With the signing of Henry Melton in free agency, the Dallas Cowboys will be in the market for a defensive end early in the draft. Unfortunately, this year’s defensive end class is not as good as it has been in years past. Obviously Jadeveon Clowney is a transcendent talent, but he will most likely be a top-five pick. This leaves the Cowboys with two first-round defensive end options.
Kony Ealy and Dee Ford are both extremely intriguing players. Ealy is ridiculously raw, but he has upside that could one day make him a perennial Pro Bowler. Ford is undersized at 6’2″, 255 pounds, but he does a great job off the edge at getting after the quarterback. The question remains, which of the two is a better fit in Dallas?
As of now, Dallas’ starting defensive line consists of Jeremy Mincey, Melton, Terrell McClain, and George Selvie. In my opinion, Mincey is a glorified role player, and he should not be a starter for any defense. You could make an argument for Nick Hayden as the starter next to Melton, but defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has history with McClain. When McClain declared for the 2011 NFL Draft, Marinelli had a ton of private workouts with the South Florida product. That said, I just see McClain fitting better than Hayden next to Melton. Also, I’m not all too sold on Selvie on the strong side. Although he had seven sacks last year, this is still the same player that came off the streets to play for Dallas. When teams start watching more and more tape on Selvie, they will see how to contain him on the edge.
Knowing all of this, the Cowboys should look to draft Ealy or Ford early. If they want to take the player with the better skillset, I would say that Dallas should pick Ealy. Dallas will look to trade back in this year’s to stockpile picks like they did in 2013. If the Cowboys do this, Ford will likely be available in the later picks of round one.
If I were Jerry Jones, and I was going into the draft knowing that I would be drafting a defensive end, I would select Ealy. At 6’5″, 275 pounds, Ealy has the better frame of the two to fit the 4-3 scheme. I believe Ford projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL, but he could very well play the defensive end position in the 4-3 if needed. Ealy could become a stud with Marinelli, who is a defensive linemen guru.
With Jerry Jones at helm, it will never be certain who the Cowboys will draft. He surprised many with the selection of Gavin Escobar in the second round last year, and Cowboy fans should expect some wild cards in this year as well. Luckily for Cowboy fans, Dallas will now have 11 selections in this year’s draft because of the compensatory picks they were given.