Wednesday marks six days to the 2017 NFL Draft Combine, and preparations for the draft are about to hit full speed. Fans everywhere will begin to have a much better understanding of the names worthy of first round consideration - targeting a few specifically to land with their favorite teams.
For those in Cowboys Nation that have been studying this draft since the end of the 2016 season, a few names have already been circulating, mainly because of their position. It is a well-known story line that the Dallas Cowboys need to improve their pass rush heading into 2017 - doing so in the first round of the Draft would only make sense.
Specifically, you've likely seen Auburn EDGE Carl Lawson and UCLA EDGE Takk McKinley mocked to America's Team so far. In my first Pre-Combine mock draft over at Slant Sports, I had a hard time getting both talented defensive ends out of the top 20. The 2017 NFL Draft is loaded with talented pass rushers, but it is equally stacked with teams in need of their services (read: all of them) in prime position to grab some of the elite talents there.
So, will the days of seeing Carl Lawson and Takk McKinley mocked to the Cowboys be short-lived after the upcoming 2017 NFL Combine? The answer depends on a lot of factors.
2017 NFL Draft Combine: EDGE Carl Lawson - Auburn
While it is not the part of the NFL Combine that makes it onto television for draft nuts to admire on NFL Network, the medical evaluations are the most important part of this pre-draft process. Every year, talented players will slide down team's draft boards because of injury concerns discovered at the NFL Draft Combine - while others will get great news and rise.
This is going to be the case for Auburn's Carl Lawson, who was a stud on the field in the SEC as a freshmen in 2013 and Senior in 2016. Missing 2014 and most of 2015 with a shoulder injury though, Lawson is going to need to have to clear the Combine with no medical red flags.
Dominating the on-field drills shouldn't be much of a problem for Carl Lawson, who's tape also speaks for itself when it comes to being the type of disruptive RDE that every team covets.
For the Cowboys, regardless of what happens with Lawson at the Combine, there are a few scenarios to be weary of when it comes to hoping he's around at the bottom of the first round. In a recent example, Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson entered the 2016 NFL Draft with a shoulder concern - still landing in the top 20 at 19 overall to the Buffalo Bills.
An even steeper slide for Carl Lawson would not only mean that more and more teams are legitimately concerned about the injury potential, but that the Cowboys may not be able to afford adding another player like this to their defensive line. Availability is the greatest asset any NFL player can have, and even when the entirety of the Cowboys defensive line is on hand for Rod Marinelli their game day production is lacking.
Lingering concerns with linemen like DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford has made the need for the Cowboys to not only hit on a pro-ready pass rusher a dire one, but should potentially narrow this search to include prospects guaranteed to see the field and get to work.
You're going to be hearing plenty of talk about Carl Lawson in this 2017 NFL Draft over the coming weeks, with less and less of them potentially involving him landing with the silver and blue.
2017 NFL Draft Combine: EDGE Takk McKinley - UCLA
The NFL Draft is a unique thing. 32 teams sit through seven rounds in order to pick college athletes, kids relative to most, who are to come in and have an impact on their franchise. Sometimes, that impact is expected immediately. Other times, players are given the proper time to grow.
Just one pick separated Takk McKinley from coming off of my board after Carl Lawson in this first mock draft. The rawer prospect of the two, no one area of the NFL Draft Combine will be more important than the other for McKiney.
Instead, this incredibly explosive UCLA prospect will have a chance to not only clear all medicals but turn even more heads with his on-field workouts and measurements. Already known as a high-ceiling EDGE talent to many draft analysts, McKinley's Combine data will allow him to be compared to current defensive ends in the NFL.
Inside The Star Staff Writer Kevin Brady (a fellow Slant Sports draft scout as well) even mentioned in the above scouting report on Takk McKinley that the potential for him to fly up draft boards has been there all along:
Right now, Takk is projected to go in the late first round, most likely to the Dallas Cowboys or Pittsburgh Steelers. But I have a feeling that as this draft process moves along, Takk’s stock will rise greatly as he tests well, and he will be considered as a top 20 pick in the draft.
I'll personally be interested to see McKinley in short-range speed drills on the field from Indianapolis, and will also be keeping an eye on the final numbers for his height, weight, and arm length.
If all of these variables come in better than expected for Takk McKinley, it is a long shot that the Dallas Cowboys can sit home with the 28th overall pick and land this athletic stud. Even just on the assumption that McKinley will be fine through medical evaluations and interview well with teams, it is not unrealistic at all to expect any team drafting in the top 15 to fall in love with his upside and pull the trigger.
What do Cowboys fans have to be excited about at the 2017 NFL Combine?
While this is a question that we'll address in greater detail as the Combine gets closer, a final look at my Pre-Combine mock draft shows that Missouri's Charles Harris - another intriguing EDGE prospect - lands in Dallas.
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If you are set on the Cowboys using their first round pick this year on a pass rusher, there is going to still be talent available for them to do so at 28. Cowboys Nation should get excited about how players like Harris actually test out, along with Derek Rivers, Hasson Reddick, and other somewhat unpolished EDGE prospects with all of the traits to produce in the NFL - starting on the field at the 2017 Scouting Combine.
