The Cowboys have addressed the linebacker position in the past when they drafted Leighton Vander Esch in 2018.
Opposite of him is Jaylon Smith who has signed an extension to remain a Cowboy for at least half of a decade. Smith didn’t have the season everyone expected, and Leighton was plagued with injury throughout the 2019 campaign.
With the injury to LVE, Sean Lee and Joe Thomas had to fill in the majority of the season. However, both Lee and Thomas have expiring contracts that could lead them out of Dallas in March via free agency. Dallas must find a way to replace this potential loss, and their best shot could be in the draft.
There are plenty of young players ready to make a name for themselves every year, but this draft class could have some game-changers at the linebacker position. This could swing Dallas into a much better defense heading into their 2020 season.
The following 7 players are a group of guys that either fit what Dallas is building or are just flat out ballers.
Kenneth Murray (Oklahoma)
Going into the draft Murray will be an outstanding 3 down linebacker wherever he lands. Over the course of the last 2 seasons, Murray has displayed a great nose for the football down in Oklahoma. He racked up over 250 tackles alongside 8.5 sacks in those two years. His ability to find the man with the ball and bring him down is impeccable. Murray can also play multiple linebacker positions, which will be a factor for Mike Nolan’s defense here in Dallas. You can never have enough good players, and adding Murray to the mix would spike this defense in the right direction.
Malik Harrison (Ohio State)
Spending 4 years in a place like Ohio State is an enormous benefit, which is the case for Malik. During his time there he showed great effort on every down that he played. He can wrap up and force people down at will, which is why he is better suited to stop the run. Playing as an outside linebacker would fit like a glove in Dallas’ defense.
His incredible vision of the field allows him to see the development of a play better than most. This will lead to quick decisions of either rushing the passer or pursuing the running backs. The 4.5 sacks he had this season would be put to good use with the Cowboys.
Patrick Queen (LSU)
Queen has become a fan favorite after LSU’s national championship victory. On tape he looks to be an explosive sideline to sideline player, but that’s due to his incredible athleticism. Patrick was able to double his sophomore performance this past year by putting up 85 tackles and 3 sacks in his junior year.
While he was fun to watch, he still needs more experience at the linebacker position. There will be plenty of opportunities for Queen if elected by the Cowboys. Dallas would fit for Queen since his style of play differentiates from what LVE and Jaylon bring to the table. Also having 2 freak athletes like Vander Esch and Queen on the field together would cause other teams much discomfort in the passing game.
Zack Baun (Wisconsin)
Baun thus far is the most different type of linebacker in this article. He lines up on the outside and is used very often to rush the passer. Due to that, he was able to wreak havoc this season with 12.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. Having a guy like Zack creates many mismatches with opposing tackles. His first step of the ball is as explosive as you’ll see in all of college football.
His motor is a nonstop machine as he is constantly working at getting the man with the ball. We’ve seen Dallas pass on players like TJ Watt or Harold Landry who have similar play styles. However, seeing the success they’ve had could bring Dallas a new mindset to go out and add Baun to this defense.
Akeem Davis-Gaithers (Appalachian St)
ADG has been a contact seeking missile over the past 2 years as we’ve seen him put up back to back season with over 100 tackles. He isn’t the biggest player at his position, but that doesn’t stop him from laying the wood on opposing players.
Much like Patrick Queen, ADG is also a very athletic player that uses that in order to get around blocks. His strength isn’t enough to get through blockers, but his quickness allows him to fly by them. ADG’s best trait is his versatility, which will be needed for the Cowboys with Mike Nolan running a variety of schemes.
Logan Wilson (Wyoming)
If Dallas elects to not go linebacker in the first 2 days of the draft, Wilson would be a perfect fit in day 3. Wilson had an incredible career with Wyoming, in his 4 years there he managed to put up over 400 tackles, and 10 interceptions. He’s a 3-time captain for Wyoming, which speaks to his high character.
Logan has a remarkable ability to determine where a play is heading pre-snap. This allows him to get a jump on everyone before the play to put himself in a great position to stop the offense. Having someone with his talent and high IQ would only make Dallas a more dangerous team.
Michael Pinckney (Miami)
Another day 3-player could be someone like Mike. Now, this Mike would be more a depth pick for Dallas. He’s is only 6’1 but has the perfect frame to match his aggressive playstyle. Pinckney has shown the ability to create big plays with his 14.5 sacks and 3 interceptions during his time at Miami. He’s been a consistently good player, but not a great one for the Hurricanes.
Landing in Dallas would allow him to learn from a great coach in Mike Nolan, while also getting invaluable reps like Joe Thomas has done for the Cowboys. With LVE showing that he isn’t invincible, the Cowboys need quality backups that can get the job done when called upon.
There are plenty of other linebackers in this draft class, but these guys would give Dallas an immediate upgrade in different areas.
The key for Dallas will be after they decide what to do with Sean Lee and Joe Thomas. Until then stay tuned as the draft draws near and we continue with the 2020 prospects.
Below you will find other positions filled with different prospects.