As a Cowboys fan, I was thoroughly impressed with the job this front office did. When the news came out that Jerry Jones would be conducting the 1st Round from his private yacht, I didn’t know what to expect. Quite frankly, I thought he would make a quick mess of the situation, the same way he traded up for the 6th overall pick to take LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne in 2012 and almost took Johnny Manziel in 2014 before Stephen Jones persuaded him to take Notre Dame guard Zack Martin (wow, did that work out nicely).
However, even though I didn’t even watch the 1st Round, my reaction and surprise to the CeeDee Lamb pick can be seen here (2:48:07 timestamp). The “best player available” philosophy really kicked into overdrive after that, and my confidence in the new front office rose instantly. If the pick wasn’t Lamb, let’s just say… the inverse would have been true. Outside of the 1st Round, I thought the Cowboys had a very strong draft. So, without further ado, let’s evaluate the first draft class of the Mike McCarthy era.
Round 1, Pick 17: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
If anyone told me that Oklahoma wideout CeeDee Lamb, considered the best receiver in the class by a lot of the NFL community, would be available past the top 13 picks, I would’ve laughed. I had Lamb to the New York Jets at the 11th overall pick in my mock draft because I assumed the Jets couldn’t pass on a talent of that caliber, especially when their QB needed an elite receiving talent.
To this day, I don’t understand how the NFL let him fall to a team like the Cowboys, who already had Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper on a contract worth $100M and an emerging talent in Michael Gallup, who had 1,000 receiving yards in 2019. But before you ask, this pick did, in fact, fill a need for the Cowboys, other than them just taking the best football player available on their big board.
After Randall Cobb’s productive 2019 season as the Cowboys’ starting slot receiver, where he finished with nearly 830 receiving yards, the Houston Texans (for some odd reason) signed him to a 3-year, $27 million deal. Consequently, Dallas needed a 3rd wide receiver to complement Cooper and Gallup anyway. Now that they have Lamb, they can play their receivers however they want. It’s most likely Gallup will play outside because he’s bigger and playing outside allows him to do more against #2 corners. However, Dallas can run plays for CeeDee or Cooper from the slot because they are both incredibly versatile.
Lamb as an X or a Z-receiver would allow Cooper to demolish slot corners with his unbelievable route-running and high-tier athleticism. Especially if a team really depends on their outside corners to contain a team’s top receiver, having Lamb essentially creates a new threat while giving Cooper a matchup against a less-talented slot corner. Because Cooper is a great route-runner, roasting slot defenders inside the hashes with plenty of room to work should be something McCarthy takes advantage of.
Not to mention, Lamb has all the traits to be a dominant route-runner from any alignment as well, and learning from Cooper allows him to develop that skill set. Keep in mind, with a limited route tree (not his fault, basic playcalling), he dominated pretty much every opponent who came his way, so defenses will really have to pick their poison when it comes to stopping the Cowboys receiving trio.
I had such a high grade on Lamb (90.6) to the point where I thought he was the best receiving prospect to enter the league since Amari Cooper (who’s also on the Cowboys, what a coincidence). In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up as the best receiver on the Cowboys after a few seasons, and if the team needs cap relief, they can offload Cooper’s $100 million contract (with no guaranteed money after 2021) while having the relief that they have a receiver with as much potential, if not more.
For starters, Lamb is a dominant receiver after the catch. Calling him a yards-after-contact freak doesn’t do him full justice. He can stop-and-start very easily, cut laterally to make defenders miss arm tackles, or just having incredible contact balance either by putting his hand in the ground or by powering through defenders with his deceptive strength. He’s also deceptively fast, so taking a slant 70 yards to the end zone isn’t much of a stretch. He’s a perfect fit for the 2020 Cowboys offense, which will primarily rely on Air Raid concepts with certain West Coast influences sprinkled in.
Because he’s played at Oklahoma the last 3 years, Lamb is very familiar with Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid, and he probably knows it back and forth. His yards-after-catch ability translates perfectly to the West Coast influences within the 2020 Cowboys offense, which relies on the zone run, misdirection, and quick passing to generate yards after the catch. Even though he’s not the greatest athlete, having deceptive athletic and elite route-running traits allows him to be a playmaker on every level of the field, including the run game.
