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This will be a very interesting season for the Dallas Cowboys as they work to prove 2016 was no fluke.

With a historic 13-3 season followed by another one-and-done playoff stint, the question is can the Cowboys finally turn the corner in 2017 and land their sixth franchise Super Bowl win? CBS Sports believes they have what it takes, and says you should be thrilled about what’s coming.

It was just this time last year when all eyes were on quarterback Tony Romo in his return from injury, while the team’s faithful basked in the excitement of seeing the healthy four-time pro bowler combined with a healthy Dez Bryant and fourth overall pick, running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Fast forward to the present and Romo now works for CBS, Dak Prescott is the 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and most of the defensive secondary is barely old enough to legally drink.

The Cowboys are gearing up for a run at Super Bowl 52! Don’t miss any breaking news, take a second to sign up for our FREE Cowboys newsletter!

A lot of questions remain and many surround the secondary and first-round pick Taco Charlton, who the team hopes can come in and make an immediate impact on the defensive front. If they can take their pass rush to the next level, the rest will most certainly fall into place.

Is it football season yet?

How well did the Cowboys do this past offseason? The team has effectively opted out of the major free agent market for the last several years. While fans laud big-name acquisitions for the most part, it’s become obvious a more prudent approach is taken by the better teams of the NFL. This isn’t to say there isn’t gold to be found, like what the 2016 New York Giants did with their defense, but this is normally the response to bad draft practices. The Cowboys have excelled at acquiring retail goods for wholesale prices.

But how did they do in 2017? ESPN’s Todd Archer took a look at the offseason changes the Cowboys roster has gone through, giving them a B-.

As the front office has morphed into a more democratic process in recent years, their success in the draft has been markedly better. The precise combination of Jerry and Stephen Jones along with Jason Garrett and Will McClay has left the Cowboys with a young, talented roster:

“The Cowboys have altered their construction process in recent years, moving away from high-priced free agents and older players and focusing on developing players through the draft. With two division titles in three years, the plan seems to be working.”

For years, the front office operated as if they were only a player away, opting to sign impact free agents to big-money contracts. All the while personnel people lauded the build-through-the-draft mentality of teams like Green Bay and New England.

It wasn’t that Dallas didn’t intend to build through the draft, they simply didn’t have the success that they were looking for and some times got too “cute” with their selections (see 2009). Dallas’ success here seems two-fold in that they’ve stayed away from high-priced free agents and that they’ve been largely successful in their draft evaluations. This can be seen in a simple salary cap health evaluation. The club is currently over $16 million under the salary cap while still carrying $16 million in dead money.

That money would likely have been spent on the secondary if the Cowboys saw fit to do so during free agency. We’ve heard from Stephen Jones that they were taking a fairly calculated risk with this group. However, the loss of Barry Church in particular is one that Archer will likely watch closely:

“While Jeff Heath has shown flashes of ability in limited playing time, replacing Church will be difficult. He had four straight seasons with at least 100 tackles. He was a defensive captain, played special teams and was around the ball. The Cowboys could have gone to him before last season with a new deal, or made a stronger pitch to keep him off the market as free agency approached — but didn’t. Church, who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, wasn’t a high-end safety but he meant more to the Cowboys’ success than the coaches want to believe. He was not a progress-stopper.”

Whether it’s Heath, Anthony Brown or Chidobe Awuzie, these young players in the secondary will be a major story line during training camp.

As for what Archer liked about the offseason, it centered around a player he predicted as a good fit prior to the draft, first-round pick Taco Charlton.

Drafting Taco Charlton was a positive step in rebuilding the defensive line. They used first-round picks to rebuild the offensive line in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. They made second-round moves to address their pass rush in recent years through the likes of DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory, but they have relied more on low-cost and late-round pickups to fill in gaps. Charlton’s sack totals increased every year while at Michigan. He play with more leverage and strength than speed and quickness, but still figures to be a big part of the pass-rush rotation. He might never be a DeMarcus Ware, but if he is another Greg Ellis, the Cowboys certainly would take that.

As a matter of fact, there is no shortage of young players drafted on the defensive side of the ball that will be under heavy scrutiny by these coaches as they work to retool this football team. Will the changes and influx of new players lead to a more formidable defense when December and January roll around? The team will certainly need above average returns from several spots if they look to improve on the results of 2016.

