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.
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?
Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?
The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.
But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.
Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.
Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.
First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.
On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.
What about the rest of the class?
Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.
After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.
How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?
One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.
Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.
But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.
Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.
Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.
Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.
One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.
In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.
Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?
Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.
The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.
Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.
Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.
For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.
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