Cowboys Draft: Looking at West Virginia WR David Sills
Although the Dallas Cowboys won't be on the clock in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, they essentially invested their first pick in Amari Cooper. However, wide receiver remains a need for the team, specially with Cole Beasley heading for free agency. Out of West Virginia, Wide Receiver David Sills is an interesting potential target for Dallas. A quarterback-turned-wide-receiver story, Sills is one of those guys who constantly shows up when you watch his football team play. That's what you want in a receiver.
Let's dive in.
During his time playing for the West Virginia Mountaineers, David Sills was a scoring machine. He scored 35 career touchdowns (15 in 2018, 18 in 2017) and caught over 980 yards in each of his two seasons as a starter. The Big 12 is known for its lack of good defensive backs, which will naturally raise skepticism when discussing how good Sills really is but it shouldn't.
Sills is 6-foot-4 and weighs 210 pounds. His frame is constantly criticized but thanks to his size and his excellent ability to high point the football that shouldn't be an issue. He's one of the best in this draft class when it comes to 50-50 jump balls. He shines the most as a vertical threat, including over the middle of the field, which should be an interesting trait for the Dallas Cowboys. Throughout his career, he was almost indefensible when given the opportunity at deep over the shoulder passes.
Although he doesn't have the best acceleration, Sills' build-up speed can be lethal for opposing defensive backs. Paired with this is his skill to adjust for deep balls, slowing down when necessary to take on defenders.
What I personally like the most about Sills is his play in goal line situations. Whether it's playing inside on a slant or running a fade route, the Mountaineer wide receiver surely made a lot of opposing defenses suffer. Thanks to his background as a quarterback, his understanding of defensive coverages is pretty solid. He manages to find the defense's soft spots and get open constantly.
But why isn't he valued as a top prospect on this year's NFL Draft? Well, unfortunately, there are a few reasons for this.
First off, David Sills had some problems in the "drops" department. He has plenty of body catches that aren't necessary. When balls weren't on target, he often didn't make the play despite counting with a pretty good catch radius. He can greatly improve in his route running abilities and he was challenged by true press cornerbacks, struggling to release early.
For the Dallas Cowboys, Sills could be a solid contributor as a vertical threat and in the red-zone, where the offense struggled so much last season. With the class being quite loaded at wide receiver this year, Sills should be a realistic target even in the fourth round.
Cowboys Receive 4th-Round Compensatory Pick in 2019 NFL Draft
The Dallas Cowboys will receive an extra fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft after the league awarded compensatory picks today.
The pick will be 136th overall, which is one spot below were Dallas drafted Dak Prescott in 2016.
And in other news... NFL awarded compensatory draft picks today - Patriots and Rams each received two third-round picks. The full list, per sources:
We have Anthony Hitchens to thank for this extra pick. The former Cowboys linebacker signed a five-year, $45 million deal with the Chiefs last offseason which far surpassed any of the deal that Dallas made with their own free agent acquisitions.
Only free agents whose contracts expired, not those released in the offseason by their previous team, count towards the compensatory pick formula. Therefore, Allen Hurns' deal was not a mitigating factor.
As mentioned already, the fourth round of the NFL Draft recently gave Dallas its starting quarterback. Other notable fourth-round picks in the modern era have been Hitchens, Doug Free, Marion Barber, and Chris Canty.
Last year, Dallas drafted DE Dorance Armstrong and TE Dalton Schultz with fourth-round picks.
Already short their first and sixth-round picks this year from previous trades, the Cowboys are certainly happy to have this extra selection for April's draft.
7-Round Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft: Pre-Combine Edition
I thought it would be a good idea to get out another 7-round Dallas Cowboys mock draft before the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine kicks off next week. Not only will the Combine shakeup a lot of people's big boards and draft rankings, but it will also be the first opportunity a lot of us will get to see some of these players firsthand.
For this Cowboys mock draft I used Matt Miller's big board on Fanspeak.com. I don't necessarily agree with where he has some of these players ranked right now, but that's part of the fun of doing these kind of exercises. With that said, he is still one of my favorite draft analysts.
Without further ado, here is my Pre-Combine 7-round Dallas Cowboys mock draft.
TE, Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M (2nd-round)
*189th on Matt Miller's Big Board
First off, I think Matt Miller has Jace Sternberger ranked way too low on his Big Board. I don't think he will make it out of the second round and may not even be available for the Dallas Cowboys when they are on the clock with the 58th overall pick. But if he is, I'm writing his name down on the draft card and not looking back.
The Cowboys have made it pretty clear they want to upgrade their TE position, but in order to do that they're going to have to draft one pretty early in my opinion. Sternberger may be a one-year wonder at Texas A&M, but he is exactly what Quarterback Dak Prescott needs in the passing game. He would change the dynamic of this whole offense.
At 6'4", 250 pounds, Sternberger has the size the Cowboys look for in their starting tight ends. His biggest asset right now is his natural receiving ability and how dangerous he is after the catch. He runs and moves like a big receiver. He's decent as an in-line blocker as well, but it's an area of his game that is still improving.
