With only two versions of this series left, I encourage you to go back through the previous ones (linked here: 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0). The purpose of this series is to find the round(s) to draft positions the Cowboys seem to be targeting.
The goal is not necessarily to make each mock draft the best, but to explore vastly different scenarios to find the right combination where need meets value.
The final mock coming out on draft day will try to accomplish that.
The options in each round will be fairly limited since I'm not allowing myself to pick a position in the same round twice.
For a quick reference of the positions picked by round thus far:
- Round 1 — Running Back – Cornerback – Linebacker/EDGE – Tight End
- Round 2 — Defensive Tackle – Offensive Lineman – Wide Receiver – EDGE
- Round 3 — Offensive Lineman – Wide Receiver – Defensive Tackle – Cornerback
- Round 4 — Wide Receiver – Defensive Tackle – Running Back – Offensive Lineman
- Round 5 — Linebacker – Running Back – Cornerback – Defensive Tackle
My main draft resource every year is The Beast by Dane Brugler of TheAthletic.
I value his rankings and grades much more than the Pro Football Focus mock draft simulator rankings and the consensus big board. Hence why some picks may seem like reaches.
As in all the iterations, the number in parentheses indicates their rank on the consensus board, I will list alternates who could also be in play at that pick, and no trades.
Round 1 — DT Mazi Smith (37), Michigan
Alternates at the same/similar position: DT Calijah Kancey (25), Pittsburgh; DT Bryan Bresee (28), Clemson; DT/DE Adetomiwa Adebawore (43)
Mazi Smith (6'3″, 323 pounds) was the number one player on Bruce Feldman's annual Freak List article this past August which identifies the most athletic players in all of college football.
Though he's still raw from a pass rush perspective, he has the tools to develop into a menace.
I lean more towards the Cowboys needing a beefy, run-stuffing nose tackle, over a penetrating three technique, which is exactly what Smith brings.
With that being said, I don't want to force a pick due to need over a better prospect, especially in round one.
I say that to say, Calijah Kancey is largely considered the better prospect, but at 281 pounds doesn't fill the role that the Cowboys need.
Up until recently, I've disregarded him as an option for Dallas.
The closer the draft gets, the more open I am to Kancey and Bryan Bresee. Brugler has Bresee at 23rd overall (ahead of both Smith and Kancey).
Opinions on him are mixed due to a “down” season in 2022. Many draft analysts considered him a potential top-10 pick before the season.
Not only was he coming back from a torn ACL last year, but also had to deal with the tragic death of his younger sister in September. Easy to see why 2022 might not be the best version of Bresee.
Finally, don't sleep on Adetomiwa Adebawore at 26.
He was misused at Northwestern on the edge but stood out at defensive tackle during the senior bowl. He followed that up with testing like an alien at the combine.
I have defensive tackle as my number one need for the Cowboys, but that doesn't necessarily mean one has to be taken with their first pick.
Round 2 — RB Zach Charbonnet (54), UCLA
Alternates at the same/similar position: RB Devon Achane (66), Texas A&M
The only two running backs who are potential top 60 picks and have a realistic shot at being available at 58 are Charbonnet and Devon Achane.
The Cowboys need someone to handle the dirty work between the tackles and in short-yardage situations.
That way, Tony Pollard can stay fresh to rip off chunk plays throughout the season and into the playoffs.
At 214 pounds, Charbonnet fits that role much better than the 188-pound Achane. Charbonnet also projects better as a workhorse RB1 if the Cowboys were to move on from Pollard after the season.
Round 3 — LB DeMarvion Overshown (112), Texas
Alternates at the same/similar position: DE Zach Harrison (81), Ohio State; LB Henry To'oto'o (84), Alabama; DE Byron Young (94), Tennessee; DE/LB Nick Herbig (103), Nebraska; DE Isaiah McGuire (105), Missouri; LB Noah Sewell (110), Oregon; DE YaYa Diaby (115), Louisville
For round three in this version, I left myself open to linebacker or defensive end.
There were a few options at 90 for both positions, but I ultimately went with DeMarvion Overshown who has met with the Cowboys on numerous occasions.
He transitioned from safety to linebacker in 2022 and even saw snaps as an edge rusher. He's far from a finished product, but this is the type of athlete I trust Dan Quinn to get the most out of.
Linebacker feels like a position they almost HAVE to draft, but there's also a few free agents at linebacker available who have played for Quinn in the past.
They could look to free agency if the draft doesn't fall their way at the position.