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In the offseason, major networks turn to rankings to get them through the slow times of the NFL season. One such ranking last season ranked the best quarterback-wide receiver combinations in the league.

You had Tom Brady and Julian Edelman, Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson, Dak Prescott/Tony Romo and Dez Bryant and others, but they all were looking up at Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown.

The Pittsburgh Steelers duo almost has a sixth sense type of connection few have on the gridiron. You’ve heard it a million times in interviews, the connection is built around trust. Trust that Roethlisberger will find Brown, and trust Brown will make the play, no matter what, when facing single coverage.

This relationship hasn’t happened overnight, but is something second round rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster longs for, after nothing more than just Organized Team Activities (OTAs) in a black and gold uniform.

“Just today, I was watching [Antonio] and Ben. It’s eight years they’ve put together,” he told Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after the last day of OTAs. “That’s something I want with a quarterback. For us to be all out here, we’re all building the same trust.”

Smith-Schuster might get such an opportunity earlier than expected in his rookie season. The big-bodied wide receiver was taking first team reps throughout the offseason workouts, but you can take that with a grain of salt until the team reports to training camp on July 27th.

Although Smith-Schuster might not have 8 years to develop such a rapport with Roethlisberger, like Brown did, he will have to learn quickly if he wants to make an impact on the offense in 2017. Last year, Eli Rogers spoke about the time it took for he and Roethlisberger to get on the same page with coverages, route adjustments and seeing the same thing at the line of scrimmage.

Nonetheless, with minicamp quickly approaching, and the simple fact Smith-Schuster was a second round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, he will have every chance possible to prove himself worthy of starting repetitions when the team starts hitting at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA in late July.

In the meantime, Smith-Schuster will get to watch the best quarterback-wide receiver duo in the NFL do work every day, and learn from it.

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After an individual workout in front of Lakers brass — cheap authetnic nfl jerseys which included Magic Johnson, the player he patterned his game after — point guard Lonzo Ball reiterated his desire on Wednesday to play for his hometown team.

“Of course,” Ball answered during an eight-minute media session that followed the workout. “It’s home.”

Ball also said that if the Lakers pass on him, he would play for any team.

“I’ll go to any team and just do what I do,” Ball said. “Play basketball.”

This was the first and could be the only workout for the Chino Hills, California, native. One source told ESPN that the Lakers, who have the second pick in the June 22 draft, wanted to get a close look at his unorthodox shooting form. Ball said that a significant portion of the workout involved shooting.

Boston general manager Danny Ainge recently said that Ball had declined to work out for the Celtics, despite a chance to be selected No. 1 overall.

Multiple sources told ESPN that Ball is the front-runner to be selected by the Lakers, but that former Kansas wing Josh Jackson and ex-Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox are also in the equation.

“I got positive vibes,” Ball said of his workout. “It was a lot of fun.”

Despite playing in front of Johnson, the new Lakers boss and former NBA star, Ball said there were no nerves.

“I don’t get nervous playing basketball,” Ball said.

Ball’s Big Baller Brand shoes were not on display Wednesday when he worked out for the Lakers. Instead, Ball worked out in James Harden’s signature Adidas shoe.

Ball’s ZO2 isn’t in mass production yet. He has said that his shoe is the only shoe he plans on wearing in the NBA.

Ball made the 50-mile trip Tuesday, had dinner in Venice with members of the organization, including Johnson, and then worked out for the team at 9:30 a.m. PT Wednesday. He will do medical testing Thursday morning before heading back home. He was not accompanied by his father, LaVar Ball, who has captured headlines with his lightning-rod personality.

Asked if Lakers brass asked about his dad, Lonzo Ball said: “They said they love him. That’s about it.”

Unlike his father, Ball is brief with his words. He answered in excess of 50 questions during the eight-minute media session, most with a single sentence.

Ball said the speculation that his father has been a distraction is nothing new, and won’t bother him in the NBA.

“They said that about me in high school, they said that about me in college,” Ball said. “I don’t think it will affect me.”

“Everyone has an opinion,” he added. “I know who I am. People who know me know who I am. That’s all that matters.”

The 6-foot-6 Ball averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 assists and 6.0 rebounds in his lone season at UCLA and shot 41 percent from beyond the arc. Ball said there’s no need to change the mechanics on his shot — as long as he continues to make shots.

“As long as it works,” he said.

Ball would come in and likely play point guard, shifting D’Angelo Russell off the ball.

