Late Round Gems

Many observers consider Jimmy Johnson the finest evaluator of talent in Cowboys history -- and it has nothing to do with his decision to draft Troy Aikman or Emmitt Smith. <BR>

Each of the Cowboys' so-called "triplets" came out of college with question marks -- Was Aikman too immobile? Was Irvin another Miami headcase? Did Smith really have the speed to be a top-shelf runner in the NFL? -- but it's not like there were questions about their talent.

Each was a tremendously successful college player, and while no college star is assured greatness at the professional level, each had the pedigree that indicated a successful career, if not a career that ended in the Hall of Fame.

Picking this kind of player is relatively easy.

But any Cowboy fan who remembers names like Rodrick Monroe (a tight end selected out of Cincinnati in the 1998 draft), 1997 defensive back Lee Vaughn (Wyoming), 1992 guard John Terry of Livingstone State or 1989 running back Charvez Foger of Nevada needs a hobby … or a job … or at the very least, a date.

There's a reason guys are drafted in the later rounds: most scouts believe they aren't as likely to make (and subsequently help improve) a given team. General managers deem that these guys aren't worth the money that goes to high draft choices, in decisions based on a number of reasons: size, speed, college productivity, injury history, etc. Because of the lower amount of money -- and often the lower amount of talent -- attached to late-round draftees, these players have less of a chance to make the team, much less contribute in a significant role.

When the Cowboys were great in the early 1990s, they coupled marquee high draft choices like Aikman, Irvin and Smith with late-round gems like Leon Lett (taken in the seventh round in 1991) and Brock Marion (seventh round, 1993).

So while the "name" players like Braylon Edwards and Cedric Benson are garnering most of the pre-draft hype, the Cowboys can accelerate their return to respectability by grabbing some solid players in the draft's later rounds to go along with the free agents Jerry Jones signed in the offseason. In addition to their regular draft choices, the Cowboys also have a pair of compensatory picks in the sixth round.

So who might Dallas target in the draft's later rounds?

• Cornerback Domonique Foxworth
The 5-11, 180-pound cornerback from Maryland has terrific speed and overall athleticism, and started for three years for the Terps. He was an "Iron Terp" for having the team's third-best overall strength index, with his 37-inch vertical, 335-pound bench press and 515-pound squat. He runs very well, has good hips and acceleration and has a knack for being around the ball and making plays … Considered a student of the game, with a superior work ethic.

• Quarterback Derek Anderson
It appears unlikely that the Cowboys would select another quarterback. However, if they do, Anderson is a very appealing prospect. He is a player who could benefit from the old-school way of thinking that said passers needed several years of practice and watching from the sideline. At Oregon State, he has been compared at times to former San Diego State star -- and Seattle Seahawks flop -- Dan McGwire, who was deemed "too big" for the position. But the 6-6, 240-pound Anderson is more mobile (4.7) than McGwire ever dreamed of being, and he has tremendous arm strength. Critics point to his mental game, but with a few years behind Drew Bledsoe (and perhaps Drew Henson?), Anderson could completely absorb the offense before he ever takes the field.

• Wide receiver Reggie Harrell
The first 1,000-yard receiver in TCU history, Harrell is a big (6-3, 215) target who plays a lot faster than his 40 time (4.6). He has terrific hands, is fearless going over the middle and can take a big hit and come back across the middle on the next play. He's extremely athletic and a great leaper, and has superior hands, making him extremely effective on high passes … also a punishing downfield blocker. If he clocked in the 4.4s, this is a Day One draftee.

• Free safety Marviel Underwood
At 5-11, 200, Underwood's size isn't overly imposing. But he runs a legitimate 4.5 in the 40, and is an extremely strong, sure tackler … considered a fairly cerebral player, Underwood could be the kind of safety who gets himself in the right place to make plays, thereby freeing up Roy Williams to roam and creep up to the line of scrimmage, where he's most effective.

• Defensive end Simon Fraser
The Ohio State-ex is the walking picture of what is wanted in a defensive end. With better speed than his 4.99, the 6-6, 280-pounder would be projected a lot higher in the draft. He needs more strength, but his physique gives him a shot to improve. Should he turn things up a notch, he and Greg Ellis would make as imposing a pair of defensive ends in the NFL.

• Wide receiver Airese Currie
The 5-11, 185-pound Currie doesn't have extraordinary size, but he might be the fastest receiver in the nation. But his top-end speed and athleticism are balanced by still-developing receiving skills. At times, the former Clemson wideout's route-running makes him look like a track star running on a football field. But with the ball in his hands, he's a threat to score from just about anywhere. He needs to get stronger, but his speed is something that can't be taught. If he shows the ability to make catches, his mere presence will stretch the field by making the defense play deeper.

• Offensive tackle Mo Mitchell
A raw player who would need a year or two hidden on the injured list or practice squad, and would benefit greatly from a stint in NFL Europe to polish his technique. But as a veteran of just just 27 games (15 offense, 12 defense) with the Gators, the 6-7, 370-pound Mitchell is one of the largest and strongest players in the nation.

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