Drafting Dallas 2018: 7-Round Mock Draft 3.0

Welcome to my 3.0 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 2.0 installment was published, the open of the new league year and the subsequent frenzy of free agency signings, along with continued activity in the trade market, has seen teams across the league address areas of need and give us a more focused picture of their potential positions of interest heading into the NFL Draft. College pro days are also completely in the books, with representatives from all 32 franchises crossing the nation and descending upon university campuses to work out top prospects, as well as late-round sleepers and potential rookie free agents.

Up until a few days ago, this stretch in the offseason schedule went about as expected for the Cowboys. They placed the franchise tag on DeMarcus Lawrence and a second-round tender on restricted free agent David Irving. They parted ways with a pair of marquee defenders, with free agent Anthony Hitchens signing with the Kansas City Chiefs and Orlando Scandrick requesting his release to ultimately sign with the Washington Redskins. Also moving on, Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber, who signed with the Oakland Raiders, and Jonathan Cooper, who signed with the San Francisco 49ers. Then after a few days where their only activity was signing a pair of role players in linebacker Joe Thomas and wide receiver Deonte Thompson, and swapping late-round picks with the Raiders for fullback Jamize Olawale, the Cowboys finally made their proverbial splash, signing former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns and former New England Patriots offensive tackle Cameron Fleming, as well as a former third-round draft choice in offensive lineman Marcus Martin, most recently of the Cleveland Browns.

Then this past Friday, the Cowboys made the long-rumored, but still relatively shocking decision to release star wide receiver Dez Bryant, attaining some much-needed salary cap relief, but leaving the offense without a defined WR1 and setting the expectation that the position will be addressed early in the draft. 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 who Dallas has reportedly shown interest in this draft season. 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 final time for the Cowboys this draft season with Drafting Dallas 2018 3.0.

Round 1 | Pick 19
Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

It might prove to be an upset, at least as far as the media is concerned, if the Cowboys do not select a wide receiver with their first-round pick. But, even with the release of Dez Bryant, there’s enough evidence to suggest the Cowboys will maintain the approach of selecting the best player available at a position of need—and the argument can be made that the position in most need of an upgrade at this point is linebacker. With Anthony Hitchens moving on in free agency and the front office acknowledging publicly that Jaylon Smith will see snaps at SAM linebacker, there would appear to be an opening at middle linebacker. Vander Esch is a rising prospect the Cowboys have clearly taken interest in and is definitely in consideration at 19.

Round 2 | Pick 50
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

With an offense powered by the running game, there’s a case to be made that the Cowboys no longer necessarily need a lead receiver who commands—or expects—the lion’s share of the targets, but a platoon of receivers who can catch and create as the defense gives. Kirk is an explosive playmaker, but having lined up almost exclusively in the slot, he’s also a projection on the outside at the NFL level. That said, provided the Cowboys can scheme to his strengths, the former Aggie could be a tremendous weapon both near the line of scrimmage and down the field.

Round 3 | Pick 81
Austin Corbett, OG, Nevada
Despite their offseason additions to the offensive line, Dallas still doesn’t have a definitive starter at left guard. Expecting Marcus Martin to win the job after not seeing the field for the Cleveland Browns in 2017 would be a major gamble, so they would be wise to capitalize on the opportunity to add a plug-and-play starter. While the Cowboys have continually been linked to names like Will Hernandez and Isaiah Wynn in the first round, Corbett presents a near-comparable alternative who could be available as late as the third round.

Round 4 | Pick 116
Tarvarius Moore, S, Southern Miss

With the standing expectation that Byron Jones will be transitioning to full-time cornerback, Dallas will be down a safety on the depth chart. While the team may look to Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier to fill the void, adding a safety with starter potential in the early or middle rounds should be in play. After flying under the radar for most of the draft cycle, Moore is gaining steam after an outstanding pro day and was among the Cowboys’ official 30 pre-draft visitors.

