Draft season is my favorite time of the year for a countless amount of reasons. Well before the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, draft scouts everywhere have been grinding college football film to rank the prospects available in this 2018 NFL Draft class. Each year, this pool of talent has the chance to define the future of the league and its franchises - from perennial losers to proud organizations looking to sustain success.
The Dallas Cowboys are currently somewhere in the middle of these two points, a 9-7 team with a real chance to take significant strides towards contending in the NFC East with a great draft.
As our staff here at Inside The Star continues to profile the draft prospects that we feel would constitute a "great draft", I also want to begin looking at weekly mock drafts to measure where other members of the media are on the Cowboys' needs.
Fully into offseason mode now, here are a few possibilities for the Cowboys with the 19th overall pick.
Bleacher Report: Maurice Hurst, DT - Michigan
The Dallas Cowboys drafting another defensive lineman out of Michigan is a hypothetical pick that won't be going away anytime soon. Staff Writer Kevin Brady already scouted how Hurst would fit the Dallas Cowboys for us here.
In Matt Miller's own words from this mock draft, here is how he describes Maurice Hurst:
"Hurst is fantastic at generating pressure from the middle of the defensive line with his quickness and leverage."
I have yet to come around on Maurice Hurst as the dominant DT prospect that most see him as right now. Currently in the second round on my 2018 NFL Draft Board, there is no denying that Hurst's talents would fill a pretty obvious need in Dallas.
The Cowboys appear set on having Maliek Collins move forward playing the 1T position, which leaves restricted free agent David Irving as the primary 3T.
When he is on the field, Irving is one of the most disruptive forces in the entire league from the interior. Playing in a rotation with a physical beast like Hurst would only help the entire Cowboys defensive line though, as the Michigan product flashes rather consistently as a tough-to-move run defender with the power and burst to get after quarterbacks.
I believe the Cowboys can likely get better value out of the 19th overall pick, but Maurice Hurst would be a nice addition.
Wide receiver is another position that will likely be featured prominently in every mock draft for the Cowboys. Add in the local appeal for Sutton joining the Cowboys by way of SMU, and this fit appears to make a lot of sense.
Every time I watch a new WR in this 2018 draft class, I come away with two realizations:
- They are a better football player than Courtland Sutton.
- The depth of this WR class should steer the Cowboys away from drafting one in the first round.
Shockingly, the Cowboys like to draft players that will see the field a ton as rookies in the first round. With Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams already under contract for 2018, it would be difficult for this team to justify a WR with the 19th overall pick - despite their need at the position.
With better options available deeper in this draft, Courtland Sutton is exactly the target the Cowboys don't need to make their offense more "Dak-friendly". Relying on his size and athleticism to win in the air, Sutton does little to fill the Cowboys' need for a pass catcher that can separate from coverage while beating defenses over the top.
If I'm the Dallas Cowboys, Sutton is a player I'm letting any other team be happy about drafting come April.
CBS Sports: Rashaan Evans, LB - Alabama
The Eagles' Super Bowl championship was salt in the wounds of Cowboys Nation - especially considering the nature of how Philadelphia overcome key injuries to prevail as champions.
The Cowboys' failure to do exactly what the Eagles did this season is the reason they missed the playoffs, and one of their most noticeable absences was LB Sean Lee. Not getting any younger (or healthier), the Cowboys are looking ahead to Jaylon Smith leading the way at linebacker for a long time.
Addressing the depth of this front seven is something the Cowboys must do though, especially with LB Anthony Hitchens set to hit free agency.
"Evans may not have the speed to be an All-Pro type in the NFL, yet his play-recognition skills are sharp, and he's everywhere on runs between the tackles."
There are a lot of things I hate about this pick at 19th overall for the Cowboys. Alabama's defense is known for producing top-end talent in the NFL, but Rashaan Evans is much closer to a depth player at the next level than he is superstar.
So long as Sean Lee projects to be the Cowboys' starting WILL LB in 2018, finding a spot for a rookie linebacker to play alongside Lee and Smith is difficult. While Evans (who does project best as a WILL) could use a solid starter playing ahead of him to start his NFL career, he is simply not worth a top 20 pick in this draft.
Evans is a sure tackler that diagnoses plays hastily, but lacks some of the athletic traits needed to finish as many plays as you'd like a first round pick to make. Out of the three mocked draft picks featured here, Rashaan Evans at #19 would easily be the most disappointing outcome for the Cowboys.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
The Cowboys will do their best to not enter the 2018 NFL Draft with any glaring holes in the roster. Viewed nationally as a talented team in need of depth in some important areas, mock drafts gifting the Cowboys a new DT, DE, LB, or WR in the first round will be a staple of this draft season.
