5 Late-Round Sleepers the Dallas Cowboys Should Target in 2014 NFL Draft
Dallas Cowboys Look to Strengthen Roster Through 2014 NFL Draft
After a third consecutive 8-8 season and fourth straight year without playoff football, the Dallas Cowboys have serious questions to face this offseason. During the past season the Cowboys were average to awful in all areas of the football field, and they ended up ranking 14th in passing yards, 24th in rushing yards, 27th in passing yards allowed and 30th in rushing yards allowed per game in the NFL. All in all, the team was actually extremely lucky to finish with a .500 record, and if they don't make changes on both the offensive and defensive sides they will not even win eight games in 2014.
The only issue with going about massive changes in the organization is that Jerry Jones is still the general manager, Jason Garrett is still head coach, Tony Romo is once again quarterback and the team is already $18 million above the 2014 salary cap. Each of these men surely has some positives they bring to the table so one doesn't want to build completely from the ground up, but the salary cap issue is one that will mean the organization has no role to play on the free agent market. What this will ultimately mean is that any incoming talent is going to have to come through the 2014 NFL Draft.
And while selections in the first and second round will provide glamor athletes for Jones to show off to Cowboys fans around the country, the draft's success will be determined by how rounds three through seven play out. Fans of Dallas will be able to find solace in the fact that the team actually has six picks from rounds three through seven, including three in the final round. Identifying guys who will actually be able to improve the team in some area will end up determining the fate of both Romo and Garrett and could shape the Cowboys organization for years to come.
Keeping this large amount of late round picks in mind, I have identified five late-round sleepers that the Cowboys should target during the 2014 NFL Draft. Each of the selected players are locks to go in the final five rounds of the draft, have a huge amount of upside and would play a crucial role for the organization moving forward.
5. Connor Shaw
While the Cowboys have Tony Romo cemented as their starting quarterback in 2014, they don't have a backup at the moment because Kyle Orton is pondering retirement. And while some don't think that backup quarterback is important, it actually does help provide the defense with valuable preparation in midweek practices and can be forced to play valuable games in case of injuries, as Dallas fans saw in 2013. Insert former South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw, who despite being a little undersized has an accurate arm (55 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last three years), great mobility, is a proven leader and will be available in the final two rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft.
4. Michael Sam
The Cowboys were awful at clogging lanes at the line, and their spot at 25th in the NFL in sacks shows they couldn't get a hand on the quarterback either. Michael Sam can help change this, as the defensive end is incredibly quick off the line and has an eye for the backfield which helped him earn 11.5 sacks and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year Award last year. While a bit undersized, Sam will at least to be able to be a valuable role player and can be had in the final three rounds of the draft. And for those who are worried about the media circus he would bring, we all know Jerry Jones has never been afraid of attracting media attention.
3. Silas Redd
Silas Redd had a very underwhelming 2013 season with the USC Trojans as he only rushed for 376 yards and missed eight games because of a lingering knee injury. This poor performance has seen Redd drop to an option in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft where he could be extremely valuable to the Cowboys. The 21-year-old has a physical brand of running that looks likely to transform to the NFL level with good health and would provide Dallas with a two-headed monster of running backs alongside DeMarco Murray.
2. Keith McGill
The Cowboys' inability to stop teams from passing the ball has been well noted, and it is obvious that they need to bring in options at defensive back to rectify their defense. Keith McGill could help fill this gap, as the 6-foot-3, 205-pound cornerback has the type of size to compete with any wide receiver and his 40-yard dash time of 4.35 proves he can keep up on the speed side as well. The former Utah Utes star is expected to go in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and Dallas would be wise to pick him up.
1. Shaquelle Evans
The Dallas Cowboys have one great wide receiver in Dez Bryant, but over the past season it was clear that they need to add secondary options for Tony Romo to target. One guy that could help fill this role is former UCLA wide receiver Shaquelle Evans who should be available in the seventh round. Evans has average size at 6-foot-1, 213-pounds, but his 4.4 40-yard dash speed and ability to run great routes made helped him rack up 709 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. The Cowboys would be wise to pick up Evans with one of their three seventh round picks.