My rundown through the entire first round of the NFL draft continues as I examine the Dallas Cowboys who hold the #16 pick in the first round.
The Pick: Aaron Donald – DT – Pitt
Having a great 2013 seasons was likely enough to ensure Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald was get at least into the second round. However, if he wanted to overcome criticisms by scouts that he was too short and not stout enough against the run, he would need to have a great pre-draft process. Arguably no player has had a better such process than Donald. He dominated the Senior Bowl and then turned in an excellent workout at the scouting combine. Meshed with his superb game tape that shows a player who explodes off the snap and penetrates into the opposing backfield to blow up plays means Donald should be coveted on day one.
Why: Jason Hatcher is a free agent and Dallas badly needs talented linemen
The Dallas Cowboys were atrocious all around on defense last season. HOwever, the bulk of their suffering came up front from their inability to consistently rush the passer or stop the run. Now their best player statistically from last year, Jason Hatcher is leaving for free agency and rumors continue to swirl that DeMarcus Ware could get cut. Put simply the team is very thin up front and needs to reload with as much young talent as they can find. The nature of their new defense demands a disruptor at the three-technique defensive tackle spot. Donald is a natural fit.
Argument: Timmy Jernigan rates higher on a lot of boards
What will really question the pick is whether Donald is actually the best defensive tackle available. Despite his outstanding NFL draft workouts many experts still believe he’s narrowly edged by Timmy Jernigan from FloridaState. The Seminole standout was a dominant force in 2013 during their run to the national title. He’s bigger than Donald, which is why he is so good at stopping the run and when his motor churns he can create havoc in the pocket as well. Many will think he has more physical upside in the long-term.
Counter-argument: Rod Marinelli did best work with Henry Melton types
While true to an extent, it must be remember who is running the Dallas Cowboys defense now. Monte Kiffin has stepped back, putting defensive line coach Rod Marinelli in charge. The old coach has had great success with a number of teams during his coaching career and it has always come when he had everything centered around a great interior pass rusher such as Warren Sapp in Tampa Bay and more recently Henry Melton in Chicago. Donald represents that next dynamic force who will give blockers fits for 60 minutes a game.
That is why I would take Aaron Donald if I were in charge. What are your thoughts?