You heard it here first…on February 23rd.
With the 14th pick of the 2012 National Football League Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select:
Dont’a Hightower – LB – Alabama
Hightower played inside linebacker in Nick Saban’s 3-4 defense at Alabama. He was the unquestioned leader of the defense, calling all the plays, and playing some as a rush defensive end in passing situations. It’s that latter role that I project Hightower, at 6-4 and 260 pounds, playing with the Cowboys – a hybrid OLB/DE/ILB who can be used wherever Rob Ryan wants to in his front seven.
Hightower is projected as a late 1st round or early 2nd round selection by most draft analysts. I presume that’s because they don’t believe he will run fast at the combine this weekend. We shall see. I also assume those draft analysts have yet to do their research on Hightower’s intangibles, which include leadership qualities and a work ethic that Nick Saban and Hightower’s Alabama teammates rave about.
Much more analysis to come after I watch the combine, but here’s my Pre-Combine Cowboys Mock Draft:
Note: I anticipate the Cowboys will sign a veteran cornerback and offensive guard in free agency prior to the draft, and I also expect the Cowboys to be awarded a supplemental 4th round pick after losing Stephen Bowen to a big Redskins contract in free agency last year.
1) Dont’a Hightower – LB – Alabama – 6-4, 260
2) Dwayne Allen – TE – Clemson – 6-4, 255
3) Harrison Smith – SS – Notre Dame – 6-2, 212
4a) Kirk Cousins – QB – Michigan State – 6-2, 209
4b) Ryan Broyles – WR – Oklahoma – 5-10, 188
5) Derek Wolfe – DE – Cincinnati – 6-5, 286
6) Ron Brooks – CB – LSU – 5-11, 178
7) Greg McCoy – CB – TCU – 5-10, 182