Welcome to my 2.0 installment of Drafting Dallas 2018, where I’m assuming front office duties to mock draft the full seven rounds for the Cowboys using the current edition of my DRAFTPLEX Board.
Since my 1.0 installment was published, we were all witness to the NFL Scouting Combine, which gave us another opportunity to evaluate this incoming draft class and another set of data to reference in grading players, stacking our boards, and determining potential team fits.
The 2018 NFL Draft order has also been locked in. We now know exactly where the Cowboys are scheduled pick in each round and that they have been awarded four compensatory selections, distributed across rounds four through six, giving them a total of ten selections.
But while teams across the league have begun making personnel moves, including a series of blockbuster trades, Dallas has remained still. Although, that is not to say all has been quiet around America’s Team. Rumor and speculation regarding the future of wide receiver Dez Bryant has taken The Star by storm, with Executive Vice President and CEO Stephen Jones delivering some potentially loaded remarks when meeting with the media in Indianapolis, and 88 himself opening up on his contract situation, his critics, and more in a spirited radio interview. Combined with looming decisions of varying context to be made regarding other veterans like Anthony Hitchens, David Irving, Orlando Scandrick, and Byron Jones, the coming weeks for the Cowboys are going to be very interesting. In the meantime, it gives us much to consider in mapping out their potential draft plans in April, which, of course, is what I will be doing in this exercise.
For context, this isn’t a prediction or projection of what the actual front office will do, nor is it a fantasy draft where the best players just happen to conveniently fall to the Cowboys. I will be making my selections as realistically as I can based on my evaluations to this point, with the knowledge that offseason variables (releases, trades, free agency signings, draft stocks, etc.) will most assuredly impact future installments. I will also not be repeating any previous selections, ensuring both a unique draft scenario and an original read.
That all being said, let’s go on the clock with Drafting Dallas 2018 2.0.
Round 1 | Pick 19
D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
Given the mounting uncertainty as to whether Dez Bryant will remain in Dallas, and reports of the team meeting with a number of top receiver prospects at the Combine, all signs point to the position being a strong consideration early—perhaps even the first round. While the positional focus ahead of the Combine often centered around whether the Cowboys would have a chance at drafting Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, generally considered the top wideout on the board, the riser coming out of Indianapolis is Maryland’s D.J. Moore. A well-built player who can work close to the line and down the field, create in space, and catch virtually any ball thrown to him, Moore’s stock experienced an initial surge immediately following release of his better than listed official measurements, and only continued to trend upward with his performance in the athletic testing and on-field drills. Going back to his tape only serves to further confirm his potential as a dynamic offensive weapon the likes of which Dallas does not currently have on the roster—so much so that if the Cowboys want to clad the former Terrapin in blue and silver, they’ll need to pay a visit to the podium when they go on the clock at 19. But would that selection be made to find a complement to their all-time leader in touchdown receptions, add leverage to force his financial hand, or land his immediate successor as the primary target in the passing game?
Round 2 | Pick 50
Billy Price, OG, Ohio State
The Cowboys have shown that they aren’t afraid to gamble, in one way or another, when their number is called in the second round. This draft’s roll of the dice could see them land a projected first-round offensive lineman in Billy Price. After suffering a partially torn pectoral muscle while participating in the bench press at the Combine, Price’s draft stock is expected to dip somewhat given that his recovery will potentially extend into the season. If he is still on the board when the Cowboys come up at 50, it might be difficult to pass up a powerful, rugged blocker with his experience and mean streak, even if it means leaning on a bridge veteran until Price is healthy. As the offensive lines stands now, the plan for this pick would be Price becoming the eventual starter at left guard, although he obviously has the position flex to slide inside to center if the need were to arise.
