Cowboys eye local target

The closer next month's NFL Draft gets, the more attention the league's annual meat market gets.

But check out the infinite number of mock drafts out there, or listen to talk shows, and it's clear that nearly all of the attention is spent on which players will be taken by which teams … in the draft's early rounds.

But it's those who find solid players at the other end of the draft who earn the reputation of being draft "geniuses." Consider the 2005 draft: everyone in the country knew linebacker DeMarcus Ware was going to be a star, or at least had the potential to become one. But that guy in your office who says he knew Jay Ratliff, the Auburn defensive end nobody had heard of before the draft, would turn into the NFL's best nose tackle is nothing short of a liar. Bill Parcells couldn't even anticipate that. has learned of at least one player the Cowboys are studying for consideration of a late-round draft selection, or maybe to bring in as an undrafted free agent: West Texas A&M offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb.

Webb, who is listed at 6-foot-8, 325 pounds on the WTAMU website, is one of those players that rings a bell, but is hard to place.

In 2006, he was one of the most highly-recruited players in the country, and began a circuitous route to his current school. He signed with the University of Texas, where he played in 12 games as a true freshman.

But even though he was seen as a future starting tackle in a year or two, Webb left Texas, reportedly in search of a place where he could get more playing time right away. He ended up at Navarro (Junior) College in Corsicana, where he was named a first-team NJCAA All-America in his only season. From there, he headed to WTAMU, where he anchored the offensive line for two years.

Webb has the physical tools to be an NFL tackle. In addition to his height and weight, he has very long arms and enormous hands, and he's surprisingly mobile for a player of his size. Attributes like that usually scream "first-round draft choice," but Webb's critics point to the low level of competition he faced at WTAMU.

They also insist that he sometimes is a little stiff, sometimes plays too upright and needs to improve his strength — complaints that also were filed against Marc Colombo when he came out of Boston College, and he has turned out well.

Most have Webb projected to go no sooner than the sixth round, and some believe that he could slip out of the draft altogether. If that's the case, he should have several teams vying for his services.

If that's the case, the Cowboys should have two factors in their favor:

1. He's a local guy, having played his high school football at North Mesquite High School, just outside of Dallas, so the Cowboys can offer the allure of playing at home, in front of friends and family.

2. Dallas needs an offensive tackle — badly. If left tackle Flozell Adams isn't at the end of his career as the team's starter on the left side, he's approaching it. Adams and Webb have similar physiques and talents, and Webb could learn behind Adams for a year or two before taking over for him.

Whether the Cowboys end up drafting Webb, of course, remains to be seen. But they have done their homework on Webb. If they fill some other needs (wide receiver, safety, etc.) with earlier draft picks, they could spend one of their last two picks on Webb. If not, they may well be on the phone right after the draft, trying to get him to Dallas as an undrafted free agent.

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