Breaking down the Dallas Cowboys' 2018 draft class.
Round 1, No. 19 overall: Leighton Vander Esch, ILB, Boise State
My take: The Cowboys had their eyes on Vander Esch for some time. They had a private workout with him, and they brought him to The Star for a pre-draft visit. He was incredibly productive last season with 141 tackles, three interceptions and four sacks. With the loss of Anthony Hitchens to free agency and the injury questions around Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, Vander Esch gives the Cowboys a ton of flexibility. While some teams might have had questions about Vander Esch’s neck following a 2016 injury, the Cowboys were not worried. At the start, he can play middle linebacker but he can play both the weak and strong sides. Not to raise expectations, but defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had Brian Urlacher during his time with the Chicago Bears.
No deal: Evidently, Jerry Jones was pleased to let AT&T Stadium be the star of the first night of the draft, with more than 100,000 fans in Arlington, Texas. As Derwin James and Tremaine Edmunds fell closer to the Cowboys than expected, Jones stood pat. The Cowboys have 10 picks, so they have the draft collateral to make a move, but either the price was too high or the Cowboys trusted their football people again. They did that when they took Zack Martin in 2014 over Johnny Manziel. They had the top receivers in their sights, as well, but passed on Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore.
College connection: The Cowboys certainly like Boise State players. In 2008, they drafted Orlando Scandrick in the fifth round, and he spent 10 seasons with the club. In 2012, they drafted Tyrone Crawford in the third round, and he has been a starter since his third season. In 2014, they traded up to get DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round, and he had his breakout season in 2017 with 14.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl bid. The Cowboys like the chip-on-the-shoulder attitude Boise State players have, and that’s the type of defense Marinelli and passing game coordinator Kris Richard want.
Round 2, No. 50 overall: Connor Williams, OL, Texas
My take: The Cowboys made a strength stronger by taking Williams. They have first-round picks on the offensive line in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. In 2015, La'el Collins was considered a first-round talent until he fell out of the draft. The Cowboys didn’t have a receiver they liked at No. 50 with Courtland Sutton gone. They weren’t excited about the tight ends, like Dallas Goedert, whom the Philadelphia Eagles picked after trading ahead of the Cowboys. Williams grew up in Coppell, Texas, not far from the Cowboys' former training facility, and he was a pre-draft visitor to The Star.
How he fits: The most interesting part of the announcement of Williams was he was called a guard. He played tackle at Texas, where he was a three-year starter. The Cowboys have said they will go with the five best players on their line. With Williams, the Cowboys can keep Collins at right tackle with free-agent pickup Cameron Fleming serving as the swing tackle on game days. New offensive line coach Paul Alexander likes players who play to the end of the whistle and has a history with this type of athletic lineman, either on the interior or at tackle. Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott should be happy.
Round 3, No. 81 overall: Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
My take: The Cowboys downplayed their need for a wide receiver entering the draft even though they parted ways with Dez Bryant. They didn't go receiver in the first round with Calvin Ridley staring at them. They didn't make a play for Courtland Sutton in the second round, and he went to the Denver Broncos. Gallup was highly productive, with two 1,000-yard seasons at Colorado State. He also caught 21 touchdown passes. Bryant's production fell in his final three seasons with the Cowboys, but he still managed to find the end zone, scoring 17 touchdowns in 38 games. He was not among the Cowboys' top-30 visits, but the team did put him through a private workout. He might not time the fastest, but he plays fast and is productive with the ball in his hands.
How he fits: The Cowboys do not need Gallup to be Bryant. They can work him in slowly if necessary with the depth they have at the position. It looks as if the Cowboys will go with a committee at wide receiver. With Terrance Williams, Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley and Deonte Thompson, the Cowboys have a number of different types of receivers as they look to become more of a Dak-friendly offense for their third-year quarterback.
Round 4, No. 116 overall: Dorance Armstrong Jr., DE, Kansas
Player Profile: Dorance Armstrong Jr.
Take a look back at defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. disrupting Big 12 offenses during his time at Kansas.
My take: The Cowboys were looking at NC State running back Nyheim Hines at the top of the round but saw him go to the Indianapolis Colts, so they went back to a Rod Marinelli truism: You can never have enough pass-rushers. Dorance Armstrong had 1.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss last season for Kansas, which is hardly impressive, but he had 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss in 2016. He has six forced fumbles and four pass deflections the past two seasons. As the Cowboys look for the ability to take the ball away, those two stats matter.
