Drafting Dallas 2021: Dallas Cowboys 7-Round Mock Draft

Entering the 2020 season, the Dallas Cowboys certainly didn’t expect to be turning in their first-round draft card within the first 90 minutes of the 2021 NFL Draft. Indeed, selecting in the top 10 the following April is not what any franchise has in mind when they kick off the regular season in September (at least, they won’t admit to it).

Even in the midst of a chaotic campaign impacted dramatically by the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying protocols, the Cowboys came into the season with championship aspirations — a confidence prompted by what expected to be high-octane offense, complemented by a capable defense and savvy special teams unit, all at the direction of a new, but experienced head coach with a Super Bowl pedigree and his hand-picked coaching staff.

But, alas, the Cowboys stumbled out of the gate, the offense unable to get out of its own way, the defense surrendering points at a record-setting pace, and the coaching staff if not seemingly helpless, then struggling mightily to right the ship. Then, in Week 5, any hopes of salvaging the season were effectively carted away with quarterback Dak Prescott when he suffered a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle against the New York Giants. While the Cowboys would go on to win the game, they would only be victorious in four more throughout the remainder of the season — with the wins all coming against teams that would finish with a losing record. Even still, that would be enough to keep them in contention for the NFC East crown until the final week of the season, when a loss to those same New York Giants would ultimately seal their fate.

The year now officially lost, all attention returned to the ticking clock on Prescott and the Cowboys to come to terms on a new contract. With talks at a stalemate for the better part of two years and the prospect of a second season on the franchise tag looming, a historically lucrative deal was finally struck on March 8 that would keep Dak in Dallas and put the most important building block in place for the foreseeable future.

However, the NFL’s most valuable franchise remains under construction as a whole. And with the organization’s cost-conscious approach to free agency, the draft is where the Dallas Cowboys of 2021 and beyond will be built — which leads us to this exercise.

In this one and only edition of Drafting Dallas 2021, I’m assuming front office duties to mock draft the full seven rounds for the Cowboys using my DRAFTPLEX Board and the current official draft order. 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 and how I think the board could fall.

That all being said, let’s go on the clock with Drafting Dallas 2021.


Round 1 | Pick 10
Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

Being the earliest the Cowboys have selected since 2016, they have the opportunity to draft one of the elite prospects in this class. And given how quarterbacks and pass catchers have dominated the top-10 conversation, there’s a high likelihood that the Cowboys’ decision could come down to either a top-rated offensive tackle or a top-rated cornerback.

Personally (and whether you or I agree or not), I believe the Cowboys are optimistic about the health of tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins moving forward and I think they feel good about who they have behind them on the depth chart should injury strike again. To that end, they could see drafting Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater — should they be available — as a luxury. Meanwhile, the current CB combination of second-year starter Trevon Diggs, veteran Anthony Brown, and the newly re-signed Jourdan Lewis would appear to need a fourth to be legitimately formidable.

But, make no mistake about it, Patrick Surtain II wouldn’t be coming to Dallas to compete for playing time. Athletically impressive, technically refined, and highly experienced against top-tier collegiate competition, he would be a day-one starter and arguably the new CB1 for America’s Team.

Popular alternatives:
Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

Not expected to be there:
Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Watch out for:
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

Round 2 | Pick 44
Baron Browning, LB, Ohio State

It was just a couple of years ago that the Cowboys were believed to have one of the best young linebacker tandems in the league with Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Cut to the spring of 2021, and there’s a case to be made that neither will be on the team come 2022. With Smith’s play sharply declining and Vander Esch struggling to stay on the field since — and both due significant salary next year — another season of underperforming or being unavailable could see the Cowboys cut their losses and transition to a new stable of second-level defenders.

Baron Browning would seemingly be in the mix of physically imposing, athletic linebackers who could be targeted to succeed either Smith or Vander Esch. While this might be slightly ahead of his projected range, an early run at LB in the late-first or early-second round could see him go earlier than expected, with the Cowboys as a potential suitor.

