Cowboys 2014 Draft Needs: Offensive line
Though improved, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line warrants a pick in the 2014 NFL Draft
By Matthew Postins
RattleandHumSports.com is breaking down the draft needs at every position group for the 2014 Dallas Cowboys. Today it’s the offensive line.
Tackles: Tyron Smith (starter), Doug Free (starter), Jermey Parnell (backup), Darrion Weems (backup). Guards: Ron Leary (starter), Mackenzy Bernadeau (starter). Centers: Travis Frederick (starter), Phil Costa (backup).
Other players: G Chris DeGeare (reserve/future), G Ray Dominguez (reserve/future), T John Wetzel (reserve/future).
Cowboys offensive linemen entering free agency: G/C Ryan Cook, G Brian Waters
Draft need?: 5 (out of 10, 10 being most pressing).
Why: Because the Cowboys shouldn’t stop improving the talent just because the offensive line turned a corner last year. The emergence of LT Tyron Smith as an All-Pro level talent has cemented the left side. C Travis Frederick has the middle nailed down. LG Ron Leary had a solid first year as a starter. If the Cowboys are going to make changes it will be on the right side. They need to consider grooming future replacements for RG Mackenzy Bernadeau and RT Doug Free.
Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State: Guards can be undervalued and right now Jackson looks like a second-round pick. He’s a bulldozer at 6-foot-4, 339 pounds and he’s used to high-end defensive competition being in the SEC. Pluses include his size, athleticism and balance in pass protection. Scouts think he can adapt easily to zone blocking schemes, something the Cowboys implemented last year. He’s quick, but some scouts are concerned about his ability to play in space and losing his cool. A similar SEC guard, Larry Warford, was taken in the third round last year and ended up being named ProFootballFocus.com’s NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. So there’s value if you know where to find it.
Ryan Groy, G, Wisconsin: One thing Wisconsin is able to do is produce talented offensive linemen. Look at Frederick. Groy is projecting as a guard, but he’s played some tackle in college. At 6-foot-5, 325 pounds, he has the right size. He looks like a natural at the position, but at least one scout – NFLDraftScout.com’s Dane Brugler – has concerns about Groy’s balance and stiff hips. The fact is a player taken in the late rounds comes with issues that need to be fixed. Right now Groy is a seventh-round grade and that’s good value when you consider where he comes from and the track record Wisconsin offensive linemen have.
Jack Mewhort, T, Ohio State: If the Cowboys are interested in pegging a right tackle for the future, Mewhort is a solid candidate. He has the right size (6-foot-6, 306 pounds) and mobility for the position. He impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl with his stubbornness when it came to being moved off the line. He even played guard in college, so he could be a swing lineman until a spot opens up. He’s a technician, well-regarded for his fundamentals, but some scouts would like to see him add a few pounds. He’s a second-round pick right now.
Billy Turner, T, North Dakota State: Scouts see him as a second- or third-round pick right now, and whoever gets him will get a player that won three straight national title rings at NDSU, so he knows how to win. He cleared the path for Missouri Valley Conference and FCS National Title game MVPs and he can hold his own with FBS talent. I’ve seen him play three times. He’s technically sound, wins most battles at the line of scrimmage and can be a NFL starter by Year 2.
Seantreal Henderson, T, Miami (FL): If Henderson remains the fifth- or sixth-round value he is today, this could end up being a steal for anyone taking him. But there is some risk. One of the hottest high school recruits in recent memory, the belief among observers is that Henderson didn’t live up to the hype (and there was plenty of it). He’s a mammoth player for a tackle (6-foot-7, 331 pounds), and that might be too big for right tackle in the NFL. Scouts love his quickness, but teams will be curious about the multiple suspensions Henderson incurred during his time at Miami. He’s so all over the map that while he’s a late-round grade in some eyes, one mock draft has him as a first-round pick.
Looking ahead: I don’t see the Cowboys going after a pure center in this draft, now that Frederick has solidified himself. So the idea would be to go after a potential starter at guard or tackle, or both. Free becomes more able to cut after the 2014 season, if the Cowboys want to go that way, and there’s no guarantee Jermey Parnell will be ready for the job. The further the Cowboys get into Bernadeau’s deal the easier it gets to cut him, too. Even though Bernadeau had a better 2013, he was still outplayed by Waters, 37. I see the Cowboys taking at least one lineman in this draft.
Next up: Defensive line.