Round 4 | Pick 137 (compensatory selection)
Kendrick Norton, DT, Miami
While Dallas continues to be linked to the top one-technique defensive tackles in the draft, it doesn’t seem as likely anymore that they will be seeking the fill that role early. Indeed, if they do address the interior front, it will probably not happen until the middle rounds, where a grabbing space eater like Norton to reset the line and absorb blocks would present a better value for a lower-priority position in their defensive scheme.

Round 5 | Pick 171 (compensatory selection)
Ito Smith, RB, Southern Miss
Dallas is short a running back and, based on their pre-draft visits, it would appear that they are targeting a gadget player in the mold of former Cowboy Lance Dunbar. Smith is one of those smaller, shiftier, change-of-pace backs they have visited with, and would provide an element of speed and elusiveness to the offense as both a runner and receiver.

Round 6 | Pick 192 (via trade with Oakland Raiders)
Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida

The Cowboys have shown a willingness to gamble on talented players with extensive off-field concerns, and Callaway represents perhaps the most physically gifted, but troubled prospect in this draft class. While he didn’t play a down in 2017, Dallas did bring him in as one of their pre-draft visitors, and it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see them roll the dice late in the draft if he happens to remain on the board.

Round 6 | Pick 193
Kentavius Street, DL, North Carolina State

Along with character risks, the Cowboys aren’t shy about players whose draft stock is compromised due to injury. Street was rising up boards early in the draft process, but suffering a torn ACL in a pre-draft workout has sent his stock tumbling. If Dallas retains all of their picks, drafting a player who will require a redshirt year isn’t out of the question, especially one with the power and position flex of Street.

Round 6 | Pick 208 (compensatory selection)
Zach Sieler, DE, Ferris State

You can never have enough quality pass rushers. With the size, tools, and production to project as a potential impact defender, Sieler is one of the rare small-school prospects whose decision to declare early should pay off with a draft selection.

Round 7 | Pick 236
Chris Jones, CB, Nebraska

In the interest of competition, the Cowboys will likely add at least one cornerback to the roster through the draft, and even more from the rookie free agent pool. They reportedly thought enough of Jones to have him participate in a private workout, making him the only cornerback thus far to do so.

Jason Pruett

2018 NFL Mock Draft 3.0: New League Year Edition

Players and picks are on the move, and as team needs continue to evolve in the new league year with signings, trades, and releases, I am pleased to present my 2018 NFL Mock Draft 3.0. These first-round projections are based on the current draft order and my impression of team needs as of April 3, and do not reflect any potential trade scenarios.

1 | Cleveland Browns — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Reports suggest the Browns are still considering their quarterback options with the first overall pick. This round goes to Allen.

2 | New York Giants — Sam Darnold, QB, USC
If the Browns take Allen first, expect Darnold to go immediately thereafter, possibly to the Giants, but more likely to a team paying a heavy price to trade up.

3 | New York Jets — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Jets could potentially be in the position to take the second quarterback off the board, but more likely they’ll need to be content with the third—in this case, Mayfield.

4 | Cleveland Browns — Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
Back on the clock, the Browns have their choice of positional players and elect to bookend last year’s top pass rusher Myles Garrett with this year’s in Chubb.

5 | Denver Broncos — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The Broncos opt to surround new starting quarterback Case Keenum with weapons, bringing in the best ball carrier in the draft for instant offense.

6 | Indianapolis Colts — Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
A surprise move, but the Colts are talent-deficient at multiple positions and have a sneaky need at linebacker.

7 | Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Derwin James, S, Florida State
The Buccaneers fortified their defensive front with veterans, now they need a young lion to roam in the secondary.

8 | Chicago Bears — Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
The Bears can afford to upgrade their offensive line, and there’s no better value to be had than the draft’s best blocker and top overall prospect.

9 | San Francisco 49ers — Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
With a veteran mentor in Richard Sherman and a versatile talent like Fitzpatrick to build around, the 49ers secondary would appear to be in excellent hands.

