Cowboys Draft Scoop: 2 Pass-Rushers Targeted
It's the No. 1 question I'm getting in the wake of the Greg Hardy suspension: How does this change the Dallas Cowboys' draft plans?
The stunning answer: Not much at all.
Valley Ranch sources tell me the club was already intending on finding pass-rush help in the premier rounds, for two major reasons: One, such double-team-commanding talent is such a commodity, especially in a Rod Marinelli system that desires waves of "Rushmen'' (who can help cover up weaknesses elsewhere, for instance, Dallas at corner). And two, Hardy was/is essentially a rent-a-player with a future beyond 2015 that is unknown.
So you search for the next guy ... playing on a cheap rookie contract ... and you search specifically for:
Randy Gregory of Nebraska in the first round, near 27.
And Frank Clark of Michigan in, say, the third round, near 91.
Ironically, there are Hardy-like character red flags on these two players, too. But both Gregory and Clark are on Dallas' board (and scouts like them more in those respective slots than, say, Owamagbe Odighizuwa of UCLA as a first-rounder. Gregory is thought by some to be a high-first-round talent but for his marijuana issues. Clark is far more talented than the 91st slot but for his own issues with ..... Both show nicely as mid-first- and mid-third-round talents on the CowboysHQ.com Big Board ...
When Greg Hardy does show up, in Week 11 or whenever the commissioner or a judge or a cadre of lawyers makes it happen? Fine, and he'll join Demarcus Lawrence as a potential sack leader. But more immediately, Dallas intends to find "another'' Lawrence, another "QB hunter.'' ... and this isn't a result of the Hardy suspension but rather a view of the value of the position.
By the way, this doesn't mean jump wildly from the Big Board to draft for need; it simply means drafting players who merit being chosen around 27 and 91 ... in the case of Gregory hoping he slips, in the case of Clark hoping he sticks, in the case of both hoping other teams have decided their red flags are too red.
As our Joey Ickes has pointed out in his CowboysHQ study, pass-rushers drafted in the top 100 picks since 2005 have averaged a paltry 2.8 sacks in their rookie seasons. (First-rounders are only slightly better, averaging 3.8 sacks in Year 1). Dallas is hoping to buck that trend -- by pinpointing "catalytic rushers'' in this draft. Gregory in the late-first or Clark in the late-third? Consider them "pinpointed.''
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