"It is now the post-Witten era in Dallas and unless a tight end on the roster emerges this season, the position could be high on the wish list next offseason. His athleticism makes Fant an appealing up-and-coming prospect."
The event that we have all been waiting for is almost upon us! The 2017 NFL Draft is now just a few weeks away and because of that, I decided it was time for me to put together my first complete first-round mock draft of the year.
I personally like to wait until approximately a month away from the NFL draft to do this. It gives me more time to collect all the information I need, which gives me a much better understanding of not only the prospects themselves, but of teams needs as well.
Continue reading below to see how the first-round of my 2017 mock draft shakes out and why I drafted each prospect for that particular team.
Cleveland still needs to find their franchise quarterback, but there simply isn't a QB worth the #1 pick. Myles Garrett is a difference making DE with All-Pro potential. He is hands-down the best prospect in the 2017 draft class.
The 49ers are rumored to be pretty high on Foster and have already met with him privately. There is however talk that the Carolina Panthers are trying to make a trade for the #2 pick to select LSU's former RB Leonard Fournette. Regardless, Foster is likely the 49ers target whether at 2 or 8.
Chicago's defense ranked 15th in total defense and 27th against the run in 2016. Thomas can help improve those numbers and has the versatility to play outside as a DE or in the interior as a 3-tech DT in the Bear's 4-3 defense.
Jacksonville needs a workhorse RB to improve their poor rushing to attack and take the pressure off of QB Blake Bortles. Fournette checks nearly every box for an NFL RB and will help improve the Jaguars offense from day one.
The Titans ranked 30th in pass defense in 2016 with only 12 interceptions. Lattimore is an instant upgrade and a day one starter on the outside for Tennessee.
Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrest are the current starting safeties for the Jets, but Gilchrest tore his patella tendon in December making him questionable to start the season. Adams is an instant upgrade to the back end of the Jets secondary and has Pro Bowl potential as a rookie.
The Chargers clearly missed Eric Weddle's presence in their secondary in 2016. With Hooker they add the best ball hawking safety in the draft class, fill the void left by Weddle, and instantly improve their secondary after finishing 20th in pass defense last season.
If the Panthers aren't able to work out a trade with the 49ers to move up to draft Leonard Fournette, Cook would make a nice consolation prize. He does have some injury concerns, but he might just fit the Panthers offense better than Fournette because of his receiving ability.
Cincinnati lost both Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler in free agency and need help along the offensive line. Lamp can play anywhere along the offensive line, but is probably going to make his living on the inside as guard.
Buffalo needs more playmakers in the receiving game, especially with Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin leaving via free agency. The Bills have their choice between the top WRs, but Corey Davis is more pro-ready then Mike Williams at this point in their careers.
The New Orleans Saints finished 1st in overall offense in 2016, but 27th in total defense. Any defensive player they draft at this point is likely an upgrade, but Humphrey comes in and instantly upgrades their secondary.
The Browns have started 18 quarterbacks in the last decade, but haven't found anything to stick as of yet. There are rumors that they are in love with Trubisky and could even consider taking him at #1 overall. Getting him at #12 would be ideal, especially after getting Myles Garrett first.
At 37, Carson Palmer is starting to show signs that his age is starting to catch up to him. The Cardinals currently don't have his successor on the roster, which is why Mahomes makes a lot of sense here. Bruce Arians loves to throw the ball down the field and Mahomes has the strongest arm in the 2017 draft class.
The Eagles need to find some offensive weapons for their young QB Carson Wentz, and Mike Williams would instantly step in and be the best WR on the roster.
Indianapolis needs to improve their front seven after finishing 30th in total defense and 19th in sacks in 2016. Allen is arguably the best DT in the draft class, but there are concerns about his long-term future in the NFL due to a arthritic condition in his shoulders.
O.J. Howard is the best all-around tight end in the 2017 draft class and helps the Ravens offense in both the running and passing game as a rookie. He is a mismatch problem as a receiver and an excellent in-line blocker.
The Redskins can use Reddick as a OLB or LB and their 3-4 defensive scheme. He could start off as an OLB while Trent Murphy serves his suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, then move to LB once he returns.
WR John Ross could be a strong consideration here for the Titans, but improving their defense might be of bigger importance. Harris is just starting to scratch his potential, but could turn into a dominant pass rusher with more time and NFL coaching.
