In the weeks leading up to the draft, I am writing a five-round mock draft series focusing on one of the most underrated aspects of each draft: draft sequencing.
Draft sequencing, in its simplest form, is looking at a team's needs and the draft prospects at those positions. Then projecting the depth of those positions by predicting in which round(s) provide the most value.
If you did not read my team needs by tiers, it's not necessary, but it is a helpful precursor to this series.
My goal with each installation of the series is not to necessarily make the best mock possible.
Instead, I want to figure out what positions Dallas should target early, while also seeing what positions I feel comfortable with them waiting on.
I have two rules for this series:
- I cannot draft a position in the same round twice (ie, if I take a round one running back in 1.0, I cannot select a running back in round one in any subsequent draft).
- No trades. Trades are too difficult to predict and the simulators often make them too easy or too hard. Plus, I want consistency in the draft slot, so the value of players at different positions is consistent.
For each pick, don't focus on the player drafted, but more so on the position.
I will have a few names with each pick that can be alternative players who play the same or similar position projected in the Cowboys range in that round.
Not all alternates listed were available but could be, come draft day.
I will try to avoid players who are available well after their consensus draft projection.
To help with that, I am using the consensus big board from NFL Mock Draft Database.
They combine over 100 big boards, 1,000 mock drafts, and 800 team-based mocks to create their big board. When you see a number in parentheses, that is where they are ranked on there.
For this series, I am using PFF's mock draft simulator.
So without further ado, here is mock draft 1.0.
Round 1 – RB Bijan Robinson (10), Texas
Alternative options at the same/similar position: RB Jahmyr Gibbs (40), Alabama
For the record, I don't think Bijan Robinson makes it to 26. If he is there, I wouldn't hate this pick, but I don't like drafting running backs in round one.
If you read my team-needs article, I mentioned the supply/demand issue of running backs.
To summarize, there are simply a lot of quality running backs in the NFL, and more coming each draft.
Additionally, the value even a top back provides versus an average starter is not as impactful as once believed.
Without going into the analytical rabbit hole, there are two ways the NFL decision-makers are telling us this.
- One is the contracts free-agent running backs are being given over the last few years.
- The second is how often running backs are drafted early.
From 2000 to 2010 (11 drafts), there were 35 running backs (3.18/year) drafted in round one. Each of those 11 drafts included multiple first-rounders as well.
From the 2011 to 2022 draft (12 drafts), there have been 16 running backs (1.33/year) drafted in the first round.
In those 12 drafts, multiple running backs have been selected in round one only five times.
Back to Bijan Robinson.
He is largely considered a top-10 prospect, so he seems both safe and a steal at 26. I don't have nearly the issue picking a running back at 26 versus in the top 10.
Overall, I wouldn't hate this selection.
I do believe when it comes to draft sequencing, picking a running back in round one makes the rest of the draft more difficult.
Round 2 – DT Gervon Dexter Sr. (70), Florida
Alternative players at a similar/same position: DT Siaki Ika (60), Baylor; DT Keeanu Benton (65), Wisconsin; DT/DE Adetomiwa (Tomi) Adebawore (42), Northwestern; DT/DE Tuli Tuipulotu (57), USC.
If you don't like Gervon Dexter Sr., again, don't focus on the name, but on the position and other players who might be there at 58 when Dallas picks.
We have a decent list of players here that do or can play on the interior defensive line. Though ranked the lowest of the alternates, I really wanted Keeanu Benton here.
Unfortunately (like I suspect in the real draft), he was not available. Same goes for Adetomiwa Adebawore and Tuli Tuipulotu.
Dallas needs a big run-stuffing nose tackle behind Jonathan Hankins more so than a smaller three-technique. At 6'6″, and 310 pounds, Dexter would provide just that.
Plus, he has an elite athletic profile with a Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.70 to hopefully develop more as a rusher.
Kent Lee Platte developed RAS, which is a measurement from zero (poor athlete) to 10 (great athlete) that uses a player's NFL Combine measurables (height, weight, wingspan, hand size, drill results).
He puts that data into a formula he created to compare players of the same position historically.