OT, Bobby Evans, Oklahoma (3rd-round)
*89th on Matt Miller's Big Board
It's a little surprising it hasn't been brought up more this offseason, but with Tyron Smith's continued back problems and La'el Collins entering a contract year, the Dallas Cowboys could be looking into drafting another offensive tackle. I know it may be an unpopular pick in the third-round, but I couldn't pass up on Bobby Evans.
At 6'5", 300 pounds, Bobby Evans has the prototypical size teams look for in their starting offensive tackles. He is a smooth athletically gifted lineman who does his best work in the running game. He projects best in a zone blocking scheme where he can use his athleticism to his advantage. He will struggle a little bit in pass protection until he cleans up his hand technique.
With the Cowboys he could compete with La'el Collins for the starting RT position as a rookie, but at the worst be the teams swing tackle in 2019. Since he has the ability to play either tackle position, he would make a good insurance policy if Tyron Smith has to miss time again because of his back issues. Again it may be an unpopular pick, but a necessary one.
OLB, Christian Miller, Alabama (4th-round)
*161st on Matt Miller's Big Board
With the Dallas Cowboys needing more depth at linebacker and defensive end, I decided to select Christian Miller with their first fourth-round draft pick. He unfortunately hasn't been able to showcase his skill set on a regular basis due to being buried on the depth chart at Alabama and some unfortunate injuries, but he has immense potential.
I think a lot of teams will look to draft him as a outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but I really like the variety of roles he could play in the Cowboys 4-3 defensive scheme. I think he could replace Demian Wilson as their strong side linebacker, provide depth at defensive end, and be a special-teams demon as a rookie.
The Cowboys of course will have to be comfortable with his injury history, but in the fourth-round I don't think that would be a problem. If he can stay healthy he has Pro Bowl potential as a pass rusher because of his size (6'4", 247), athleticism and fluidity to bend and torque his body. This might be my favorite pick in this Cowboys mock draft.
DT, Daylon Mack, Texas A&M (4th-round comp pick)
*178th on Matt Miller's Big Board
The Dallas Cowboys could definitely use some more defensive tackle help, especially after all but washing their hands of David Irving. They currently just have Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins on the DT depth chart, unless you want to count Tyrone Crawford. That's why I returned to Texas A&M for the second time in this Cowboys mock draft and selected Daylon Mack.
Daylon Mack is a former five-star recruit who never really lived up to his billing at Texas A&M. Don't let that fool you though, he has the talent to earn a starting job with the Cowboys as a rookie at either the one or three-technique. He is the kind of prospect Rod Marinelli would love to work with.
At 6'1", 327 pounds, Mack would provide some much-needed beef to the Cowboys defensive front. He has surprising athletic ability for his size and has a devastating first step to be the kind of disruptive DT Marinelli prefers along his DL. I really love his violent hands and raw athletic ability, and I believe he could be an absolute steal in the fourth-round even though Matt Miller has him ranked much lower.
WR, Jalen Hurd, Baylor (5th-round)
*159th on Matt Miller's Big Board
Outside of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, the wide receiver position in Dallas is pretty dreadful. There are some young WRs who show some promise, but they still need more depth regardless. That's why I decided to take Jalen Hurd in the fifth-round in this Cowboys mock draft. He is one of the more intriguing prospects in the entire 2019 draft class.
The most intriguing aspect of Hurd's game is his background as a running back. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and was once considered a top RB prospect during his time in Tennessee before deciding to transfer to Baylor in order to switch to wide receiver.
At 6'4", 227 pounds, he has the prototypical size teams look for in a WR prospect. He reminds me a little bit of Cordarrelle Patterson, but is much more natural catching the ball. His route running is a little raw, but he has the ability to play in the slot or on the outside, something he did at Baylor. I think he could help replace some of Cole Beasley's lost production.
RB, Bruce Anderson, North Dakota State (7th-round)
* 206th on Matt Miller's Big Board
I reached a little bit with this pick, but if Bruce Anderson is available this late in the draft I would do everything within my power to bring him aboard if I was the Dallas Cowboys. I really think he could be the lightning to Ezekiel Elliott's thunder in the Cowboys backfield. I personally have him in the 3rd-5th round range, but can understand why he's ranked so low on Miller's Big Board right now.
Unfortunately, the draft process hasn't been very kind to Bruce Anderson so far. He was originally expected to open a lot of eyes in Mobile at this year's Senior Bowl, but unfortunately sustained an injury that kept him from competing. To make matters worse, he was a surprise snub at the Scouting Combine, meaning he only has private workouts and his Pro Day to impress scouts.
I for one am a big fan of Anderson's though. I believe he is exactly the kind of RB the Cowboys need behind Zeke. I personally see a poor man's Alvin Kamara when I watched his game film because of the different ways he can be utilized as both a runner and receiver. But, he can also contribute on special teams as a return specialist.
How do you feel about this 7-round Dallas Cowboys mock draft?
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