By Ryan Ratty @RyanRattyNFL on May 15, 2014
After saving money in free agency and having a nice draft, the Dallas Cowboys may finally have the pieces to make the playoffs. They will have to stay healthy, but the Cowboys have the talent in the right places. 2014 will be a make-or-break year for Jerry Jones. He needs to make sure his coaches get the most out of their rookies. In this article, I will predict the impacts of Cowboys' draft picks in 2014.
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By drafting Zack Martin, Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith with three of their first-round picks in the past four years, the Cowboys have built a terrific foundation at the offensive line. The days of watching Tony Romo run around are over. Martin is a versatile player, and he will likely be the starting right tackle when Doug Free's time in Dallas runs out. For now, Martin will be the starting right guard and his impact will be felt immediately.
Although it costed their second- and third-round picks, the Cowboys made a smart decision in moving up for Demarcus Lawrence. The Boise State product has a great combination of athleticism and explosiveness, which are two things that are great indicators of success for pass rushers in the NFL. Lawrence will likely be the starter opposite of George Selvie or Anthony Spencer. The Cowboys had a first-round grade on Lawrence and they liked him a lot.
Perhaps the biggest reach of Dallas' draft, Anthony Hitchens was a guy the Cowboys could've gotten in the later rounds. But, the Cowboys really liked this player. If you watched the Cowboys' war room during the draft, you could see the scouts pumping their fists after drafting Hitchens. The Iowa product will have a chance to start at the strongside linebacker position. He will most likely be in a position battle versus Justin Durant.
The Cowboys had a third-round grade on Devin Street and there is plenty of reasoning to like his potential. At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Street has the size and the frame to put on weight. A shoulder injury cut his senior season short at Pittsburgh, but Street will be a nice fit in this offense because his polished route-running will allow him to play in the slot or outside, thus showing his versatility.
Although he has short arms and is a bit slow, there is a lot to like out of Ben Gardner. Stanford annually has one of the best defensive lines in all of college football and Gardner is just another product of their great system. Gardner is a high-motor player who will make his money as a rotational player in 2014. With some coaching by Rod Marinelli, Gardner has the potential to become a double-digit sack guy.
Will Smith came to Texas Tech as a four-star recruit from a junior college. In his senior season, he was awarded Big-12 Honorable Mention for having 120 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Smith will likely be a depth player in 2014, but he will make a difference on special teams if he makes the final roster.
When you have a ton of draft picks in the seventh round, there will definitely be a few prospects that fall to you and that is the case with Baylor's Ahmad Dixon. Known for his ability to play free safety and strong safety and his hard-hitting ability, Dixon will be a fun player to watch when he gets on the field in 2014. He could very well take the starting job from J.J. Wilcox, but Dixon will most likely be a special teams gunner next season.
Ken Bishop is another player who played junior college football for two years. Like Gardner, Bishop is a high-motor player who thrives off using his speed inside to beat his opponents. Bishop has the versatility to play the 1-technique or the 3-technique position, but he will likely be the starter behind Henry Melton next season. Bishop will have some competition with undrafted free agent Davon Coleman.
Terrance Mitchell is undersized and a bit slow, but he does a great job at turning his hips. The Cowboys lacked depth at the cornerback position and Mitchell will make the team as the No. 4 cornerback. B.W. Webb is not NFL-material and Mitchell has played in a big program for four years. Mitchell also has nice playmaking skills for a guy in the slot. He could also be used in blitz packages too.
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