How he fits: With DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Taco Charlton and Kony Ealy, the Cowboys have four pass-rushers ahead of Armstrong on the depth chart. In 2016, the Cowboys took Charles Tapper in the fourth round, but injuries have mostly kept him off the field in his first two seasons. This opens up competition in the pass-rush rotation that Marinelli favors. Also, Lawrence, Ealy, Datone Jones are not under contract past 2018 at the moment.
Round 4, No. 137 overall: Dalton Schultz, TE, Stanford
Prospect Profile: Dalton Schultz
Former Stanford's TE Dalton Schultz showed the potential to be the next in the schools long lineage of successful tight ends in the NFL.
My take: When news broke Friday that Jason Witten could retire and end up in the Monday Night Football booth, the initial reaction was the Cowboys must grab a tight end. The Cowboys didn't feel that way, but they took Dalton Schultz with the final pick of the fourth round just in case. Playing in a run-first offense at Stanford, Schultz has experience as a hand-in-the-ground blocker whereas a lot of other tight ends are more receivers. He caught 55 passes for 555 yards and five touchdowns in his career, but his value to Dallas will be as a blocker.
How he fits: If Witten walks, the tight ends on the Cowboys' roster would have nine career catches -- all belonging to Geoff Swaim. The Cowboys like the way Blake Jarwin developed as a rookie last season and added him to the 53-man roster when a team attempted to sign him off the practice squad. They also have Rico Gathers, who has flashed athletic ability. If Witten returns, Schultz would find himself learning from the probable future Hall of Famer while playing in multi-tight end packages with Swaim and Jarwin.
Round 5, No. 171 overall: Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky
Prospect Profile: Mike White
Take a look at Western Kentucky QB Mike White's college highlights.
My take: The Cowboys have not been a team willing to take a developmental quarterback over the years. Mike White is just the sixth quarterback they have selected since Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989. The Cowboys have a deep knowledge of White's ability. Last season, White spoke often with Kellen Moore because he ran the same offense Moore did at Boise State. Now the Cowboys quarterbacks coach, Moore met with White at the combine and attended his pro day. In his two years as a starter at Western Kentucky, White had 63 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions.
How he fits: With Dak Prescott firmly entrenched as the starter, the Cowboys needed another quarterback to compete with backup Cooper Rush. They loved what Rush did in winning the No. 2 job as an undrafted rookie, but that should not mean he is guaranteed to be the backup.
Round 6, No. 193 overall: Chris Covington, OLB, Indiana
My take: The Cowboys need numbers at linebacker even with the addition of Leighton Vander Esch in the draft and Joe Thomas in free agency. Chris Covington was a one-year starter at Indiana and had 85 tackles and 12 tackles for loss, so the Cowboys see a player who can grow into the scheme while helping on special teams.
How he fits: At this point of the draft, the Cowboys start to look at their priority free agent list and try to lock them up with draft picks. The Cowboys lost Kyle Wilber in free agency. They still have Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith and, if Vander Esch plays as much as he is expected defensively, none will play on special teams. If Covington is going to make the roster from the start, he will have to be a core special teamer and compete with guys like Justin March-Lillard.
Round 6, No. 208 overall: Cedrick Wilson, WR, Boise State
My take: Like linebacker, the Cowboys thought they could take two receivers in the draft, but the numbers at the position seem to be getting out of hand by adding Cedrick Wilson in the sixth round. He had a productive two years at Boise State with two 1,000-yard seasons and 18 touchdown catches. He had 83 catches for 1,511 yards and seven scores in 2017.
How he fits: This has to be about the future. The guaranteed money in Terrance Williams' contract ends after 2018. Cole Beasley is in the final year of his deal. So is Deonte Thompson. The Cowboys have to pick up the option on Allen Hurns' contract for him to be around in 2019. It is a crowded receiver room. There is much he has to learn about the position, so he will have the time to get it done before the Cowboys need him to produce.
Round 7, No. 236 overall: Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama
Prospect Profile: Bo Scarbrough
Todd McShay says former Alabama RB Bo Scarbrough could be the steal of the draft if he stays healthy.
My take: Considering coach Jason Garrett's ties to Nick Saban, it's surprising the Cowboys had not drafted an Alabama player during his tenure. That changed with Scarbrough in the seventh round. The Cowboys were looking at space players earlier in the day in Nyheim Hines and Ito Smith to fill a third-down type of role. Scarbrough is not that. He will run over people more than by them. With Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys have their lead back but they now have cover.
How he fits: The Cowboys have not re-signed Alfred Morris. They released Darren McFadden last year. They like what Rod Smith did in small doses. But if something happened to Elliott again in 2018, then they wanted to have insurance at running back. Scarbrough has big-game experience even if he did not have a 1,000-yard season in his time with Alabama.