The 2015 NFL season isn't over, but the Dallas Cowboys, at 4-10, have no hope of making the playoffs. If the season ended today, the Cowboys would have the fifth pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. For a team that has the overall talent to make a deep playoff run, the Cowboys will be in perfect position to add a foundational piece to their roster. Using Fanspeak's mock draft simulator, I completed my first mock draft for the 2016 NFL Draft.
Disclaimer: This mock draft does not contain compensatory draft picks, as they have not been released yet. To know what compensatory draft picks the Cowboys will likely receive, refer to my notes on them from yesterday - What Compensatory Draft Picks Will They Get?
1. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Obviously, drafting a quarterback in the Top 5 like Paxton Lynch or Jared Goff makes sense given Tony Romo's age as well as his health, but the Cowboys are in win-now mode and having a top-5 pick means that they need to bring in someone that can immediately help the team.
Joey Bosa is just that guy. Over the past few years at Ohio State, it's been a known fact that Bosa would go on to be a top-5 pick. Some have compared Bosa to J.J. Watt. I don't necessarily know that he meets that comparison, but a guy at 6-foot-5, 275 pounds with his speed paired with a coach like Rod Marinelli equals success.
2. Desmond King, CB, Iowa
One of the biggest cinderellas of college football this season has been the Iowa Hawkeyes. When you look at the Hawkeyes, the key to success for them is their dynamic running game paired with their vaunted defense. A key cog on that defense was Desmond King.
The futures of Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr in Dallas are up in the air. If both end up elsewhere this summer, the Cowboys will need to replace them. Orlando Scandrick will be back, but Byron Jones will likely make the switch to free safety. King is a player that can come in and succeed if he's put in the right role.
King has the ability to shut down a side of the field given his combination of athleticism, ball skills, as well as his ability to play both zone or man. A secondary consisting of Jones, Scandrick, and King provides for some foundational talent to build around.
3. Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
If you know me, you know that I'm a huge disbeliever in Terrance Williams. For three seasons now, Williams has never learned how to catch the ball using his hands with consistency. He's not an established route-runner, and even though he faces single coverage consistently across from a double-covered Dez Bryant, Williams doesn't always win battles.
Dallas needs a true playmaker opposite Bryant.
Rashard Higgins is a player that makes sense in Dallas. Because of Jim McElwain leaving to be the head coach at Florida and quarterback Garrett Grayson going pro, Higgins' stock has dropped immensely. Nevertheless, if the right quarterback is in place, Higgins makes a ton of sense.
At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, with a 4.5 40-yard dash, Higgins doesn't have impressive size or speed, but he has great hands and he knows how to use his body. He's "slippery" after the catch, showing the ability to score six with the ball in his hands. Higgins is a matchup-nightmare, as he has the ability to play both inside or outside.
The Cowboys will benefit greatly from having a playmaker like Higgins on their roster.
4. Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech
It needs to be said that I'm a big fan of Darren McFadden. He's been terrific in the starting role, even though he's faced stacked boxes. In the one complete game with Romo at quarterback, the Cowboys got back to their old ways by running the football 29 times for 129 yards and a touchdown. I'm excited for the combination of McFadden and Romo next season. However, after the 2016 season, McFadden's contract is up and I'm not a fan of bringing running backs back after the age of 30.
That said, it's time for the Cowboys to start developing their running back of the future. I was a huge fan of David Johnson last year, and a guy who I'm really liking this year is Kenneth Dixon. Out of Louisiana Tech, Dixon and Florida transfer Jeff Driskel made quite the offensive duo.
At 5-foot-10, 215 pounds, Dixon is a fierce runner who is extremely difficult to bring down. Defenders struggle to tackle him and his elusiveness can be perfect for a three-down back. Dixon's stock will continue to rise as the draft nears, but the Cowboys should be one team that will have interest.
5. No Pick (Brice Butler Trade)
The Cowboys might end up getting this pick back if they choose to cut Brice Butler before this weekend's game against the Buffalo Bills, but I don't see that being the case as Butler does have a future in Dallas. The Oakland Raiders will only get this pick if Butler dresses for six games of the season. Right now, he's only dressed for five.
6. Gunner Kiel, QB, Cincinnati
As I said earlier, it's time for the Cowboys to draft their successor to Romo. However, this draft may not be the one for the Cowboys to use a first-round pick on a quarterback. Because Dallas is in win-now mode, I have them waiting till the end of the draft to nab their quarterback.
