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Mailbag: Drafting O-Line Help Early? Could Rico Gathers Play Tackle?
Rico Gathers seems to be taking too long to make the switch from college basketball to NFL tight end, plus he's 6-6, 290, and very athletic, so why not move him to offensive tackle? If he excels at it (and my bet is he would), we could possibly move La'el Collins back to guard and still draft a prospect in the later rounds to fill the swing tackle position. Your thoughts?
Bryan: Gathers is taking his time to develop because he lost a season to a nasty hit that he took in training camp. Have a little patience with him. He did improve on the scout team in 2016 and we saw some flashes of his ability during the preseason of 2017. If things don’t work out at tight end, I have no problem with the switch, but let’s exhaust the one before we start the other.
Rob: Thinking outside the box, Marcus – I like that. However, I think it’s a little unfair to say he’s taking too long to make this football transition. The head injury wiped out his entire 2017 season after he showed some nice progress in training camp. I wouldn’t change Gathers’ position for the same reason I’d be hesitant to move Collins back to guard: The Cowboys have invested a lot of time in their development at those positions and progress has been made. There are people in the organization who really believe in Gathers’ potential at tight end.
The Cowboys’ identity is built around stout O-Line play, ability to run the ball, wear down opponents’ defense and keep their defense off the field. The left side of the O-Line held them hostage last year. Even if all goes perfectly this offseason (Martin, Lawrence, Hitchens, Ladouceur sign extensions and Smith’s back issues resolved) there is still a glaring hole at left guard. Taking a guard or a tackle (who can play guard) with the 19th pick may not represent best value. But if you are drafting a walk-in 5+ year starter, is that not the most important thing?
Bryan: Thank you for using my exact words on the left tackle spot. It did hold you hostage. I have no problem draft a guard that could start and working Chaz Green entirely at left tackle or finding a suitable replacement for Smith when he has to miss starts. The best player at No. 19 could very well be a guard, and that would fill a huge need.
Rob: That’s the same logic the Cowboys used for drafting Zack Martin over Johnny Manziel: walk-in starter. So I understand your point. Let’s see how free agency shakes out first. Maybe they can address left guard (or swing tackle) that way first and focus on the other spot in the draft. But I’m always about value with the first-round pick. Find me a guy who can help at a spot right away. Read