Lamb isn’t afraid at all to play with physicality in the run game (see my full scouting report here). He routinely throws his body around and annihilates defenders downfield. His knowledge and awareness of running lanes really show when he’s run-blocking, so Zeke Elliott also benefits heavily from Lamb’s selection. Similar to how the 49ers used Deebo Samuel’s physicality to lead-block for their run game last year, Lamb can do the same thing, especially with the Cowboys running a very similar offense to Kyle Shanahan’s in 2020.
The consensus All-American is a very instinctually-aware player in every aspect of the field. He knows how to make himself open when his quarterback is in trouble, he’s got great awareness of where the sideline is to get his feet in, and he understands how to pave outside lanes for his running backs. He is a true team player and will contribute a dog mentality to that Cowboys locker room. Lamb can also jump out of the building and has unbelievable hands, so he also has every trait Cobb didn’t have, so not only did they get a replacement, they got an upgrade.
All in all, Dallas got an uber-physical wide receiver with god-given YAC-ability, unbelievable hands, elite awareness, and a willingness to contribute in every phase of the game (blocking included) both on and off-the-field. He also has decent athleticism, explosive footwork, and a monstrous catch radius, so he’ll be a super-effective red-zone weapon. I do have some concerns with his lack of competition and route-complexity as well as his inexperience against press coverage (he’s physical, so it shouldn’t be a problem), but given everything else going for him, he has everything it takes to be a #1 receiver with Hall-of-Fame potential, and he’s listed as “WR3” for the Cowboys.
If all goes right, and I’m optimistically assuming it will, this could be an even greater steal than the Seahawks drafting D.K. Metcalf 64th overall in 2019. While that may sound like a stretch, Lamb was available 6 picks after where I had him projected, and that’s 6 1st-round picks that have much higher-value than 6 2nd-round picks. Furthermore, I really had to nitpick to find a concern in CeeDee’s game (see my full scouting report here).
In Metcalf’s case, there were concerns with his lateral quickness, lack of production as a 3-year starter, his complete inability to run routes, and medical reasons in general, which is why he dropped to 64th overall. Would I have taken him before that? Yes because the athletic traits are so impressive that using him in any offense would be easy, but when comparing him as a prospect to consensus All-American and Biletnikoff Award finalist CeeDee Lamb, it’s not even a competition. Give me Lamb 1 billion times out of 10, and if all goes right, expect hell for the NFL for years to come.
Round 2, Pick 51: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
I’ll be honest; I wasn’t the biggest fan of Trevon Diggs by any means. Cowboys’ media essentially willed this pick into existence, some even wanting the team to draft Diggs because he’s the prototype for the defense Mike Nolan wants to run. I commend the team for filling this need in the 2nd round rather than reaching in the 1st and then not taking the best player available. With the departure of Byron Jones and the team not finding a solid replacement in free agency, Dallas had to take a corner early in this draft, no doubt about it.
My #1 issue with this pick, however, is there were better corners on the board. LSU corner Kristian Fulton, who I was very high on in my mock draft because his tendency to just suffocate receivers is really profound. If they wanted a press corner, they could’ve been in a much better position by taking Fulton over Diggs because he’s a fantastic athlete and he’s more ready to play from Day 1.
Furthermore, if Nolan really wants to play multiple coverages, corners like Virginia’s Bryce Hall and Mississippi State’s Cameron Dantzler, another one of my draft crushes (read my blurb about him here), would’ve been fair value in a system that asks their corners to play press and a bunch of other looks. Versatility is key in the Cowboys’ defense, but if they had Diggs rated that high because of system fit and BPA, then who am I to say no? I just feel better corners were on the board and they missed out.
In terms of Diggs as a football player, he’s very raw, as I mentioned earlier. His background as a wide receiver really shows when he’s in coverage, which can be both good and bad. Finding a pure athlete like him who may have dual-position versatility is not easy by any means, so I commend the team for identifying a player with incredible upside. Diggs’ background as a wide receiver translates so easily when he plays the ball. His ball skills are tremendous, and a point that many Cowboys fans rave about is that Diggs’ unique ball skills can create turnovers that Byron Jones couldn’t come up with.
