Dallas Cowboys: Four late-round sleepers to target

With just over a week to go before the 2014 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys are looking hard at the back end of their draft board as well as the front. With a large number of late-round picks, Dallas needs to do its research to maximize its chances of hitting on one or two overlooked prospects.

Here are four guys who the Cowboys should target on day three. They might not play where the team needs them the most, but the Cowboys will address those needs, hopefully, in the first three rounds. At this point it’s all about talent, and these players have more than enough to help out.

C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa

Yes, obviously, the Cowboys don’t need to draft a tight end. With perennial Pro Bowler Jason Witten and his heir apparent, Gavin Escobar, Dallas has a lot of talent here. But over the last three seasons the Cowboys have always entered with four tight ends on their opening day roster. As of right now, they only have three–and that’s only if James Hanna makes the team again.

Hanna and Escobar don’t block very well, either. Dallas knows the value of a blocking tight end, and Fiedorowicz fits the mold nicely. He’ll take some development, of course, but as far as second-tier guys go he makes the most sense for this team.

The only snag could be his availability–he’s just as likely to go in the third round as the fourth. If he’s still available for Dallas at 119, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him taken, especially since the ‘Boys brought him in for a private workout last month.

Here’s Fiedorowicz doing his things against the Golden Gophers last season:

Storm Johnson, RB, UCF

Johnson was taken in the sixth round by the Raiders last year, but chose to go back to UCF for one last season, capping it with a decisive Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor in which he rushed for 120 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Johnson doesn’t really project as an NFL star. He’s more of a rotation, change-of-pace, north-south kind of guy who can rack up yards behind a good offensive line, which (surprise!) the Cowboys now possess. Right now he’s seen as a fifth-round pick, which might be a little high for the ‘Boys, but any slipping should make them take a hard look at him. As I wrote earlier this offseason, the Cowboys might be looking for a reason to let DeMarco Murray walk next year, anyway.

Here’s Johnson taking on Penn State. He looks pretty good in the team’s first drive.

Mike Davis, WR, Texas

Davis was at Dallas Day two weeks ago to show the Cowboys what he could do. After a less-than-stellar pro day and a 6th or 7th-round draft projection by CBS, Dallas may be in the best position to land the former Skyline stud.

Davis was consistent for the Longhorns throughout his four years, but he’s still a work in progress and will have to up his work ethic to be successful in the NFL. Wide receivers coach Derek Dooley has done a good job with marginal talents in the past (no offense, Cole Beasley) and can probably do the same for Davis should the Cowboys take a chance on him. Dooley would no doubt be happy to have a taller option than the 5-8 Beasley and the 5-10 Dwayne Harris.

Davis wouldn’t have to be the Dallas No. 3 guy right away, but the Cowboys need some depth at receiver to protect them from injury. They have options, but with all those compensatory picks, Davis could very well be that guy.

Here’s one comprehensive breakdown of Davis’s abilities:

Kenneth Ladler, FS, Vanderbilt

There’s been a lot of buzz around the mock draft community about the Cowboys bringing in a Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor to finally lock down the Dallas free safety spot. If Dallas looks the other way with its first few picks, however, they may still be interested in bringing more competition to the fold.

Enter Ladler, who could come in and immediately challenge Matt Johnson and J.J. Wilcox at the free safety position. Goodness knows the guys could use a kick in the rear, and it may just happen that Ladler is the superior option.

Some speculate that Jerry Jones is hesitant to spend a first-round pick at a position with so much depth, if not quality. Ladler would be another body for Rod Marinelli to use as he attempts to resurrect this flailing defense.

Here’s footage of Ladler intercepting Connor Shaw nearly two years ago, showing excellent anticipation in his zone coverage. He’s only gotten better since then:

The Cowboys might not take any of these young men, but they’re certainly on the radar. Dallas has a plethora of solid late-round options it could use to help turn this team into a contender, and these four players are ones to watch.

As always, remember to check out our Dallas Cowboys page for all your star-powered news and analysis.