Sixth round steal

After starting the 2012 NFL Draft with a heavy emphasis on shoring up the defense, the Dallas Cowboys now have made back-to-back picks to add targets for the passing game, spending a sixth-round pick on Oklahoma tight end James Hanna.

A native of Flower Mound, Texas (a suburb of Dallas), the 6-4, 252-pound is a fast, smooth athlete who was among the best tight ends at the Combine in the 40-yard dash (4.49), the three-cone drill (6.76 seconds), the 20-yard shuttle (4.11) and the 60-yard shuttle (11.43).

What kind of professional player Hanna will be depends greatly on the source. There are some who have compared his running ability and exceptional body control to that of former Cowboys star Jay Novacek. Others will point to the fact that he caught just 52 passes during his career with the Sooners, including 45 over the last two seasons and 27 as a senior (although that view has to be balanced by the fact that Oklahoma has a lot of offensive weapons from which to choose). Chances are the reality is somewhere in between.

Hanna is considered a one-dimensional player, a fluid receiver who is limited as a blocker, because he really wasn't asked to do all that much of it during his time in Norman. Despite his exceptional times in the shuttle drills at the Combine, Hanna is a better straight-line runner than he is at changing directions, so while he is considered to be a good route runner overall, he is at his best as a receiver when he is able to find a seam and split a defense vertically … which lends a little weight to the Novacek comparisons.

As a pure pass catcher, Hanna is a very appealing target. In addition to his size, he has long arms and huge hands. Just as importantly, he has exceptional body control, and is able to twist his body around to adjust to the ball in flight. Had he been a higher priority in the OU passing game, he likely would have gone higher in the draft, because his ability to run and catch the ball are beyond question. Where Hanna needs work is as a blocker, although again, it's hard to doubt his ability there when he hasn't been asked to do it all that much.

The Cowboys have been looking for another tight end since allowing Martellus Bennett to walk via free agency. Starter Jason Witten turns 30 next month, and backup John Phillips doesn't turn 25 until June, so it's not like the Cowboys are old at the position. But most teams — including Dallas — prefer to have three able tight ends for offense and special teams, and Hanna could be the third.

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