With less than two weeks separating draft followers from "football Christmas", the opportunity for the Cowboys to improve off of an already dominant 2016 season - sparked by this season's draft class of course - is an incredibly exciting one for Cowboys Nation ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft.
These next 11 days until draft night from Philadelphia will be full of added speculation to either get our hopes up about a top player sliding to the 28th overall pick or one of our draft targets flying up the board.
If the Dallas Cowboys' seven picks play out like this however, the future for the star will have never been brighter.
Sean's Cowboys Mock Draft 1.0:
Speaking of players that have improved their stock late in this draft process, Ohio State's Gareon Conley has drawn interest as a defensive backfield teammate of both S Malik Hooker and CB Marshon Lattimore - two players with incredibly high ceilings that will both be off the board well before Dallas comes on the clock.
If Conley remains on the board for the Cowboys though, they should be ecstatic as his floor makes him an instant starter in a secondary needing cornerbacks. With incredibly polished cover skills and NFL-ready size, Conley is a steal at the bottom of the first round.
Gareon Conley also took a pre-draft 30 visit with the Cowboys.
The Cowboys' need at defensive end has been talked about endlessly since yet another loss to the Packers in the NFC playoffs, and for a while this talk included Kansas State's Jordan Willis as a potential first-round target.
A steal with the 60th overall pick, Willis might not be the flashiest pass rusher, but his elite playing strength paired with some polished counter moves on the edge and burst to capture the corner would automatically make him an important part of Rod Marinelli's defensive line rotation.
Landing yet another plug-and-play starter on the defensive side of the ball with their third pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys are a perfect fit for Marcus Maye out of Florida.
In replacing Barry Church, Maye could excel with his athleticism and awareness close to the line of scrimmage, while Byron Jones' versatility as a deep safety would protect Maye from having to play deep in coverage where he struggles to react as quickly and breakdown on tackles.
There's a reason the Cowboys were comfortable with moving on from both Church and J.J. Wilcox in free agency, and it's because of athletic studs like Marcus Maye available in this draft to replace them.
With their last pick before the sixth round at 211th overall, the Cowboys land arguably the top Senior running back in this class with Toledo's Kareem Hunt. Ezekiel Elliott is obviously the present and future when it comes to Dallas' running game, but they proved in 2016 that they are committed to the depth behind him. Losing Lance Dunbar to free agency, Hunt can replace Dunbar as a smooth receiver that also runs with great patience and balance.
Darren McFadden is back with the Cowboys as a veteran option behind Elliott for 2017, which would allow Hunt to ease his way into Scott Linehan's offense.
Landing another one of their pre-draft 30 visits here in the sixth round, Treston Decoud could provide solid depth at CB with his length and athleticism. Having already selected Conley in this mock scenario, the projected starters at CB for the Cowboys would likely be Anthony Brown, Orlando Scandrick, Nolan Carroll, and Conley.
Decoud could elevate himself to a situational player at slot CB and become another sixth round steal at CB for the Cowboys (much like Anthony Brown in 2016) thanks to his fluid hips and quick-twitch ability to mirror receivers.
Derek Rivers has drawn all of the hype as a pass rusher out of Youngstown State in this draft, but his teammate Avery Moss could be just the rotational player the Dallas Cowboys need. While Rivers displays all of the traits to be an elite strong side defensive end, Moss has some intriguing traits and makes some flashes as a true right-rushing end.
Moss' 34 1/2 inch arms are more than enough for Rod Marinelli to work with in getting the most out of Avery Moss at RDE, having already landed a more premier pass rusher in this draft at 60th overall.
Unsurprisingly, the Cowboys filled their need for depth at OT in free agency with the signing of veteran Byron Bell. This makes offensive tackle less of a draft need, but one they can still address in the seventh round here with a Mississippi State teammate of Dak Prescott.
With 38 career starts at RT, Senior has a lot of work to do to develop into a starter at the next level, but could be just what the Cowboys are looking for in their backups along the offensive line. Drafting at this point for traits, Senior has a strong punch to mirror rushers with the foot speed to make up for his lack of strength at the line of scrimmage.
Realistically, the Cowboys come away with three starters at positions of need here on defense by stealing CB Gareon Conley, DE Jordan Willis, and then S Marcus Maye. Treston Decoud and Avery Moss add depth to the CB and DE positions respectively, where talented depth is certainly needed.
Kareem Hunt and Justin Senior also add to this theme of high-value picks, as Hunt would have a real chance to become a play maker in Dallas' offense as a rookie at RB while Senior can learn as a backup OT.
The Dallas Cowboys could be one draft class away from building a truly dominant team for years to come in the NFL after dominating the draft in 2016. These upgrades on defense alone would go a long way.
For more on each and every position in this 2017 NFL Draft, be sure to check out my interview with Jonah Tuls on Upon Further Review above!
Cowboys Receive 4th-Round Compensatory Pick in 2019 NFL Draft
The Dallas Cowboys will receive an extra fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft after the league awarded compensatory picks today.
