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Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is against using a high pick on nose tackles. He believes teams can find those players in the later rounds.
The Cowboys drafted a pair of potential nose tackles in the seventh round last season – Joey Ivie out of Florida and Jordan Carrell out of Colorado – and neither even made the practice squad.
But could that theory change this season?
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has pegged the Cowboys as using the 19th overall pick in this year’s draft on Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea in his first mock draft released Thursday.
Vea is an interesting prospect. At 6-foot-4, 346 pounds, Vea is a monster inside and provides more than just being a run-stuffing nose tackle. He flashed his athleticism throughout his career with the Huskies, registering 9.5 sacks in three seasons.
The Cowboys liked the idea of having an athletic nose tackle when they moved Maliek Collins there during the season when David Irving was available and healthy to play the under tackle.
Maybe Vea is enough of a rare talent that Marinelli and the Cowboys would go against their usual policy and draft a nose tackle in the first round.
Of course, the Cowboys could use help at all three levels on the defensive side and boosting the interior makes sense. In the postseason wraup, the Star-Telegram listed a pair of defensive tackles to keep an eye on – Clemson’s Christian Wilkins (who has since announced his plans to return to school) and Michigan’s Maurice Hurst.
But those players project as under tackles (lines up between guard and tackle than directly over the center).
What are others projecting for the Cowboys at this point?
CBS Sports: Defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne, Alabama. Most won’t forget his touchdown catch in the college football playoff semifinals vs. Clemson. But Payne makes sense as a disruptive interior force.
Pro Football Focus: Wide receiver Michael Gallup, Colorado State. The Cowboys could look at adding another threat for Dak Prescott and the offense. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley is off the board in Pro Football Focus’ mock by the time the Cowboys pick, so Gallup is the next best option. He isn’t a household name, but is coming off a season in which he caught 100 passes for 1,418 yards with seven touchdowns. He had 14 touchdown catches as a junior.
NBC Sports: Wide receiver Christian Kirk, Texas A&M. Much like Gallup, the Cowboys would add another play-making type talent to the offense with the addition of Kirk. The passing game struggles for the Cowboys have been well documented, and Kirk would add a threat opposite Dez Bryant. Kirk showed his athleticism throughout his college career with the Aggies, and is coming off a season in which he had 10 touchdown receptions and returned a punt and kickoff for touchdowns.