Mixon certainly comes with baggage, but his talent is undeniable. The Buccaneers fielded a carousel of running backs in 2016 because of injury and Doug Martin can't be relied upon as their featured back. Tampa Bay has a young talented team and Mixon's addition could take them to the next level.
The Broncos need to improve their offensive line to protect their QB and open up the running game. Bolles would step in as the starting left tackle and add a spark to the unit because of his infectious attitude of nastiness.
Ezekiel Ansah had just two quarterback sacks in 2016 and is entering his contract year. Barnett isn't the flashiest of players, but he would be a day one starter because he knows how to get to the QB.
Njoku may be the second best tight end in this draft class, but it's by a small margin. QB Ryan Tannehill could use another weapon in the receiving game, and Njoku is a mismatch problem for both DBs and LBs.
The Giants really need to improve their offensive line and Robinson has the versatility to play either tackle or guard at the NFL level. This would give the Giants some flexibility with how they put together their starting offensive line for 2017.
The Raiders could use a big physical DT in the middle of the defensive line, especially after giving up 375 yards a game last season. At 6'6", 300, McDowell would step in and instantly be an upgrade in the middle of the Raiders defensive line.
As things stand right now Tom Savage is the Texan starting QB in 2017. Kizer has the intangibles NFL teams look for in their signal callers and shouldn't have a problem stepping in and commanding Bill O'Brien's offense as a rookie.
The Seahawks fielded one of the youngest and most inexperienced offensive lines in the entire NFL in 2016. Although they improved throughout the season, they could definitely use Ramcyzk. He would immediately be an upgrade at LT and protect Russell Wilson's blindside.
There was a noticeable drop off in the Chiefs defense when Derrick Johnson went down with an injury. Cunningham is a very similar player to Johnson and would likely step in is a day one starter.
The Cowboys would probably prefer to go with a pass rusher here, but the cupboard is pretty bare at this point. Conley has a prototypical size for an NFL CB and would it be a day one starter opposite either Anthony Brown or Nolan Carroll.
The Packers biggest weakness in 2016 was their secondary because of the the injuries they had to deal with throughout the year. Peppers has the versatility to play several different positions on defense for the Packers and could be utilized on offense as well.
James Harrison is 38 years old and Jarvis Jones just left through free agency. McKinley may miss the first month of the season while recovering from shoulder surgery, but he fits the mold of a Pittsburgh defensive player.
Vic Beasley has emerged as one of the better pass rushers in the NFL, but the Falcons can use someone playing opposite him to get after the QB. In 2016 they got by with a 37-year-old Dwight Freeney, but Charlton is a bigger/younger prospect who has immense upside.
With the draft pick they received from the New England Patriots for Brandin Cooks, the Saints replace their speedy deep threat with a similar player in John Ross. This is the ultimate win-win for New Orleans. They get another deep threat and avoid having to pay Cooks a big money contract or risk losing him in free agency without any compensation.
I decided to go with a cornerback at 28 for the Dallas Cowboys because nearly all of the defensive ends that I have with a first-round grade where already drafted. I actually like the selection of Gareon Conley, but I'm willing to bet that the majority of you are going to to be disappointed that the Cowboys didn't get a pass rusher in the first round.
Takkarist McKinley was still on the board, but I decided to pass on him. He is likely going to miss the first month of the season because he's recovering from shoulder surgery, which means he's going to have a hard time getting up to speed. It is going to be hard for him to make much of an impact in 2017 after missing so much time and the Cowboys need immediate contributors, especially with their early round draft picks.
Please for free to use the comment section below to pick apart any selection that you don't agree with.
Looking Ahead to 2019 NFL Mock Drafts, a Pass Catching Theme Persists
The Dallas Cowboys haven't played the 2018 NFL season yet, but that shouldn't stop us from looking ahead to the 2019 NFL Draft and seeing what players the team will have their eye on this fall.
With the NFL season fast approaching, that means the college football season is as well, and as we look through these mocks, perhaps you get an idea of whom to watch with a Cowboys perspective this fall.
I scoured the internet looking for the best and brightest minds and their "way too early 2019 mocks." As I perused the mocks, one thing was clear. Many of the national writers see the Dallas Cowboys going with an offensive pass catcher in the 2019 NFL Draft. Namely a TE.
TE Noah Fant, Iowa
Noah Fant, from the University of Iowa, will be a junior in his 2019 season and as a sophomore caught 30 passes for 494 yards (16.5 yards per reception) and 11 touchdowns. The receptions and yardage may not look all that impressive, but if we think about Iowa's offense in the Big 10, we can understand that he's not going to get many opportunities to catch the ball when the team is running it as often as they do.