10 | Oakland Raiders — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
If Ward happens to still be available, the Raiders might have to entertain investing another high pick into a secondary that’s filled with them.

11 | Miami Dolphins — Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
In Edmunds, the Dolphins might finally have the solution for their seemingly perpetual need at linebacker.

12 | Buffalo Bills — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The Bills are the team most likely to trade up for a quarterback, but in this scenario, they sit tight and still happen to land Rosen.

13 | Washington Redskins — Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Known for a pass-first approach, the Redskins take a page from their NFC East rivals who have found more success by running the football.

14 | Green Bay Packers — Marcus Davenport, RSH, UTSA
With their sack production trending down, the Packers grab the edge rusher who checks all the boxes for physical tools and upside.

15 | Arizona Cardinals — Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The ageless Larry Fitzgerald continues to produce at a high level for the Cardinals, but a sidekick and eventual successor is needed.

16 | Baltimore Ravens — D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
After landing Michael Crabtree and John Brown in free agency, the Ravens add an explosive playmaker in Moore to complete their receiver corps rebuild.

17 | Los Angeles Chargers — Vita Vea, DT, Washington
The Chargers have a fierce outside rush, but they could use some help inside to help stop the run and push the pocket.

18 | Seattle Seahawks — Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
The Seahawks will need to replace a number of familiar names on defense. Oliver fits the profile of what they look for in the secondary.

19 | Dallas Cowboys — Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
The Cowboys, specifically defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, put Bryan to the test during Florida’s Pro Day, and might see him as an ideal fit at the three-technique.

20 | Detroit Lions — James Daniels, C, Iowa
Currently short a starting center, the Lions could look at adding a plug-and-play pivot like Daniels in lieu of shuffling blockers around.

21 | Cincinnati Bengals — Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
The Bengals traded for Cordy Glenn, but drafting a dominant blocker like Wynn to insert at guard, or potentially tackle, isn’t out of the question.

22 | Buffalo Bills — Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
If the Bills don’t package this pick in a trade up, the ascending Vander Esch could be in play to fill the void at linebacker.

23 | New England Patriots — Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Patriots just acquired this pick from the Rams, and with a need at offensive tackle, take the first anchor off the board.

24 | Carolina Panthers — Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
The Panthers have made modest secondary investments in free agency, but Jackson would give them a true ballhawk on the boundary.

25 | Tennessee Titans — Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
With former starter Avery Williamson signing with the Jets, Evans fills the immediate opening the Titans have at inside linebacker.

26 | Atlanta Falcons — Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
The Falcons defensive front took a hit when Dontari Poe defected to division rival Carolina, so Payne makes sense as the next man up.

27 | New Orleans Saints — Harold Landry, RSH, Boston College
The Saints are in the market for another pass rusher and Landry has the speed and athleticism to get to the quarterback with frequency.

28 | Pittsburgh Steelers — Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Alexander would primarily be a value selection for the Steelers, but would serve to elevate their overall talent level at the cornerback position.

29 | Jacksonville Jaguars — Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
The Jaguars signed top free-agent guard Andrew Norwell, but an upgrade for the opposite side should still be a consideration.

30 | Minnesota Vikings — Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
With a number of contracts coming up for their league-leading defense, the Vikings might need to start putting new pieces in place.

31 | New England Patriots — Sam Hubbard, RSH, Ohio State
Hubbard might not project to have the ceiling of other edge defenders, but he’s a pro-ready prospect and the type of scheme-versatile player the Patriots tend to favor.

32 | Philadelphia Eagles — Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
The Eagles parted with a pair of tight ends this offseason and they could deploy the athletic Gesicki in a variety of ways.

Jason Pruett

2018 NFL Mock Draft 2.0: Post-Combine Edition

With the NFL Scouting Combine in the books and the official open of free agency fast approaching, I am pleased to present my 2018 NFL Mock Draft 2.0. These first-round projections are based on the current draft order and my impression of team needs as of March 10, and do not reflect any potential trade scenarios.

