The Dallas Cowboys went into the 2017 NFL Draft needing defensive backs and defensive linemen. Lucky for them, this class was full of both. Unsurprisingly, seven of their nine draft picks were on the defensive side of the ball. This defensive heavy draft will surely help improve that side of the ball, but it becomes a question of how each pick fits into that rebuild.
All Key Stats are courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
Measurements: 6'6", 277
Key Stat: Led all college football defensive ends in pass rush productivity on plays of less than 2.5 seconds.
Taco Charlton is a jack of all trades, ace of none type of defensive lineman. He is a solid pass rusher who uses his length and anticipation to win reps. Despite college productivity, his lack of athletic ability and inconsistent physicality against the run and the pass will hurt him at the next level. He is still inexperienced at the position and he could grow in Dallas' scheme, but I have a hard time seeing Charlton become a high impact player.
Measurements: 6', 202
Key Stat: Ranked 90th in the country among cornerbacks in tackling efficiency.
Chidobe Awuzie was one of my favorites in a very deep cornerback class. I loved his feistiness and versatility to play in the slot, the outside, and how good he was as a blitzer. Awuzie is a good athlete, but needs to play more confidently in coverage, sometimes second guessing himself and coming off as being slower. As a tackler and against the run, Awuzie is more than willing and incredibly physical, but needs to improve his technique when attacking ball carriers. Awuzie is not a perfect prospect, but he brings athletic ability and physicality to Dallas' woeful secondary.
Measurements: 5'10", 188
Key Stat: In the last three years, the highest allowed pass rating he allowed into his coverage in a season was 47.1
Jourdan Lewis is a smaller cornerback who fell on draft day due in part his size and pending off the field question. Lewis has been arguably the best cornerback in college football over the last few years and while he does not have the upside of some of this class' top prospects, there is no denying what he can do. He has great man coverage technique and tremendous ball skills. He is not the bet athlete and his size may force him in the slot, but he is an immediate impact player in a rebuilding defensive backfield.
Position: Wide Receiver
Measurements: 5'8", 181
Key Stat: In 2016, 84 of his 97 catches came out of the slot.
Ryan Switzer is one of the most prolific punt returners in NCAA history and this year he showed he is a good wide receiver as well. Though short in stature, Switzer is a very good route runner with dependable hands in space. He is an "on the ground" type player meaning he can make an impact on short passes and find yards after the catch but rarely are you asking him to win jump balls in the red zone. Switzer fits perfectly into the Dallas passing game as an intermediate threat to complement Dez Bryant and while he may not see the field immediately on offense, he surely will on special teams.
School: Louisiana Tech
Measurements: 5'11", 197
Key Stat: After giving up a passer rating of 111.7 in 2015, Xavier Woods improved to only allow a 60.4 in 2016.
The Cowboys needed to add some safety depth after losing Barry Church to free agency. Xavier Woods brings a similar dynamic in terms of his willingness to deliver crushing tackles, but also brings a ball-hawking mentality to the unit. With 14 interceptions in the last three seasons, it is evident that Woods knows how to find the ball. His aggressiveness as a safety can get him in trouble, but it can yield big plays for the defense. In 2016, Woods did an excellent job limiting those coverage mistakes and if he is continuing to trend in that direction, the Cowboys may have gotten a steal.
Measurements: 6', 194
Key Stat: Only allowed 302 yards into his coverage in 2016.
Marquez White is intriguing due to his consistent coverage ability at the college level. He has solid awareness and technique that will regularly prevent big plays from the offense. His long speed is concerning and he is a liability when asked to tackle. However, the Cowboys should be happy getting a guy on day three with his ability to cover.
Position: Defensive Tackle
Measurements: 6'3", 301
Key Stat: Got an inside pressure once every 17.6 snaps, seventh best figure in the country.
Joey Ivie was part of Florida's heavy defensive line oration. While he did not see a lot of snaps, he made an impact on the ones he did see. He is a quick twitch linemen who fires off the ball and into the backfield, consistently causing problems as a pass rusher. He will need to improve his ability to anchor against the run and prove he can play on a bigger workload, but this is a high upside pick for Dallas.
Position: Wide Receiver
School: Ohio State
Measurements: 6'2", 222
Key Stat: Seven career touchdowns on only 33 receptions.
Noah Brown is the ultimate projection. Brown was never a featured part of the Ohio State offense and 32 of his 33 career catches came in his final season. Brown is no doubt talented and flashes game changing ability in tiny sample sizes. It is hard to project how this big target with ability to win jump balls will project in a bigger role, but no doubt the Cowboys should be excited about getting a high upside pick in the seventh round.
Position: Defensive Tackle
Measurements: 6'3", 300
Key Stat: 30 total pressures in 2016.
Carrell plays a lot smaller than the average defensive tackle, with his in season weight hovering somewhere around 290 pounds. His smaller size allows him to be light on his feet and that quickness can help disrupt passing plays. His size also hurts him against the run, as he cannot consistently get off blocks to make a play. The key for him is seeing if he can add size without losing quickness. If so, he could stick around in the NFL.