If he’s in position and the ball is coming his way, expect an incompletion or an interception unless that throw is perfect. His closing speed and ability to close space are so impressive that short-to-mid throws may not be great for opposing offenses because if he sees it, he’ll make a play on it. Diggs’ potential has “playmaker” written all over it, so he’s going to rack up a ton of interceptions and pass breakups on errant throws when receivers look like they’re open.
Diggs can jam really well at the line of scrimmage too. If he gets his hands on the receiver early enough, the play is pretty much over because the wideout can’t get through him. That being said, however, his background as a wide receiver really shows up in his shortcomings as well. If I was to summarize Diggs’ game in a sentence, I’d say: “A great athlete who’s good at the line and at the point of the catch (closing speed counts here), but needs work on everything else”.
Because he’s only played cornerback for 2 years, he’s a very raw prospect and it shows. When I praised Diggs for jamming well at the line of scrimmage, I left one thing out. He has a tendency to panic, lose discipline, and then become overaggressive in the middle of the route. At the professional level, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Diggs got called for a ton of holding penalties, especially in Year 1. When he thinks he’s beat, despite having incredible closing speed, he tends to panic and then tug the inside of the jersey right above the shoulder pad.
SEC referees didn’t throw enough penalty flags on Diggs for this, so he kept on doing it. Another issue in Diggs’ game is tracking the ball in the air, especially deep shots. Trevon Diggs simply refuses to turn his head at all costs. Especially on deep balls, he falls victim to back-shoulder fades and doesn’t see the ball when it’s in the air because he doesn’t turn his head, so he gets beaten really easily that way. The anticipation needs a lot of work, so shading a safety over the top (Cover 2 or Cover 6) may allow Diggs to play a lot more aggressively at the line of scrimmage, with help over the top in case he gets beaten.
Finally, the cherry on top: tackling. Similar to most corners in this class, Diggs’ tackling needs a lot of work. It’s not like he doesn’t have the willingness to tackle (looking at you, C.J. Henderson), but when he tries to tackle, he either goes too high or just gets run over by physical players. The game against LSU was the best example of that, especially when Clyde Edwards-Helaire ran through him on 3 separate occasions. While Edwards-Helaire is a very strong running back, that game showed Diggs’ tackling in space was very poor.
All in all, Diggs has the prototypical frame, length, and feet to play boundary corner at the next level. However, because he needs time to develop, the Cowboys need to do their best to protect him so he can protect their boundaries. Treat him like a press corner and run a ton of flexible coverages that give him help over the top. Make Diggs’ life easier so he can make yours easier. Don’t put a lot on his plate in Year 1 because he doesn’t fully understand the nuances of how to play corner yet.
Just let him do what he does best, at least in Year 1. He’s going to start in Year 1 without a doubt; the team spent a 2nd-round pick on him and he’s honestly better than literally everyone else on their roster after the departure of Byron Jones. I wasn’t the biggest fan of this pick by any means, but Diggs has the potential to prove me wrong. If Mike Nolan, defensive backs coach Maurice Linguist, and senior defensive assistant George Edwards get the best out of this kid, he’ll be an elite corner in this league for a long, long time.
Round 3, Pick 82: Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma
I wasn’t a fan of the Cowboys’ 1st pick on Day 2, but boy did I love this pick. Mike McCarthy’s “best player available” philosophy that didn’t appeal whatsoever to the previous Cowboys’ regime is in full use, and I can’t commend this pick any more than I’m about to. According to CBS reporter Patrik Walker, the Cowboys’ regime under Jason Garrett and Rod Marinelli neglected the defensive tackle position year-after-year. They have refused to spend high-value assets or top-dollar money on the position, but just like everything else in Dallas this offseason, that’s changed under Mike McCarthy.
The team signed a pair of former defensive tackles earlier in the offseason. Gerald McCoy, former All-Pro for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Dontari Poe, former Pro Bowler for the Kansas City Chiefs, were signed to 3-year and 2-year deals, respectively, with around $5-6 million AAS (annual average salary). Both are perfect for what Mike Nolan wants to do, especially with his flexible, ambiguous 3-4 and 4-3 defensive alignments. Poe and McCoy have experience in both alignments and can provide a strong veteran presence in the locker room and in the team meetings.
