Todd Archer breaks down the Dallas Cowboys' 2017 draft class.
Round 1, No. 28 overall: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
My take: The Cowboys have made no secret about their desire to improve their pass rush. That was their hope in 2016, 2015 and 2014. It will be their hope in 2018 as well even with the selection of Charlton on Thursday. They have not had a player reach double digits in sacks since Jason Hatcher in 2013. Last year, Benson Mayowa led the Cowboys in sacks with just six. In 2015, DeMarcus Lawrence led the Cowboys in sacks with eight. Charlton had 9.5 sacks last year at Michigan in his lone season as a full-time starter. He is not DeMarcus Ware, whom the Cowboys signed to a ceremonial deal at the start of the week. Ware was an athletic freak who became the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks. Charlton joins a defensive end rotation that includes Mayowa, Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford and David Irving along with Charles Tapper, a draft pick last year who did not play a snap because of a back injury. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, the Cowboys generated pressure just 23 percent of the time on opponent dropbacks last season, which was third-worst in the NFL. Charlton will raise that percentage this year.
Tipping their hand: Once again the Cowboys' pre-draft visits served as a true indicator as to whom they would pick. Since 2004, Ware (2005) and Morris Claiborne (2012) are the Cowboys' only first-round picks who did not visit with the team before the draft. Charlton was one of Dallas's 29 visitors. Seven players who visited the Cowboys before the draft were picked before No. 28. Charlton said he hit it off immediately with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett. Marinelli’s first question to Charlton: Are you ready to work? They knew the answer to that question after visiting with him earlier in the month.
What about the corner? The Cowboys lost Brandon Carr and Claiborne in free agency to the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets, respectively. They signed Nolan Carroll to join Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown, but had 12 cornerbacks visit before the draft. When they picked, they still had the chance to take Washington corner Kevin King, who is long and aggressive and plays with the same kind of chip on his shoulder as Scandrick. Ultimately, the Cowboys went with the pass-rusher, showing they believe a pass rush makes a secondary rather than vice versa. But they soon would get around to addressing the secondary.
Round 2, No. 60: Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
My take: The Cowboys’ plan came together. They were criticized by some for taking Charlton, who carried a second-round grade on their draft board, but they felt they had to take a defensive end at No. 28 because of the drop-off at the position. They knew they would have a chance to select a cornerback in the second round. They had a choice of Awuzie, Cordrea Tankersley and Fabian Moreau when they were on the clock. Since the Cowboys did not move down, Awuzie, who was a pre-draft visitor to The Star, was their target from the start of the round. Awuzie had only three interceptions in college, compared to nine by Tankersley, but he was a productive player in terms of tackles for loss (26), sacks (nine) and pass deflections (35). In a division that has Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder, Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, the Cowboys need competitive, tough-minded players. Awuzie fits that role.
How he fits: The Cowboys lost cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne and safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox in free agency. They needed to infuse talent into the secondary, and Awuzie has cornerback and safety experience. He said the Cowboys have talked about him playing outside corner, slot corner and safety. The position flexibility is something they like. Dallas drafted Byron Jones in the first round two years ago as a corner but moved him to safety last season. Awuzie is a physical player, which could make him an option at safety. With just Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll and Anthony Brown, the Cowboys didn’t have much depth at corner.
Round 3, No. 92: Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
My take: For the first time since 1983, the Cowboys used their first-, second- and third-round picks on defensive players. They lost four defensive backs to free agency this offseason, so they needed quality and numbers. By adding Awuzie and Lewis, they got two players with second-round grades. The biggest question about Lewis isn't his football ability. It's a misdemeanor domestic violence charge from an incident in March. Lewis said he is "completely innocent" and believes the charges will be dropped. Jerry Jones said the team investigated the claim and felt comfortable picking Lewis. If there turns out to be no penalties legally or from the NFL, the Cowboys will have a two-time Big Ten defensive back of the year who went up against No. 1 receivers each week.
How he fits: The Cowboys believe Lewis has position flexibility but they want to use him, as well as Awuzie, as an outside cornerback first. Dallas doesn't yet know if it is better with these additions and the losses of Carr and Claiborne, but the secondary got younger and faster. "I'm scrappy," Lewis said. "I'm a competitor. I feel like I'm physical. I have a chip on my shoulder. I play with some fight in me. I'm a technician. I love to be perfect. I want to be as good at my craft as possible."