Popular alternative:
Richie Grant, S, UCF

Not expected to be there:
Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Zaven Colliins, LB, Tulsa


Watch out for:
Carlos Basham Jr., EDGE, Wake Forest
Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF

Round 3 | Pick 75
Jackson Carman, OL, Clemson

As stated above, the Cowboys could see drafting an offensive lineman in the first round as a luxury, but that’s not to say that there isn’t cause to look toward the future. And with this being a very talented and very deep class of blockers, there’s a strong possibility that they would still look to grab a protector from the pack in the early rounds — especially if they were to go in the direction of a defender with the #10 selection.

With the organization typically placing value on versatility up front, an OL prospect like Jackson Carman — who perhaps projects best as a guard, but played tackle at a high level in college — could be of interest as a swing blocker early before growing into a starting role at either position.

Popular alternative:
Marlon Tuipulotu, DL, USC

Watch out for:
Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma
Tommy Togiai, DL, Ohio State

Round 3 | Pick 99 (compensatory)
Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama

Aside from the concerns moving forward with Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch as discussed above, the Cowboys will also be losing Joe Thomas and likely Sean Lee from their 2020 roster, leaving the linebacker corps incredibly thin in terms of proven talent and starter-quality potential. Thus, double-dipping at the position could be on the table.

Dylan Moses had first-round buzz prior to a season-ending knee injury in 2019, but when he wasn’t quite the player he was in his return to the field in 2020, his draft stock slipped to the Day 2 / early-Day 3 range. Depending on where the Cowboys have him graded, he could be a “Blue Star Special” consideration should he still be available as the draft begins to creep into the middle rounds.

Popular alternative:
Walker Little, OT, Stanford

Possible considerations:
Jay Tufele, DL, USC
Pete Werner, LB, Ohio State

Round 4 | Pick 115
Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami

From drafting Randy Gregory and Taco Charlton, to trading for Robert Quinn, to signing Aldon Smith and Everson Griffin as free agents, the Cowboys have tried repeatedly in recent years to install an impact pass rusher opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. With Gregory and Dorance Armstrong only signed through this season, Bradlee Anae seeing only limited action as a rookie, and free-agent signee Tarell Basham viewed as a rotational player, the Cowboys and new DC Dan Quinn could definitely explore adding at least one more viable name to the competition.

Temple transfer Quincy Roche doesn’t come with nearly the hype as fellow Hurricanes Jaelan Phillips and Gregory Rousseau, but coming off an incredibly productive four-year college career in terms of sacks, tackles for loss, and fumbles both forced and recovered, he’s an accomplished edge defender in his own right.

Popular alternative:
Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State

Possible considerations:
Keith Taylor, CB, Washington
Janarius Robinson, EDGE, Florida State

Round 4 | Pick 138 (compensatory)
Khyiris Tonga, DT, BYU

Dallas has invested significant draft capital into the 3-technique defensive tackle role the past two years with Trysten Hill in 2019 and Neville Gallimore in 2020, but a 1-technique has not been a draft priority at all. And it’s quite possible that trend continues, especially after tendering Antwaun Woods and signing free agents Brent Urban and Carlos Watkins.

But, if the Cowboys were to consider a two-down, space-eating nose tackle for their rotation on Day 3, Khyiris Tonga would be a prime candidate for the proverbial “trash can full of dirt” role that comes with the responsibilities of occupying blockers, clogging running lanes, and pushing the pocket.

Round 5 | Pick 179 (compensatory)
Trill Williams, DB, Syracuse

Assuming the Cowboys were to draft with all 10 of their picks — which is unlikely considering the way the front office tends to work — securing more help for the secondary would expect to be on the agenda, as the defense cycled through a variety of names at both cornerback and safety in 2020.

While the hope would be that former Falcons safeties Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee yield immediate returns and that there is a leap in the development of second-year DB Reggie Robinson, a fluid defender like Trill Williams, who can be flexed up, down, and across the defense, could help fill multiple roles within the Cowboys’ scheme and maximize a roster spot.

Round 6 | Pick 192
Dazz Newsome, WR, North Carolina

Wide receiver is a position that could remain fully intact from 2020, with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, Cedrick Wilson, and Noah Brown all back for 2021. But, again, with this many prospective picks with which to work, the Cowboys would likely consider plucking at least one pass catcher from a deep field to compete for the fourth or fifth receiver role, or perhaps even force them to keep six.