However, they are not the future of this team. Gerald McCoy is 32 and Dontari Poe is 29, so they’re only good for 2-3 more seasons. If the Cowboys want to contend for a championship for longer then that, they need a future at the position. Enter Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore and 2019 2nd-rounder Trysten Hill, both of whom are incredibly versatile players and can line up anywhere from 0-technique (right over the center) to 1-technique (outside shoulder of the center) to 3-technique (outside shoulder of the guard).
These 2 young defensive tackles can form a fearsome tandem in the middle, and they have 2-3 years left to learn from veterans like McCoy, Poe, and Antwaun Woods, all of whom are quality players who can provide rotational bodies to this Dallas front. Talk about a complete makeover. After letting Maliek Collins, Daniel Ross, and Kerry Hyder leave, none of whom could anchor against the run (which led to a terrible run defense in 2019), the Cowboys now have 6 guys who can play on the interior defensive line (the 5 mentioned above and Tyrone Crawford, who’s returning from injury).
Speaking of Gallimore, however, his potential is sky-high. For a 300-pound human being, he is a freakish athlete. The Oklahoma defensive tackle ran a 4.79 40-yard dash, which is mighty impressive for a player of that size. Keep in mind, Quinnen Williams, who was touted as the best defensive player in the class of 2019, ran a 4.83 40-yard dash. Gallimore, who weighed at a frame very similar to that of Williams, and could be just as athletic as the former All-American on Sundays. If Gallimore has 80-90% of Quinnen’s athletic upside, that alone makes him easily worth this pick.
However, Gallimore is more than just an athletic freak at the position. The quickness in his hand placement really shows when he’s rushing the passer, which is primarily the reason why Dallas took him. They have a bunch of rotational players who are difficult to move in the run game, but they took Gallimore because he’s shown immense potential as a pass-rusher, not that he can’t defend the run. He has 3 signature moves when rushing the passer: the swipe (also called scissors) move, the spin move, and the arm-over move.
In particular, his spin move is so effective whenever he uses it from the 0-technique or the 1-technique alignment. He spins so widely that he starts on one shoulder and ends up on the opposite shoulder of the center, all in 360 degrees. Whenever Oklahoma widened their edge rushers and gave Gallimore a 1-on-1 against centers or guards, he abused that spin move over-and-over again and just destroyed the pocket. Furthermore, the way his athleticism compliments his use of the spin move to the point where quarterbacks have extreme difficulty running away from his interior pressure because he’s so fast.
With regards to the swipe move and the arm-over move, they are the primary hand techniques Gallimore uses to just demolish interior offensive linemen. His hands are so quick that chopping the blocker’s hands down or swiping the hands away or getting his arm over the lineman looks routinely easy for him. Yes, he could use a little bit more development with more techniques in his arsenal, but he wrecked the integrity of interior pockets in 2019 with those 3 moves in general.
Because he plays with such a high pad level, he can’t generate the leverage and then the power to bull rush offensive linemen. One would think his explosiveness and twitch would generate a bull rush that would give offensive linemen nightmares, but that’s really not the case. Gallimore’s primarily going to rush laterally into a particular side/gap that the offensive lineman is responsible for, rather than squarely attacking the chest head-on.
My favorite trait about Gallimore is how his versatile alignment (0T-3T) allows him to contribute on stunts and twists, something Mike Nolan and defensive lineman coach Jim Tomsula will look to take advantage of. It doesn’t matter where you line him up because Gallimore is so disciplined and times his rush perfectly. He can play the role of the penetrator, just attacking guards and centers at a perfect angle to open up the backside gap for the looper.
There was 1 play against Texas where Gallimore was lined up as the 0-technique nose tackle. The second that ball was snapped, he penetrated the frontside A-gap and got double-teamed by both the center and the right guard immediately, opening up the backside A-gap for WILL linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr, who was lined up at the 7-technique on the frontside C-gap (outside of the right tackle). Murray looped in and decked the running back in pass pro, resulting in a sack. This is Gallimore’s value; he can attack double teams in the passing game and open up rushing lanes on stunts, resulting in creative blitzes and thus, sacks.
Dallas can run that exact same play or even variations of it, with Pro Bowl linebacker Jaylon Smith, who is a fantastic blitzer himself. If Gallimore attacks that A-gap and draws double teams, there aren’t many NFL-quality running backs who can block Jaylon Smith when he’s running at full speed with that much momentum. Stunts with Gallimore as the penetrator work tremendously for other defensive guys, but he also presents value as the looper.
