College Football All-Star games like the Collegiate Bowl provide the Cowboys a chance to evaluate talent
By Matthew Postins
The major college All-Star games continue this weekend with the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl game in Carson, Calif. The game is important, but so is the week of scouting, player meetings and extended exposure to NFL-level coaching for these college seniors.
The Dallas Cowboys, like every other NFL team, will have a presence at the game as their scouting efforts for the 2014 NFL Draft take on a new level of preparation. This is the first time that Cowboys scouts will have the opportunity to meet and talk with prospective draft selections.
So which players will the Cowboys be interested in? Well, it’s a bit of a stretch to know that with any certainty right now. In fact, chances are the Cowboys will be watching everyone. Games like the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl are a great chance to see players who have received less exposure, usually because they play at a non-BCS school or even in a lower division.
Based upon what RattleandHumSports.com believes are the Cowboys’ primary draft needs, here are a list of players that might be worth keeping an eye on this week:
QB James Franklin, Missouri (backup quarterback)
Not the one that just took the head coaching job at Penn State, of course, but the former star quarterback at nearby Lake Dallas High School. Franklin ended up as a three-year starter at Mizzou, finished with 6,962 yards passing, 51 touchdown passes and 1,729 yards rushing. He’s a true dual-threat quarterback, which doesn’t necessarily fit the Cowboys’ system right now but might fit it a few years down the road The dual-threat paradigm is here to stay, but the personnel mix has to be right. What Franklin has to show is that he can grasp pro-style passing concepts and not just be thought of as a dual-threat quarterback. That’s what elevates players like Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson from others cut from the same cloth. Right now Franklin is a scout-and-follow type who might be had as an undrafted free agent.
DE Jake Metz, Shippensburg, (backup defensive end)
Metz was a big-time player in Division II the past two years, leading Shippensburg in sacks in 2012 with 11.5 and becoming the program’s first AP All-American in eight years. He nearly matched that in 2013, finishing with 11 sacks. His build is a credit and a debit. He’s 6-foot-7 and that’s difficult for even the tallest NFL quarterbacks to throw over. But he’s also 255 pounds, and that’s below DeMarcus Ware’s playing weight. What Metz has to prove this week is that he has the moves to deal with NFL-level offensive tackles. But, if he shows he can, he’ll move up draft boards from undrafted free agent to sixth- or seventh-round pick. Either way, he’s worth scouting and following and, if he’s available, giving him a shot to move into the rotation.
DB C.J. Barnett, Ohio State (back-up defensive back)
Barnett had another steady season for the Buckeyes, garnering All-Big Ten Honorable Mention after leading the Buckeyes with four interceptions in 2013. He was a three-year starter in the Big Ten, so he certainly understands how to play against NFL-caliber players. Barnett played strong safety in college, and the Cowboys could stand to add some talent there to compete with J.J. Wilcox and Jeff Heath. Neither proved to be the ball-hawking safety Barnett has proven to be in college. Right now, CBSSports.com values Barnett as an undrafted free agent. He’ll probably slip into the late rounds, but his talent and experience makes him a valuable commodity that late in the draft.
OG Dallas Lee, Georgia (backup or potential starting guard)
At 295 pounds he may be undersized for the NFL, but he’s shown week-in and week-out he can stand up to SEC defensive tackles. That’s something the Cowboys and every other NFL team will take into consideration. A two-year starter, he opened up holes for running back Todd Gurley and protected quarterback Aaron Murray. Right now he’s another scout-and-follow, but this week he must prove he can consistently stand up to defensive tackles that scouts and game organizers consider NFL-caliber.
DL Denico Autry, Mississippi State (rotation defensive end or tackle)
Part of what the Cowboys need right now are defensive tackles and ends that can not only get to the quarterback but also get into the backfield and help play the run. Autry is another below-the-radar guy with an SEC pedigree who could help. At 6-foot-6, 265 pounds, he’s imposing to quarterbacks on passing situations. With 9.5 tackles for loss his junior year, he can help push up field against the run. Plus, at East Mississippi Community College he helped that school win a national title and was a Juco All-American. Autry’s numbers took a bit of a dip in 2013, but as a late-round pick or undrafted free agent, he could be valuable. This weekend he must show that he can be a consistent crash-the-backfield performer.
DB Kenneth Acker, SMU (rotation defensive back and special teams performer)
Acker was only a second-team All-American Athletic Conference performer, but he does something the Cowboys need. He plays the ball. With 16 passes defended in 2013 he was in the Top 12 in the nation in that category. The Cowboys need more ball defenders in the secondary. Acker is 6-foot, plays physical and, because he practices against June Jones’ passing attack in practice, he gets plenty of reps. Most of the Cowboys’ defensive backs are under contract for 2014, so it’s unclear how much the Cowboys will emphasize the position. Acker, at the moment, is valued as an undrafted free agent, but a great week in Southern California might compel teams to take a look at him as a late-round pick. The Cowboys should keep tabs on him.egiate