Early on in the process, this draft class is best described as one without a definitive five or ten best players - instead featuring a deep pool or ready-made starters that will help a lot of teams next season.
This is music to the Dallas Cowboys' ears, not only for the first round but later on in the draft as well.
DT Maurice Hurst, WR Courtland Sutton, and LB Rashaan Evans can all help this team as rookies. The value the Cowboys get out of each prospect may vary wildly, but this initial look at national Cowboys' mock drafts remains a helpful resource in the tedious process that is year-to-year roster building in the NFL.
Cowboys Draft Target: Nebraska RB Devine Ozigbo
NAME: Devine Ozigbo
POSITION: Running Back
CONFERENCE: Big Ten
JERSEY: No. 22
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
By the end of the season, Ozigbo had rushed for 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games. He became Nebraska's first 1,000-yard rusher since Ameer Abdullah in 2014. He also ended with an average of 6.98 yards per carry, which put him at fourth in the Big Ten among players with at least 100 carries.
Devine Ozigbo looks the part of a prototypical NFL running back. He has a well muscled/thick frame, with a strong lower half. He is a physical runner capable of playing in a power/gap or zone blocking scheme, but probably projects best as a zone runner. Has the skill set to be a three-down player, with starting potential. Low tread on the tires, only 419 career carries at Nebraska.
Ozigbo runs with good patients on film, "slow to, fast through", which gives his lineman time to secure their blocks. Runs with good power and leg drive, but also has nimble feet with the elite ankle flexion that allows him to make quick lateral cuts to evade defenders. Finisher in short yardage situations. Shows good vision. Waits for defenders to commit to their run fits before hitting the cutback lane. Has surprising burst and elusiveness for a RB his size.
Can be a threat in the passing game both out of the backfield and split out wide. Has shown the ability to run basic route stems when split out wide. Is a solid hands catcher and has shown he can catch passes thrown outside his frame. Quickly goes from receiver to runner and is surprisingly elusive in the open field. His size helps him in pass protection. He has a strong punch and long arms to keep defenders at bay, but also understands how to absorb contact.
One-year wonder? The lack of production at Nebraska might be the biggest concern about Devine Ozigbo as a running back prospect. He had to finally transform his body in 2018 to get on the field, but found success once that happened. Can he maintain that kind of discipline in the NFL? There are also concerns about his long speed.
As a runner, Ozigbo may be only a zone runner in the NFL. Might be scheme dependent. There are times on film where he struggles with his vision, especially when there are multiple offensive lineman pulling. Will also struggle with his reads at time. Better when his reads are clearly defined pre-snap. Takes time to hit top speed and it looks lackadaisical at times. Might take time to adjust to the speed of the game at the next level.
In the passing game he has struggled with passes thrown at a high velocity. Has double caught, bubbled, and dropped a number of high velocity passes. This could be an issue, because he doesn't have the softest hands to begin with. Needs to clean up his technique in pass protection. Will telegraph cut blocks, allowing defenders to easily avoid and pressure the quarterback. Could stand to become a better route runner to be more of a factor when split out wide as a receiver.
Devine Ozigbo is reportedly one of the Dallas Cowboys 30 pre-draft visitors, suggesting the former Cornhuskers running back is already on their radar. He would immediately become the RB2 behind Ezekiel Elliott as a rookie and give the Cowboys a formidable one-two punch to wear down opposing defenses. He possesses an intriguing skill set, but isn't the change of pace/got back many have wanted to complement Zeke in the running game.
Ozigbo is a physical runner with a surprisingly nimble feet and flexibility for a RB his size. At Nebraska, he was at his best one running inside zone plays, which just so happens to be a staple in the Cowboys zone blocking scheme. He is also a threat as a receiver out of the backfield and a solid pass protector. Overall, he has a three-down back and someone who could help lighten the load on Zeke's shoulders. He could be a steal for the Cowboys on Day 3, which is where he's projected to be drafted.
Cowboys Mock Draft: 2 Different Simulators, 2 Different Outcomes
The Dallas Cowboys have done an outstanding job of filling holes with some cost-effective free agents so far in free agency, which should allow them two approach the 2019 NFL Draft without any glaring "needs". This should free them up to take the best player available if they so choose, but they still have to keep the future in mind as well. After all, there are several players on a one-year deal or entering the last year of their contracts.
For this 7-round Dallas Cowboys mock draft exercise I decided to use the mock draft simulators for Draft Network and Fanspeak. I was curious to see the difference, if any, between the two. I have to say, even though I used two different draft simulators, I was pretty happy with the way things turned out.