There was another play in the Big-12 Championship, where he was lined up at the 1-technique and defensive end Ronnie Perkins was lined up at the 3-technique. At the snap, Gallimore waited for Perkins to attack the interior linemen and then took a false step inside to freeze the offensive tackle in place, forcing him to overcommit inside. Because that false step gave off the impression that Gallimore would rush from the backside B-gap, the tackle immediately overset too far inside and got punished when Gallimore looped to the backside C-gap. Because the tackle got fooled by the false step, the stunt allowed Gallimore to create an easy rush angle and then sack the quarterback.
Discipline, athleticism, quickness, and technical flashes are Neville Gallimore’s game to a T. This was an incredible value-pick for the Cowboys and ensures their depth at defensive tackle for years to come. If defensive line coach Jim Tomsula gets the best out of him and Trysten Hill, expect a scary 1-2 punch from that interior defensive line. If Gallimore can reach his true potential and offer similar production to that of Grady Jarrett, then he was easily worth this 3rd-round pick.
Round 4, Pick 123: Reggie Robinson II, CB, Tulsa
I spoke of newly-hired senior defensive assistant George Edwards when reflecting on the Trevon Diggs pick. If Edwards didn’t have a large say in drafting Reggie Robinson II, consider me shocked. Listed as the defensive coordinator on the Minnesota Vikings’ staff for the last 6 seasons, Edwards has been a beneficiary of the defensive philosophies of one of the most respected defensive masterminds in the entire league: Mike Zimmer. If Dallas wants to engineer their defense similar to how Minnesota runs theirs, this pick makes complete and total sense, another indication of the Cowboys heading in the right direction on defense.
According to the StarTribune (article link here), Zimmer is known as a “cornerback whisperer”, and his prototypical corners are competitive, aggressive, tough, and show the willingness to tackle. Minnesota took Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler in the 1st and 3rd round respectively because they both fit that profile as press corners who aren’t afraid to tackle. Robinson would also fit in the Vikings’ profile for a corner because he’s a tremendous athlete, he’s got great length (31.5″ arms), and he’s an aggressive press corner who doesn’t hesitate to instigate contact at the line of scrimmage.
With regards to the athleticism, Robinson has it in spades. According to SB Nation blogger Billy M of CatScratchReader (Carolina Panthers’ subsection), the Tulsa corner is a 92nd-percentile athlete, per SPARQ. That should tell you all you need to know about his athletic profile, and his combine numbers only corroborate that. Per his combine profile and his spider chart on Mockdraftable, Robinson ran a 4.44 40-yard dash (73rd percentile), broad-jumped 132 inches (95th percentile), and benched 22 reps (95th percentile). For reference, Neville Gallimore benched 23 reps, and he’s a defensive tackle.
Yes, his 20-yard shuttle (4.18 seconds) was in the 44th percentile and his 3-cone drill (7.09 seconds) was in the 17th percentile, but when comparing those numbers to corners with a similar playstyle as him (Gladney, Dantzler, A.J. Terrell Jr), Dantzler and Terrell didn’t even run those drills at the combine and Gladney only ran the 3-cone with a time of 7.26 seconds, a performance in the 6th-percentile. The lesson here to learn is that Robinson’s athleticism matches his playstyle. The numbers correspond up even more when comparing the frame and size of these press corners.
I’m going to disregard the percentiles here because the comparison is between very similar press corners and the percentiles exaggerate the difference and similarities in their athletic profile. Let’s begin with height. Jeff Gladney is 5″10, Robinson and Terrell are both 6″1, and Dantzler is 6″2. With regards to playing size, Dantzler weighs 188, Gladney weighs 191, Terrell weighs 195, and Robinson weighs 205. So, one can argue Robinson is a little bit on the heavier side, but he makes up for that with above-average strength for a press corner.
However, the most divisive measurable for corners, especially press corners, is their arm length, because defensive backs with longer arms have a larger radius with which they can make plays on the ball. Especially when press corners are contesting back-shoulder balls or downfield throws or even inside-breaking routes in tight-man coverage, teams need corners who have longer arms so they can disrupt passes in the tightest of windows with their length.