Defensive end is less of a need for 2023, but they have a few contracts that expire at the end of the season that could make it a need in 2024.
Regardless of which position, round three may provide decent value to both.
Round 4 — CB Cory Trice Jr. (124), Purdue
Alternates at the same/similar position: CB Kyu Blu Kelly (107), Stanford; Riley Moss (113), Iowa; CB Jaylon Jones (135), Texas A&M; Jakorian Bennett (146), Maryland
Everyone knows Quinn loves his tall, long corners. At over 6'3″ and nearly 32.5″ arms, Cory Trice fits that mold.
He has become a popular pick on Cowboys Twitter and might need to be picked at 90.
There were several players available from the list of alternates above that would fit what Quinn looks for if Trice doesn't last this long.
Given the depth of the position, any cornerback picked here shouldn't need to play right away and can learn/develop to take on a bigger role in year two.
Outside of round two, I've now picked a corner in every round and have been perfectly fine with the players available in each one. It's a really good, deep class.
Round 5 — OL Braeden Daniels (142), Utah
Alternates at the same/similar position: iOL Nick Broeker (142), Ole Miss; iOL Ricky Stromberg (153), Arkansas; iOL Nick Saldiveri (156), Old Dominion; iOL Juice Scruggs (162), Penn State; iOL Atonio Mafi (232), UCLA
I chose between Braeden Daniels and Atonio Mafi (who the consensus has not caught up on) here.
The Cowboys love their offensive linemen to have position flex and that's what made me go with Daniels.
Here is a breakdown of where Daniels lined up for his 43 starts at Utah:
- 17 at left guard
- 14 at left tackle
- 12 at right tackle
Dane notes his ability to play both guard and tackle in the NFL.
I hoped to pick USC iOL Andrew Vorhees here who suffered a torn ACL at the NFL Combine in early March. He was projected to go in the third round before the injury.
Unfortunately, he was gone, but I still want to have that conversation.
If he lasts until the late fourth/fifth and they haven't addressed the position yet, this would be a classic Cowboys move. Let's explore why.
First, no one trusts their medical evaluations and staff like Dallas. There's no bigger example than Jaylon Smith, who some suspected may never play again.
Then, look at last year's fifth-round pick Damone Clark.
Most thought he wouldn't play as a rookie due to spinal fusion surgery. He went on to play 12 games last season.
Next, there's Terence Steele, who is also an offensive lineman recovering from a torn ACL. The team expects Steele to be ready by camp in July, which would be seven months after his original injury.
Even if recovery is a little slower than Steele's, at let's say nine months, Vorhees would be ready for the final stretch.
Which, to connect the final dot, was similar to when Tyron Smith was ready to return last year, just in time to replace the injured Steele.
The Cowboys pick an injured player almost annually so don't be surprised if Vorhees is a Cowboy within the week.
On the position overall, maybe I'm just getting more familiar with the names now that we're so close to the draft, but I was pleasantly surprised with the players available here on the offensive line.
There wasn't a pass catcher selected, but that was intentional. Outside of that, I really dig this draft.
Mazi fills the biggest need and Charbonnet would be a perfect complement/successor to Pollard.
I like the upside of both Overshown and Trice, and the depth of those positions in the rounds I selected them in.
The versatility and experience of Daniels could be invaluable with the inevitable retirements and free-agent departures in the next 12-24 months for the Cowboys.
What I learned:
Round 1 — Defensive Tackle
- Between Smith, Kancey, and Bresee, I suspect at least two will be there for them. As one of the biggest needs on the team, any one of the three would make sense.
- High-graded players at different positions will likely be on the board, but this draft doesn't have the depth at defensive tackle like some of those other positions. Can they risk waiting?
Round 2 — Running Back
- Charbonnet and Achane are both excellent value at this spot and meet a need.
- There were a lot of good running backs available in the later rounds, but depending on their plans for a Pollard extension, they may not want to wait.
Round 3 — Linebacker
- This may be a sweet spot for linebacker. It's not a massive need so a pick in rounds one or two isn't necessary, but just inside the top 100 is a nice blend of need and value.
Round 4 — Cornerback
- There doesn't seem to be a bad time and place to pick a corner this year. With four quality starters in place, how early they want to select one will be interesting.
- The earlier the selection, the more I would worry about my roster spot if I were Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright.
Round 5 — Interior Offensive Lineman
- Left guard might be the one starting spot that is the most unsettled at this point.
- Despite their success in doing so, you can find starting-caliber players on the offensive line after round one. Waiting this long likely won't be the best plan.