Over the weekend, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock released an updated, post-Combine version of his top five players per position (full rankings here). The Cowboys have been very busy in free agency so far, but there still are a number of positions of need for the Cowboys. Notably, the Cowboys haven’t made any free agency moves so far along the defensive line, so we’ll look at the defensive line and other positions of need as we review how Mayock’s rankings have changed since his pre-Combine version from February.
Defensive Tackles: A popular topic among many Cowboys fans is the idea of drafting a big guy for the middle of the defensive line. While it remains to be seen whether the Cowboys have any interest in doing that, it is also clear that outside of Kenyon Coleman, Jay Ratliff is the oldest Cowboys defender currently under contract: he’ll turn 31 at the start of the season.
|Rank||Previous Ranking (2/14)
||Updated Rank (3/16)
|1||Michael Brockers, LSU||Dontari Poe, Memphis|
|2||Jerel Worthy, Michigan State||Fletcher Cox, Mississippi St.|
|3||Dontari Poe, Memphis||Michael Brockers, LSU|
|4||Devon Still, Penn State||Jerel Worthy, Michigan State|
|5 (tie)||Fletcher Cox, Mississippi St.||Kendall Reyes, UConn|
|Kendall Reyes, UConn||Devon Still, Penn State|
|Brandon Thompson, Clemson|
Mike Mayock gets off the Michael Brockers train and elevates combine phenom Dontari Poe to the number one spot. Fletcher Cox also sees his stock jump dramatically as he moves into the number two spot. The 6-4, 298-pound Cox is gaining momentum as the flavor-of-the-week candidate for the Cowboys as a defensive end, and he could be available at the #14 position.
After the break, we look at offensive linemen, corners and defensive ends and OLBs.
Interior Offensive Linemen
|1||David DeCastro, Stanford||Peter Konz, Wisconsin|
|2||Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin||Philip Blake, Baylor|
|3||Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State||Ben Jones, Georgia|
|4||Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State||David Molk, Michigan|
|5||Brandon Brooks, Miami (OH)||Michael Brewster, Ohio State|
Where Mayock had previously lumped the interior linemen together in one top five list, he has now split them out by position. Not much has changed for the guards, save for the addition of Brandon Brooks as the fifth-ranked guard.
Mayock does not seem to share the medical concerns that have been associated with Peter Konz, and keeps him atop the center board. Of note, some of the names on the center list are projected to go as late as the fifth/sixth rounds. If the Cowboys want a center, they’ll likely find one waiting for them in almost every round.
David DeCastro remains the fan favorite for now, but many of the other names on this list are also worthy of consideration in a trade down scenario or with later-round picks.
Cornerbacks: With the acquisition of Brandon Carr, it seems unlikely that the Cowboys will use their first pick on a corner. But the Cowboys will probably have a keen eye on any corners who start slipping on draft day, as cornerback is widely believed to have some of the best depth in this draft and the Cowboys can always use more corners.
|Rank||Previous Ranking (1/24)
||Updated Rank (2/14)
|1||Morris Claiborne, LSU||Morris Claiborne, LSU|
|2||Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama||Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina|
|3||Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama||Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama|
|4||Trumaine Johnson, Montana||Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama|
|5||Leonard Johnson, Iowa State||Josh Robinson, Central Florida|
Unfortunately, if you had harbored hopes of perhaps snatching up Stephon Gilmore with the Cowboys’ second-round pick, those dreams are likely over. Similarly, many mock drafts had Josh Robinson as a later-round favorite for the Cowboys, but his exceptional combine showing has him being talked about as a potential first-rounder.
Defensive Ends/OLBs: Even though the Cowboys slapped the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer, the Cowboys are still likely to look for ways in which to improve their pass rush. The latest rumor, according to Calvin Watkins at ESPNDallas, is that there is mutual interest between the Cowboys and outside linebacker Erik Walden. Regardless of how that turns out, an improved pass rush must rank at the very top of the Cowboys’ to-do list entering the draft.
|Rank||Defensive Ends (3/16)
|1||Quinton Coples, North Carolina||Melvin Ingram, South Carolina|
|2||Courtney Upshaw, Alabama||Whitney Mercilus, Illinois|
|3||Nick Perry, USC||Andre Branch, Clemson|
|4||Vinny Curry, Marshall||Ronell Lewis, Oklahoma|
|5||Jared Crick, Nebraska||Shea McClellin, Boise State|
DEs and OLBs are another position that Mayock had lumped together in his previous positional rankings, and he pulls them apart this time. Notably absent from both lists: Bruce Irvin, who had turned heads at the combine and is another fan favorite as a Cowboys pick, but who may have hurt his draft stock a little with an arrest on Saturday for allegedly breaking a sign in a Jimmy Johns Sandwich Shop.