Gladney has 31 and 7/8″ arms, Robinson has 31 and 1/2″ arms, Terrell has 31 and 1/4″ arms, and Dantzler has 30 has 5/8″ arms. Once again the frame and the athleticism fit the playstyle, one that a defensive mastermind in Mike Zimmer really covets in his corners. Thus, Robinson fits the Vikings’ profile, which is exactly what Dallas wants in their corners, and it’s why they drafted him.
From a play standpoint, Robinson’s best move is to jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage and then squeeze them as close to the sideline as possible. He essentially suffocates receivers by preventing them from re-entering the field inside the hashes. Even when he’s in zone coverage, he presses, reads the quarterback’s eyes, pedals backward, and then uses his arm length to disrupt the passing lanes. When he’s in phase and reads the quarterback correctly, it’s either a pass breakup or an interception.
He has such great hip fluidity and footwork that he’s almost always in phase. He can flip and turn just like some of the best in this class, which makes him one of the best deep-ball defenders in the entire class. Robinson’s initial punch at the line of scrimmage rocks those receivers. He usually doesn’t let them get inside of him, so when he squeezes them to the boundary, he’s got such good hip fluidity and footwork to the point where he’s almost always in a position to make a play. Robinson’s man almost always has little to no separation when he’s in press-man coverage.
In fact, the only times where he’s “beat” is when the quarterback makes a perfect throw and the receiver adjusts. Otherwise, he’s either never targeted or he deflects and sometimes intercepts the ball. Robinson’s also extremely intelligent and savvy with his ability to manipulate quarterbacks. When he’s in zone coverage, he just sits there and waits for the quarterback to try him. He dared quarterbacks to throw right over him into the “open passing lane”, and once that ball was out, he would effortlessly pedal back into the zone and intercept the pass.
Robinson dared those quarterbacks to fit that ball in the window, and the length compliments the intelligence because he knew he had the frame and the athleticism to make a play. He knew that if that ball left the quarterback’s hands into his “zone”, he was going to either deflect it or intercept it. There was no way he was going to let that ball be completed, which only adds to his value if Nolan runs combination coverages with different roles for him on the outside. The more versatile the corner, the harder it is for an opposing offense to understand his tendencies and take advantage of them, thus creating more ambiguous coverage possibilities revolved around his skill set.
However, Robinson wouldn’t be a true Vikings corner without the most important trait of them all: tackling. He’s not afraid to aggressively take on blockers against the pass and the run. If there’s a bubble screen thrown his way, he’s going to deck his blocker and force the runner inside or just make the tackle himself. Even against the run, he can be a really good force player in the league because he’s willing to drop his shoulders, get low, and make the back go down. Either he makes the tackle himself or he funnels the play inside to someone who can. Despite his ideal position being outside corner, Robinson could be a fantastic nickel force player because he’s such a talented run defender.
He also presents special teams value, and not as a gunner. If I was coaching special teams, I would set him up as a punt/field goal rusher due to his ability to block kicks. In a 5-year career at Tulsa, Robinson has blocked 4 field goals. If a team gets an outside corner who could irritate opposing receivers on the perimeter and be a real threat to flip field position with blocked kicks, he’s easily worth a 4th-round pick, no questions asked. However, he is by no means a perfect prospect. Robinson has potential, but he’s also got some technical issues to clean up.
For some reason, he always grabs arms and shoulders when he doesn’t need to. Even when he’s in phase, he makes a play on the receiver rather than on the ball and gets called for holding or pass interference. This is primarily because he doesn’t always turn his head. He and current Vikings corner Jeff Gladney are very similar in that way; they’re both great movers and aggressive press corners who aren’t afraid to tackle but also play undisciplined football because they get too grabby and refuse to turn their heads. Head-turning, however, is one of the most important skills but still very coachable for any corner.
To put it simply, Robinson is an intelligent, aggressive press corner with fantastic ball and movement skills who also presents unique value as a special teamer. He fits the same highly-coveted playstyle and athletic profile the Minnesota Vikings use under Mike Zimmer. Robinson also has the length and athleticism to be a real nightmare before and during the point of the catch. Passes thrown his way are going to have to be perfect for him to not make a play on it, and if he balls out as the best Cowboys’ corner in Year 1, no one should be surprised by any means.
