Cowboys needs match with draft strengths

BY foxsports • February 25, 2013

If you fancy yourself a nerd/student of the NFL Draft, this qualifies as a fun time in the process as the NFL Combine is in full swing in Indianapolis. For those of us who have been doing this for a long time, it is amazing how the entire combine is now televised from front to back on the NFL Network, as less than a decade ago, there was nothing on TV from this once-secret event.

Now, though, we can lay our eyes on each of these players for just about every drill that they run in the so-called "underwear olympics" and when you combine this with looking at readily available college footage, you can actually get a pretty good profile of each of these players without working for your local NFL team.

As we enter the 2013 Draft season, just know that for once, the Dallas Cowboys have a unique opportunity that puts them in a rather odd spot. That is, they have their full allotment of picks (aside from their 7th rounder) and more importantly, are taking part in a draft where their primary needs match up wonderfully with the primary strengths in this draft class.

The 2013 draft - as any draft that has taken place in decades - is loaded with NFL talent that should populate the league for years to come. But, what makes it slightly different than the last few is that there is no real lock-down on who the top 5 picks are so far. It seems that this one might be a more evenly laid out draft in that beauty will be in the eye of the beholder instead of there being a no-brainer best player or players at the very top that teams are pondering a trade to go get.

What also makes it interesting is that there are a number of players at both offensive and defensive line that seem to be filling up the top 50 and top 100 spots in this draft. It is a league where size seems to play a large role in things.

How large? Well, the largest team in the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens, just won the Super Bowl. Their average roster weight of 252.75 on Opening Day was a full 4 pounds per player heavier than any other roster in the NFL. Oddly, though, the Dallas Cowboys actually ranked 2nd in this category and since nobody every claimed that they mauled teams into surrender, we should be careful not to read too much into the questions of whether raw weight can tell us anything.

Nevertheless, the two teams in the Super Bowl had massive offensive lines, with the Ravens putting out a line where the left tackle (6'8, 354), left guard (6'5, 325), center (6'4, 305), right guard (6'4, 315), and right tackle (6'4, 315) all could tip the scales.

Meanwhile, the 49ers drafted 2 1st-round offensive lineman in 2010 and they both weight 335, adding to their already huge offensive line as well.

But, we are not here to add up cumulative weights and assume that this leads toexcellence. Baltimore has 1,614 listed and San Francisco has 1,603. Dallas comes in at 1,586 and may have had its worst offensive line performance in team history these last 3 seasons. Weight has only so much to do with it.

That said, offensive line is where I have asked the Cowboys to go in the draft the last several years to fix this thing, and I certainly don't plan on stopping now. The trouble is that we are not going to assume that the Cowboys recognize that they have offensive line problems since they clearly have not gone out of their way to fix it on draft day for years and years. Tyron Smith is merely one pick in dozens, and given that there are 5 spots on the line, it has been horribly ignored in the last several off-seasons.

I want to draw your attention to one of several things that have been written about the Cowboys reluctance to poor draft resources into the offensive line recently from the guys at Blogging The Beast and their timeline of Jerry Jones "fixing the OL". It is good stuff.

Basically, it references the small amount of concentration that has been put on the OL - picks like Robert Brewster, Sam Young, and David Arkin that not only cannot make the team, let alone actually fill a hole long-term. The age of the offensive line has screamed for resources long ago, and yet Jerry continues to be Jerry. In fact, just this weekend, ESPN's Ed Werder tweeted this:

"Jerry Jones says Tony Romo's improvisational abilities leave him more willing to play behind lesser offensive line to have best receivers"

Oh, boy. That doesn't sound like we should expect a major influx of OL selections this April, either, it appears.

Regardless, I bravely view the Combine through the lens of hoping they target between 2-3 big dudes to fix this offensive line with their top 4 picks. Today, let's look at some top guards and centers. I realize that it is not trendy to pick these guys in the top 2 rounds traditionally, but I would argue that if you can find elite talent at a major position of need, you can really fix things in a hurry. And there are a few elite guards this year.

In a few days, I will look harder at tackles, since that is a real idea at #18 with Doug Free on the way out the door, it would appear:

2012 All-Pro Team Guards and Centers

Name-School HT WT Arm 40-Time
C - Unger - Oregon 6'5 305 32.5 5.35
C - Ma Pouncey - Florida 6'4 304 32.5 5.29
G - Evans - Bloomsburg 6'4 318 35 5.28
G - Yanda - Iowa 6'3 315 32 5.15
G - Mankins - Fresno State 6'4 310 33 5.06
G - Iupati - Idaho 6'5 331 34.75 5.24

With those numbers in mind, let's see what the Combine has shown us at the interior OL spot.

Name-School HT WT Arm 40-Time
Warmack - Alabama 6'2 317 34.7 5.49
Cooper - North Carolina 6'2 311 33 5.07
Warford - Kentucky 6'3 332 33.3 5.58
Fredrick - Wisconsin 6'4 312 33 5.58
Jones - Alabama 6'4 306 34.2 DNR
Schwenke - California 6'3 314 32 4.99
Long - Oregon 6'6 313 33.3 4.94
Winters - Kent State 6'4 320 32.7 DNR

Let's all remember a few things about these numbers above. First, the idea of caring what a center or guard can run the 40-yard dash in is a bit silly. Also, we place a fantastically huge premium on arm length which is of far smaller consequence when it comes to interior linemen as well.
What I want to see is 2 things. 1) game tape showing me that they have the proper strength to keep the pocket or run plays from collapsing behind them because they get pushed back by a very strong defensive tackle. This happens every week and this is why I have very little patience for the Costa/Arkin experiments. College tape doesn't say everything, but you can plainly see that Chance Warmack is not getting pushed back much.
The next thing I want to see is whether they are worth spending a top pick on or whether we can wait and draft for positions of more scarcity and come back to this later. That is why as I look at the above list I really only see two names that are worth spending time on at #18. Warmack - who will certainly be gone and Cooper who might be gone.
Beyond that, these are 2nd and mostly 3rd round plays.
Below, let's look at some video of these 8 guys, because the combine is interesting, but largely just frosting. The cake is in the game tape. I don't want to say much more about each guy and cloud your vision with info that might bias your thoughts. Let's just look at each guy and ask if he is amazing, solid, or not worth the selection.

Then, if you wish, share your observations below and we will chat about our findings soon.

Chance Warmack - Alabama - #65 -More Videos

Jonathan Cooper - UNC - #64 -More Videos

Larry Warford - Kentucky - #67 - More Videos

Travis Frederick - Wisconsin - #72 More Videos

Barrett Jones - Alabama - #75 - More Videos

Brian Schwenke - California - - More Videos

Kyle Long - Oregon - #74 More Videos

Brian Winters - Kent State - #66 - More Videos

There. That is plenty and should be just about any and all that are included in the Top 100 picks. Like I said, feel free to comment your reviews when you have seen enough and we will check out the tackles in a few days.

Offensive line and defensive line. I know that they say you should take the best player available, but when a team like Dallas has major needs up front, you better not talk yourself into Tavon Austin. You just need the best 300 pounder available in my estimation.

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