1 | Cleveland Browns — Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Even with the trade for Tyrod Taylor, quarterback remains the target of preference for the beleaguered Browns. Josh Allen and Sam Darnold have seemingly pulled ahead of the pack, and while the big-armed Allen was the top pick in my 1.0 mock draft, in this scenario, the high-ceilinged Darnold is the first passer off the board.

2 | New York Giants — Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
It’s extremely rare for a guard to be in consideration this high, but Nelson is the best player in this draft class and has the makings of a perennial All-Pro. That said, would the Giants really pass on a chance to draft a QB of the future to put Big Q in Big Blue? Who says they aren’t already convinced?

3 | Indianapolis Colts — Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
In this scenario, the Colts could be fielding calls from any number of teams coming up to chase a quarterback. But, assuming they stand in to make the pick, it’s practically a lock that they tab the pro-ready Chubb to be their new franchise pass rusher.

4 | Cleveland Browns — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Back on the clock, the Browns follow the blueprint for providing their newly-drafted quarterback the best chance for success, bringing in the freakishly-athletic, aptly-named Barkley to be their new feature back.

5 | Denver Broncos — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
After banking twice on strong-armed, statuesque college quarterbacks whose traits didn’t translate to NFL starting quarterback, the Broncos take a different approach by drafting Mayfield, who has the resume, personality, and play to be the new top guy in Mile High.

6 | New York Jets — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The Jets have had their fair share of quarterback woes in recent years. With Rosen, generally considered the best pure passer and most NFL-ready signal caller in this draft, Gang Green gets another chance, and perhaps their best yet, to get it right.

7 | Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
The Buccaneers are the beneficiaries of the way the draft plays out in this scenario, with Fitzpatrick, possibly the top overall defender, falling right into their lap. Taking the versatile corner-safety hybrid would be a step in the right direction to improve their league-worst defense.

8 | Chicago Bears — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Placing the transition tag on Kyle Fuller, the Bears have seemingly secured one starting cornerback position, but a void remains opposite the former first-rounder. Enter Ward, who has the blazing speed, exceptional technique, and elite coverage skills to develop into a lockdown pass defender.

9 | San Francisco 49ers — Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Winning the coin toss at the Combine, the 49ers not only win the right to draft ahead of the Raiders, but the inside track to draft the top linebacker prospect in Roquan Smith. A blue-chip defender on his own, he also serves as a valuable insurance policy if off-field issues sideline Reuben Foster.

10 | Oakland Raiders — Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Jon Gruden inherits a Raiders team without a proven difference-maker anchoring the interior defensive line. That changes with the addition of Vea, a 350-pound powerhouse who manhandles blockers and possesses movement skills that you wouldn’t expect from a player his size.

11 | Miami Dolphins — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Having just agreed to trade top receiver Jarvis Landry, lacking a true feature back, and tracking toward a change at quarterback, the Dolphins offense is now effectively one big question mark. Assuming the current regime has the green light to reload, bringing in Josh Allen and his cannon arm to groom behind a veteran passer makes sense.

12 | Cincinnati Bengals — Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
The linebacker position is arguably the weakest link of the Bengals defense, and after repeated free-agent fixes through the years, it could be time to draft a stud defender for the second level. The Combine proved to be a showcase for the rising Edmunds, whose best football is ahead of him.

13 | Washington Redskins — Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Washington has become known for having a potent passing attack, and while it remains to be seen if that continues with Alex Smith now at the helm, a clear-cut WR1 would certainly help. The consensus top receiver on the board, Ridley is a pro-ready primary target with speed, route savvy, and the ability to separate.

14 | Green Bay Packers — Harold Landry, RSH, Boston College
All signs point to the Packers taking a defender, specifically a pass rusher, with their first-round pick. They opt for the explosive, edge-capturing Boston College product, who bounced back from an injury-hampered senior season to put on an outstanding showing at the Combine.

