The Cowboys gave up fewer yards and points last season than the season before, but they didn't actually play much better. The team still needs to upgrade in talent at every level.
Dallas is fortunate, though, that the value in the 2015 NFL Draft could match up with their needs. They could fill their need at linebacker with one of several options on days 2 and 3.
Stephone Anthony, Clemson
Ht. 6025, Wt. 243, Arm: 32 1/2”, Hand: 10 3/8”, Bench: 23
40 yd: 4.56, 10 yd.: 1.57, 3 Cone: 7.07, Vertical: 37”, Broad: 10'2”
Anthony's name wasn't popular going into draft season, but the Tigers' leading tackler is likely rising up boards. He finished the 2014 season with 10.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 11 quarterback pressures, 2 forced fumbles and 4 passes broken up before being voted first team All-ACC.
- Strengths: Super physical. Athletic player who swarms. Active hands and difficult to block. Difficult to block. Good blitzer. Seals gaps quickly.
- Weaknesses: Inefficient feet in coverage. Can be overly aggressive at times. Average instincts.
Anthony isn't the next Patrick Willis, but he is exactly the type of player the 49ers could target to replace the legendary linebacker. He has all the tools to become an elite linebacker in the NFL.
Denzel Perryman, Miami
Ht. 5106, Wt. 236, Arm: 31 7/8”, Hand: 9 1/2”, Bench: 27
40 yd: 4.78, 10 yd.: 1.68, 3 Cone: -, Vertical: 32”, Broad: 9'5”
Perryman provided the Hurricanes with nearly the same production Anthony provided Clemson, totaled 9.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 5 passes broken up and an interception. He was voted third-team All-America
- Strengths: Violent hitter. Good tackler. Explosive. Closes quickly. Splash plays. Good instincts. High effort player.
- Weaknesses: Shorter than ideal. Tested poorly athletically. Limited in coverage.
Perryman played like a poor man's Anthony. Anthony bigger, faster and better athlete in general, but you wouldn't think the gap was that large based on the tape.
Jordan Hicks, Texas
Ht. 6013, Wt. 236, Arm: 32”, Hand: 10”, Bench: 20
40 yd: 4.68, 10 yd.: 1.53, 3 Cone: 6.78, Vertical: 38”, Broad: 10'4”
Injuries robbed Hicks of most the 2012 and 2013 seasons, but he began to show his potential with a healthy 2014 season. The former 5-star prospect led the team with 147 tackles, notched 13 tackles for loss and was voted second-team All-America.
- Strengths: Exceptional burst. Disciplined. Strong tackler. Looks fluid in coverage. High character. Passion for game. Highly athletic.
- Weaknesses: Injury history. Poor hand use and has trouble disengaging from bigger blockers. Needs to get stronger.
Hicks is as athletic a linebacker as any available in this draft. He's a third-round value on ability and upside alone, but his lengthy injury history will drop him a round or two. WILL
The linebacker position has been devalued in the draft lately, but Cowboys fans should know the value of a good group at the position. Dallas' defense was much more fierce against the run when Rolando McClain was on the field.
The Cowboys have needs at every level of the defense, so they are truly in position to take the best grade available at each pick. Anthony, Perryman and Hicks could provide top-level production right away