Welcome to my 2.0 installment of Drafting Dallas 2019, 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, the NFL Scouting Combine and the initial wave of Pro Days have given us another opportunity to evaluate this incoming draft class and additional data to reference in grading players, stacking boards, and determining potential team fits, including with America’s Team. The 2019 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 a fourth-round compensatory pick, giving them a total of six selections.
On the pro personnel front, Dallas remains at an impasse in contract negotiations with Demarcus Lawrence, opting to place the franchise tag on their star defensive end for the second consecutive year and almost assuredly increasing the threat of a holdout. Meanwhile, in a surprise turn of events, the Cowboys are welcoming back future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten to the field from the ESPN Monday Night Football booth. Free agency, on the other hand, has gone about as expected, with Dallas operating conservatively, thus far only signing former Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb to replace the departing Cole Beasley, as well as rotational defensive linemen Christian Covington and Kerry Hyder. With additional veteran visits expected, as well as official visits with 30 draft prospects to be scheduled, much remains 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 2019 2.0.
Round 2 | Pick 58
Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
The prevailing narrative over the last year was that the Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas were simply waiting for the free agency period in 2019 to strike a deal to bring Thomas back home to Texas. While the story saturated the air waves and online outlets, it proved to be little more than wishful thinking for members of the media and the fan base championing the move, as Thomas ended up signing a lucrative contract with the Baltimore Ravens, seemingly without even an overture from the Cowboys. However, safety does remain a point of interest in the draft and one of the likely positions Dallas could address when they finally come up on the clock on Day 2. With scheme fits, traits, and value of the position varying from team to team, there is a relatively wide window in which Abram could be selected, but expect Dallas to jump at the chance to install a fast, physical enforcer on the back end of their rising defense if he remains on the board at 58.
Round 3 | Pick 90
Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Louisiana Tech
Perhaps no position group has been hit as hard this offseason as the defensive line. In addition to the difficulties of striking a deal with Demarcus Lawrence, the NFL suspended pass rusher Randy Gregory indefinitely for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and the terms of his conditional reinstatement, as well as free-agent defensive tackle David Irving, who subsequently announced that he was quitting football. With uncertainty on the edge, the Cowboys will most certainly need to address the pass rush through the draft. Ferguson is a prospect who projected somewhat higher entering the process, but has seen his stock dip after having his NFL Scouting Combine invitation rescinded and turning in otherwise abysmal Pro Day numbers. The poor athletic testing is concerning, but you point to the tape and the production for the power rusher when making this pick.
Round 4 | Pick 128
Kris Boyd, CB, Texas
The Cowboys could soon be facing difficult decisions in the secondary with newly-minted All-Pro cornerback Byron Jones and experienced nickel cornerback Anthony Brown both entering contract years. Coupled with the team’s inconsistent use of one-time starter Jourdan Lewis, it could be surmised that the depth chart is primed to add a new name. In this scenario, a prospect like Boyd, a physical, developmental cornerback with size who could benefit under the tutelage of Kris Richard, might be in play.
Round 4 | Pick 136 (compensatory selection)
Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma
As expected, offseason moves for the Cowboys thus far have been characterized by practical, cap-friendly signings that allow them to go into the draft without glaring holes. To this point, the outlier has been backup running back, where the team has not done anything to address the vacancy created by their apparent move away from Rod Smith. With precious few snaps to offer behind superstar Ezekiel Elliott, it’s unlikely that a quality veteran seeking pay or play would be that interested in coming to Dallas, so a selection on Day 3 of the draft is more realistic. Anderson has been a forgotten name in this draft class, but he would be in the Top-50 to Top-100 mix if not for a significant injury history. To that point, he also fits the profile of talented prospect with medical concerns that the Cowboys have a penchant for drafting on clearance. Coming into a situation where he could start off with limited touches, but earn more if he were to not only stay healthy, but show out, the fit makes sense.R
Round 5 | Pick 165
Trysten Hill, DL, UCF
With essentially the entire depth chart of the interior defensive line playing on one-year deals, and consequently, no financial liability beyond this season, expect Dallas to continue loading up on defensive linemen to find the best rotation. From a talent perspective, Hill should be drafted higher, but reported concerns about football character and coachability could see him selected later, even after a strong performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. The hope would be that he could find his way under Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard, provide quality depth, and push a veteran under contract for playing time, if not out of a roster spot.
Round 7 | Pick 241
Byron Cowart, DL, Maryland
Rinse and repeat in Round 7. The position group where Dallas is least secure is the defensive line and I expect training camp and the preseason to be a battle of attrition where the best players, regardless of experience, will earn a place in the rotation. A former No. 1 overall recruit in the nation, Cowart’s college career didn’t turn out as expected, but the physical tools and upside are worth taking a flier as the draft nears its end.