The Cowboys met with Dexter at combine, and if anyone can get the most out of a freak athlete on the defensive line, it's Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn.
Round 3 – iol Emil ekiyor jr. (127), Alabama
Alternative players at a similar/same position: iOL Jarrett Patterson (123), Notre Dame; iOL Chandler Zavala (187), NC State; OT Tyler Steen (97), Alabama.
I know we used the consensus board as a guide, but here I ignored rankings.
Emil Ekiyor Jr is a top 100 player for The Athletic's Dane Brugler. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com has him as the 14th-best offensive lineman which includes tackles, guards, and centers.
Similar to Chandler Zavala. Though he's 187 on the consensus, Brugler has him 78th.
I considered Zavala, but he had back surgery in 2021 and dealt with injuries throughout high school according to Brugler so I avoided him.
Interior offensive linemen were a little thin here, but not awful.
The injury to iOL Andrew Vorhees, USC at the combine really hurt the depth of this position in the middle rounds.
Round 4 – WR Jonathan Mingo (115), Ole Miss
Alternative players at a similar/same position: WR Xavier Hutchinson (117), Iowa State; WR Trey Palmer (122), Nebraska; WR Parker Washington (157), Penn State; TE Zach Kuntz (125), Old Dominion; TE Will Mallory (134), Miami (FL).
Full disclosure, I have my doubts Jonathan Mingo lasts to 129, but receivers usually vary from the consensus more so than most positions in the draft.
He is a top 30 visit and fits the size profile (6'2″, 225 pounds) Dallas looks for at wide receiver.
With that said, it does seem like the Cowboys may deviate from their receiver size thresholds if we look at their 30 visits. It appears they are willing to sacrifice size for speed and explosiveness.
Mingo is a great blend of the size they have traditionally liked and the athleticism they are looking for, and he posted a 9.97 RAS.
Though there will be many value options here, if the goal is to upgrade the receiving weapons this year, I'm not confident one will be available at 129 to do that if Mingo is gone.
round 5 – lb Ventrell miller (185), Florida
Alternative players at a similar/same position: LB Ivan Pace Jr (154), Cincinnati; LB Cam Jones (198), Indiana; LB Mohamoud Diabate (190), Utah.
Linebacker is definitely not a strength of this class and the players available late show that.
Cam Jones (who I like a lot) nor Ivan Pace Jr were available. I looked at other positions like cornerback, defensive end, and even quarterback, but wanted to grab a linebacker.
That left me with Ventrell Miller or Mohamoud Diabate.
Zierlein has Miller at LB8, ahead of higher-regarded prospects like DeMarvion Overshown, Dorian Williams, Owen Pappoe, and Noah Sewell, so I went with him.
He hasn't been able to test due to a late-season injury, but athleticism is not considered a strength.
Zierlein did say he has the “mental makeup and special teams potential to find backup work early on.”
The Cowboys have taken homerun swings on athletic linebackers in the fourth and fifth rounds of the past two drafts with Jabril Cox, Damone Clark, and Devin Harper.
Maybe they go swing for contact this year with a smart, experienced linebacker as insurance if some of them don't pan out.
Overall, I'd be ok with this class, but not thrilled. I hated that I didn't pick a corner or pass rusher.
Even though they aren't pressing needs, each position is too much of a premium with expiring contracts on the horizon to ignore.
What I learned about the positions I drafted by round:
- Picking a running back in round one makes rounds two through four tough. Especially when there's a running back or two you like available in seemingly every round after.
- I do like the names at defensive tackle in round two, but unfortunately, the board did not fall my way.
- At interior offensive line, the sixth best player is 75th overall, while the seventh is 123rd. Some of that is the wonky rankings of the consensus board, but a drastic drop off like that could cause teams to reach, potentially leaving little value at 90.
- Mingo would be a great pick in the fourth, but I'm not sure he makes it. With how many top end receivers Dallas has shown interest in, I believe their plans are to draft one earlier than 129.
- Linebacker dries up fairly quickly so unless one is selected earlier, a high-floor, low-ceiling player like Miller is fine. If not, it would be another height/weight/speed dart throw late on day three.