Highly productive from the slot and as a punt returner, Dazz Newsome fits the mold of the shifty separator and offensive gadget the Cowboys have gravitated to in recent years to complement their primary weapons.

Round 6 | Pick 227 (compensatory)
Deon Jackson, RB, Duke

The Cowboys have a strong 1-2 punch at running back with star rusher Ezekiel Elliott and slasher Tony Pollard, as well as second-year prospect Rico Dowdle, who showed some promise in limited action. However, that doesn’t mean another back couldn’t crack the roster or the rotation if he were to impress.

To that point, Deon Jackson followed a solid college career by opening eyes and likely earning himself Day 3 consideration with an impressive pro day performance, highlighted by clocking in with a 4.41 40-yard dash at 218 pounds.

Round 7 | Pick 238
Curtis Robinson, LB, Stanford

While the main concerns with the linebacker group were addressed with prior picks, depth at the position could continue to be a focus for the Cowboys towards the very end of the draft.

Curtis Robinson was solid, if not particularly a standout, in his time at Stanford, but he has prototypical size and intriguing overall athleticism that projects well to the pro game and could warrant a late-round flier as a developmental defender and special teams contributor.


Jason Pruett
DRAFTPLEX

Drafting Dallas 2020: 7-Round Mock Draft

What a difference a year makes.

For the Dallas Cowboys, the dreams of building upon the dramatic turnaround and postseason run that capped the 2018 season were dashed by the end of the 2019 calendar year. Despite a promising 3-0 start, America’s Team was ultimately defined by maddening inconsistency, inexplicably alternating between cruising and trudging through a disappointing 8-8 campaign.

Failing to reach the playoffs in the face of such high expectations, the organization was inevitably thrust into perhaps the most uncertain offseason they have experienced in some time.

Out was long-time head coach Jason Garrett, succeeded by former Green Bay Packers sideline general Mike McCarthy. The majority of the incumbent coaching staff was also allowed to walk, most notably defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and top assistant Kris Richard. Now in their place, a collection of well-traveled, experienced NFL staffers like Mike Nolan, Jim Tomsula, Joe Philbin, and John Fassel, and highly respected voices like Rob Davis and George Edwards.

The tabling of contract talks during the season with franchise quarterback Dak Prescott and star receiver Amari Cooper would also come to a head in the offseason. The signing of an eleventh-hour deal expects to see Cooper in silver and blue for his prime years, but Prescott’s future with the team is yet to be determined. The Cowboys used the franchise tag to secure his rights for the upcoming season, but it remains to be seen if he will sign either that or a potentially record-breaking contract that is rumored to make him the highest-paid player to date in the history of the NFL, let alone the Cowboys.

In the midst of these high-profile decisions, the Cowboys also must navigate through significant roster turnover. More than 30 players who wore the star entered the new league year as free agents, and Dallas has already seen a number of names sign with other teams, including Byron Jones, Robert Quinn, Maliek Collins, Jeff Heath, and Randall Cobb. Even future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten bid farewell (again) to join the Las Vegas Raiders. That’s not to say the Cowboys aren’t welcoming some of those free agents back. Emerging tight end Blake Jarwin, veteran linebacker Sean Lee, and fan favorite offensive lineman Joe Looney will all be returning, along with a few others.

However, one unexpected departure also comes with the retirement of center Travis Frederick. While making a miraculous return this past season after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome in 2018, the Cowboys’ Pro Bowl pivot made decision to leave the gridiron for life after football in March.

With a coaching staff, roster, and salary cap situation that will look markedly different in comparison to the last few years, knowing what to expect from the Cowboys moving forward is anyone’s guess. But, when it comes to the 2020 NFL Draft, I do feel like there are a few things becoming clear, which leads us to this exercise.

In this one and only edition of Drafting Dallas 2020, I’m assuming front office duties to mock draft the full seven rounds for the Cowboys using my DRAFTPLEX Board and the current official draft order. 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 and how I think the board could fall.

That all being said, let’s go on the clock with Drafting Dallas 2020.