Round 4, Pick 146: Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
Biadasz could end up replacing Travis Frederick, but it won’t be in Year 1. Joe Looney is a better, more proven football player who only allowed 1 sack as Travis Frederick’s season replacement in 2018, but he’s on a 1-year deal. The Cowboys are essentially starved for cash at the moment but are doing the right thing by acquiring bodies to compete for the starting left guard and center spots.
Outside of Joe Looney, they have 2019 3rd-rounder Connor McGovern, 2018 2nd-rounder Connor Williams, free-agent acquisition Cameron Erving, and now Tyler Biadasz. They just want more bodies in the building to get their best 5 on the field, which is the right approach. 3 of those 5 spots belong to All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith, All-Pro right guard Zack Martin, and emerging right tackle La’el Collins.
The fact that they got the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles to trade down, all for the price of a 5th-round pick, is stunning in itself. Successfully trading up with a division rival to get a player you think can help your team against that rival is a well-done play, and for a player of Biadasz’s caliber, it may be well worth it. The Wisconsin center made the All-Big 10 team in all 3 of his seasons (back-to-back 1st-team appearances as a sophomore and as a junior, 2nd-team appearance as a freshman) and won the Rimington Award (best center in the nation) as well as Unanimous All-American honors as a junior.
Biadasz has a very respectable college resume, and if not for a down year in 2019 (at least on film), he may have gone much higher than this pick. The first thing to note with Biadasz’s skill set is that he’s a gap-scheme center, which is an interesting fit with Dallas’ West Coast offense that primarily features zone-run concepts. He plays with a lot of power, but he’s a better player in space, so getting him to pull and then move people is by far the best way to use his skill set.
He will move people because he’s incredibly powerful, even though he doesn’t have the ideal size and length to play in a gap-scheme, but because it involves a lot of double teams, his lack of length and size can be compensated for with technique, especially when trying to push 350-pound nose guards out of the way. At times, Biadasz blocks the wrong defender and allows the 2nd-level players to make the tackle for a short gain.
However, he’s much better at generating movement when he is pulling to exchange gaps. When he and Jonathan Taylor were working together on gap-scheme runs, it looked just like watching Ezekiel Elliott and Travis Frederick do the same, in that Biadasz would either cut block the defender in the hole or push him out of the said hole in either direction, letting Taylor glide through the opposite hole backside. It’s clear on tape that Wisconsin had a lot more success when Biadasz was allowed to pull frontside and take out the edge protector, either letting Taylor cut back inside or go way outside the tackle box, depending on the angle of the block.
When it comes to pass-blocking, however, Biadasz has a decent anchor and is much better at double-teaming interior pass-rushers. He can easily hold his own against much larger pass-rushers and the fact that he doesn’t get walked back into his quarterback itself gives the Cowboys something to work with. He’s going to be a project only because Joe Looney is a better football player, but when Looney departs in free agency, Biadasz should easily win the starting job, assuming his development all goes well. One way or another, the Cowboys may have added yet another potential starter with this pick.
Round 5, Pick 179: Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah
Steal of Day 3. No other way to say this. Medical concerns may have caused Bradlee Anae to drop this far in the draft, but the Cowboys are most certainly happy to add another rotational edge rusher who could contribute solid snaps as both a run defender and a pass rusher. In year 1, at least, Anae will have to compete for snaps. Tyrone Crawford or Randy Gregory will likely start opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, with Crawford potentially getting snaps at 3-technique defensive tackle. Behind them, you have Aldon Smith and Joe Jackson, who Anae could easily beat out if he impresses in training camp.
One way or another, even if this was a depth pick, Anae should’ve gone at least 1 whole round earlier than he did, so this is pure value. He very well may beat out Smith, Jackson, and Crawford for a spot on the 2nd unit, because he’s just that gifted. With this pick, the Cowboys are copying a recipe used by the Philadelphia Eagles in their magical Super Bowl run in 2017: build the defensive line as much as humanly possible. In just one offseason, Dallas gets Randy Gregory and Aldon Smith back from suspension, Tyrone Crawford back from injury, Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe in free agency, and Bradlee Anae and Neville Gallimore from the draft. Talk about a makeover.