Round 3 | Pick 81
Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
Head coach Jason Garrett let it slip at the Combine that the Cowboys will be exploring the possibility of Jaylon Smith seeing snaps at SAM linebacker. Reading into his comments, it would seem that Dallas is preparing to either retain the services of free agent Anthony Hitchens in the middle or seek a more comparable player to replace him, likely through the draft. Another former Hawkeye, Josey Jewell, is a potential fit given the scenario—and it just so happens that met formally with the Cowboys in Indianapolis. Experienced and incredibly productive coming out of Iowa, Jewell is similar to Hitchens in that he defies perceived athletic limitations by relying on intelligence, instincts, and technique to be an impactful second-level defender. If the Cowboys were to take him at 81, it would be no surprise to see him become the immediate starter at middle linebacker.
Round 4 | Pick 116
Folorunso Fatukasi, DL, Connecticut
Stephen Jones is on record stating the Cowboys wouldn’t necessarily invest a high pick on a true one-technique defensive tackle—that is, unless the player also possessed quick-twitch traits more typically associated with a three-technique. Fortunately, there are a few interior linemen in this draft class who check the necessary boxes, including Folorunso Fatukasi. The UConn product has the size and strength to hold up at the point of attack and eat up blocks as a nose, but also flashes the quickness and explosiveness to rotate in as an under tackle. With his versatility and upside, Fatukasi would be a viable mid-round target should the Cowboys wish to address higher-priority positions with their first three picks.
Round 4 | Pick 137 (compensatory selection)
Brandon Parker, OT, North Carolina A&T
One of the bigger mysteries this offseason is what exactly the Cowboys will do to resolve their reserve tackle situation. Veteran Byron Bell is a free agent. Chaz Green is in the last year of his rookie contract. And neither inspired much confidence when pressed into duty in relief of Tyron Smith, who struggled with injuries in 2017. Green is expected to be on the roster come training camp, but bringing in competition is a must. Coming into the league from the FCS level, it’s probably fair to say Parker will be a project to start, but with a wealth of football character and starting experience to go along with his prototypical tackle frame and raw athletic material, he could secure the swing tackle role, and eventually a starting position, sooner rather than later.
Round 5 | Pick 171 (compensatory selection)
Jack Cichy, LB, Wisconsin
Jack Cichy didn’t play a snap of football this past season. In fact, he hasn’t since October of 2016. But prior to having his college career cut short by a pair of significant injuries, Cichy was trending toward a top-100 draft position, if not higher. If his Combine medicals check out, he could prove to be a steal for the team that takes him off the board. And with four compensatory selections, Dallas has the draft capital necessary to absorb the obvious risk and reap the potential reward.
Round 5 | Pick 173 (compensatory selection)
Justin Lawler, DE, SMU
If the Cowboys are looking to deepen their defensive end rotation, there’s a chance that they don’t even have to leave Dallas. Equal parts run stopper and pass rusher, SMU’s Justin Lawler is a productive, high-motor defender who leaves everything on the field, and plays with the kind of power and relentlessness that would likely endear him to the defensive coaching staff.
Round 6 | Pick 193
Will Dissly, TE, Washington
Like it or not, it has become a staple of the Dallas offense to put three tight ends into formation and run the football. That said, that particular personnel package could benefit by have bigger-bodied blocking tight end playing in line. Dissly fits the bill, using his size and power to take on defenders, while posing a threat to sneak out into space and catch the football as the opportunity presents itself.
Round 6 | Pick 208 (compensatory selection)
Dominick Sanders, S, Georgia
With the potential move of Byron Jones from safety to cornerback, Dallas will probably look to the draft to round out the expected safety depth chart of Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier. Coming in with more than 50 college starts and 16 career interceptions, Sanders is an intriguing late-round option for the back end.
Round 7 | Pick 236
Roc Thomas, RB, Jacksonville State
Dallas showed a level of comfort with Rod Smith toward the end of the year to suggest he will be the primary backup to Ezekiel Elliott coming into this season, and while the team could look to the free agent pool to add a third back, the draft is a more likely option. Thomas shows flashes of being a special runner on tape, and has the well-rounded skillset to contribute in a variety of ways, allowing him to make the most of what would you would expect to be limited opportunities.