“They need a leader,” Ball said when asked why the Lakers should draft him. “They need a point guard. I feel like I can fill that hole.”

Asked if he’s the best player in the draft, Ball didn’t mince his brief number of words.

“I think I am,” he said.

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Gronk’s gone. We can only hope it’s not forever.

The immediate ramifications are obvious. The New England Patriots are one thing with Rob Gronkowski at tight end and another, lesser thing without him at tight end. But you don’t need me, Ben Volin, Bill Belichick, Ron Jaworski, or the ghost of George Halas to tell you this.

Regardless, do count me among those who believe the absence of Gronkowski will not be the reason you won’t be seeing the Patriots win that coveted fifth Super Bowl championship. We are all waiting to see the get-’em-off-the-field defense a Super Bowl champion usually needs. (I say “usually” because we didn’t see that type of defense in Super Bowl XLIX, either. But thanks to Pete Carroll’s ill-fated goal-line decision, and Malcolm Butler’s play for the ages, the Patriots escaped, anyway.)

Of course, I want to be wrong. But that’s the way I see it.

Let’s talk about Gronk’s legacy.

I am of the belief that when you talk about all-time greats in any sport it is necessary to differentiate between career achievement and short-term greatness. Sometimes we overlook athletic comets flashing across the sky. There are players of undeniable greatness in all sports who are unable to sustain their performance for the long, long haul because of injury. I’ll wager, for example, that legions of current NBA fans have no idea there was once a frightening force of nature by the name of Andrew Toney. He’s not in the Hall of Fame, and never will be. His career lasted from 1980-88. He played in 468 NBA games, but in his final three seasons he was only able to participate in 87 of a potential 246 games because of stress fractures in both feet, fractures that for a very long period went improperly diagnosed.

But, oh, those first five years. The man was unguardable. A 6-foot-3-inch guard with a great pro body, he could go right or left, shoot threes, take it to the hoop, and please don’t foul him. He played with what I can only describe as a contempt for defenders. As far as his battles with the Celtics were concerned, not for nothing was he nicknamed the “Boston Strangler.”

Larry Bird on Toney: “He was a killer . . . the absolute best I’ve ever seen at shooting the ball at crucial times. We had nobody who could come close to stopping him. Nobody.”

And Toney is forgotten by the general public today. It happens.

Will that happen to Gronk if his career is through (and I’m not saying it is)? Gronk has an outsized personality to accompany his athletic greatness. And there are those of us who believe that while he will not match the complete career accomplishments of, say, Tony Gonzalez, at his playing best he may very well be the best tight end who has ever played the game. Of course, that’s an opinion, and it will be debated.

Now, what if I told you there was a Gronk before Gronk? What if I told you there was a Gronk before Gronk who is not ever going into the Hall of Fame, a Gronk before Gronk who played only nine NFL seasons and was nowhere near his real self in four of those final five seasons because of a debilitating knee injury, a Gronk before Gronk whose official nickname was “Rambo,” a Gronk before Gronk who — and this is where we enter into the you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up category — was even coached by the same guy who has borne witness to every second of Rob Gronkowski’s professional career?

Does the name Mark Bavaro ring a bell?

As recently as the fall of 2015, Bill Belichick thought it was necessary to pump the brakes on the public adulation of Gronkowski. That’s because during his run as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants back in the ’90s, Belichick had seen what he felt was some pretty amazing stuff from the team’s resident tight end, one Mark Bavaro, the pride of Danvers and Notre Dame.

Bavaro was a fourth-round draft pick in 1985. The Giants already had a pretty good tight end in Zeke Mowatt, but this kid immediately inserted himself into the picture.

He was a starter on the 1986 and 1990 Giants Super Bowl champs, and in that capacity he earned a reputation as the best combination pass receiver/blocker at his position. At least that’s the way the current HC of the NEP saw it in a pair of interviews from the fall of 2015. In fact, Belichick said you’d have to compare Gronkowski to Bavaro, not the other way around.

For example: “It would be hard for me to put anyone past Bavaro just because of the times he blocked Reggie White with no help. There was no double team; he just blocked him. Now that was a good battle. Reggie got him a few times, too.”

In another interview a short time later, Belichick said, “Mark’s in a really special category. His toughness, his overall complete play as a tight end and blocker, just as a total competitor, was just outstanding. I don’t think that any of us who coached him or played with him feel he has gotten the recognition we know he deserves.”