Let's take a look…
|Rd 2 (58)||DE, Christian Miller||DE, Christian Miller|
|Rd 3 (90)||DT, Trysten Hill||S, Amani, Hooker|
|Rd 4 (128)||OT, Bobby Evans||TE, Kahale Warring|
|Rd 4 (136)||S, Marquise Blair||RB, Rodney Anderson|
|Rd 5 (165)||WR, Jalen Hurd||DT, Michael Dogbe|
|Rd 7 (241)||RB, James Williams||WR, Cody Thompson|
Even though I used two different draft simulators, you can clearly see the positions I was targeting for the Dallas Cowboys. I think each one of these players I selected can challenge for a starting job in 2019, but at the worst can be solid depth this year and then become starters in 2020.
Let's dive into this a little deeper so I can tell you why a selected each one of these players…
2nd-round (58th overall)
Christian Miller is the only player I drafted in both mock drafts for the Dallas Cowboys. He is one of my "pet cats" this year and someone who I believe fits the criteria the Cowboys look for in their defensive ends. I believe he could challenge to be a starter as a rookie, but at worst would be a really good rotational piece with starting potential down the road.
3rd-round (90th overall)
Trysten Hill is a penetrating DT who could challenge Maliek Collins to become the starting three-technique as a rookie, but at the very least be a really good rotational piece with starting potential.
Amani Hooker is someone who I believe could start next to Xavier Woods as a rookie, even after the Dallas Cowboys added George Iloka to the mix.
4th-round (128th overall)
Bobby Evans has the ability to play the left or right tackle position in the NFL and could immediately challenge La'el Collins at RT. At worst, he would be Collins' replacement in 2020.
Sitting behind Jason Witten and learning for a season would be ideal for Kahale Warring, because he does have the potential to become the Dallas Cowboys TE1 in 2020 despite his lack of college production.
4th-round (136th overall)
Marquise Blair is an underrated safety in the 2019 draft class and someone who would also pair nicely with Xavier Woods. He played mostly strong safety at Utah, but as the ability to be a factor in coverage as well.
Rodney Anderson would immediately step in and become Ezekiel Elliott's backup as a rookie. He is an upgrade over Rod Smith and has starting potential if he can stay healthy.
5th-round (165th overall)
Despite signing Randall Cobb, the Dallas Cowboys could use a slot receiver for the future. I personally really like Jalen Hurd as a "big slot". He gives the Cowboys some size at the WR position and a big target for Dak Prescott to throw to in the slot.
Michael Dogbe is another potential three-technique with starting potential for the Cowboys. He'd likely be a rotational player as a rookie, but could take over for Maliek Collins in 2020.
7th-round (254th overall)
James Williams would bring an intriguing skill set to the Dallas Cowboys as Zeke's backup running back. He is arguably the best receiving RB in the entire draft out of the backfield and when split out wide like a WR.
Cody Thompson reminds me of LA Rams WR Cooper Kupp and would play a similar role with the Cowboys. He needs to fine-tune his route running, but I think he can become their future slot receiver.
Cowboys Draft: Evaluating the Need for a Tight End
Tight end has become a very intriguing position in Dallas. For the first time in 15 years, the Cowboys went through a season without Jason Witten lining up with the offense in 2018. Instead, Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz took over and didn't contribute much to a struggling offense. They both had a few flashes here and there, but TE production wasn't really special for the Cowboys last season. Now, Witten is back from retirement and he'll work with the younger guys to upgrade the offense.
However, tight end still feels like a team need at this point. Jason Witten will be 37 years old when the season begins. His speed was a problem during the last years of his career and that problem will likely show on the field now that he's back. The Cowboys made a good decision bringing him back, but he's clearly not a long-term answer.
It seems like Witten will get the starts, but don't expect Blake Jarwin to have no say on who's the most important TE on the team. Jarwin didn't have the best stats in 2018 but, how could he? There were only three games last season in which he was targeted more than three times. In those games, he had 229 yards, including a three touchdown performance versus the New York Giants (when he was targeted eight times).
With Kellen Moore taking over as the offensive coordinator, tight ends might be more involved on the Cowboys offense than in previous years. If that's the case, the Cowboys will have Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz on the roster. All three of these guys will be able to contribute. Schultz is the one who's still unproven, but he did a decent job as a rookie both as a blocker and as a receiver on the rare occasions a ball was thrown his way.
We talk about drafting a tight end for the future when the Cowboys might see their future in Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. These two along with Jason Witten are virtual locks to make the roster. The Cowboys would need to carry four tight ends for it to make sense to draft one in the first place.
Fortunately, the Cowboys have done something at pretty much every position of need this offseason, giving them flexibility to take a "best player available" in April. I truly won't be surprised if the front office doesn't prioritize the need for a young TE. If they do, let's hope they get a very good one.
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