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May 02, 2017

NFC East 2017 draft grades: Cowboys edition

After focusing on the Philadelphia Eagles' draft since last Thursday, let's take a look around at the rest of the NFC East, one team at a time, starting with the Dallas Cowboys.

Round 1: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan: The Cowboys have obvious needs both along the defensive line and in their secondary. In the first round, they found a big-body defensive end (6'6, 277) to pair with the young 6'7, 284-pound David Irving.

While Charlton didn't have eye-popping numbers (just 19 sacks over his four-year career), he had a monster performance in one of the biggest regular-season games in college football this past season, when he had nine tackles and 2.5 sacks against Ohio State. But those performances were too few and far between. 

Still, Charlton is an athletic specimen and a height-weight-speed dream for NFL scouts, and he constitutes appropriate value in the tail end of the first round.

Round 2: Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado: Awuzie has good size and is a physical tackler who also contributed on special teams for the Buffaloes. He had an abnormal number of tackles from his corner spot over the last four seasons. He's a versatile defensive back that the NFL is trending toward who can play outside corner, inside corner, and safety, although I believe his best position in the NFL will be in the slot. With the Cowboys having lost four significant contributors in their secondary this offseason, they were able to snag Awuzie at the back end of Round 2, which is good value.

Round 3: Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan: Lewis is small, at 5'10, 188, but it's extremely difficult to get separation on him, as he is as sticky a cover corner as there was in college football the last two seasons. In 2015, Lewis had a ridiculous 20 pass breakups. In 2016, despite opposing quarterbacks largely avoiding him, Lewis had 11 pass breakups. Lewis plays with confidence, and if you watch him play, it's pretty easy to see that when the ball is in the air, he thinks it's his. 

Of course, Lewis does have an accusation of domestic abuse that still has to play out, and no draft would be complete without the Cowboys taking some guy with a serious character concern.

Round 4: Ryan Switzer, WR, North CarolinaOver his college career Switzer had seven punt return touchdowns. That's tied for second all-time in NCAA history. Switzer also had two punt return touchdowns called back over his career. As a receiver, Switzer has always been a contributor in the regular offense, but did not put up big numbers by any stretch until the 2016 season, when he had 96 catches for 1112 yards and 6 TDs. The Cowboys already have a shifty slot receiver in Cole Beasley, and they are very effective in the way they use him. Switzer is yet another guy they can find a role for in that offense.

Round 6: Xavier Woods, S, Louisiana Tech: Woods is a gambler who makes a lot of big plays, but also gives them up. Over his last three seasons at La Tech, Woods had 14 interceptions and 6 forced fumbles. If the Cowboys can teach Woods to be more disciplined, he could become a contributor to the defense.

Round 6: Marquez White, CB, Florida State: Aaaaand this would be defensive back No. 4. White was very good in 2015 at his corner spot in the Seminoles' defense. That season, he allowed a grand total of just nine completions, 131 yards and no touchdowns on 28 total targets. In 2016, while he was still good, he didn't have quite as much success, as was overshadowed by sophomore Tarvarus McFadden, who led the nation with eight interceptions. White's tackling will have to improve, as has him down for 27 tackles and 7 missed tackles in 2016. That won't be acceptable in the pros. Still, in a Florida State secondary that has been absolutely loaded with great defensive backs, White was flying under the radar a bit, but he could be a good coverage corner at the next level. 

Round 7: Joey Ivie, DT, Florida: Ivie lacks size, strength, and athleticism, but is a try-hard guy that the coaching staff will like, right Marinelli?

Round 7: Noah Brown, WR, Ohio State: Brown is a thicker wide receiver at 6'2, 222, but lacks experience, as he had 33 catches and 411 yards over his entire career at Ohio State. He's a late-round flier worth a seventh-round pick who can potentially develop into a possession / YAC receiver.

Round 7: Jordan Carrell, DT, Colorado: I won't pretend to know a thing about this guy.


In my view, the Cowboys had a really strong draft, hitting on each of their first six picks. I'll give it an A-.

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