15 | Arizona Cardinals — Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
The Cardinals will make a run at a quarterback in free agency or the draft, but most likely both. Depending on how satisfied they are with the veteran they land, their first round pick could be reserved for another position. A Combine standout, Alexander could be the long-sought solution for CB2 opposite Patrick Peterson.

16 | Baltimore Ravens — D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
The Ravens have made do with a pedestrian corps of receivers, but it’s time to add a high-caliber weapon in the passing game. Moore’s tape is convincing enough to make him a first-round pick, but measuring bigger, running faster, and simply dominating the testing and drills at the Combine has put him in the conversation for WR1 in this draft.

17 | Los Angeles Chargers — Derwin James, S, Florida State
Once a franchise carried by the arm of QB Philip Rivers, the Chargers are rapidly accumulating stud defenders and putting them to work. James would be the choice here if he is somehow still on the board, as he has the physical tools, the athletic traits, and the leadership qualities to play all over the field and set the tone for his unit, if not the entire team.

18 | Seattle Seahawks — Marcus Davenport, RSH, UTSA
Seattle suddenly has the appearance of a team that is dangerously close to going full rebuild, specifically on the defensive side of the football. While cornerback is a strong consideration, it’s not everyday that you have an edge prospect with the athletic profile and sky-high ceiling of Davenport there for the taking.

19 | Dallas Cowboys — Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
Knowing the Cowboys like I do, if the draft were to fall this way, I would not be surprised at all if they attempted to bail out of 19. If they were to indeed stand in and pick, plugging in a mauling man-mountain like Hernandez at LG to beef up their celebrated offensive line could be an option.

20 | Detroit Lions — Ronald Jones, RB, USC
The Lions have managed to be mildly successful in recent years without even a semblance of a running game. While he isn’t the biggest back, Jones has the big-play potential as a runner and receiver to be the ideal backfield fit for a team that leans heavily on Matthew Stafford and the passing game.

21 | Buffalo Bills — Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
22 | Buffalo Bills — James Daniels, C, Iowa
After trading Tyrod Taylor, who the Bills only ever seemed to be begrudgingly comfortable with as their starting quarterback, it would shock no one to see one, or perhaps both, of these selections leveraged in a move up to take one of the top four quarterback prospects. That said, assuming they sign a veteran QB, still like Nathan Peterman enough, or are content to seek a developmental passer on Day 2 or 3, solidifying the trenches could be in order. Payne came to compete at the Combine and put up some pretty impressive numbers for an athlete his size. Meanwhile, Daniels is a ready-made starting center who would fill the void created by the retirement of Eric Wood.

23 | Los Angeles Rams — Connor Williams, OT, Texas
The Rams have been very active just ahead of free agency, agreeing to trades for cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, while deciding to part ways with pass rusher Robert Quinn and linebacker Alec Ogletree. Grabbing a young, affordable front-seven defender could be a consideration, but adding Williams to an offensive line group where no player is locked up long-term makes sense as well.

24 | Carolina Panthers — Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Despite trading for Torrey Smith, wide receiver remains an early consideration for the Panthers. Sutton is relatively raw, but has the tools teams look for in a WR1, with prototypical size, sure hands, and playmaking ability after the catch. With talented weapons around him, Carolina could scheme to his strengths as he develops.

25 | Tennessee Titans — Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
Defense might be the first-round play for new head coach Mike Vrabel, but the value could be in fortifying the interior offensive line between bookend tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin. A college tackle with the power and athleticism to slide inside, Wynn checks all the boxes to be a plug-and-play starter at guard.

26 | Atlanta Falcons — Jessie Bates III, S, Wake Forest
It’s fair to say the Falcons now boast the fast, physical defense head coach Dan Quinn mastered in Seattle, but one role funneled down the pipeline from the Pacific Northwest that has yet to be filled is a rangy, single-high safety to patrol the back end. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bates sneak into the first round as a potential fit.

