IRVING, Texas - Now that the NFL Draft has come and gone, it's time to focus on the next wave of players.
The Cowboys have signed 21 undrafted rookie free agents who will participate in the rookie mini-camp this weekend. Over the years, the Cowboys have hit on several of these players, including Tony Romo and Miles Austin.
Over the last two years, players such as Dan Bailey, Alex Albright, Barry Church, Danny McCray, Phil Costa Phillip Tanner and Kevin Kowalski have all made the team from rookie free agency.
So looking at this year's group, our football analyst Bryan Broaddus, a former NFL scout of 13 seasons, took a look at all 21 players and picked these six guys as players to watch heading into this weekend's mini-camp.
Aston Whiteside, LB, Abilene Christian 6-2 / 260 (4.88) – Should line up as an outside linebacker but when you study him, he played with his hand on the ground in college as a defensive end. Plays with quickness and pass rush moves. Does a nice job of extending his hands to control the blocker. Can come off the edge to sharpen the corner but also penetrate with an inside move. Will shoot the gap to cause problems in the blocking scheme. Plays with technique as a pass rusher, uses a swat-rip or swat-spin move to free himself on the pass rush. Is physical against the tight end in the running game. Does a nice job of redirection when he sees the ball. Will retrace his steps to get back in on the play. Has a knack for blocking kicks. Uses his quickness to shoot the gap and put himself into position to make the block.
Lionel Smith, CB, Texas A&M 6' 192 (4.44) – Is very smooth in his movements, plays with no wasted steps or motions. Does a really nice job of adjusting to the receivers in route. Can play press and stay with his man or play off and drive on the route when he needs to. Shows quick feet and pedal. Will line up and defend the slot. Turns easily. Gets his hand on the receiver. Shows the ability to keep the receiver from the ball. You can see his speed in the way he plays chasing the ball. Will fill against the run when he has to. Forced a turnover in the Oklahoma game when James Hanna catches a crossing route and he smacks him to free the ball. His height, weight and speed is idea for a corner.
Taylor Dever, OT, Notre Dame 6-5 / 298 (5.38) – Was the starter at right tackle for the Irish. Was listed as only doing 19 reps at 225 but plays much stronger than that. Always trying to finish his block. Really stays after his man. Very good kick slide away from the line and into his set. Nice position and punch. Able to control his man. Adjusts quickly in the scheme inside and out. Good base, rarely does he get over extended. Can pull to get to the second level. If he struggles at times it is because he is too aggressive and it with throw him off. When he plays with patience, can really do a nice job. Can seal the edge on the move or blocking down. Really like the way he plays with technique and a nasty streak.
Saalim Hakim, WR, Tarleton State 5-11 / 191 (4.29) – Studied this player when he was part of the Las Vegas team in the UFL 2011. Has timed speed at 4.29 and plays to every bit of that. Is the type of receiver that closes the cushion quickly on defensive backs. Explosive in and out of breaks. Will go anywhere to catch the ball. Is not afraid to take his route across the middle and catch the ball in traffic. Is a vertical player that can catch the ball at its highest point. Outstanding leaping ability. Catches the ball easily in his hands. Can snatch it on the move and create problems for the defense. Slippery with the ball in his hands. Took his route inside on a play and was able to adjust to the ball low and behind him. Does not allow his size to limit his ability to block. Is more than a willing blocker. Will not blow his man up but will stand in there and fight to try and free the ball carrier. Comes from a family of explosive players, his brother Az Hakim was an outstanding player for the St. Louis Rams and the "Greatest Show on Turf."
Adrian Hamilton, OLB, Prairie View A&M 6-2 / 250 (4.81) – Don't get fooled by his timed speed, plays much faster than his forty yard dash time. Is always attacking the pocket. Plays with pass rush moves. Will put his hand on the ground but will do things from a two point stance. Have seen him drop as well but you want him rushing the passer. Is a good player on the move. Can get to the edge and around the corner to sharpen the edge. Will chase the play. Good at finding the ball then working down the line. Stays wide to not allow the ball outside. Athletic enough to avoid the cut block. Can be disruptive to cause turnovers. Always trying to finish the play.
Ronald Leary, OG, Memphis 6-3 / 315 (5.36) - Played left tackle at Memphis but played right guard against Central Florida. Is projected to play inside. Bill Callahan went to Memphis to work this kid out. Quick to block down, can get to the 2nd level, stays after his block. Good kick, slide, can get his hands on the rusher. Plays in a two point stance, able to adjust to the rusher. Stays on his feet. Can get some push. Will anchor down. Gets outside on the pull, missed man against Miss St on a cut block that gave up a sack. Has some shock in his punch. Had three pancake blocks in a row against Miss St on running plays. Fires into blocks. Nice job of turning back inside to pick up man on screen block. Nice position on pass set, able to adjust to the twist stunt. Will lock onto his man. Did lose balance some, never quit even though team was always badly behind on the scoreboard. Has an knee injury that is a concern but if able to come back, could be a nice player to have as one of your ten offensive linemen.