In fact, the Hawkeyes ran the ball 10 more times per game than they threw it and their quarterback only completed - on average - 15 passes a game.
Fant accounted for 21% of the receiving yards on the season and 42% of the passing touchdowns. He was only 36 yards away from leading the team in receiving despite catching 21 fewer passes than leader Nick Easley. No other pass catcher for Iowa had more than four receiving touchdowns.
If there's something not to like at the moment about Fant, it's his size.
At the moment, College Football Reference has him listed at 232 pounds. There are running backs that weigh more than Fant does and he'll probably need to add about 10-20 pounds in the NFL to be an effective in-line blocker.
Mocked to the Dallas Cowboys by Dane Brugler of The Draft Show on DallasCowboys.com. In a mock draft he did for Sports Day DFW and the Dallas Morning News, he had this to say.
Dane Brugler - Sports Day DFW, Dallas Morning News
Eric Galko of The Sporting News selected the Iowa tight end to the Cowboys as well, seeing him as a special prospect that has the chance to fill the shoes of Jason Witten.
Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington also had Noah Fant to the Cowboys, thinking they are in need of a Jason Witten replacement.
DE Austin Bryant, Clemson
Depending on what Dallas can get out of Right Defensive Ends Tyrone Crawford, Randy Gregory, Dorance Armstrong, and Charles Tapper, it could have the Cowboys taking a defensive end in the first round for the second time in three years.
Will Brinson's mock doesn't offer much analysis on Bryant, mostly saying that Clemson is going to be good. But here's what Draftek.com's Brett Clancy, who covers the 49ers, had to say about Bryant:
"Clemson's Austin Bryant is the 4th EDGE off the board in this mock and 2nd from his school, but he's still well worth a mid-round pick. Bryant broke out with 8.5 sacks as a junior last year and many thought he'd go pro. I like Bryant's move to stay in school and refine his game, specifically growing a repertoire of pass rush moves to complement his strong edge-setting ability."
Brett Clancy - Draftek.com
Bryant was amazingly disruptive for the Clemson Tigers as a junior, racking up 50 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 8.5 sacks. At 6-5 265, he could come in and play right defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys on day one.
DT Raekwon Davis, Alabama
We know that the Dallas Cowboys have an affinity for Power 5 prospects and Jason Garrett goes back with Nick Saban.
Despite that relationship, it hasn't led to many Alabama players being selected by the Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps, that should tell us something.
One other factor that could be in play with Davis is dependent upon who the defensive coordinator is in 2019. We all know that Rod Marinelli doesn't place premium draft value on defensive tackles, but prefers to find diamonds in the rough to develop.
If Kris Richard takes over as the defensive coordinator in 2019, the story could be a bit different. Seattle, with Richard at the defensive helm, selected defensive tackles in the second round of the 2016 and 2017 NFL Drafts.
If the Dallas Cowboys are going to spend a first on a defensive tackle, this is the guy to do it on.
He was highly productive as a sophomore for the Crimson Tide, racking up 69 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He also had one interception that was returned for 19 yards. At 6-7 306 pounds, he has the size and frame to be an immediate impact player on the Dallas Cowboys interior.
If the Dallas Cowboys choose not to resign David Irving in the 2018 offseason and Maliek Collins doesn't take a step forward, then Davis becomes a real possibility.
Here's what Draftek's Cowboys analyst had to say about Raekwon Davis.
"Alabama's Raekwon Davis has played both DT and DE in the Crimson Tide's 3-man line. He can maintain his gaps against the run when needed, but his primary skill set is using his long arms and strong lower body to use a variety of pass rush moves to win with power and speed.
"One red flag on Davis happened 8/27/17: he was struck in the leg by a stray bullet during the wee hours of Sunday morning at a Tuscaloosa bar (Bar 17) where several shootings have occurred over the past few years. Despite HC Jason Garrett's affinity for Nick Saban coached players, this incident might remove him from the Dallas board."
Long Ball - Dratek.com
Interestingly, Draftek did a second round in this mock and they sent Boston College Safety Lukas Denis to the Dallas Cowboys.
S Jaquan Johnson, Miami
Speaking of safeties, Dan Kadar over at SBNation sent one to the Dallas Cowboys in the form of Jaquan Johnson.