The coach also acknowledged the difference in numbers between Gronk and Bavaro (e.g. 68 receiving TDs for Gronk vs. 39 for Bavaro) to “different era, different game.”

One play in particular defines Bavaro, and I urge you to check it out. On Dec. 1, 1986, Bavaro caught a short pass from Phil Simms, and what happened after that was rather astonishing. He somehow tacked on 20-plus yards while dragging upward of seven — swear to God — 49ers with him, one being Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. It does give you some idea of Bavaro’s greatness.

Mark Bavaro was the polar opposite of Rob Gronkowski in personality. I discovered that myself when he was an undergraduate at Notre Dame and I went to interview him as part of my then-job with Channel 5. He was a young man of very few words. Very few. Later on, he was a slightly older man of very few words. Very, very few. That never changed. He was neither a showman nor a pitchman. He was just a total football player and great teammate. His knee betrayed him and kept him from having the kind of career that winds up with someone giving a speech (in his case, a short one, I’m sure) in Canton, Ohio, on some hot July date.

But if Bill Belichick says Rob Gronkowski should be happy to be compared with Mark Bavaro, who needs the Hall of Fame?

Mark Bavaro. Remember the name.

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The Philadelphia Eagles came into the 2017 offseason with one goal: Surround Carson Wentz with talent. With a young quarterback at the helm, the best thing a team can do is provide him with reliable, consistent playmakers on offense.

The Eagles didn’t have those type of players last season, and it’s a big reason they limped to a 7-9 record. Wentz obviously went through his share of struggles – no one is saying he was great as a rookie – but he didn’t get much help from his receivers or the running game.

The Eagles were aware of this development and admitted that they needed to provide their young quarterback with better playmakers.

“It’s our job to make sure he understands that we take it very seriously building this team around him,” Howie Roseman said back in January. “This isn’t a hobby for us. We’re going to surround him and do the right thing for that kid so when he looks back on his career he knows he had every chance to bring a championship to the city of Philadelphia.”
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We’re now four months removed from both the end of Wentz’s first season and Roseman’s acknowledgement, but how have the Eagles done when it comes to addressing their needs? On the surface, it looks like they’ve given Wentz the necessary players to have long-term success. When you dig deeper, though, the view is much different.

The Eagles are building a roster around their franchise quarterback by signing short-term solutions.

Yes, they signed receivers Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery in free agency – two moves that are sure to help Wentz in 2017. They also just signed LeGarrette Blount, who’s a much-needed enforcer at running back for a team that has struggled in that department for years.

But let’s take a closer look at each of those signings. Smith is 28 years old and is coming off of a stint with the 49ers in which he caught 53 passes for 930 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons. San Francisco’s quarterback situation had plenty to do with that, but Smith has only one 1,000-yard season in his career and is mostly just a deep threat.

His three-year contract indicates that the Eagles are absolutely not committed to him long-term. Heck, if they wanted to cut ties with him this offseason, they could. He received $500,000 guaranteed, meaning they’re not tied to him for even this year. Don’t be surprised to see him out of Philly by 2018.

The Eagles are slightly more committed to Jeffery. However, how sold on him can they really be when he’s only under contract for 2017? He can walk away next offseason as long as the Eagles don’t slap him with the franchise tag, opting for a big contract in free agency. That’s the sort of player Philadelphia is surrounding a young franchise quarterback with?

The same goes for Blount, who will be more of a role player than a bell cow for the Eagles. He’ll primarily handle first and second down, while getting most of the goal-line opportunities. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and has had one good season with a team not named the Patriots. He’s also on a one-year deal with very little financial commitment from the Eagles.

If things go poorly and all three players perform at a level below their expectations, we could see the Eagles even thinner on offense a year from now. Jeffery can walk, Blount isn’t a long-term option and Smith has no guaranteed money beyond 2017. Meanwhile, Jordan Matthews, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles will all be free agents next offseason.

In what way have the Eagles surrounded Wentz with long-term stability? By drafting Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round? They haven’t taken a single offensive skill-position player in the first three rounds the past two years. Obviously, some of that has to do with the compensation Philadelphia surrendered to get him, but there isn’t a player on the roster who he can develop alongside for years to come.

Dak Prescott has Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott. Jared Goff has Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin. Deshaun Watson has DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller. Marcus Mariota has Corey Davis, Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray.

