The Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Situation: Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens, Justin Durant, and Rolando McClain

When the Dallas Cowboys drafted LB Anthony Hitchens out of Iowa in the 4th round, the draftniks blasted the team because they felt he should have been a late round pick or undrafted. As a football analyst, I like to highlight observations and provide analysis that goes beyond an eyes only approach to demonstrate the type of benefit that I bring to the table.

While the draft community bashed the selection, I decided to run some comparative analysis on about 1200 LBs. What was uncovered is critical to how the Cowboys can look at their situation at linebacker. Anthony Hitchens compared to 3 other linebackers that have played a hybrid of inside and outside with better success on the inside; this includes Curtis Lofton, Erin Henderson, and Desmond Bishop. Every one of them has started NFL games and been a starter for a season or more. This demonstrated two things that the Dallas Cowboys did right with their personnel. First, selecting him in the 4th round is warranted with his comparatives. Second, the coaches moving him inside will help facilitate getting the most out of Anthony Hitchens.

Since the Sean Lee injury, the Dallas Cowboys have both tried moving Justin Durant (more optimal to leave at WLB) to the middle and trading for a LB that has retired more than once in Rolando McClain. The Cowboys seem to be reluctant at their own success at finding a gem at linebacker. While many may not always have an understanding of analytics, being able to trust in the concept will be in an organization’s favor for the long term. Using NFL Data Consultants analytical system, Anthony Hitchens profiles as a starting linebacker that would have his best success in the middle.

The New England Patriots Great Trade Nets Them LB Jamie Collins

The New England Patriots were on the other side of the trade with the Minnesota Vikings in the 2013 NFL Draft, picking up 3 additional picks in the draft by moving from 29th to 52nd in the draft. In this case, the New England Patriots had their best move of the offseason.

This is a passing league, and QB Rating differential is a key indicator to wins. So, bringing in a defensive player that has the ability to do reduce the Quarterback Rating of the opponent in multiple ways is a tremendous value. Jamie Collins can do it in pass coverage and as a pass rusher. Getting to the passer will reduce a QB Rating by 25% or more, and Collins is off the charts in pass rush metrics. His analytical profile screams as a player destined to play in multiple pro bowls.

Jamie Collins also brings versatility to play multiple positions (ILB, 3-4 OLB, 4-3 DE, MLB, WLB, SLB). At Southern Mississippi, he changed positions each year, and even played Safety for a season. In his final season, he had 10 sacks and 4 forced fumbles for a winless team. Rarely do you get such high upside with such a high floor, but that is a summary of Jamie Collins. He has barely scratched the surface of his potential since he has not had a chance to focus on a specific position.

It would be an understatement to say that the New England Patriots have had a very difficult offseason, but the trade to net multiple picks and still acquire the highest rated defensive player on our board was art in action. The New England Patriots drafted a player that I am confident will play in multiple pro bowls and be a force in this league for a long time.