Let’s just start with the elephant in the room. For an edge rusher, Anae is not the greatest athlete by any means. According to mockdraftable.com, he athletically tested far below the 50th-percentile on almost all of his drills. 7.44 seconds on the 3-cone drill (48th-percentile) and 31 inches on the vertical jump (47th-percentile) are the best examples of Anae’s lack of explosiveness and lateral quickness. It’s not like the Utah pass-rusher is very fast, either; Anae clocked in at 4.93 seconds on his 40-yard dash, setting him at the 53rd-percentile overall, which is still not very good. So, if he’s not very fast, not very quick, and not very explosive, why am I so high on this pick?
Anae is Mr. Technician to a T. He dominated the Senior Bowl (practices and games) with a signature inside-chop move, making a name for himself as a high-value Day 3 pick. He can set a really good edge against the run, but his specialty is definitely rushing the passer. I’d be comfortable playing him as a JACK/LEO in a 3-4 or as a base end in a 4-3. Either one works just fine because he just wins. Anae’s heading to a team that has a pass-rusher who himself uses an incredible cross chop to defeat blockers. If DeMarcus Lawrence takes Anae under his wing and really refines that cross chop, Anae could be a very solid rotational pass rusher.
Out of all the players in this class (besides CeeDee Lamb, of course), Anae might be a huge fan favorite just because of clutch, high-impact plays. As a rotational pass-rusher, he’s going to be really fresh for most of the game, and he’ll bring the juice in the 4th-quarter. I can guarantee there’ll be that one game against the Eagles or the Seahawks on the road, where a late 4th-quarter comeback has the Dallas defense on its heels. On the final drive, 3rd-and-long, he’s going to make that 1 big strip-sack on Carson Wentz or Russell Wilson that gives them a significant edge in playoff positioning or even wins them a playoff game.
Just for that reason alone, Anae is worth this pick. He’s just another one of those picks that falls under the umbrella with which the Cowboys have been drafting: PLAYMAKER. Dallas wants to force the initiative at all costs, not just sit back and wait for the high-powered offense to pick them apart. The Cowboys want playmakers like Anae because the turnovers have to go up. That was a very missing element of their defense, and they need production badly. It’s not just about the talent; the production of execution on the field matters, and I love that philosophy. I’m here for it, and it sounds like Mike Nolan’s defense is on a path towards just that. Fantastic pick.
Round 7, Pick 231: Ben DiNucci, QB, James Madison
I’ll be honest; I didn’t watch a lot of Ben DiNucci either. In fact, I’d never heard of his name until I saw it on the draft tracker on Day 3. I really wanted a nickel corner to shore up the position because Jourdan Lewis is on a contract year, so getting a potential replacement and a solid special teams contributor would’ve been a really nice cherry on top. I was thinking either Oklahoma’s Parnell Motley, Auburn’s Javaris Davis, or Utah’s Javelin Guidry. However, considering their backup quarterback situation before the draft was Cooper Rush and Clayton Thorson, this pick makes a ton of sense.
Now that Andy Dalton has been signed as the backup quarterback for 2020, DiNucci can learn from both Dalton and Dak Prescott to compete with Thorson for that QB3 job. From the little tape I watched of DiNucci, I did notice he had a very similar playstyle to Prescott. They’re both mobile quarterbacks who aren’t afraid to take contact but can also throw riveting spirals. If McCarthy wanted to groom a QB3 in the mold of Prescott for the sake of injury relief or even just depth, I like the pick.
Who knows, if he plays well in the preseason, they could acquire late-round (5th or 6th) draft assets in 2021 for him to be a quality backup on a different roster. There are a ton of ways the team could’ve gone with a 7th-rounder, but this is definitely a good way to go about it. Solid pick by the Cowboys to round out an amazing draft class.
Final Grade: A
Unbelievably strong first draft for Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys. They stuck to their “best player available” mantra throughout the entire process and came out with one of the best hauls in the entire league. I may not be the biggest fan of some of their draft values (cough cough Trevon Diggs), but if they believe they can get the best out of these players, who am I to say no, especially after the offseason they’ve had?
It’s clear the front office is tired of incompetence from the old regime under Jason Garrett, and they’re doing everything they can to exceed expectations in 2020. Expect a team that begins guns-blazing, and even though I’m a Cowboys fan, I’d warn you not to underestimate this team, because if all goes right, they may truly make a special mark on the NFL this season.