certainly be off the board a round or two earlier than this, but this is not a “normal” draft.
Payne is one of my Super Sleeper Specials, to me this kid is the defensive equivalent of what Patrick Crayton was coming out of college. He’s a safety, he’s a kick returner, he’s even the team’s punter, and a pretty good one. Any team that drafted him would be buying themselves some emergency insurance at a number of positions. I just wish he was a little faster, but if he was, he’d never be on the board this late. Wolfe is an elusive scatback in the Warrick Dunn mode, and he offers you something as a kick returner. Studdard is another of my Longhorn prospects, a mainstay of some very good Texas offenses. I do think he needs to get up to about 315 pounds to be successful in the NFL, though.
Personal Preference—Brown, if he’s still on the board, and if the Boys haven’t already drafted a cornerback. My second choice would be Payne, for his versatility. Drafting players whose main contributions might be on special teams is OK, this late in the draft process.
SIXTH ROUND (two picks, currently)
Dustin Fry 6-3 316 C/OG Clemson 5.2 sec. 40
Chad Nkang 5-11 216 SS (OLB) Elon College 4.4 sec. 40
LeRon McClain 6-1 255 FB Alabama 4.75 sec. 40
Cory Anderson 6-3 260 FB Tennessee 4.7 sec. 40
Jason Snelling 5-11 245 FB Virginia 4.75 sec. 40
Dave Herron 6-1 240 FB (OLB) Michigan St. 4.7 sec. 40
Daren Stone 6-3 220 FS Maine 4.5 sec. 40
Aaron Fairooz 6-6 210 WR Central Ark. 4.5 sec. 40
Comments—with multiple picks in this round, it seemed reasonable to include a few more options for this pick. The Boys could address two of the needs mentioned at the outset of this piece here, fullback and backup center. Fry is my favorite late-round center, his computer numbers are quite similar to what Gurode’s were coming out of college. At fullback, you’ve got a host of possibilities listed here. My favorites are Anderson and Herron, the college linebacker who was Maurice Clarett’s blocking fullback way back in high school. NFL scouts seem to think his best bet of making it in the NFL is to move back to fullback.
Nkang is another of my Super Sleeper Specials, because he reminds me a lot of Darren Woodson coming out of college, other than the level of competition he faced. He also played linebacker in college, but will likely move to strong safety in the pros, he has roughly the same size (Woody was a bit taller), and he has the same kind of speed. Stone intrigues me at free safety, and if it works out that the Boys haven’t taken any defensive backs at this point, I’d be behind drafting this one. Fairooz is the one late round receiver that I think might have a chance to make it a la Marques Colston last year. He’s certainly one big target.
Personal Preference—Fry to back Gurode up at center, and Anderson, or at least one of the fullbacks. The sixth round would be a “need” round for me.
SEVENTH ROUND (three picks, currently)
Toby Korrodi 6-4 235 QB Central Mo. 5.25 sec. 40
Walter Thomas 6-5 370 NT NW Miss. JC 4.95 sec. 40
La’Ron Harris 6-3 340 NT NW Okla. St. 4.95 sec. 40
Elbert Shumate 6-1 325 NT Pikeville College 5.1 sec. 40
Jermon Bushrod 6-4 316 OT Towson St. 4.95 sec. 40
Jason Caprizzi 6-9 325 OT Indiana (Pa.) 5.25 sec. 40
Stanley Daniels 6-3 325 OG Washington 5.2 sec. 40
Jacob Ford 6-4 260 OLB/DE Central Ark. 4.65 sec. 40
Nate Ilaoa 5-9 250 RB/FB Hawaii 4.75 sec. 40
Germaine Race 5-10 216 RB Pittsburg St. 4.65 sec. 40
Greg Peterson 6-5 286 DE N. Car. Central 4.75 sec. 40
Comments—again, with multiple picks in this round (three), it made sense to list a few more options. I only recently read of the Cowboys’ interest in Korrodi, but I can understand why they like him, other than him being slow enough to make Drew Bledsoe look fast. Other than that, this big lefty played really well in college, and might someday develop into a quality NFL quarterback. I’d certainly spend on of the Boys’ three 7th round picks on one of those big, athletic nose tackles likely to still be on the board, and if the Boys haven’t already looked for a backup nose tackle, I might even draft two of them. My thinking is if one of these guys doesn’t pan out at NT, you might be able to turn him into a pretty nice offensive lineman. Thomas, Harris and Shumate have AMAZING agility for guys that big, but of course you have to be dubious about the level of competition they faced.
