Dallas Cowboys 2014 Draft
By Matthew Postins
RattleandHumSports.com is breaking down the draft needs at every position group for the 2014 Dallas Cowboys. Today it’s the linebackers.
Linebackers: Bruce Carter, Justin Durant, DeVonte Holloman, Sean Lee, Orie Lemon, Martez Wilson., Quinton Spears (reserve/future), Jonathan Stewart (reserve/future)
Cowboys linebackers entering free agency: Ernie Sims
Draft need?: 5 (out of 10, 10 being most pressing).
Why? On one hand the Cowboys appear pretty set at linebacker. But take a closer look. Carter and Durant each have one year remaining on his deal. Holloman had one good game last year and there’s no way to project if he’ll be the starter at strong side in 2014. Aside from Lee, no one else really gets your heart pumping in this unit. So while there are plenty of guys under contract for 2014, this position falls under the category of “keep drafting talent, even if you think you have enough.”
Ryan Shazier, Ohio State: If he falls into the second round he could be a great value selection. At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, he has the right physical fit for the Cover 2. He started 29 games at Ohio State and notched two straight seasons of 100 or more tackles. Scouts love his quickness and acceleration, two traits that make him perfect for the weak-side position in the Cover 2. Scouts are worried about his bulk, but this defense is about speed, and Shazier has it in abundance.
Christian Kirksey, Iowa: Yes, another Big Ten linebacker. He’s projected as a third-round pick and has the right build for the Cover 2 at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds. Kirksey had a great Senior Bowl and earned some attention from pro scouts. They love his first step off the snap, calling it explosive. Scouts downgrade him a bit for his instincts against the run, but it sounds like coaching can close those gaps.
Chris Borland, Wisconsin: A third-round value right now, Borland seems like a player who could prove to be valuable depth on both the inside and outside. He comes in at 6-foot, 245 pounds, and he draws comparisons to former Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas. So what does that mean? Borland doesn’t possess top-end speed or athleticism, but he’s relentless in his pursuit of the football. The Cowboys need as much of that as they can get.
Christian Jones, Florida State: The last Florida State linebacker to become a star in the Cover 2 was Derrick Thomas. I’m not saying Jones is the second coming, but he has more height than Brooks at 6-foor-4 and has the right build at 234 pounds. Some scouts see him as a fourth-round value, but some mock drafts have him going in the first round. Why? His fundamentals are flawless, according to some scouts, and he’s a tremendous pass defender. You need both in the Cover 2. He could fit at either outside spot and slide inside if Lee ever gets hurt.
Jeremiah George, Iowa State: This talented All-Big 12 First Team selection could be had with a sixth- or seventh-round selection. His height – just 5-foot-11 – hurts him with some scouts. But he had a great reputation for being around the ball.
Looking ahead: I’m gravitating toward a mid-draft selection at linebacker for the Cowboys. They can’t plan on having Carter and Durant back in 2015. Plus, the jury is out on Carter to some degree. I can’t see the Cowboys taking a linebacker in the first round unless it’s a player like a C.J. Mosley from Alabama. But a third- or fourth-round pick on a linebacker to shore up the depth, and perhaps take a starting role in 2015, makes sense.
Next up: Defensive backs.