Draft day is almost here. For a lot of us, this three day event is like Christmas as fans get to open presents in the form of a fresh new crop of rookies. Predicting which players our beloved Dallas Cowboys will select is quite the daunting task as the number of college prospects are plentiful. That doesn't stop the mocks from rolling in hand over fist as people do their best to get inside the heads of the Cowboys front office.
As a former participator in this mockfest, it was a fun exercise to throw a bunch of darts to see which ones actually stuck, but last year I decided to take a little more responsibility for those choices and published one, and only one mock draft. It went down like this...
It turned out to be a rather solid list as both my Day 2 picks, Trevon Diggs and Neville Gallimore, were selected by the Cowboys. While we'll never know the answer, but I can't help believing LSU edge rusher K'Lavon Chaisson would have been the team's first-round pick had they not been gifted the marvelous CeeDee Lamb. Even tight end Sean McKeon, who wasn't drafted by Dallas, ended up signing on as a priority free agent.
This year, I again only wanted to give this one go; however, I found myself in a little bit of a predicament. While I strongly believe that Alabama corner Patrick Surtain II will be the team's first-round selection, there is small chance he's not there when the Cowboys pick. And if that's the case, it could throw a wrench in the team's approach in subsequent rounds. The reason for this is because there are a few ground rules I've set for this team when it comes to this particular draft and they go as follows:
- They really need to come away with a starting corner, whether they have to drive to it or not
- This offensive tackle draft class is too rich to not capitalize on the talent, especially considering how they've been hit hard with injuries in recent years
- It doesn't have to be right out of the gate, but this teams need to throw a lot of their draft resources on the defensive side of the ball
- Safety and defensive tackle need to be addressed at some point
Normally, teams don't want to back themselves into a corner to satisfy needs, and I'm not advocating passing up on talent to fill these gaps, but they do need to be very attentive towards attempting to address their defensive weaknesses. For that reason, the butterfly effect of whether they land Surtain or not has an alternative ending, or should I say, alternate beginning to this draft. For the first four rounds, I will provide two different draft scenarios and then merge them back to together with the final three rounds of the draft.
To start things off, let's go with the original mock.
First-round pick (10th overall) - Patrick Surtain II, CB (Alabama)
The Cowboys could end up being very fortunate if the influx of offensive talent early in the draft results in them taking home the most talented defensive player in the draft. While Surtain doesn't have the pizzazz as some of the elite offensive prospects, he offers a team an NFL-ready player at one of the most vital positions in the league.
Second-round pick (44th overall) - Jalen Mayfield, OL (Michigan)
With a deep class of talent at the tackle position, it's hard to not think the Cowboys enter one of their Day 2 picks with a great value offensive lineman staring them right in the face. Of course, who that might be is anyone's guess and it makes the forecasting extremely difficult, but I'm going to roll with the 20-year old Michigan tackle to be the team's OLine crush. He doesn't have a lot of experience under his belt, and all of his games are at right tackle. This makes him serviceable on the outside should bad health rear it's ugly head once again, but he also possesses the power and nastiness to fit nicely inside to bolster the team's interior offensive line.
***TRADE*** Deal third-round pick (75th overall) plus fourth-round compensatory pick (138th overall) to:
Move up in the third round (68th overall) - Jevon Holland, S (Oregon)
Fans may have been holding their breath for the team to go after safeties Richie Grant or Trevon Moehrig in the second round, but for whatever reason, the cards didn't fall that way. The team's patience approach comes to an end when they see Oregon's Jevon Holland still available when round three comes. The front office decides to take matters in their own hands when they trade up to select the sliding Duck. Holland goes on the attack when the ball is in the air, and whether it's picks or pass break ups, his production speaks for itself.
Third-round comp pick (99th overall) - Marlon Tuipulotu, DT (USC)
Despite the Cowboys having a pressing need at defensive tackle year after year, the team rarely throws any premium draft capital towards the position. And what draft resources they do use, are always directed at a pass rushing 3-tech DT. Could this be the year they actually invest in a true nose? If USC's run stopping specialist Marlon Tuipulotu is still available late in the third, don't be surprised if the Cowboys go after this powerful brute to help strengthen the middle.