In a lot of drafts, when you get to this late stage there are still a lot of quality offensive linemen on the board, and I believe a savvy front office always looks closely at the blockers available late. Though this year’s crop of offensive linemen is a bit subpar, there will still be good linemen available here. Bushrod has had some impressive offseason workouts, and has caught the scouts’ attention; Caprizzi, well, he’s 6-9, and has decent agility; Daniels has played for a Division I program, and I like his computer numbers. I think I’d prefer to look at a tackle here, if only because I hope the Boys have already drafted a guard or a center, or both.
Ford is another pass-rushing tweener who may have the Cowboys eye just because Jerry tends to keep his eyes on prospects from Arkansas. Ilaoa is a pounding running back/ fullback tweener who is a real threat carrying the ball. Race just dominated in college, but his lack of pure speed makes you wonder if he can be anywhere near as successful in the NFL. At the same time, his college numbers are so good that he deserves a look by some NFL team. Finally, Peterson is one of the few defensive ends in this draft who looks like he could play that position in a 3-4 scheme, and is attractive for that reason alone.
And now that I’ve given you all these options, it’s time to stand up and select one player for each pick. Time now for:
Bear’s 2007 Mock Draft
1—Justin Blalock 6-3 325 OG Texas 5.1 sec. 40
The Boys trade down a few spots in the first (or very early second), and get a player who can compete with Kyle Kosier to start at left guard right away. They’re reportedly very high on Justin.
2—Jason Hill 6-1 205 WR Washington St. 4.4 sec. 40
Glenn and Owens aren’t getting any younger. Some day in the not too distant future, Hill is going to be a terrific 2nd receiver for somebody.
3a—Brian Robison 6-3 260 OLB/DE Texas 4.65 sec. 40
Another pass rusher for Wade Phillips’ attacking scheme. Could be the Cowboys’ equivalent of Shaun Phillips from the Chargers. Again, we know the Boys have shown some interest in Brian.
3b—Paul Soliai 6-4 346 NT Utah 5.1 sec. 40
With the extra pick acquired in the trade down in the first, the Boys get the kind of widebodied run plugger that Wade Phillips favors in a nose tackle.
4—Zak DeOssie 6-4 250 ILB Brown 4.65 sec. 40
With this pick, the once-shaky depth at inside ‘backer is shaky no more.
5—Courtney Brown 6-1 200 CB Cal Poly-SLO 4.35 sec. 40
The biggest weakness in this mock is that it hasn’t addressed depth at defensive back before this, so Brown is a logical pick here.
6a—Dustin Fry 6-3 316 C/OG Clemson 5.2 sec. 40
Quality depth behind Andre Gurode.
6b—Cory Anderson 6-3 260 FB Tennessee 4.7 sec. 40
My favorite of the late-round fullbacks, because he’s the biggest and the quickest. He's just a fierce lead blocker.
7a—Toby Korrodi 6-4 235 QB Central Mo. 5.25 sec. 40
A strong-armed developmental prospect for the Boys, one they’ve shown some interest in.
7b—Walter Thomas 6-5 370 NT NW Miss. JC 4.95 sec. 40
He has a body like Leonard Davis, he’s not really fat at 370 pounds. If he can’t make it at nose tackle, he might make a nice offensive tackle.
7c—La’Ron Harris 6-3 340 NT NW Okla. St. 4.95 sec. 40
After having already drafted Soliai and Thomas at this position, this might seem like overkill, but once again, if Harris doesn’t work out on the defensive side of the ball, he might make a terrific guard, or even a center.
Submitted for your consideration…
Smarter than the av-er-age bear...
Last edited by Hostile : 04-03-2007 at 10:58 AM.