The Dallas Cowboys were able to sign former Chicago Bears star defensive tackle Henry Melton to a one-year deal, and he was one of the steals of free agency. Melton will replace Jason Hatcher’s pass rushing productivity at the defensive tackle position, and he’s an even better interior pass rusher after being arguably the best pass-rushing 4-3 DT in the game before his ACL tear early last season. Even though the Cowboys added Melton, they are still in the market for some more pass rushing help after losing Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware in free agency (George Selvie and Jeremy Mincey are their current starters, which isn’t embarrassing but could stand to improve). With the amount of talent at DT and the lack of good options in the middle of the first round at DE (aside from Missouri’s Kony Ealy, who has an uncertain future role in the league when it comes to scheme fit), the Cowboys are expected to address that need by drafting a DT.
If Aaron Donald is available for the Cowboys in the first round, then I think it’s difficult for them to pass up on a pass rusher of his caliber, as he is an elite talent at getting after the quarterback and is one of the top players in this year’s class. But the Cowboys also want some run-stopping power up the middle, and Donald is an average run-stuffer at best due to his size; he has to rely on instincts and speed to impact the running game. The Cowboys might not have Donald there anyway, so they might have to choose among a group of Ra’Shede Hageman, Timmy Jernigan, and Louis Nix (my personal favorite).
Cowboys beat writer Clarence Hill reports, citing a source, that Jernigan will visit the Cowboys and will be flying in tonight. Jernigan isn’t one of my favorite prospects, and he is inconsistent on tape at Florida State. He only gets penetration quickly off the snap and isn’t as good of a pass rusher as some think. He plays against the run well, but I would rather have Nix and honestly view Jenrigan as more of a high second-round pick rather than a mid first-round choice. However, Jernigan isn’t out of the question for the Cowboys in the first, especially if they like him the most after all of their research. I don’t think that will be the case, but it’s good to see that they are taking a close look at one of the top DTs in the class.