27 | New Orleans Saints — Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
The Saints hit the jackpot in last year’s draft and, if not for the Minnesota Miracle, just might have translated that influx of talent into a Lombardi Trophy. With an electric athlete like Jackson available and possibly the perfect situation for him to develop and deliver on his amazing upside, could they have the magic touch again?

28 | Pittsburgh Steelers — Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
With Ryan Shazier sidelined by a career-threatening spinal injury, linebacker is at the top of the list of needs for Pittsburgh. Vander Esch is a rising prospect, and one to whom the Steelers have been heavily linked. Considering his tape, his Combine exploits, and the mutual affinity between the player and the organization, it seems almost a perfect match.

29 | Jacksonville Jaguars — Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
The Jaguars locked up quarterback Blake Bortles through 2020, and with that commitment, could look to continue to add pieces around him. But, if he happens to still be on the board, they might be hard-pressed to pass on Hughes, a top-tier cornerback who could make their shutdown secondary airtight.

30 | Minnesota Vikings — Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Now expected to go all in on free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Vikings could find themselves having to make some tough decisions financially, particularly on defense. Being able to backfill the cornerback position, for one, with a tall, talented ballhawk like Jackson could help make the process a little more palatable.

31 | New England Patriots — Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
If the Patriots pass on bringing back free-agent tackle Nate Solder, drafting a suitable replacement could be on the table as the first round comes to a close. McGlinchey might not meet the lofty standard of franchise left tackle, but he’s a quality football player with the pro-ready frame, technique, and football IQ to be an immediate starter.

32 | Philadelphia Eagles — Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The Eagles have continued to be active in the trade market, both acquiring and jettisoning players, and with their roster depth and shortage of picks, it’s possible that will continue leading up to the draft. Provided that they don’t wheel and deal for a linebacker or part ways with the pick, the hard-hitting Evans could find himself heading to Philadelphia.

Jason Pruett

Drafting Dallas 2018: 7-Round Mock Draft 2.0

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.

Jason Pruett

2018 NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Post-Season Edition

A new Super Bowl champion has been crowned and the 2017 NFL season is officially history. All 32 franchises now have their sights set on Super Bowl LIII, but all roads to Atlanta first run through the Dallas-Forth Worth Metroplex and the 2018 NFL Draft.

With draft season once again upon us, I am pleased to present my 2018 NFL Mock Draft 1.0. These first-round projections are based on the current draft order and my impression of team needs as of February 7, and do not reflect any potential trade scenarios.

1 | Cleveland Browns — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Following the worst three-year stretch in NFL history and a total front office upheaval, Cleveland’s never-ending search for QB1 leads them to gamble on the physical prototype of a franchise quarterback in Allen, who also happens to be the biggest potential boom or bust prospect at the position in this draft.

2 | New York Giants — Sam Darnold, QB, USC
The Giants are a proud franchise with a rich history—and absolutely zero plans of picking this high in the draft again anytime soon. They make their lost season count by taking the eventual successor to Eli Manning in Darnold.

3 | Indianapolis Colts — Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
Between the uncertain future of stud signal caller Andrew Luck and being spurned by handpicked head coach Josh McDaniels, the Colts could use a sure thing here. Chubb is perhaps as close as it gets on defense for a team in desperate need of a pass rusher.

4 | Cleveland Browns — Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Back on the clock, the Browns turn their attention to defense by taking Fitzpatrick, arguably the best overall defensive prospect in the draft, who would immediately become the ace in their secondary at cornerback or safety—or perhaps, a combination of both.

5 | Denver Broncos — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The Broncos are back to the drawing board behind center. Fortunately, a top option falls right into their lap. Rosen is a talented, but headstrong player who won’t be a fit everywhere—but he wouldn’t be the first passer with that kind of reputation to make a go of it in Mile High.

6 | New York Jets — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Broadway Baker? The Heisman Trophy winner isn’t a physical marvel, but he is athletic, accurate, and an alpha personality—a fiery competitor with big-game experience who could break a vicious cycle of journeymen and developmental duds for the Jets.