Johnson, from the University of Miami, was very productive in his junior season for the Hurricanes, racking up 96 total tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and four interceptions. He returned one of those interceptions for a touchdown.
Here are Kadar's thoughts on the second team All-ACC player:
"There was a lot of talk during the draft that the Cowboys were in talks to trade for Earl Thomas. If they want to address safety next draft, Johnson was a second-team all-conference player who some thought would go pro."
Dan Kadar - SB Nation
Obviously, this pick will depend on what happens with Earl Thomas over the next nine months and the development of Xavier Woods, but Johnson will be a name to watch for teams that need a safety.
WR Ahmmon Richards, Miami
Another Hurricane to have on your NFL Draft radars is Wide Receiver Ahmmon Richard, who is going into his junior season at Miami.
The Dallas Cowboys have begun the process of overhauling their wide receiver corp with the departures of Dez Bryant and Brice Butler in the 2018 offseason. In 2019, it's likely that Terrance Williams (contract) and Cole Beasley (age) could be next to go.
That would leave them with Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Deonte Thompson, Noah Brown, and Cedric Wilson as their WR depth chart. It's certainly a solid group, but adding a talent like Richards could help.
The Draft Wire's Luke Easterling believes, "Richards would be another great addition with impressive size and speed."
In two seasons at Miami, Richards has averaged 18.8 yards per reception, and 68.65 yards per game. He's got deep-threat ability which would combine well with Gallup and Hurns.
WR Collin Johnson, Texas
If Richards doesn't do it for you, then lets head a couple of hours south of Dallas to the University of Texas and Wide Receiver Collin Johnson.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has the Dallas Cowboys going with the junior wide receiver and had this to say:
"The Dallas Cowboys made interesting moves at wide receiver in the 2018 draft—trading Ryan Switzer to Oakland, acquiring Tavon Austin from Los Angeles, not selecting a receiver early—and will head into the upcoming season with a need for a playmaker down the field. Texas' Collin Johnson at 6'6" can be the downfield weapon and red-zone nightmare the Cowboys so badly want.
"Johnson does need to improve upon his production from the last two seasons and prove to scouts he can run well enough to separate from NFL defenders, but his size and hands are already getting buzzed about as teams prepare for the upcoming college season."
Matt Miller - Bleacher Report
I'll agree with Miller that Johnson will need to increase upon his production. Some believe that the quarterback limitations in Austin have been a factor, but at the moment, I'm leery of taking a wide receiver from the Big 12 that doesn't have excellent production in the first round of the draft.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
It's obvious from these mock drafts that analysts see the Dallas Cowboys continuing to invest in pass catchers for their offense and that is a reasonable thought.
Obviously, a lot will change between now and next April when the Dallas Cowboys go on the clock, but this gives us a bit of insight on who to watch in this upcoming college football season.
What names will you be watching in college football this season?
Does Marquez White Assault Charge Alter Cowboys Plan in Supplemental Draft?
Last night, it was reported that Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Marquez White has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The incident comes from a traffic confrontation that took place back in October, where White -- according to his camp -- was justified in drawing his weapon for self-defense.
A promising young player that stuck on the Cowboys practice squad in his rookie season, the sixth round pick doesn't need this case hanging over his head as training camp approaches. When considering the timing up against this week's supplemental draft, and the rare crop of defensive back talent available in it, White could soon be fighting for relevance on the Cowboys roster.
Becoming complacent in building one of the best young secondaries in the league won't be an issue for the Cowboys under new Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard. The Cowboys were relying on White to be a depth option behind projected starters Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis.
White's spot on the depth chart may very well hold up, but by the end of the week he could also have added competition in Adonis Alexander or Sam Beal.
Respectively, the former Virginia Tech and Western Michigan cornerbacks are two of the most talented supplemental prospects to enter the draft in years -- both likely to be the first players drafted since 2015.
Alexander and Beal are also joined by Mississippi State Safety Brandon Bryant as another backup option for Dallas.
A lengthy cornerback with the toughness to play on the boundary, Alexander is a similar player to White, and one that Richard should love for his physical traits. Whether or not this natural skill outweighs some maturity issues that saw Alexander fall from freshman starter to suspended at VT will determine if the Cowboys feel comfortable sending away a 2019 draft pick for his services.
Where Alexander's career leaves his arrow trending downward on the eve of the supplemental draft, Beal is a rising prospect that some are calling the best to ever enter this draft.