Granted, some of those players were in place before the quarterback was drafted, but they all have young, high-ceiling playmakers to grow with – to build a rapport with. Wentz doesn’t have that, and it’s all because the Eagles haven’t committed to a single Pro Bowl-caliber skill-position player for the long-term besides tight end Zach Ertz.

Wideout Nelson Agholor is inconsistent and is trending toward being a bust, and Matthews has been plagued by drops. Smith and Jeffery will replace both players on the depth chart this season, but neither is locked up contractually.

So while the Eagles did a decent job adding necessary pieces on offense, they didn’t make the necessary moves to ensure their franchise quarterback has a stable cast of playmakers as he develops for the next few years. And ultimately, that’s likely to come back and bite Philadelphia down the road.

There’s a balance between being financially smart – which the Eagles were – and ensuring stability for the future. Philadelphia failed to find that happy medium, and the turnover each year will hinder Wentz’s development.

Next season will be telling in how the Eagles truly view their offensive playmakers and whether any of them will stick around in 2018.

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The Vikings filled another need when they selected Rodney Adams out of South Florida. The wide receiver will fill the immediate role of kick returner for the Vikings, after Cordarrelle Patterson left for the Oakland Raiders in free agency.

Adams joins a wider receiver corps that has plenty of talent in Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell and Adam Thielen, so Adams is not likely to see much time on the field on offense, but will make an immediate impact in special teams. In 2015, he averaged 29.1 yards per return and in 2016 he averaged 24.3 yards per return, according to Sports Reference.

Adam is a dynamic athlete, as he scored touchdowns in multiple ways, according to Mike Wobschall.

The Vikings continue to fill their needs in the draft, something that General Manager Rick Spielman has done well throughout his time here.

Adams has nice size, speed and big-play ability, which is something the Vikings lacked last season. Adams also only dropped three passes his senior season, so you know his hands are good.

The wide out will be a work-in-progress for the Vikings, but they selected another high potential player that can make an immediate impact as a kick returner next season.

Former Tennessee WR Cordarrelle Patterson is trying to endear himself to a new fan base in Oakland. And the lightning-quick return man appears to be off to a good start.

The former first-round pick, who joined the Oakland Raiders this offseason after four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, recently served as the emcee for the Raiders 2017 UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Prom. And from the looks of it, a good time was had by all.

The Raiders posted a highlight video of the event, which featured Patterson mingling with the attendees, escorting them in on the red carpet and overall just having a great time. Check it out:

Patterson, who widely is considered one of the most dangerous return men in the league, is hoping this fresh start in Oakland will produce better results as a wide receiver after a mostly disappointing tenure with the Vikings in that regard.

He earned two Pro Bowl appearances and two All-Pro honors in 2013 and 2016 for Minnesota, but has 1,316 yards receiving through his four-year career.

Patterson earned All-SEC honors for the Vols in 2012. He signed a two-year, $8.5 million free-agent deal with the Raiders in March after leading the league in kickoff-return average (31.7 yards) in 2016.

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Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made a few jokes during his commencement speech at Robert Morris University on Friday, taking aim at the New England Patriots and wide receiver Antonio Brown, among other topics.

“I’ll proceed with a couple of assumptions,” he said at one point, per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “And I realize that assumptions are very dangerous. There’s a cliché about assuming, isn’t it? It can make Patriots out of you and me.”

“I’ll proceed with the assumption that, in some form or fashion, one or more of you out there are somehow live-streaming this on the internet,” he continued. “And I’ll behave accordingly.”

That was in reference to Brown’s decision to live-stream one of Tomlin’s postgame speeches on Facebook Live during this year’s postseason.

He also honored former Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, who died on April 13. He praised Rooney’s thoughtfulness in the following excerpt (per Fowler):

…A lot can be written and said about Ambassador Dan Rooney, his greatness, all of which I’m sure is true. In the recent days, I think the memory that I reflect upon the most is just how thoughtful he was. I fight every day to emulate it. I challenge you to do the same. Very powerful and influential man, Dan Rooney. A lot on his plate, a lot of things that he wanted to do not only for his company but for his community, his city, his nation.

In the midst of pursuit of all those things, he was always shockingly thoughtful. I can’t give you enough examples to display his level of thoughtfulness…

You can see the full commencement address below:

Rooney hired Tomlin in 2007, and he’s promptly gone 103-57 in his tenure, leading the Steelers to a Super Bowl title in the 2008 season, two Super Bowl appearances and seven playoff berths. Tomlin has also continued the tradition of Steelers head coaches remaining with the team for long tenures.