Round 1 | Pick 17
K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
Effectively priced out of retaining defensive end Robert Quinn and cornerback Byron Jones—and doing virtually nothing thus far in terms of replacing them through free agency—the Cowboys would seem to be narrowing down their first-round draft considerations to the edge and the boundary. Should that hold true, their draft-night decision may come down to choosing between high-ceiling pass rusher K’Lavon Chaisson or toolsy cornerback C.J. Henderson. Given the relatively pedestrian edge class and the depth of the cornerback class by comparison, I gave the nod to Chaisson. The former LSU Tiger doesn’t come without questions, but his flashes are incredibly compelling and his upside as a potential game-wrecker is undeniable.

Most likely alternative:
C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

Not expected to be there:
Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina


Watch out for:
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Round 2 | Pick 51
Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn
Following the projected pick of Chaisson, I would expect the Cowboys to then lean in on finding a replacement for Byron Jones. While the cornerback room returns Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Anthony Brown, the experience and continuity that they bring back is offset by the reality that none reside at or expect to reach the CB1 level of their former teammate. The contracts of Awuzie and Lewis are also up following the 2020 season, increasing the urgency of reloading the position. Igbinoghene is far from a finished product as a pass defender, but his rapid development in just two years at the cornerback position and room for continued growth could make him a more intriguing option than some of his more battle-tested draft counterparts.

Most likely alternative:
Justin Madubuike, DL, Texas A&M

Not expected to be there:
Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota

Watch out for:
Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

Round 3 | Pick 82
Jason Strowbridge, DL, North Carolina
The Cowboys’ defensive line rotation expects to look a lot different this season compared to years past, with what appears to be a greater emphasis on size, strength, and pedigree and less reliance on the coaching staff squeezing every last ounce of talent and production out of late-round draft choices and unheralded free-agent finds. Look no further than the signings of former first-rounders Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe to man the interior. But even with those reinforcements, the nonexistent contribution from second-round selection Trysten Hill and the tentative return of veteran Tyrone Crawford from injured reserve could lead the Cowboys to look for more help. Strowbridge showed out during the pre-draft process and flashes starter-quality tools at strongside end along with the flex to reduce inside as a sub-package pass rusher.

Other possible options:
Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame
Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas

Round 4 | Pick 123
K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State
With Amari Cooper signed and the emergence of Michael Gallup, the Cowboys are set on the outside at receiver. But, with veteran slot Randall Cobb moving on to Houston after a productive year in Dallas, the Cowboys are in need of a reliable receiving option to work underneath and across the middle. Hill leaves Ohio State as one of the most accomplished pass catchers in the program’s storied history, including being the holder of the school’s all-time record for receptions. If not for his average size and lack of a defining physical trait, he’d probably be off the board much earlier, but with his crafty route-running and ability to create separation, he should certainly be in the conversation to receive a call from Dallas early on Day 3.

Other possible options:
Michael Ojemudia, CB, Iowa
Quartney Davis, WR, Texas A&M

Round 5 | Pick 164
Josiah Deguara, TE, Cincinnati
After a year in retirement followed by one-season swansong in the silver and blue, Jason Witten and the Cowboys seem to have finally put each other in the rear-view mirror, at least in terms of his time as a player. Meanwhile, the tight end torch appears to be officially passed to Blake Jarwin, who should be a more featured part of the offense in 2020. Offseason acquisition Blake Bell also expects to figure into the active roster, likely as an in-line blocker. But, adding an H-back type like Deguara would provide an added dimension from the position for the Cowboys to work with in deploying their offense.

Round 5 | Pick 179 (compensatory)
Geno Stone, S, Iowa
The departure of the polarizing Jeff Heath coupled with the arrival of former first-round pick turned journeyman Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has the feeling of a break-even situation at safety where the front office is concerned. Between this and the team’s recent history of not investing significant resources into the position, I once again don’t expect the Cowboys to address the last line of defense early. That said, they could look later in the draft to bring in another name to add to a depth chart that also includes Xavier Woods, Darian Thompson, and Donovan Wilson. Stone is a scrappy, undersized defender with plus ball skills and play-making ability, and he carries a chip that could also help him make a name for himself on special teams.