Fourth-round pick (115th overall) - Patrick Jones II, DE (Pittsburgh)
While this draft doesn't contain an elite edge rusher good enough to warrant spending their 10th overall pick, there are a lot of talented options spread out in this draft. The Cowboys could very well pull the trigger earlier should the right player present itself. However, if they miss out early, they can still roll the dice on Pitt's Patrick Jones. He possesses a lot of great traits, from get off to relentless pursuit, and high football intelligence to max out his potential. He needs to be more prepared with his intentions, but with a little coaching, he could be a nice bookend opposite DeMarcus Lawrence.
For the moment, let's pause this mock and start again with an alternative begining. In this scenario, Surtain is either unavailable or the Cowboys opt to go another direction. We will follow suit with the same trade-up scenario in the third round, so now the mock draft looks like this...
First-round pick (10th overall) - Rashawn Slater, OL (Northwestern)
If Patrick Surtain is not available when the Cowboys are on the clock, Northwestern's Rashawn Slater could be the direction the team goes. While Sewell is viewed as the top offensive lineman by most, there are many who believe that honor should go to Slater. With the flexibility to play anywhere on the offensive line, he's a premiere talent that will help this unit one way or another. Taking an offensive lineman early essentially takes the Cowboys out of the running for entertaining one later, and that could shake up the team's draft approach.
Second-round pick (44th overall) - Christian Barmore, DT (Alabama)
Keeping the spirit of the Cowboys finding an unexpected player available when they are up at 44, I have them taking the stud Bama DT in the second round. His lack of experience might deter some, but this guy is just too powerful to pass up. The team needs huge help along the interior defensive line, and Barmore is just that - huge. He's a violent attacker who would give this defense the big 1-tech body they need in the middle.
***TRADE*** Deal third-round pick (75th overall) plus fourth-round compensatory pick (138th overall) to:
Move up in the third round (68th overall) - Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB (Syracuse)
One of my favorite players in this draft, Melifonwu just checks off so many boxes. The length, the acceleration, and the agile change of direction is a rare find in this draft class. He does struggle with awareness and is a little late to the party sometimes, and that may cause him to be overlooked a bit. But his athleticism is something that teams shouldn't sleep on and if the price is right, the Cowboys should look to make a move for him.
Third-round comp pick (99th overall) - Cameron McGrone, LB (Michigan)
A knee injury has taken the luster off his draft value, but this Michigan linebacker flies around the field. With great speed and a sharp football IQ, McGrone does a good job weaving his way around traffic. With the future of Leighton Vander Esch unknown combined with some questionable play from Jaylon Smith, the Cowboys would be wise to strengthen their depth. This rings especially true with the news of Sean Lee's retirement.
Fourth-round pick (115th overall) - Talanoa Hufanga, S (USC)
Hufanga is a local star from my neck of the woods, so seeing him wear the star would bring me all sorts of warm and fuzzies. Watching him take the next step at USC was very intriguing, especially with the Cowboys needing help at the safety position. His strength is in the box where he can hit you, but his propensity to make plays is all over his tape. Taking a chance on him this late in the draft would be worthy of the investment.
Now, we're going to merge these two mocks together and finish both of them up with the same group of players. At this point in the draft, they're just collecting as much available talent as they can and finding immediate starters isn't so critical. This leads to the selection of the following group of players:
Fifth-round comp pick (179th overall) - John Bates, TE (Boise State)
Despite many fans all aboard the Kyle Pitts train, the Cowboys are actually in pretty decent shape at the tight end position. Blake Jarwin will be back and Dalton Schultz proved he can be a reliable asset to this offense. The team could opt to add depth by finding a player that fits their profile. Bates is a good inline blocker who can be a solid over the middle target for Dak Prescott.
Sixth-round pick (192nd overall) - Feleipe Franks (Arkansas)
It might not seem like Jerry Jones would be interested in the player who beat out his grandson for the starting quarterback gig, but the Jones family has had a front row seat to watch Feleipe Franks in action. With good size and arm strength, the Arkansas quarterback has dropped some dimes and has the elusiveness to extend plays. He took a nice step forward this past season and could be a good backup candidate for the Cowboys.
***TRADE*** Deal sixth-round compensatory pick away for a 2022 fifth-round pick
Seventh-round pick (238th overall) - Nick Niemann, LB (Iowa)
The Iowa linebacker would be a nice add late in the draft. The smarts and athleticism are there, and with a little development, he could be end up being a draft sleeper. Adding more depth at linebacker never hurts and Niemann has shown he can make plays.