(Editor's Note: With the NFL Draft fast approaching, DallasCowboys.com is taking a comprehensive look at each position on the roster: free agency additions, departures, and what the draft might hold. Today, we continue the series with linebacker.)
Need Meter (1 lowest, 5 highest): 3
Depth Check: On the surface, linebacker doesn't seem like a glaring need considering the Cowboys have two emerging young stars in Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch as well as one proven Cowboys great in Sean Lee. But Lee has been in the league for 10 years, many of which were hampered by injuries, and Vander Esch had offseason neck surgery. Joe Thomas has shown he can reliably fill in when needed, but beyond him, depth at linebacker is limited. Luke Gifford was injured throughout most of his first season, and Justin March seems to be more of a special teams player than a defensive starter. In order for Dallas to consider linebacker to be a position of strength, as things stand, they'd be asking Lee and Vander Esch to stay healthy and Smith to make another step in his evolution as a player.
Prospect Preview: Kenneth Murray out of Oklahoma is probably the linebacker prospect the Cowboys would consider using their 17th overall pick on. He stacks up tackles quickly and has direct speed to get to ball carriers all over the field. Jordyn Brooks out of Texas Tech is a second-round talent who might prove to be a day-one starter. If the Cowboys are truly just drafting for depth they may be able to hold out until the later rounds and find competitive prospects like Shaun Bradley out of Temple or Casey Toohill out of Standford.
Memorable Pick: Leighton Vander Esch wasn't considered an obvious selection for the Cowboys' 19th overall pick in 2018. Prior to the Draft they had been linked to safety Derwin James, who was selected two picks earlier, and many fans were enamored by Calvin Ridley, the Alabama receiver who was still on the board when the selection came up. But Dallas made Vander Esch the fourth linebacker selected in the draft, and he arguably made the most immediate impact of any of them. He recorded 140 tackles and made a Pro Bowl in his rookie season, a rare feat for players selected outside of the top ten. If health concerns prove to be a non-factor, Vander Esch projects to be one of the most dominant linebackers in the NFL in short time.
- Monday, April 13 – Quarterback
- Tuesday, April 14 – Running Back
- Wednesday, April 15 – Wide Receiver
- Thursday, April 16 – Tight End
- Friday, April 17 – Offensive Line
- Sunday, April 19 – Defensive End
- Monday, April 20 – Defensive Tackle
- Tuesday, April 21 – Linebacker
- Wednesday, April 22 – Cornerback
- Thursday, April 23 – Safety