IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys continued addressing defense at the start of Day 3, selecting Minnesota linebacker Damien Wilson with their fourth-round pick at No. 127.
Wilson (6-0, 245) became a two-year starter for the Gophers after transferring from junior college and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors as a senior with a team-best 119 tackles.
The Cowboys have now taken defensive players with three of their first four draft picks. They selected Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones at No. 27 overall in the first round and grabbed Nebraska pass rusher Randy Gregory at No. 60 in the second round.
The Cowboys are getting healthier at linebacker with Sean Lee returning from ACL surgery to play the weak side. Rolando McClain is also back, likely to play middle linebacker, and last year's fourth-round pick Anthony Hitchens was productive at multiple spots. But given the Cowboys' past injury problems at linebacker, Wilson will provide needed depth.
Here's a look at Dane Brugler's scouting report for Wilson:
BACKGROUND: A no-star defensive end recruit out of high school, Wilson started his career at Alcorn State and was one of the top FCS freshman pass rushers, but wanted to play at the FBS level. After a season at Jones County Community College, he transferred to Minnesota and became a starter in 2013 as a junior, recording 79 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.0 sack. Wilson started 12 games in 2014 as a senior and led the team with 119 tackles, adding 10.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks and one forced fumble, earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors. He earned an invitation to the 2015 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
STRENGTHS: Solidly built frame with above average arm length for the position – lost 15 pounds prior to his senior season…quick first step and loves to throw his body around with very good closing burst…reliable tackling technique, lowering his head and opening arms to wrap and drive through his target…physical pop at contact with good take-on skills, using his long arms to work off bodies and keep blockers at bay…dialed-in instincts and plays with a chip – appeared more confident as a senior with a full year under his belt at Minnesota…passionate player who loves to compete and hates to come off the field…high threshold for pain and toughs through injuries…productive senior season, finishing third in the Big Ten in tackles per game (9.2).
WEAKNESSES: Needs to keep his weight under control and maintain consistent conditioning…aggressiveness hits both extremes, waiting for the action to come to him on some plays and then overpursuing misdirection on others – needs to find balance between his eagerness and discipline…has some hip tightness that shows in coverage when covering down the seam…room to improve his spatial awareness in zone coverages…needs to control his intensity and play smarter, eliminating late hit penalties…good speed, but struggles to make up ground after a false step…durability could be a long-term issue due to his propensity for physical collisions – tore the meniscus in his knee (Nov. 2013) that required surgery, but didn't miss a game.
SUMMARY: A cousin of former teammate David Cobb, Wilson started his career as an undersized defensive end at Alcorn State, but his desire to play on a bigger stage led him to the JUCO level where he was the National Defensive Player of the Year in 2012. He spent the last two seasons at Minnesota where he developed into one of the Big Ten's top linebackers in 2014 – lost weight, played faster with showed more confidence in the scheme. Wilson is active and directs traffic pre-snap, showing the diagnose skills to attack and finish, although his aggressive play style will get the best of him and lead to mistakes. He is well-rounded with the physical temperament that fits what NFL teams are looking for at the position – back-up at the next level and late rounder.