Round 4, No. 133: Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina
My take: The Cowboys have one of the best slot receivers in the NFL in Cole Beasley, who led the team with 75 receptions last year. Switzer, at 5-foot-8, 181 pounds, is a similar player. He is North Carolina's all-time leader in receptions and yards but where he made his mark most was as a punt returner. He returned seven for touchdowns in his career and averaged 10.6 yards per return. The Cowboys lost running back Lance Dunbar to free agency, and it is possible Switzer could take over in a niche role as well as work the slot.
How he fits: The Cowboys have not been able to get enough explosive plays out of special teams. Their hope is Switzer is an upgrade over Lucky Whitehead, who handled the returner job the past two years. It's a crowded receiver room now with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Beasley, Brice Butler and now Switzer and Whitehead.
Round 6, No. 191: Xavier Woods, S, Louisiana Tech
My take: The remake of the Cowboys secondary continues. They moved up 20 spots to select Woods, giving up a 2018 fifth-round pick to the New York Jets. This pick fills a remaining need on the defense. The Cowboys drafted cornerbacks in the second and third rounds, and Woods can contend for playing time as a rookie as well. The Atlanta Falcons were able to go to the Super Bowl with rookies Keanu Neal and Brian Poole in their secondary. The Cowboys could rely on these rookies in 2017 to help them make a postseason run.
How he fits: The Cowboys lost Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox in free agency and have been content to go with Jeff Heath as the starter opposite Byron Jones. Woods might not contend for a starting spot in 2017, but he possesses skills the secondary has lacked: He can go get the ball. He had 14 interceptions and forced nine fumbles in his college career. In the past two years, the Cowboys' leader in interceptions has had two for the season.
Round 6, No. 216: Marquez White, CB, Florida State
My take: White was a full-time starter for two seasons at Florida State and finished with four interceptions in his career. The four members of the secondary that Dallas lost in free agency combined for nearly 2,700 snaps last season. The Cowboys needed help in the back end, and White is the fourth secondary player the Cowboys selected in their first six picks. They came in knowing they needed to add numbers, and they did that.
How he fits: The Cowboys are testing the theory of never having enough cornerbacks. White plays outside, while Awuzie and Lewis can play in the slot as well. The Cowboys denied they were looking to deal Orlando Scandrick on Friday night, but they added more depth than they can possibly deal with at the position.
Round 7, No. 228: Joey Ivie, DT, Florida
My take: Rod Marinelli might not be coaching the Mighty Orphans this year. Of the Cowboys' first seven selections, six were on the defensive side of the ball. Taco Charlton could be a starter from day one at defensive end, or at least a significant part of the rotation. Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis could play an early role at cornerback, as could safety Xavier Woods. Ivie is more of a depth piece along the front line at the moment. What Marinelli will like most is his motor.
How he fits: The Cowboys lost Terrell McClain, last year's nose tackle, to the Washington Redskins in free agency. Ivie can't be viewed as a potential starter or major contributor right away, with Maliek Collins, Cedric Thornton and Stephen Paea the true defensive tackles ahead of him on the depth chart. Ends Tyrone Crawford, David Irving and Charlton can kick inside. Given his stats, Ivie would be viewed more as a nose tackle with run-stopping responsibilities.
Round 7, No. 239: Noah Brown, WR, Ohio State
My take: If you're looking only at the Oklahoma game last year, when he scored four touchdowns, Brown could be another Dez Bryant. He had only three touchdowns the rest of the season as the Ohio State passing game struggled. The highlights from the Oklahoma game spell out what he can be -- a big-time playmaker who can go and get the ball or make the tough catch. There will be consistency issues, but he has the talent that makes him worth a seventh-round pick.
How he fits: He is young to the game in many ways, playing in only 24 games in two seasons with the Buckeyes. He missed the 2015 season because of a leg injury. With Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Brice Butler, the Cowboys' top four receivers look solid. They drafted Ryan Switzer in the fourth round and Brown in the seventh. There are too many bodies and not enough slots at the moment to expect Brown to make a big impact as a rookie.
Round 7, No. 248: Jordan Carrell, DT, Colorado
My take: At this point, the Cowboys looked to secure their top-priority free agent by using a draft pick. That was how they ended up taking tight end Rico Gathers with their final pick a year ago. They didn't think he would make it through the draft and didn't want to lose him. Carrell was a productive player at Colorado with 51 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 695 snaps in 2016.
How he fits: He will have an uphill battle trying to make the final roster, but he was productive. This is a Marinelli-type of player with a high motor, and he has a chance to play at the under-tackle spot. With Maliek Collins, Tyrone Crawford and possibly David Irving ahead of him, the best chance for Carrell to make his mark could be on the practice squad if he can have a productive training camp and preseason.