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.