A transfer from Notre Dame, Gunner Kiel is a player that has the intangibles to succeed in the NFL. Kiel is a true gunslinger. At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Kiel has the right stature to play quarterback in the NFL. He has a rocket for an arm. He shows accuracy with passes to each level of the defense and he displays the anticipation skills that are needed to succeed at the professional level. Kiel needs some time to develop, and two or three seasons behind Romo will do just that.
7. No Pick (Christine Michael Trade)
Because Christine Michael was on the active roster for at least three games, the Cowboys will have to give up their seventh-round pick to Seattle. In retrospect, this trade turned out to be a horrible idea, as Michael didn't do much during his time in Dallas, a big reason for that being the coaching staff's stubbornness.
Dallas has a ton of talent on their roster. However, there are many spots that need to be upgraded. This draft will do an excellent job at making the Cowboys better in the "now", but also setting them up for success in the future at the same time.
Cowboys Draft Target: Nebraska WR Stanley Morgan Jr.
NAME: Stanley Morgan Jr.
POSITION: Wide Receiver
CONFERENCE: Big Ten
JERSEY: No. 8
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
"Where I come from ... I had to block for Leonard Fournette, I played on the same team as Tyrann Mathieu," Morgan said. "It's just guys like that around me that made me want to work harder, just to keep going and give it my all. It's something that I was born with."
Stanley Morgan Jr. was a consistent and productive wide receiver during his time at Nebraska. He projects as a "Z" receiver in the NFL, but is probably better suited to play in the slot because of his skill set. Might be the best route runner in the entire 2019 WR draft class.
There's no questioning his toughness and competitiveness. His passion for the game shows up on tape. Unafraid to carry his routes across the middle of field. Possess good separation ability due to his precise route running and his ability to change directions on a dime. Has an understanding of how to temper his routes as well and has a way of lulling defensive backs to sleep and catching them off guard.
Has soft natural hands and shows good technique at the catch point. Shows the ability to make contested catches. Large catch radius. Excellent catch focus and body control. Shows the ability to climb the ladder and high point passes. Unfazed with DBs draped on him and shows good spatial awareness along the sideline. Has a little wiggle to be a threat after the catch, but doesn't have homerun ability.
Stanley Morgan Jr. could be labeled as "just a guy" as a wide receiver prospect. There is nothing really special about his game and he has just average speed and athleticism. Despite his productivity and consistency at Nebraska, he may have already reached his peak.
Morgan may be nothing more than a slot receiver in the NFL. He doesn't possess the necessary speed to be a threat down the field and doesn't show a lot of burst out of his breaks. Average speed will limit his big-play ability as well. Struggles to beat press coverage, which could cause cornerbacks to sit on underneath routes.
Doesn't offer anything on special teams. Had a handful of opportunities at Nebraska as a kick and punt returner with very little success. Doesn't show a lot of functional strength on film. Lack of strength and power limits his blocking ability in the passing game. Arrested for marijuana possession in May 2017.
Although Stanley Morgan Jr. has the ability to play the "Z" position with the Dallas Cowboys, they would likely move him into the slot full-time as Cole Beasley's replacement now that he's officially moved on to the Buffalo Bills. He may not have the same kind of change of direction skills as Beasley, but Morgan's precise route running ability immediately makes him a threat in the Cowboys aerial attack as a rookie.
Morgan unfortunately doesn't offer much, if anything, on special teams. He returned a few kickoffs and punts during his time at Nebraska, but had marginal success. He will probably never be more than a WR3 and might have already reached his peak as a prospect, but he is the type of WR who can have a long career in the NFL. As a potential mid-round draft pick he is an intriguing slot option for the Cowboys, but probably won't help fans forget about No. 11 anytime soon.
Cowboys Draft Dilemma: Deebo Samuel (Rd. 2) vs. Stanley Morgan Jr. (Rd. 4)
There are a lot of fans around Cowboys Nation who are hoping former South Carolina Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel is still on the board when the Dallas Cowboys are on the clock in the second-round with the 58th overall selection. Samuel is the dream replacement for Cole Beasley for a lot of us, but would likely be a luxury this early in the draft instead of a need.
I don't want to rain on the parade for all you Deebo Samuel fans, myself included, but I don't know if the Cowboys would pull the trigger on a WR that early. This is especially true considering there is someone who I believe compares favorably to Samuel and could be available at least two rounds later. In case you haven't figured out yet, I'm talking about former Nebraska WR Stanley Morgan Jr.
Deebo Samuel of course is the more hyped WR and is in the running as one of the top five receivers in the 2019 draft class, but Stanley Morgan Jr. shouldn't be considered a consolation prize. These two WRs could be a carbon copy of one another on paper and tested surprisingly similar at the NFL Combine as well.