An all-conference cornerback as a Junior out of Western Michigan, Beal improved with each passing college season, determined to finish out his degree along the way. However, once Beal's eligibility for his Senior season was called into question, the feisty 6'1" CB decided to turn towards the NFL.
Beal's professional football faith is now in the hands of any team that's done their homework on him. Projected to be taken as early as the third round, teams impressed by Beal's tape could be giving away a premium pick in next year's draft to add him just before training camp.
Should this team be the Cowboys, Beal's presence would put more than just White on notice. The Cowboys are also expecting corners like Duke Thomas and Kam Kelly to fight for roster spots. In a perfect world, say the one the Cowboys were living in yesterday before this White news broke, Thomas or Kelly could replace White on the practice squad as the Florida State product took another jump in Oxnard.
As I've written before though, teams must be relentless in their search for talent. The Cowboys have drafted well, but passed on big name free agents in recent years. The result is a young roster full of potential and ready to compete.
If either Adonis Alexander, Sam Beal, or even Brandon Bryant help them do so this year, we could be right here talking about a new Cowboys rookie in the middle of July. Marquez White would be happy to see this talk overshadow his legal situation for the moment.
This won't be the case when he's competing against another player that will likely cost the Cowboys more than the sixth round pick they invested in him two years ago.
Have the Dallas Cowboys Overcome Their 2nd-Round Curse?
You may not be aware or maybe you've simply forgotten, but the Dallas Cowboys have struggled drafting players in the 2nd-round who can come in and contribute. Typically players drafted this highly are not only immediate contributors as a rookie, but are cornerstone players for years to come. That hasn't been the case for the Cowboys.
I don't know where you stand, but I was beginning to think the Dallas Cowboys were cursed with their 2nd-round draft picks. I know this was an area where they would gamble on players for some reason or another, but unfortunately it never really paid off. Hopefully, things are changing for the better.
Let's take a look back at past drafts to see what I'm talking about.
Past 2nd-Round Draft Picks Dating Back to 2006:
2018 Connor Williams
2017 Chidobe Awuzie
2016 Jaylon Smith
2015 Randy Gregory
2014 DeMarcus Lawrence
2013 Gavin Escobar
2012 (no selection) used to trade for Morris Claiborne
2011 Bruce Carter
2010 Sean Lee
2009 (no selection) traded out of 2nd-round
2008 Martellus Bennett
2007 (no selection) used to trade back into 1st for Anthony Spencer
2006 Anthony Fasano
You may be wondering why I decided to start all the way back in 2006. Well, I believe that's when the 2nd-round draft picks curse started for the Dallas Cowboys.
Anthony Fasano ended up having a solid career in the NFL, but he never lived up to his draft status as a former 2nd-round draft pick. The same can be said for Martellus Bennett, Gavin Escobar, and Bruce Carter. Shed a tear for them if you want, but I'd put them in the "bust" category.
The sad truth is, Sean Lee is the only 2nd-round draft pick on this list to ever see a second contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Although, I guess you can include DeMarcus Lawrence since he will be playing under the franchise tag in 2018. But, that's still not a very good hit percentage in the 2nd-round for more than a decade. Luckily, it looks as if things are changing.
DeMarcus Lawrence might end up being another "hit" for the Cowboys. It may have taken him four years to reach his potential, but there's no denying how dominant he was last season. If he can maintain that dominance this season, he could be looking at a big payday from the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys took a risk on the next two players they drafted after D-Law. They knew Randy Gregory had his off the field issues, but were willing to take a chance on his talent in the 2nd-round. That has yet to pay off, but Gregory has a chance to rebound now that it looks as if he has his life back in order.
The Cowboys took another risk in the following draft when they drafted Jaylon Smith. No one knew if he would ever be able to play again after the devastating knee injury he sustained in his final collegiate game, but it's looking as if he could make a full recovery and return to his pre-injury form. Year 3 will be big for him, but he could end up being an absolute steal.
Fortunately, the Cowboys 2017 and 2018 2nd-round draft picks (Chidobe Awuzie and Connor Williams) look to be cornerstone players for years to come. That's what you're looking for in players drafted this highly.
I say all of this because it's really looking like the Dallas Cowboys have finally broken their 2nd-round curse. Maybe it's a change in draft philosophy or maybe it's because Will McClay's voice carries more weight in the draft room, but it's definitely good news for the future of the franchise. Hopefully it continues.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys 2nd-round curse has ended?
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