To paraphrase Obi-Won Kenobi, only a fool thinks in absolutes. Call me a fool, but I think that phrase applies to the Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee. In my first all or nothing pick of the preseason, I find it hard to find any other way to classify what to expect from Lee entering 2013.
Lee was drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys. While Lee’s talent was never a doubt of the NFL scouts, his durability was an issue, which is why he fell from a sure fire first round choice to a second rounder. As far as talent goes, Lee has the tools to be among the “elite” class of linebackers.
He has a knack for anticipating where the play is going. He has the speed to get there. He has the hands to actually catch the ball instead of just blocking it down. He has the heart to play late season games with a cast covering his fingers to the elbow. He is also brittle. He gets injured and misses games.
If health wasn’t a concern for Lee, he would undoubtedly be mentioned alongside Patrick Willis, James Laurinaitis and Luke Kuechly as a top tier linebacker. Lee’s sophomore campaign in 2011 saw him suit up for 15 games. He factored in on 103 total tackles, defended seven passes, had four interceptions and recovered a fumble. He led the Cowboys in tackles, tackles for losses and interceptions. His play was a big reason the Cowboys finished 16th in team defense, opposed to 24th when Lee missed 10 games in 2012.
Still, 2012 saw Lee net 58 tackles, three passes defended, one interception and one forced fumble in not even six full games. The man can play.
Lee is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and if anyone knows anything about football, they know that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has no problem signing a big check to a player coming off a big year. Don’t think Lee is unaware of the possibility of getting paid is on the line, and we’ve seen it time and again with players who just happen to have their best season on a contract year. I think with new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s Tampa-2 defense, Lee could very easily grab six to eight interceptions, seven to 10 defended passes and around 120 total tackles. Or he could get Golden Tate’d again and miss a chunk of the season.
So the risk is that Lee gets injured again, and misses some significant time. The reward is you can grab a borderline dominate linebacker who if he can stay healthy, is a top five linebacker option with contract year motivation. Obi-Won might call me a fool, but I see no other way around it. It’s all or nothing for Sean Lee this year.
I’ll gamble on the all.
As always, I welcome your comments. If you think I’m wrong, I’m willing to listen. Just back it up with some facts and solid evidence. Thanks for reading and good luck this season.
Dustin Manko is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @DustinManko,”Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google+