Don't take my word for it of course. Take a look for yourself…
Stanley Morgan Jr.
|Arm length||31 3/8"||32 3/8"|
|Hand size||10"||9 7/8"|
|20 yard shuffle||4.14||4.13|
|3 cone drill||7.03||6.78|
As you can see from the measurements and the testing, Deebo Samuel and Stanley Morgan Jr. are amazingly similar on paper. The similarities don't end there though. Both players are devastating with the ball in their hands and easily create separation through their route stems.
The only real difference I have seen between the two is Samuel is a little more thickly built and has been more productive as an outside receiver so far in his career. He is also the more powerful of the two, which serves him well in contested catch situations. That's not saying Morgan can't be just as effective as an outside WR. He just wasn't utilized in that manner during his time at Nebraska.
As far as the Dallas Cowboys are concerned though, both Samuel and Morgan would be ideal inside/outside WR candidates capable of replacing Cole Beasley in the slot. The only question now is which receiver would the Cowboys prefer?
It's really a tossup if you don't really know these receivers and have never watched them play, but not if you take into consideration what we know about the Dallas Cowboys. They like bargains, which is why I have a hard time believing they wouldn't be bargain shoppers in the 2019 NFL Draft like they have been so far in free agency.
As much as we all love Deebo Samuel and the skill set he would bring to the Cowboys, investing a second-round pick might be too high for Dallas considering they can get a similar player at least two rounds later. Stanley Morgan Jr. is a bargain I just don't think they could pass up.
This is all speculation of course, but it's definitely something to take into consideration when the 2019 NFL Draft gets underway.
Deebo Samuel or Stanley Morgan Jr.? Which receiver would you draft?
Cowboys Draft Target: Mississippi State S Johnathan Abram
NAME: Johnathan Abram
SCHOOL: Mississippi State
JERSEY: No. 38
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
HT: 5' 11 3/8"
|Tackles||Tackles||Tackles||Tackles||Tackles||Def Int||Def Int||Def Int||Def Int||Def Int||Fumbles||Fumbles||Fumbles||Fumbles|
Johnathan Abram, playing for the Bulldogs of Mississippi State University, is considered the hardest hitting safety in college football. He's top NFL prospect, who is projected to be selected in the late 1st to early 2nd round(s) of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Johnathan Abram's biggest strength as a safety prospect is his ability to play around the line of scrimmage as a box safety, which is why he's projected to be a strong safety in the NFL. Possesses the prototypical size for the position. He also has the ability and skill set to play a hybrid safety/linebacker role as well.
Abram is at his best when he's playing downhill and sideline to sideline against the run. His size, strength, and physicality allow him to stack and shed blocks like a linebacker. Aggressive tackler who is always looking to deliver a big hit. Also shows good technique to get his head across the ball carrier's chest while wrapping up to make the tackle.
Shows adequate range and speed in coverage. Is able to flip his hips and redirect to change direction quickly, but there is some stiffness there as well. Has the size and athletic ability to match up with tight ends. Shows an understanding of route recognition. His physicality in the run game carries over into the passing game.
The biggest concern about Johnathan Abram's game is his ability, or lack thereof, in coverage. Whether it's an man or zone coverage, he struggles with his responsibilities and can be eaten alive by receivers who know what they're doing. This doesn't bode well for his transition to the NFL, which has become a heavy passing league.
His aggressive nature will get him into trouble in the passing game. Can be clunky in his transitions against good route runners. Will panic and grab when he's caught out of position, which has generated, or should have, flags being thrown. Lack of desired range will keep him from becoming a deep safety, making him a strong safety only.
Questionable ball skills. Only has two interceptions and 10 pass deflections in his career. Struggles locating the ball and doesn't show instincts or anticipation to jump routes. Can be too aggressive against the run, causing him to over pursue and create cutback lanes.
If the Dallas Cowboys are looking for a hard-hitting strong safety who excels around the line of scrimmage, then Johnathan Abram is their guy. He is a heatseeking missile when playing downhill or sideline to sideline, and would play that Kam Chancellor type role on the backend of Kris Richard's defense. He has outstanding size and speed for the position, and is a more fluid athlete then he's given credit for. More of a "traditional" throwback safety.
Abram unfortunately struggles in coverage, despite showing good range and long speed. He may be nothing more than a box safety or nickel/dime linebacker in the NFL. This could hurt his chances of landing with the Cowboys, especially if they are looking for an interchangeable safety to pair with Xavier Woods. But, if there are looking for that "enforcer" type of player, they'd probably have to take him at 58 in the second-round because it's unlikely he will still be there when they're on the clock in the third-round.
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