Who do you think the Dallas Cowboys will take with the No. 28 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft?
Matthew Galatzan: As we all have come to learn over recent years, the NFL Draft can be as unpredictable as any other sporting event. We have seen guys like Laremy Tunsil and La’el Collins fall because of pre-draft issues, and we have seen guys like E.J. Manuel and Christian Ponder go significantly higher than expected. So if a guy like Derek Barnett or Malik McDowell fall, you can bet the Cowboys would take a very long look at both guys.
That being said, if things go to chalk, I think Dallas will be in a unique position to address one of a few different needs, depending on which direction they would like to go.
If it’s me making the decisions, I think the Cowboys’ biggest need is on the edge, and that T.J. Watt is an excellent pick to fill it.
I’m well aware of the glaring needs in the secondary due to the departure of guys like Brandon Carr, Mo Claiborne, and J.J. Wilcox. But for me, everything starts up front, and Watt could bring a totally different dimension to this defense.
I won’t write out a full scouting report for T.J., because our man Joey Ickes has already done a phenomenal job of that here, but here’s my rationale:
Watt is a superb athlete, and possesses a great deal of strength and explosion off the edge, which Dallas desperately needs. He is also a character fit. By all accounts, the guy loves the game, and wants nothing more than to compete and improve.
Also, like his brother J.J. (who’s a decent football player down in Houston), T.J. has a rare tenacity and grit about him on the football field that strikes fear into the guys lining up across from him.
Keep in mind, it would be unfair to expect anything on the level of his big brother out of T.J. However, here’s what the older Watt had to say about his younger brother’s potential:
"He's so similar to me but he's farther along than I was at that point in the process. He's a lot better player than I was at that time. He has a lot more to grow even than I had. I think he's a really special player and it's been a lot of fun to watch him go through the process."
I don’t know about you, but if I’m the Dallas Cowboys’ front office, that sounds pretty from where I’m sitting.
Matthew Postins: As I look at these draft boards — the ones on ESPN, Fox Sports, CBSSports.com, Scout.com, etc… — there is a great deal of variance in where players are ranked, especially in the Top 32. I think that speaks to what many analysts have spouted off about for a few months — this draft is deep at the defensive end and defensive back positions, and that bodes well for the Cowboys. That’s why, as you know, the Cowboys have spent the vast majority of their Dallas visits hosting defensive ends and defensive backs (click here to see our list of Dallas visits on the CowboysHQ.com message boards).
There is validity to using the Cowboys’ Dallas visits as a guide to what player they might select. In fact, Dallas has taken 11 players the past three seasons that visited the Cowboys before the draft. There is validity in listening to guys like Brugler, Fish and Broaddus; they have a knack for combining their thoughts with the Cowboys' in-house thoughts in ways the national mock-draft pundits do not.
There is also validity to Matt’s selection of Watt above. He could well be there at No. 28 and he possesses the things the Cowboys are looking for up front. The thing is, I’m still not sure about the fit. I see him as more of a 3-4 outside linebacker. At 252 pounds, I question how much more weight he can put on at the NFL level. I just don’t think he’s right for the scheme.
If I’m the Cowboys GM and, all things considered, I would take Tennessee’s Derek Barnett (that’s assuming he drops. I know there’s certainly a possibility he won’t, but his overall ranking is across the board enough to lead me to think he could. And, conveniently, our Joey Ickes filed this piece on Barnett exploring that very scenario). Barnett fills the same need that Watt fills, but I like his fit for the 4-3 scheme better now — and let’s face it, the Cowboys need something NOW — and down the road. He’s versatile enough to play on either side of the line, which means Barnett can move right into the rotation.
Set aside his measurables. The thing I really like about Barnett is that he left Tennessee with more career sacks than Vols legend Reggie White (33, to be precise) and the vast majority of Barnett’s sacks came in SEC play, which means they came against some of the best offensive linemen in the country. The high productivity against players that are also bound for the NFL bodes well for the future.
Plus, in my recent 7-round mock draft at CowboysHQ.com, Barnett dropped to the Cowboys at No. 28. It’s hard to argue they would pass on him if that happens on draft day.
So what happens Thursday? Matt and I have provided our best guesses. Agree? Disagree? Hit us up on Twitter at @PostinsPostcard (Postins) or @MattGalatzan (Galatzan). Plus, you can pester our boss, Mike Fisher, on Twitter at @FishSports.