The Cowboys showed a lot of interest in J.J. Watt last year. Whether the Cowboys try to improve their pass rush via a DE or OLB remains a topic of much debate. But we do already have one hint of where they may be leaning: OLB Ronell Lewis has received an invitation for an official pre-draft visit with the Cowboys.
Overall, many of the dark horses that we had been secretly hoping would be available in the later rounds for the Cowboys are making a push for the top: Stephon Gilmore, Josh Robinson, Fletcher Cox or Shea McClellin are no longer flying under the radar – if they ever were.
An investigation by the Texas Christian University and Fort Worth police has resulted in the arrest of 17 TCU students on the grounds that they sold illegal drugs to undercover officers. Of those 17 students, four are reportedly football players for the Horned Frogs.
According to Brett McMurphy of CBS Sports, the Drug Enforcement Administration conducted a raid of the campus and arrested the students for selling drugs both on and off campus.
Ryan Crowe of CBSDFW.com is reporting that the investigation has been ongoing for six months and that the raid took place early this morning. The students had allegedly been selling prescription and illegal narcotics to undercover police officers. The investigation is ongoing, so more arrests could be made.
The names of the four football players in custody have yet to be released, but Ian Fitzsimmons of ESPN Radio in Dallas is reporting that the players’ identities will be revealed later due to a public records request.
TCU will be competing athletically in the Big 12 conference for the first time in 2012 as it made the jump from the Mountain West. The Horned Frogs have had a prolific football program for the past several seasons, but such a controversy is certainly not what the institution hoped for as it enters the limelight.
According to Crowe’s report, all students who are found guilty of drug distribution will be expelled from the school. That could adversely affect the football team’s chances this coming season, particularly if any of the four arrested players are high-impact performers.
The Eagles are sending three players to the Pro Bowl. 31-year old DE Jason Babin has been incredible for the Eagles so far this year. He has played in 15 games for the Eagles so far this year and he has 38 tackles, 18 sacks, 2 tackles for a loss, 3 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries. He has been a true late bloomer for the Eagles. 23-year old RB Lesean McCoy turned in the best year of his NFL career in 2011. He has played in 15 games for the Eagles so far this year and he has carried the ball 273 times for 1,309 yards (4.8 ypc) with 17 TD runs. McCoy has also caught 48 passes for 315 yards (6.6 avg) with 3 TD grabs so far this year. 29-year old OT Jason Peters has played in 13 games (all starts) for the Eagles so far this year. All three of the Eagles going to the Pro Bowl were elected to the team as starters.
Staff writer Steve Fini takes a look at five key players in Sunday’s must-win game for the Eagles in Buffalo.
Nnamdi Asomugha (CB/Eagles) – If you ask die hard Eagles fans, the happiest day this year outside of a child’s birth, was probably the day they got to hear those three little words–”Eagles signed Nnamdi”. In that same breath, they envisioned the Eagles scoring at will offensively, their opponents panicking and throwing tons of passes, and Asomugha and company shutting down those teams on their way to a deep playoff run. Boy, how times have changed.id="attachment_13399" class="wp-caption alignright" style="width: 203px"> href="http://insidetheiggles.com/files/2011/10/images.jpg"> src="http://insidetheiggles.com/files/2011/10/images.jpg" alt="" title="images" width="193" height="262" class="size-full wp-image-13399" /> class="wp-caption-text">The Eagles are looking for Nnamdi Asomugha to return to form this week after a shaky start.
Now, the discussion is more about Asomugha being overrated than him being one of the best free agent signings in franchise history. Personally, I still feel he is a top-flight corner in this league. Watching him against the Falcons in week two and the way he covered their dynamic receivers was a thing of beauty. Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has been under a lot of scrutiny of late, particularly because he’s failed to play to Asomugha’s strengths. That has to change this week.
This week he is up against (I can’t believe I’m about to say this) the prolific Bills passing attack. Whether he is covering Stevie Johnson, Donald Jones, or David Nelson, he needs to step up. Moreover, he needs to be put in a position to step up. Hopefully, Castillo has come up with a game plan that helps Asomugha do that. If not, the criticism of this big free agent signing will only continue to gain steam.