Round 7 | Pick 231
Tanner Muse, LB, Clemson
The Cowboys love to draft linebackers and they love to draft from big-time programs. With 59 games logged for a perennial NCAA powerhouse, Tanner Muse certainly fits that bill. Not really thought of much as a prospect coming into the pre-draft process, a strong showing at the NFL Scouting Combine has put Muse firmly in consideration for a late-round selection. Likely transitioning from college safety to NFL linebacker, his in to a roster spot would expect to be as a core special teamer as he works to do more than just round out the linebacker depth chart.

Validated using the DRAFTPLEX Board with the Fanspeak On The Clock Mock Draft Simulator
https://fanspeak.com/ontheclock/sharedraft.php?d=yfzirk


Jason Pruett
DRAFTPLEX

Drafting Dallas 2019: 7-Round Mock Draft 3.0

Welcome to my 3.0 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 2.0 installment was published, the Cowboys have made two significant moves to sustain and supplement an emerging defensive unit that finished seventh in total defense — breaking through in contract negotiations with defensive leader Demarcus Lawrence, signing the star end to a lucrative deal that makes him the highest-paid player in franchise history; and sending a sixth-round draft choice in 2020 to the Miami Dolphins for veteran pass rusher Robert Quinn, whom the team also signed to a new one-year contract. Dallas also struck a deal with veteran safety George Iloka, who at a minimum gives the team insurance at what is considered a position of reasonable need heading into the draft.

With less than two weeks remaining until the 2019 NFL Draft, further free-agent activity expects to be minimal at most, the Cowboys having filled every position of conceivable need with the exception of backup running back. Most interesting about their approach this offseason, however, is now they are not beholden to addressing any particular position at any point and can effectively move forward with taking the best player available on their board should they so choose. Which, of course, brings us to 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 own evaluations and the team’s pre-draft activity to this point. 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 for the Cowboys for the final time this draft season with Drafting Dallas 2019 3.0.

Round 2 | Pick 58
Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt
Much has been made of the Cowboys inviting four of the top safety prospects in this draft class to The Star for official visits, but the expectation is that due diligence will inevitably be precautionary in nature. None of said four – Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Johnathan Abram, Juan Thornhill, or Taylor Rapp – is a lock to be on the board when Dallas goes on the clock at #58. I don’t think that scenario is for certain, but seeing that I mocked Abram here in Drafting Dallas 2.0, I will consider an alternative situation where the position is wiped out relative to value. With that in mind, I point toward the long-term future of the secondary and the report of a private workout with Commodores cornerback Joejuan Williams as the reasoning behind this projected pick.

Round 3 | Pick 90
Damien Harris, RB, Alabama
You can dispute the value of drafting a running back early, but make no mistake, this isn’t a luxury pick. In Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys have arguably the best running back in the NFL, but they’ve not been able to bring Zeke off the field without experiencing a significant drop-off in offensive production. Faced with running their prized bell cow into the ground or bringing drives to a grinding halt every time he heads to the sidelines, the Cowboys need to consider stabling a legitimate RB2. A quality, all-around back Harris may not make it to the late-third, but having brought him in on an official visit, you have to think Dallas is preparing for the possibility.

Round 4 | Pick 128
Daniel Wise, DT, Kansas

Round 4 | Pick 136 (compensatory selection)
John Cominsky, DL, Charleston

With the return of Tank, the addition of Quinn, and the signings of Christian Covington and Kerry Hyder, the defensive line rotation looks to be solid for next season. However, looking beyond, the forecast becomes a little less clear. Rather than face the prospect of a completely different core group up front, expect the Cowboys to begin reloading in the middle rounds, if not earlier. Wise is a prospect who likely caught the Cowboys’ attention initially when they evaluated fellow Jayhawk and last year’s fourth-round selection, defensive end Dorance Armstrong. The team also reportedly worked out the prospective three-technique privately. Meanwhile, Cominsky is a small-school standout who scouts have reportedly had eyes on for months. The Cowboys hosted him as one of their 30 official pre-draft visitors and could look at taking the developmental rushman off the board with their compensatory selection.

Round 5 | Pick 165
Will Harris, S, Boston College
Circling back to the position of safety, if they don’t have a top prospect slip to them early, I think it is a solid bet the Cowboys will still come out of the draft with a new name for the depth chart, at the very least to push the veterans on the roster. Harris is a middle-tier option who would bring a wealth of starting experience and considerable ability, along with the special teams value and the position flex the Cowboys covet from the members of their last line of defense.