7 | Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Running a platoon of backs behind a leaky offensive line this past season, the Buccaneers were near the bottom of the league in rushing. With cap room to burn on starting-caliber blockers and the addition of Barkley, a true feature back and the top skill position player in the entire draft, that could quickly change.

8 | Chicago Bears — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Bears retooled their secondary in free agency a season ago, but now there isn’t a real starter to be had on the boundary. Ward is the best pure cover cornerback in the draft and can match up with opponents’ top targets, whether they line up on the outside or in the slot.

9 | San Francisco 49ers* — Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
Drafting the best overall player in the draft is a no-brainer for a front office that is quickly becoming known for smart personnel moves. Nelson is a powerful, pro-ready mauler the 49ers can plug in on day one to protect Jimmy Garoppolo for years to come.
* (draft position pending result of coin flip with Oakland)

10 | Oakland Raiders* — Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The Raiders took a step back in 2017, then took a step back in time, turning to former head coach Jon Gruden to right the ship. With sideline-to-sideline speed and ferocity as a tackler, Smith gives the silver and black the second-level playmaker they’ve been lacking on defense.
* (draft position pending result of coin flip with San Francisco)

11 | Miami Dolphins — Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
With rookie-contract record-setter Jarvis Landry potentially moving on, the Dolphins need a new primary target for whomever ends up as their starting quarterback. Ridley is a smooth operator as a route runner and separator, with the exceptional hands required to keep the chains moving in Miami.

12 | Cincinnati Bengals — Billy Price, OL, Ohio State
Letting reliable starters at guard and tackle walk in free agency last offseason in favor of in-house replacements backfired on the Bengals. Rather than adding yet another offensive tackle prospect that isn’t a lock, Cincinnati opts for an interior lineman that all but is in the rugged center-guard Price.

13 | Washington Redskins — Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Having settled their quarterback situation for the near term, the Redskins should look to address their deficiencies on defense. Coming into the league with the upside of a franchise defender, Edmunds offers the size, speed, strength, and length to play at the line, on the edge, and off the ball.

14 | Green Bay Packers — Sam Hubbard, RSH, Ohio State
The Green Bay defense was exposed when Aaron Rodgers was sidelined by injury. DC Dom Capers and members of his staff have since been sent packing, and personnel changes are sure to follow. One such move could be the addition of a ready-made edge defender—which they would get in the high-motor technician Hubbard.

15 | Arizona Cardinals — Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Cardinals are in the quarterback market, although it’s possible Carson Palmer could have staved off retirement had he not spent so much time being scraped off the turf. His successor will have a better chance of staying upright with a polished protector like McGlinchey up front.

16 | Baltimore Ravens — Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Offense has never been the hallmark of the Ravens, and never more apparent than this past season. While an influx of talent at the skill positions is a must, adding a big, bookend tackle like Brown opposite Ronnie Stanley could also go a long way toward bringing Baltimore back to prominence.

17 | Los Angeles Chargers — Derwin James, S, Florida State
The Chargers nearly made an appearance in the postseason after an abysmal start, thanks in large part to an improved defense masterminded by Gus Bradley. Inserting an elite talent and chess piece like James into his scheme would only help the unit continue to trend upward.

18 | Seattle Seahawks — Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
Seattle remains one of the NFL’s premier franchises, but won’t be for long if they have to continue eschewing their offensive game plan because they can’t run the football and Russell Wilson is running for his life. Drafting a cornerstone lineman in Wynn would be a step in the right direction.

19 | Dallas Cowboys — Vita Vea, DT, Washington
The Cowboys were gashed on the ground in five of their seven losses this past season. Instead of rotating a collection of undrafted nose tackles by committee, how about giving Rod Marinelli a people-moving mastodon of a one-technique in Vea to eat up space, collapse the pocket, and shield Sean Lee from blockers?