Danny Watkins (RG/Eagles) – Welcome to the NFL, Mr. Watkins. After being inactive for three of the first four weeks of the season, Watkins gets his first career start. I wrote earlier this week that Kyle Devan, the Eagles’ former starting right guard, had one of the worst games by an Eagles offensive linemen in recent memory. … [ href="http://insidetheiggles.com/2011/10/06/fred-jackson-danny-watkins-among-players-to-watch-sunday/">visit site to read more]
Most fantasy football players per capita: 1. Green Bay, 2. Cincy, 3. Minneapolis, 4. Indianapolis, 5. KC (Source: Yahoo)
The NFLPA is still having the call to vote on the CBA that was ratified by the owners last week, and once that is done (and they approve), we’ll officially have NFL football back! [Note: Players have approved!]
There have been numerous reports of the timeline for activities to begin, Adam Schefter reported that teams could begin making moves on free agents today, but it looks like he was early by a day. The new timeline apparently will shake out like this:
Today (7/25): Teams can go to 90-man roster, free agent list distributed to teams.
Tuesday (7/26): Players can report to the facilities. 10 AM EST teams can sign draft picks and undrafted players – and negotiate with free agents. Trades can be discussed.
Wednesday (7/27): Training camps open on a staggered schedule.
Thursday (7/28): 4:00 PM EST teams can cut players.
Friday (7/29): Friday at 6 PM EST teams can sign free agents.
The league year will begin on Aug 4th, that’s the date contracts and deals can become official. That’s also the date when the players are expected to have already re-certified their union.
Schefter is reporting the NFL will hold conference calls with GMs at 3 PM today, and with coaches at 5 PM today.
NFL owners agreed today on terms for an all-encompassing lockout buster, a deal that would not only solidify a new 10-year CBA but would also settle all pending lawsuits and establish new regulations for free agency, rookie wages, retiree benefits and more. Specifics for the deal, which include an estimated calender of events and specific time-frames for free agent signings, rookie free agent communications, and restricted free agent signing, are explained on the next page.
NFL players, however, have yet to agree to the proposed deal and look increasingly less likely to do so as time goes by tonight. A number of players, including Eagles linebacker Jamar Chaney, responded to the news out of Atlanta by tweeting “The lockout isn’t over yet,” and DeMaurice Smith has made no statement to indicate he intends to resolve the CBA tonight.
The biggest stumbling block, aside from the unmitigated greed of nearly every person involved in these negotiations, seems to be the NFLPA’s recertification process. Some reports have indicated that all 1,700 players will have to vote on recertification via mail-in cards, which would obviously take a lot longer than the four hours we have left in the day. Other reports hinted at a website set up to tally votes, which would definitely speed up the process but could still not guarantee that all votes would be counted by midnight.
Long story short, I wouldn’t pin my hopes on the lockout ending tonight. All we can really pray for right now is that this is just a minor speedbump on the road to football, and not a restart of the whole damn process all over again. De Smith – as I’ve mentioned here before – is a crazy person, and his legal team has proven time and time again how little it cares about the sport in relation to how much they love money. I wouldn’t be surprised if they decided to scrap the whole deal out of spite and start again from scratch. All we can do right now is pray, and maybe send some nasty hate mail to De Smith’s office mailbox.
We haven’t talked much about Kansas City Chiefs WR Chris Chambers this year, not even in our look at free agency and players who could be cut. That’s because many people expect the Chiefs to part ways with Chambers once the NFL lockout is lifted.
Chambers surged in the 2009 season when he joined the Chiefs earning himself a nice three-year contract extension. The 2010 season certainly didn’t go as expected as Chambers was disappointing all-around. It got to the point where WR Kevin Curtis was signed off the street before the Baltimore Ravens wildcard playoff game and inserted into the lineup before Chambers.
You know how we said that what teams say matter very little, and what they do matters a whole lot more? This is a good example of that.
The Chiefs can say whatever they want about Chambers but signing someone off the street a week before a playoff game and inserting him into the lineup doesn’t bode well for the player that was replaced.
So, we know it was a disappointing season for him.
But just how disappointing was his 2010 season? So much so that Bill Barnwell, writing for Bill Simmons’ Grantland, puts him as the 11th least valuable player in the NFL. The ranking is based on playing time, expectations and salary so Chambers and his nearly-six-million-guaranteed are probably ranked about right.