Round 7 | Pick 241
Stanley Morgan Jr., WR, Nebraska
In terms of numbers, the Cowboys are loaded at receiver, but it’s fair to say at least half of the roster spots anticipated to be allocated to the position are up for grabs. Morgan is a prospect that the team has shown interest in and some reports suggest the Cowboys could consider drafting him as early as the fourth round. But, that is very rich to me considering the middle-round depth of this receiver class, the positional need, and my evaluation of the player. That said, I think the Cowboys could take a wait-and-see approach and potentially still land him as the draft draws to a close.


BONUS PROJECTIONS | Priority Free Agents

Chris Westry, CB, Kentucky
Cole Holcomb, LB, North Carolina
Dre Greenlaw, LB, Arkansas
Markus Jones, RSH, Angelo State
Xavier Turner, RB, Tarleton State


Westry is a late-draftable, height-weight-speed prospect the Cowboys hosted as a pre-draft visitor and would be a developmental project for Kris Richard… Holcomb is another visitor who has been rising as of late thanks to a combination of college production and exceptional testing and who could potentially find himself drafted on Day 3… Greenlaw is an undersized second-level defender who I’m not that high on, but the Cowboys seem to like… Jones is a dominant Division II pass rusher who deserves Day 3 consideration, but might not hear his name called… Turner is a Dallas Day participant who fits the profile of local, load-bearing back the Cowboys like to have during rookie minicamp.


Jason Pruett
DRAFTPLEX

Drafting Dallas 2019: 7-Round Mock Draft 2.0

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.


Jason Pruett
DRAFTPLEX

Drafting Dallas 2019: 7-Round Mock Draft 1.0

It was a tale of two seasons for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018.

America’s Team labored through the first half of their schedule, getting off to a disappointing 3-5 start. The offense was maddeningly inconsistent, showing but mere flashes of competence, let alone brilliance, while a stalwart defense would seemingly keep the team in contention each week until struggling themselves at the most inopportune moment. With no sign that success would be forthcoming, the franchise was presumably headed toward an offseason of significant change.

Instead, the front office took measures to make a run at the NFC East—the division there for the taking with neither the Cowboys nor one of their rivals able to stake claim through eight games. A mid-season trade for wide receiver Amari Cooper and the dismissal of offensive line coach Paul Alexander in favor of assistant Marc Colombo seemed to serve as the catalyst for a turnaround. The Cowboys reeled off five straight victories, ultimately winning seven of their final eight games to earn the division title and a berth in the NFL Playoffs.

Riding a wave of momentum into January, with an offense that seemed to do just enough to win and a defense that would rise to the occasion with the game in the balance, the Cowboys turned back the challenge of the Seattle Seahawks during NFC Wild Card Weekend. But, the ride would grind to a halt in Hollywood, as Dallas was summarily dismissed by the eventual NFC representative in the Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Rams.

Now, much like the offseason following the 2016 campaign, the Cowboys will look to build on the promise of a playoff appearance in an attempt to finally end their championship drought of more than two decades.

In my 1.0 installment of Drafting Dallas 2019, I’m assuming front office duties to mock draft the full seven rounds for the Cowboys using the current edition of my DRAFTPLEX Board. 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.

While the complete NFL Draft order is not yet confirmed, the Cowboys are currently scheduled to make their first selection at #58 in Round 2, followed by #90 in Round 3. The exact number and order of their selections in Rounds 4, 5, and 7 are to be determined pending the disclosure of compensatory picks. Dallas does not currently possess a Round 1 selection after trading it to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for wide receiver Amari Cooper this past season, nor a Round 6 selection after trading it to the Cincinnati Bengals in exchange for cornerback Bene Benwikere in 2017.

That all being said, for the purposes of this exercise, I will be drafting under the prevailing assumption that Dallas will be awarded a compensatory selection in Round 4 for the departure of linebacker Anthony Hitchens in free agency, giving the team a total of six selections.

Now, let’s go on the clock with Drafting Dallas 2019 1.0.