20 | Detroit Lions — Marcus Davenport, RSH, UTSA
New head coach Matt Patricia inherits a Detroit defense that is likely to lose its top sack artist, and with no real replacement on the roster, pass rusher is a necessity. Davenport is raw as a rare steak, but has ideal measurables, incredible tools to work with, and a wealth of potential.

21 | Buffalo Bills — Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
22 | Buffalo Bills — Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
The Bills circled the wagons to make a fairy-tale return to the postseason after a lengthy absence, but the whole was far greater than the sum of its parts. With upgrades needed on both sides of the ball, and consecutive first-round picks, they go where the value is at this stage—defense. First, they tackle the front-seven with a disruptive three-technique penetrator in Hurst, then immediately follow last year’s selection of Tre’Davious White with another first-round cornerback in the ball-hawking Jackson.

23 | Los Angeles Rams — Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
The Rams were an unexpected powerhouse in 2017, riding a high-octane offense and a strong defense to the NFC West division title. But, a repeat performance will require a reload in the secondary. Hughes plays tight coverage inside and outside, and his aggressive style would mesh nicely with LA’s attacking front.

24 | Carolina Panthers — Connor Williams, OT, Texas
Offensive line seems to be a constant need for Carolina. Former first-rounder Matt Kalil wasn’t the solution at left tackle the Panthers expected when signing him to a big free agent contract in 2017, so they roll the dice on Williams, hoping he can return to the form of his ultra-promising sophomore campaign.

25 | Tennessee Titans — Harold Landry, RSH, Boston College
Tennessee finished in the top five with 43 total team sacks, but that production could quickly level off with aging rushers on the edges and a lack of capable depth. Hampered by injury, Landry’s production and draft stock dipped as a senior, but he has the tools to terrorize the quarterback when healthy.

26 | Atlanta Falcons — Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
After renting Dontari Poe for a season to anchor the front line of their fast, physical defense, the Falcons could invest in a more long-term solution with the selection of the powerful, athletic Payne, who showed flashes of dominance in the College Football Playoff.

27 | New Orleans Saints — Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The Saints made significant strides on defense in 2017 following a string of ugly seasons, but their serviceable linebacker corps doesn’t quite inspire flashbacks of the Dome Patrol. Marching Evans, a big hitter and tone setter, into the Big Easy would help change that tune.

28 | Pittsburgh Steelers — Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
The loss of defensive leader and playmaker Ryan Shazier to a serious spinal injury left a major void in the Pittsburgh defense. Harrison wouldn’t be a direct replacement, but he could shoulder a lion’s share of the sideline-to-sideline load, lining up in the box and as a hybrid linebacker on passing downs.

29 | Jacksonville Jaguars — Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
Jacksonville’s seasons-long rebuild finally paid dividends with a trip to the AFC Championship game. With a loaded defense, they can take their pick of offensive talent. A draft board riser, Hernandez is a big, burly bruiser who can step in immediately to bulldoze defenders for the Jags’ smash-mouth attack.

30 | Minnesota Vikings — James Daniels, OL, Iowa
Likely to return or pursue a veteran free agent, the Vikings are probably content at quarterback, but they’ll need to shore up the interior line to keep the pocket clean. Daniels is a center by trade, but can also work in at guard depending on the best fit with the similarly versatile Pat Elflein.

31 | New England Patriots — Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
In recent years, the Patriot Way has meant leaning on the arm of Tom Brady and rolling with a faction of backs filling very specific roles. But, Bill Belichick likes to switch up the formula every so often. Bringing in a bell cow back like Guice would be an intriguing way to strengthen their league-leading offense.

32 | Philadelphia Eagles — Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
The Eagles have the rare luxury of fielding a complete, championship-winning squad that will see little turnover as they look to defend. But, without a second or third-round pick, they’ll need to grab a player they like early while they can. In this case, that means reaching for Jefferson, who would come into the right scheme and situation to maximize his sheer physical talent as he refines his game.

Jason Pruett