Since 1969 the Steelers have had just three head coaches: Chuck Noll (1969-1991), Bill Cowher (1992-2006) and Tomlin (2007-present). And given that the team was just a game away from the Super Bowl last year—losing to the same Patriots team he threw some shade toward on Friday—it’s hard to imagine Tomlin losing his job anytime soon.

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The Oakland Raiders begin their offseason program on Monday, and wide receiver Amari Cooper seems eager to get started cheap authetnic nfl jerseys.

On Tuesday, the former Alabama All-American posted on Instagram highlights from his first two NFL seasons with the message: “Because OTA’s are right around the corner. Year three will be my best year yet, a legendary one.”

The highlights start with Cooper’s 64-yard touchdown on a short reception in the Raiders’ 34-31 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 9.

Cooper has been a Pro Bowl selection in each of his two NFL seasons.

In 2016, Cooper became the only player in NFL history with at least 500 receiving yards in the first six games of each of his first two years in the league. In 2015, Cooper had become the first NFL rookie since Chicago Bears tight end Mike Dikta in 1961 to record three 100-yard receiving performances in his team’s first six games.

In 2016, Cooper became the first Oakland player with back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons since Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in 2001 and 2002. He set a team single-season record with 15 receptions of at least 25 yards.

After catching 72 passes for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns in 2015, Cooper had 83 receptions for 1,153 yards and five touchdowns in 2016, making him the third wide receiver in NFL history with at least 70 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons.

The Raiders posted a 12-4 regular-season record in 2016 for Oakland’s first winning season since 2002. The Raiders had a 7-9 mark in Cooper’s rookie season after going 3-13 in 2014.

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On the Tuesday before the 2016 NFL Draft, I stood at a podium inside ESPN’s newest building and pronounced to the world that the Dallas Cowboys would take Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey with the fourth overall pick.

Bill Polian immediately mocked my mock selection of Ramsey and said I should have selected Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Polian turned out to be correct, although in fairness the “pick” was made before our appearance and I had subsequently had to fall on the sword and stick with Ramsey.

Elliott was a terrific pick for the Cowboys, leading the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards. He became the heartbeat of the Cowboys’ offense the way DeMarco Murray was the heartbeat in 2014 when he led the NFL in rushing with 1,845 yards.

But as the Cowboys get ready for this year’s draft, the question of what they did and did not do in the first round of last year’s draft needs to be asked again: Elliott or Ramsey?

A strong case can be made, again, for Ramsey, the Florida State cornerback who went to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the fifth overall pick.

Part of my reasoning last year for taking Ramsey in the NFL Nation mock draft was not just what was best for 2016 but what was best for 2017, 2018 and beyond.

The Cowboys went into last year knowing Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox were going into the final years of their contracts. They knew there was a very real possibility they would not re-sign any of them before, during or after the 2016 season, leaving them with a hole on their roster in 2017.

Ramsey was the best defensive back in the draft. Some saw him as a future safety because of his range. Others saw him as a lock-down cornerback.

He was consistently tested by other teams and answered the questions more often than not. He started every game and had 65 tackles, two interceptions and one forced fumble. He played 445 snaps at left cornerback and 359 snaps at right cornerback. He played some in the slot.

He has the look of a future Pro Bowl cornerback for years to come.

The Cowboys saw Carr sign with the Baltimore Ravens. They saw Claiborne sign with the New York Jets. They saw Church sign with the Jaguars. They saw Wilcox sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

They enter this week’s draft needing defensive back help, even with the signing of veteran cornerback Nolan Carroll II. At safety they believe Jeff Heath is ready to step into a starting role next to Byron Jones.

The Cowboys had 12 cornerbacks and four safeties among their non-local visitors to The Star leading up to this year’s draft. Marlon Humphrey, Gareon Conley, Kevin King, Adoree’ Jackson and Tre’Davious White are cornerbacks that could be worth picking at No. 28 who visited the Cowboys. The four safeties — Obi Melifonwu, Tedric Thompson, Marcus Williams and Xavier Woods — are considered second-, third-, or fourth-round selections.

Will any of those cornerbacks or safeties be as good as Ramsey?

Perhaps, but the odds say the fourth pick in the draft will be better than the 28th pick. It’s not a fool-proof notion, obviously, but you would go with the high-first rounder over the low-first rounder more often than not.