Round 2 | Pick 58
Charles Omenihu, DL, Texas
The Dallas defensive line developed into a formidable unit by season’s end, but perhaps its most physically gifted player was a veritable non-factor in 2018. David Irving was absent from training camp, served a four-game suspension to start the year, and played in only two games, his season derailed by off-field matters and injury. Irving is now no longer under contract and not expected to be back. That said, there were times when the self-proclaimed “Hot Boyz” clearly missed his physical presence and disruptive play. Possessing a similar frame and ability to affect the game from the edge or the interior, Omenihu has drawn comparisons to Irving and should be a strong consideration if he remains on the board when the Cowboys enter the fray at #58.

Round 3 | Pick 90
Elijah Holyfield, RB, Georgia
Ezekiel Elliott claimed his second NFL rushing title in three years, while also leading the league in rushing attempts and total touches. Working behind a banged up offensive line, Zeke took a pounding week in and week out, but rarely left the field. Meanwhile, backup Rod Smith did little to lock down the supporting role after a promising end to the 2017 season. Now a free agent, Smith could still return because of his special teams value, but the Cowboys should really consider upgrading the primary reserve—not only to preserve Elliott’s health over the course of the season, but as insurance as he nears the end of his rookie contract. Holyfield resembles a slightly smaller Elliott, with comparable speed, power, and elusiveness, and flashes the feature back potential that would make him an ideal rotational running back for Dallas.

Round 4
Andre James, OL, UCLA
The Dallas offensive line was essentially a shell of the five-man front that dominated opponents just a couple of years prior. Center Travis Frederick was lost for the season early due to illness. Guard Zack Martin and tackle Tyron Smith fought through injuries virtually the entire year. At left guard, rookie Connor Williams and journeyman veteran Xavier Su’a-Filo split time while battling injuries of the their own. Meanwhile, Joe Looney and La’el Collins are both entering contract years, with swing tackle Cam Fleming possibly one and done with the club. With the unit aiming for a return to form in 2019, I would expect Dallas to continue investing resources up front with an eye toward the future. James is an intriguing mid-round blocker, entering the process as a redshirt junior with 32 college starts to his name—including a full season at each tackle position.

Round 4 (projected compensatory selection)
Darius Slayton, WR, Auburn
Perhaps the biggest unknown of the upcoming season for the Cowboys is the passing game. The team parted ways with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, then appointed Kellen Moore to the position with just one year of pro coaching under his belt. New quarterbacks coach Jon Kitna and tight ends coach Doug Nussmeier expect to have involvement in the offensive game plan as well, with head coach Jason Garrett overseeing the entire operation. But, it’s not just the coaching staff that is being shuffled, as the roster expects to see some shakeup as well. Fan favorite Cole Beasley is currently a free agent and has expressed dissatisfaction with his role in the offense, while injury and pedestrian production could see Dallas also move on from veterans Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns. Offering good size and great speed, Slayton would give the Cowboys both a vertical threat down the field and big-play potential underneath.

Round 5
Otaro Alaka, LB, Texas A&M
Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch were a revelation for the Cowboys in 2018, playing far above expectations and proving that the defense could not only survive, but thrive without veteran leader Sean Lee in the lineup. Lee has one year remaining on his contract and his cap hit could make him expendable, but this selection is primarily to offset the potential free-agent departure of strongside linebacker Damien Wilson. A versatile second-level defender who compares favorably to Smith and Vander Esch physically, Alaka could assume SAM duties, working in the box on early downs while providing the ability to rush the passer when called upon.

Round 7
Tommy Sweeney, TE, Boston College
The Cowboys felt the loss of first-ballot Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten during the 2018 campaign. But, even with the growing pains that have many projecting them to target a tight end early, you get the sense that they could just ride with the group they have for 2019. Geoff Swaim is a free agent, but likely wouldn’t cost much to bring back. Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz came on comparatively by the end of the season. And the upside of project player Rico Gathers remains despite his limited production on the field. However, Dallas could still afford to introduce another tight end to the mix. Sweeney doesn’t enter the draft with the athletic profile of other tight ends in the draft, but he’s a sure-handed receiver and capable blocker who can come into camp and compete for a roster spot.


Jason Pruett
DRAFTPLEX