Dallas Cowboys Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Chaz Green, OT, Florida – Round 3
In my opinion, Green was one of the more underrated prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft. Florida left tackle D.J. Humphries was a first-round pick of the Cardinals, but if you asked a die-hard Gator fan who was the better college player, they would say Green without a doubt. Green broke into the starting lineup ahead of Humphries, and Green was the more consistent player. After the signing of La’el Collins, Green continues to get overshadowed, but in time, I think he’s going to turn into a quality starter for the Cowboys.

The 6-foot-5, 314-pound Green had a strong 2012 season as a right tackle helping to pave the way for Mike Gillislee and a tough Gators running game that led them to a 11-2 record with a good defense. Green missed the 2013 season with a torn labrum and Florida really missed him. In 2014, he had another strong year as he improved his pass protection while continuing to open holes in the ground game.

Green has the ability to develop into a starting right tackle for the Cowboys and replace Doug Free. If the Cowboys need help at guard, Green is versatile enough to move inside. Immediately as a rookie, Green should be a valuable backup as a sixth offensive lineman who could play guard or tackle if there is an injury. In time, I think Green’s steady and consistent play will make him a starter in Dallas.

Most Likely To Bust

Randy Gregory, OLB, Nebraska – Round 2
A few years ago when talking about Clemson defensive end DaQuan Bowers falling to the second round, one team source outside of Tampa Bay said there were serious reasons to cause the fall and send a player who was considered a high first-rounder deep into the second round. Bowers ended up being a bust for the Buccaneers. One has to wonder if the Gregory situation will be similar.

If Gregory didn’t have off-the-field issues, he would have been a sure-fire top-10 pick. Gregory was the best pass-rusher in the 2015 NFL Draft and is a natural at putting heat on the quarterback. He is very fast off the edge with a repertoire of functional moves. Gregory (6-5, 235) needs to add weight for the NFL, but he has frame to do it, and with his speed, he could be a dynamic quarterback hunter.

Gregory is my pick for most likely to bust because of all the off-the-field issues that caused him to fall out of the first round. He had a positive drug test at the NFL Scouting Combine, but that didn’t fully illustrate that he had a lot of drug problems while at Nebraska. Gregory also has other off-the-field issues that had teams concerned. Those issues were said to be similar to Brandon Marshall early in his career, Aldon Smith or Justin Blackmon. Sources at other teams weren’t convinced that Gregory would be able to handle the pressure of the NFL. They also felt strongly that Gregory could be a negative presence in the locker room that could lead to positive drug tests for teammates as well as Gregory.

If Gregory has put his past issues behind him, and seeking treatment has been effective, he could easily be a boom pick for Dallas. Getting a top-10 talent in the second round is obviously a tremendous value, but the reasons for so many pass-rush needy teams to pass on Gregory were legitimate, and there is a real possibility that he will be a bust.

Potential Boom Pick

Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut – Round 1
Not every team had a first-round grade on Jones. Some teams felt that the 6-foot-1, 196-pounder would go in the first round because of his athletic potential, but he didn’t have the tape of a first-round-caliber prospect. That makes Jones a potential boom-or-bust pick.

Jones played safety in 2012 (88 tackles, 1 INT) before moving to cornerback in 2013 (60 tackles, 3 INT). He improved his coverage skills as a senior, but his final season ended early after seven games because of a shoulder injury. Jones had four passes broken up and two interceptions in 2014. Thus, one can see that he never really had a big season at cornerback while at Connecticut.

Jones had a 40 time in the 4.3-second range with amazing explosion in his vertical jump at the Combine. He has the size/speed combination to be an excellent cornerback as he can match up against big receivers. With veterans ahead of him, Dallas can develop Jones at his pace to try and draw all the potential out of him. He is capable of being a tough corner in the NFL and could be a boom pick for the Cowboys.

Future Depth Player

Damien Wilson, LB, Minnesota – Round 4
The Cowboys had a need for some depth at linebacker. Bruce Carter left for Tampa Bay in free agency, while Sean Lee has dealt with injuries. Rolando McClain has also had his troubles in his career, and the possibility for him to derail his career with off-the-field issues can’t be discounted. Thus, it made a lot of sense for Dallas to get some depth at linebacker. Wilson (6-0, 245) played well for the Gophers while being a tough run-defender in the Big Ten. In Rod Marinelli’s defense, Wilson could be cross-trained at Mike and Sam linebacker. Wilson should turn into a nice backup for Dallas.

Walt’s 2015 NFL Draft Grades:

27. Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut: B+ Grade
So much for the Cowboys picking Randy Gregory. Byron Jones makes a ton of sense. I had him going 20th overall to the Eagles, which I thought was a slight reach, so the 27th slot seems like the right area for him. He also fills a big need. Morris Claiborne has struggled, while Brandon Carr is overpaid. The Cowboys were desperate for corner help, and they landed an extremely athletic player as a probable upgrade.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

60. Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska: A Grade
ESPN is gushing about the Cowboys being the right place for Randy Gregory. Call me crazy, but I don’t think a locker room comprised of Dez Bryant and Greg Hardy is a great fit. Having said that, I really like this pick; I had Dallas taking Gregory in the first round of my mock, so this is a steal. Gregory may have been the third-overall selection if he was completely clean off the field. Of course, he’s not, and what he has going on behind the scenes is a major concern. NFL personnel have said that they think he may not last five years in the NFL. However, the Cowboys are ready to win now. Tony Romo just turned 35, and Jerry Jones doesn’t have many years left either. They’re in position to win a Super Bowl, and Gregory should be able to help with his awesome pass-rushing ability.

91. Chaz Green, OT, Florida: B+ Grade
Chaz Green is one of Charlie’s draft sleepers. I thought he’d go a bit later than this, but I still like the pick. The Cowboys wanted to upgrade the offensive line because Doug Free won’t be around much longer, so Green could step in as a starter as early as 2016.

127. Damien Wilson, ILB, Minnesota: B Grade
The Cowboys were expected to pick an inside linebacker before re-signing Rolando McClain. However, McClain was retained for only one year, so Dallas needs some insurance in 2016 and beyond. Damien Wilson is a quality player with good athleticism who fits the range of this pick.

163. Ryan Russell, DE, Purdue: C Grade
Jerry Jones has had success with a Purdue pass-rusher before, but going back to the well this time may not work out. Ryan Russell is a good athlete, but he never developed into a quality player at Purdue. Russell has upside, and Dallas might be able to develop him, but he probably should have gone a bit later in the draft.

236. Mark Nzeocha, LB, Wyoming: C Grade
Mark Nzeocha is an old player (25) who tore his ACL during the season. He has made good progress, however, so he’ll be ready for OTAs. Having said that, I don’t really like his chances of making the final roster. I didn’t have him in my top 400.

243. Laurence Gibson, OT, Virginia: A Grade
I had the Cowboys picking Laurence Gibson – at No. 168 (fifth round). Gibson is a long-armed, athletic tackle, so even though he’s raw, there’s no reason he should have fallen this far. This is a potential steal for Dallas.

246. Geoff Swaim, TE, Eastern Michigan: C Grade
I’m not sure why the Cowboys moved up for Geoff Swaim, who will have trouble making the final roster. He’s an athletic tight end, but wasn’t very productive at Eastern Michigan.

2015 NFL Draft Team Grade: B+ . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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