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Draft Breakdown: Starters Are Set At DE; But Depth Needed
(Editor's Note: As the NFL Draft approaches on April 25-27, DallasCowboys.com's Draft Series will analyze every position, the Cowboys' needs at each, which players might be targeted for their six picks and some interesting draft nuggets. Part 7 features the defensive end position.)
With the Cowboys moving to a 4-3 scheme from the 3-4, positions such as defensive end will see the biggest adjustment. Players like DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer move from outside linebackers to
defensive ends, although it’s not like their roles will change dramatically. Getting to the quarterback will still be a primary assignment for both players. And considering Ware and Spencer were two of the better run-stoppers among 3-4 players, they should be good fits for the 4-3 scheme as well. The Cowboys have some versatility in Jason Hatcher, who played end in a 3-4 and seemingly has the body-type to play either spot in this new scheme. With Spencer re-signing for one year, Hatcher will likely start out as a tackle, but should have position-flex to play both spots.
The Cowboys have already made their big splash in free agency, which was simply re-signing Spencer and keeping him on the franchise tag for another year. So it’s unlikely they will do anything else at the position, especially before the draft.
Key veterans still on the market include John Abraham and Dwight Freeney, and those players were evaluated by the Cowboys, who decided retaining Spencer made more sense, even for the hefty $10.63 million price tag for a second year with the franchise label.
But since Spencer is only in for another year and Ware had an injury-riddled season, it might not be the worst idea to add another end to the mix, perhaps a cheaper, but experienced player who has the ability to start.
The 1998 draft saw the Cowboys take a defensive end in the first round and nine different positions overall. Wide receiver was not one of their nine draft picks, but it’ll always be remembered for the draft when they didn’t take a certain receiver. The Cowboys had Randy Moss in their sights for the No. 8 overall pick, but were too scared of his off-the-field baggage. They passed, as did many others there in the first round. The Cowboys settled for Greg Ellis, who was a solid player over the years and made a Pro Bowl in 2007. But Jerry Jones will always be criticized for not pulling the trigger on Moss, who made a career out of torching the Cowboys.
Some of the top defensive end prospects in this draft are rather intriguing, including BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah, a raw, but gifted player who teams are figuring has nothing but upside. If he can be anything like Jason Pierre-Paul, then he’d be worth the gamble. Other top ends include Bjoern Warner of Florida State and Oregon’s Dion Jordan Bryan Broaddus has more on a few defensive ends prospects that will likely make it past the first round.