The pick will be 136th overall, which is one spot below were Dallas drafted Dak Prescott in 2016.
And in other news... NFL awarded compensatory draft picks today - Patriots and Rams each received two third-round picks. The full list, per sources:
We have Anthony Hitchens to thank for this extra pick. The former Cowboys linebacker signed a five-year, $45 million deal with the Chiefs last offseason which far surpassed any of the deal that Dallas made with their own free agent acquisitions.
Only free agents whose contracts expired, not those released in the offseason by their previous team, count towards the compensatory pick formula. Therefore, Allen Hurns' deal was not a mitigating factor.
As mentioned already, the fourth round of the NFL Draft recently gave Dallas its starting quarterback. Other notable fourth-round picks in the modern era have been Hitchens, Doug Free, Marion Barber, and Chris Canty.
Last year, Dallas drafted DE Dorance Armstrong and TE Dalton Schultz with fourth-round picks.
Already short their first and sixth-round picks this year from previous trades, the Cowboys are certainly happy to have this extra selection for April's draft.
7-Round Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft: Pre-Combine Edition
I thought it would be a good idea to get out another 7-round Dallas Cowboys mock draft before the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine kicks off next week. Not only will the Combine shakeup a lot of people's big boards and draft rankings, but it will also be the first opportunity a lot of us will get to see some of these players firsthand.
For this Cowboys mock draft I used Matt Miller's big board on Fanspeak.com. I don't necessarily agree with where he has some of these players ranked right now, but that's part of the fun of doing these kind of exercises. With that said, he is still one of my favorite draft analysts.
Without further ado, here is my Pre-Combine 7-round Dallas Cowboys mock draft.
TE, Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M (2nd-round)
*189th on Matt Miller's Big Board
First off, I think Matt Miller has Jace Sternberger ranked way too low on his Big Board. I don't think he will make it out of the second round and may not even be available for the Dallas Cowboys when they are on the clock with the 58th overall pick. But if he is, I'm writing his name down on the draft card and not looking back.
The Cowboys have made it pretty clear they want to upgrade their TE position, but in order to do that they're going to have to draft one pretty early in my opinion. Sternberger may be a one-year wonder at Texas A&M, but he is exactly what Quarterback Dak Prescott needs in the passing game. He would change the dynamic of this whole offense.
At 6'4", 250 pounds, Sternberger has the size the Cowboys look for in their starting tight ends. His biggest asset right now is his natural receiving ability and how dangerous he is after the catch. He runs and moves like a big receiver. He's decent as an in-line blocker as well, but it's an area of his game that is still improving.
OT, Bobby Evans, Oklahoma (3rd-round)
*89th on Matt Miller's Big Board
It's a little surprising it hasn't been brought up more this offseason, but with Tyron Smith's continued back problems and La'el Collins entering a contract year, the Dallas Cowboys could be looking into drafting another offensive tackle. I know it may be an unpopular pick in the third-round, but I couldn't pass up on Bobby Evans.
At 6'5", 300 pounds, Bobby Evans has the prototypical size teams look for in their starting offensive tackles. He is a smooth athletically gifted lineman who does his best work in the running game. He projects best in a zone blocking scheme where he can use his athleticism to his advantage. He will struggle a little bit in pass protection until he cleans up his hand technique.
With the Cowboys he could compete with La'el Collins for the starting RT position as a rookie, but at the worst be the teams swing tackle in 2019. Since he has the ability to play either tackle position, he would make a good insurance policy if Tyron Smith has to miss time again because of his back issues. Again it may be an unpopular pick, but a necessary one.
OLB, Christian Miller, Alabama (4th-round)
*161st on Matt Miller's Big Board
With the Dallas Cowboys needing more depth at linebacker and defensive end, I decided to select Christian Miller with their first fourth-round draft pick. He unfortunately hasn't been able to showcase his skill set on a regular basis due to being buried on the depth chart at Alabama and some unfortunate injuries, but he has immense potential.
I think a lot of teams will look to draft him as a outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but I really like the variety of roles he could play in the Cowboys 4-3 defensive scheme. I think he could replace Demian Wilson as their strong side linebacker, provide depth at defensive end, and be a special-teams demon as a rookie.
The Cowboys of course will have to be comfortable with his injury history, but in the fourth-round I don't think that would be a problem. If he can stay healthy he has Pro Bowl potential as a pass rusher because of his size (6'4", 247), athleticism and fluidity to bend and torque his body. This might be my favorite pick in this Cowboys mock draft.
DT, Daylon Mack, Texas A&M (4th-round comp pick)
*178th on Matt Miller's Big Board
The Dallas Cowboys could definitely use some more defensive tackle help, especially after all but washing their hands of David Irving. They currently just have Antwaun Woods and Maliek Collins on the DT depth chart, unless you want to count Tyrone Crawford. That's why I returned to Texas A&M for the second time in this Cowboys mock draft and selected Daylon Mack.
