Every team not based in Green Bay or Pittsburgh is hard at work on its offseason plan. Teams are evaluating their rosters, reassessing their collected talent, reviewing the length and money remaining on players' contracts and compiling lists of which players need to be replaced.
They also have long since begun the process of evaluating other teams' free agents rating college players. The Dallas Cowboys, theranchreport.com has learned, have spent as much time this year as any focusing on several players within the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The top prospects at each school:
Offensive tackle Victor Gill: UNT's Offensive Player of the Year at his left tackle position, Gill is considered an excellent technician has started for three years. While he has bulked up a little since the start of the season, when he was lifted at 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, he is nowhere near as big as the Cowboys like their tackles.
Linebacker Craig Robertson: Named his team's Defensive Player of the Year in 2010, Robertson piled up 379 tackles and nine interceptions in his career. He brings good speed off the edge, but like Gill, the 6-1, 229-pound Robertson doesn't measure up physically to the likes of DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.
Offensive tackle Esteban Santiago: UNT's starting right tackle, Santiago is the opposite of Gill, relying more on size and brawn to maul pass rushers. Projected as a guard prospect, Santiago is the most likely of the three to earn an invitation — as a free agent — to an NFL camp.
Inside linebacker Pete Fleps: The Mustangs' second-leading tackler with 123 tackles as a senior, the 6-2, 230-pound Fleps was not viewed as even a marginal pro prospect at the start of the 2010 season. But a fourth productive season — he started 38 of 39 games over the last three seasons, played in a school-record 51 games and piled up 312 tackles in his career — forced teams to at least consider him as a fringe free agent prospect.
Cornerback Sterling Moore: The argument could be made that Moore was SMU's most valuable defensive player, but three knee injuries in the last two years mean that any chance he has of continuing to play the game will require going north of the border. If he proves he can play in Canada (he had knee surgery in December, which prevented him from playing in the Armed Forces Bowl) and that his knee will hold up, he has the skills to merit a possible trip back to the NFL … in a couple of years.
Wide receiver Aldrick Robinson: There is a very real chance that the fastest 40 time in the nation could come from the same school two years in a row. Bryan McCann pulled out a 4.28 at SMU's Pro Day last year, and there are many who think Robinson is even faster. Once a track star in a helmet, Robinson has become a well-rounded receiver who finished sixth in school history in receiving yards (twice going over 1,000 in a season) and breaking his own single-season touchdown receptions record with 12 in 2010. Listed at 5-10 and 178 pounds, Robinson is a threat to score any time he touches the ball; his 96-yard touchdown in 2009 against East Carolina tied for the longest play from scrimmage in school history.
Outside linebacker Youri Yenga: After arriving at SMU as an undersized defensive end, Yenga moved back to outside linebacker before his junior season. Yenga is exceptionally athletic and has exceptional speed, but lacks familiarity at the position. He could sneak a spot somewhere as a special teams player while further learning the position, but Canada might be calling him north, too.
Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon: TCU's undefeated season and Rose Bowl championship brought more attention to the Horned Frogs than they have enjoyed since LaDainian Tomlinson was around, or maybe Sammy Baugh. While not as celebrated as some of his teammates, the best professional player just might end up being Cannon, who could go as high as the second or third round of the draft. Cannon carries 350 pounds around on his 6-6 frame, but make no mistake: this is not a blubbery blocker who can't keep his weight in check. Cannon is an elite athlete who also throws on the TCU track team, and the most talented member of a gifted offensive line.
Defensive end Wayne Daniels: Once known as TCU's "other" defensive end (who lived in the shadow of former teammate Jerry Hughes), Daniels emerged as a pass-rushing force in 2010, collecting 6.5 sacks and 14 tackles-for-loss in his senior season. At 6-2 and 250, he's not big enough to play in a 3-4 defense in the NFL, but the first-team All-America honoree by the Football Writers Association of America can play at the next level in the right 4-3 system.
Quarterback Andy Dalton: Some have said that no player in the country improved his draft stock more with a strong bowl performance than Dalton did in the Rose Bowl. Those who are projecting him as a late first-round pick could be getting a little carried away, but he certainly showed he is a more-than-legitimate prospect. He makes no sense for the Cowboys, however. Tony Romo remains the team's starting quarterback, and Jon Kitna is a useful veteran backup. To get Dalton, Dallas likely would have to spend a second- or third-round pick to get him, and that is too much to invest on a third-string quarterback for a team with other holes to fill.
Wide receiver/kick returner Jeremy Kerley: Kerley won't blow up a stopwatch with a 40-yard dash in the 4.2s (he barely cracks 4.6), but he is plenty fast when the ball is in the air. He has modest size (5-10, 192), but he continually makes plays, on offense and as one of the nation's most electric kick returners. Kerley is one of those players who seemingly can run as fast as he needs to in order to make a play, has outstanding hands and a very high football IQ. Kerley should get drafted in the middle rounds, and will make a team as a slot receiver and return specialist.
Center Jake Kirkpatrick: The winner of the 2010 Rimington Award, given annually to the nation's top center, the 6-3, 305-pound Kirkpatrict earned All-America honors in his senior season. He isn't quite as athletic as Cannon, but plays with a mean streak, and will increase his value if he can show the versatility needed to play guard and deep-snap, if his team needs him to. If he slides to the fifth round or so, Kirkpatrick could be an ideal heir apparent to Andre Gurode, who turns 32 before the first mini-camp and is preparing for his 10th NFL season.
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