Part of the reason why the Cowboys chose Elliott was the effect he would have on their defense. The better he was, the better the Cowboys would hold on to the ball and the less the defense would be on the field. In 2016, it was a strategy that worked very well.

Elliott has the look of a transcendent player. He changed the Cowboys’ modus operandi last season. He made the big plays. He picked up the dirty yards. He helped make everyone’s job, from Dak Prescott, to the line and, yes, to the defense, easier.

The Cowboys did the right thing in selecting Elliott last year, but had they picked Ramsey a year ago it wouldn’t have been the wrong thing.

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Von Miller swears missing the Denver Broncos’ offseason program last year didn’t adversely affect his play. Still, after coming up short in his bid to win Defensive Player of the Year and defend his Super Bowl title, he’s thrilled to be working out with his teammates this spring.

Miller called these initial workouts under new coach Vance Joseph “extremely important” in his quest to lead the Broncos back to the playoffs and fulfill his pledge to have his best season in 2017.

“Last year, I was like, ‘Man, you don’t really need OTAs. You can train on your own.’ But you really need these,” Miller said Tuesday. “The National Football League is so competitive, so the more time that you can get to perfect your craft with your teammates” the better.

Miller’s 2016 offseason was a whirlwind of global flights and TV appearances including Dancing with the Stars.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know my helmet was missing,” Miller said.

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Investigators who located Tom Brady’s missing Super Bowl jerseys in Mexico also found Miller’s Super Bowl 50 helmet, which he said is back in Denver.

Miller signed a seven-year, $114.5 million contract at the deadline last summer after skipping the Broncos’ entire offseason program. Then, he collected 13 1-2 sacks and a career-best 78 tackles in 2016. But he went without a sack over the final month of the season as the Broncos missed the playoffs by one game and Oakland defensive end Khalil Mack edged him by a single vote for Defensive Player of the Year.

“I pretty much didn’t have an offseason last year with so much stuff (going on),” Miller said. “And I wasn’t going to use that as an excuse. I lost by one vote. … I got close this year. If we were able to make the playoffs or I was able to make a few more plays, who knows where we would have been?”

Miller said he’s moved past the disappointment.

“I’m not going to stay stuck in the past. I’m moving forward,” Miller said. “This Von coming up is going to be the best Von that I put forward. It’s going to be my best year. That’s what I’m going for. I have a full offseason, full OTAs, I’m going to be here training every single day. It’s not all that noise on the outside from the contract and this and that and doing all this stuff. Not that that was a big deal for me, but now it’s just all football. I’m here, I’m settled in and it’s time to go play.”

Asked if he felt better physically than he did a year ago, Miller said: “I was on Dancing with the Stars at this time. I was probably 230 pounds. You know, I’m definitely feeling a whole lot better, getting rest and being able to sleep.”

Miller got his vacations out of the way after the season ended, taking in Drake concerts in Dublin, Paris and Amsterdam.

Meanwhile, DeMarcus Ware retired .

“That’s tough. It’s just like when Peyton (Manning) left. You can’t really just fill that void. You’ve got to just modify the team and move on,” Miller said. “Other leaders will step up.”

He’s also thrilled by the additions of run-stuffers Domata Peko and Zach Kerr.

“Have you seen those guys? Those guys are huge,” Miller said. “Peko, he’s athletic. We were working out today and I was like, ‘Yeah, he’s going to be great for us.’ So, just by looking at those guys you can already tell that they’re going to fill and correct some of those weaknesses that we had last year.”

Also gone is defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who joined the Rams and was replaced by former secondary coach Joe Woods.

“Coach Phillips will go down as one of the best defensive coordinators to ever coach the game. But Joe is a good coach as well,” Miller said. “It’s not like we’re just going to totally abandon what we did last year.”

As for Joseph, who replaced Gary Kubiak in January, Miller said: “I love him already,” and said Joseph “connects well” with all the big personalities in the Broncos locker room.

Miller said he hung out with fellow Texas A&M alum Myles Garrett , an edge rusher that many, including Miller, expect to be the top pick in the draft.

“He’s A-1,” Miller said. “I haven’t come across somebody that young with that type of mentality. He studied architecture and paleontology and all of these dope studies. … Right now he’s going to the AFC North and I don’t see anybody up there that’s really going to be able to handle him.”