Daylon Mack is a former five-star recruit who never really lived up to his billing at Texas A&M. Don't let that fool you though, he has the talent to earn a starting job with the Cowboys as a rookie at either the one or three-technique. He is the kind of prospect Rod Marinelli would love to work with.
At 6'1", 327 pounds, Mack would provide some much-needed beef to the Cowboys defensive front. He has surprising athletic ability for his size and has a devastating first step to be the kind of disruptive DT Marinelli prefers along his DL. I really love his violent hands and raw athletic ability, and I believe he could be an absolute steal in the fourth-round even though Matt Miller has him ranked much lower.
WR, Jalen Hurd, Baylor (5th-round)
*159th on Matt Miller's Big Board
Outside of Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, the wide receiver position in Dallas is pretty dreadful. There are some young WRs who show some promise, but they still need more depth regardless. That's why I decided to take Jalen Hurd in the fifth-round in this Cowboys mock draft. He is one of the more intriguing prospects in the entire 2019 draft class.
The most intriguing aspect of Hurd's game is his background as a running back. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and was once considered a top RB prospect during his time in Tennessee before deciding to transfer to Baylor in order to switch to wide receiver.
At 6'4", 227 pounds, he has the prototypical size teams look for in a WR prospect. He reminds me a little bit of Cordarrelle Patterson, but is much more natural catching the ball. His route running is a little raw, but he has the ability to play in the slot or on the outside, something he did at Baylor. I think he could help replace some of Cole Beasley's lost production.
RB, Bruce Anderson, North Dakota State (7th-round)
* 206th on Matt Miller's Big Board
I reached a little bit with this pick, but if Bruce Anderson is available this late in the draft I would do everything within my power to bring him aboard if I was the Dallas Cowboys. I really think he could be the lightning to Ezekiel Elliott's thunder in the Cowboys backfield. I personally have him in the 3rd-5th round range, but can understand why he's ranked so low on Miller's Big Board right now.
Unfortunately, the draft process hasn't been very kind to Bruce Anderson so far. He was originally expected to open a lot of eyes in Mobile at this year's Senior Bowl, but unfortunately sustained an injury that kept him from competing. To make matters worse, he was a surprise snub at the Scouting Combine, meaning he only has private workouts and his Pro Day to impress scouts.
I for one am a big fan of Anderson's though. I believe he is exactly the kind of RB the Cowboys need behind Zeke. I personally see a poor man's Alvin Kamara when I watched his game film because of the different ways he can be utilized as both a runner and receiver. But, he can also contribute on special teams as a return specialist.
How do you feel about this 7-round Dallas Cowboys mock draft?
Cowboys Draft Target: Washington Safety Taylor Rapp
While most fans are hoping the Cowboys snag a different safety who played his football in the state of Washington, Huskies safety Taylor Rapp should be towards the top of their draft targets on day two.
The Cowboys have some decisions to make when it comes to their back-end, particularly at safety. Do they want to pursue a full time strong safety type who can play in the box, allowing Xavier Woods to play solely as the centerfield free safety? Or would they rather add a hybrid safety who can play in that deep third role, giving their defense more flexibility in how they utilize Woods moving forward?
If their answer to this question is to go with a more traditional strong safety, and slot Woods into one permanent role, then Washington's Taylor Rapp could be the right man in this draft class.
Taylor Rapp is not the single-high safety that I would typically value high in an NFL draft. He lacks the range to really play that centerfield role, and doesn't have the speed or agility to project to this role in the NFL. No one ever gets behind him, but that's more due to ridiculously deep alignment than excellent coverage skills.
Where Rapp does excel, though, is playing forward and downhill. Rapp is aggressive both in his pursuit of plays and in his tackling. He tackles with good technique as well, and can absolutely lay the wood when coming up to hit receivers over the middle. Rapp plays how you'd expect your old-school strong safety to play, and projects as a split-zone and box safety at the next level.
Rapp isn't anything special in man coverage, but he executes well at times. He's at his best when asked to cover tight ends in man coverage, something which would certainly be valued both in today's NFL and on this version of the Cowboys' defense. I wouldn't be as comfortable lining him up against shifty slot receivers over the middle, but he can match up well physically with tight ends in man.
Overall, Rapp is one of the best tacklers I've seen in this draft class so far, and with his instincts, size and physicality he will serve as a solid strong safety at the next level.
I don't see Taylor Rapp as the typical versatile chess-piece the Cowboys have valued when drafting defensive backs in recent years. He does what he does well, but they would be ill-advised to mess with his alignment too often or try to make him fit into a different role. He's not going to move all over the field like Xavier Woods can, but he can certainly fit the Cowboys' current need for a strong safety.
Many fans want the Cowboys to pursue Landon Collins in free agency, but if they strike out there, Rapp could be their consolation prize in the NFL draft.
No, he's not as good as Landon Collins. Let me make that perfectly clear. But for a day two pick Rapp could fit a similar role to what Collins would here in Dallas: a strong safety who will play primarily in the box and cover tight ends in man.
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