If you have followed along with this mock draft series, you know the ultimate goal was to figure out the best way to attack each round to provide good value at positions of need.
Those mocks can be found here: 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0, and 6.0. I only did five rounds for the series, but will do all seven here.
Through those six mock drafts, here is what I learned and how I think the Dallas Cowboys should approach the draft by position:
- Given the needs at other positions and only having seven picks (one in each round), I found it tough to add a quarterback in the top five rounds.
- With adding rounds six and seven, I'll try to select a developmental quarterback since the team has mentioned doing so numerous times this off-season.
- Other positions of need are weak and/or top-heavy in this draft while it's a deep running back class. I'm eliminating round one and likely two for running back.
- Rounds three and four have a bunch of good backs that would fill the need at the position before a likely steep dropoff in talent starting in round five.
- Dallas has been very active investigating tight ends and wide receivers projected to go in the top 100.
- At tight end, it's a deep class with quality in all rounds.
- Someone who can be (or at least challenge for) TE1 immediately, would be great but waiting until round four or five to just add depth is fine.
- For wide receiver, it needs to be in the first three rounds. Any later and they might not make the roster.
- Side note: Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the only one I'd take in the first round over the top three tight ends.
- If they are looking for a plug-and-play starter at left guard, the Cowboys need to add one by round three at the latest.
- If the plan is to start Tyler Smith at left guard with Tyron Smith and Terence Steele at left and right tackle respectively, they could wait until day three or bypass the position altogether.
- This is the biggest need in the draft for me. I'd prefer a big, run-stuffing nose tackle, but they need someone who can come in and play snaps immediately regardless of role.
- I feel like defensive tackle needs to be addressed in the first two days of the draft due to the need and the lack of talent on day three.
- For 2023, the Cowboys have good starters and depth at defensive end. 2024 is a different story with several contracts expiring at the end of the season.
- I have other positions that need to be addressed over edge rusher, but finding value at a position this important is never a bad choice even in round one when it's not a major need.
- It's a weak linebacker class and there's not a round-one prospect I'd pick. Unfortunately, the depth falls off after round three so it limits the opportunities to add someone to rounds two or three.
- Keep in mind, the draft is not the last opportunity to add to the roster. There's a decent amount of free agents still available at the position. Signing a veteran post-draft makes a lot of sense if the board doesn't fall their way.
- The Cowboys have good starters and depth at both cornerback and safety, but a combined five of their top seven defensive backs are free agents when the season ends.
- Round one is a little rich unless it's a blue-chip player. Meanwhile, rounds two through five all offer good value.
You may have noticed a theme. Despite not having one glaring need, several minor/secondary needs should be addressed in the first three to four rounds. The problem is they have more needs than picks.
I am not doing trades here, but a trade down from 26 is the best course of action. I wrote an article explaining why and offered two teams that may want to trade up.
Below is my guide to what I'm targeting in each round:
- Round 1 — Pass Catcher – Offensive Line – Defensive Tackle
- Round 2 — Pass Catcher – Offensive Line – Defensive Tackle – Linebacker
- Round 3 — Running Back – Pass Catcher – Offensive Line – Defensive Tackle – Linebacker – Defensive Back
- Round 4 — Running Back – Tight End – Offensive Line – Linebacker – Defensive Back
- Round 5 — Quarterback – Offensive Line – Defensive End – Linebacker – Defensive Back
- Round 6/7 — Quarterback – Kicker – High-Upside Traits
- Dane Brugler's Draft Guide, better known as The Beast, will be referred to frequently. It requires a subscription to TheAthletic, but is a great resource.
- The number in parentheses represents the players' ranking on the consensus big board compiled by Arif Hasan of Pro Football Network.
Without further ado, LET'S DRAFT!
Round 1 — TE Michael Mayer (20), Notre Dame
Other available players considered: OL O'Cyrus Torrence (30), Florida; TE Darnell Washington (31), Georgia; EDGE Will McDonald IV (33), Iowa State; OL Steve Avila (48), TCU
There are two players — Georgia DE Nolan Smith and Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr — I would select over the three positions I listed above for round one.
In addition to those two, Smith-Njigba and Tennessee OL Darnell Wright would be “run in the card” picks.
None of those four were left so the choice was between TE Michael Mayer and OL Steve Avila.
I prefer TE Darnell Washington and OL O'Cyrus Torrence, but I think the team prefers Mayer/Avila.
Both positions are fairly deep, but I went with Mayer since a difference-making TE1 is harder to find than a quality starting guard.
Mayer does just about everything well and should be a reasonably safe pick. Where I struggle with him is pretty much all elite tight ends in modern football are elite athletes.
Mayer does not have great athleticism which may prevent him from ever becoming a top three to five tight end in the NFL.
He does upgrade what they currently have at tight end and should also be the fourth receiving option immediately with the possibility of being a top-three option by the end of his rookie campaign.
Round 2 — DT Keeanu Benton (61), Wisconsin
Other available players considered: LB Daiyan Henley (69), Washington State; DT Gervon Dexter Sr (74), Florida
I considered LB Daiyan Henley, but Keeanu Benton at 58 is one of my dream scenarios for round two.
As stated above, defensive tackle is one of their bigger needs and it's not a great defensive tackle draft class. Those reasons solidified my decision to draft Benton.
At just under 6'4″ and 309 pounds, he helps add some much-needed beef to the interior defensive line.
If this same scenario plays out where the Cowboys select a pass catcher in round one, the board is washed at offensive line, and Benton is also gone, DT Gervon Dexter Sr feels like a classic Cowboys second-round pick.
He doesn't have the character or medical red flags they love in round two but is the high-risk, high-reward prospect they are drawn to in this round.
The tape/production doesn't match the physical tools and he reminds me a lot of 2019 second-round pick Trysten Hill, just without the maturity concerns.
Tennessee WR Cedric Tillman (one of my favorite round two targets), TEs Tucker Kraft, and Sam LaPorta were all on the board, but picking Mayer prevented them from being in consideration.
The pass catcher options in round two are another issue with taking Mayer in round one.
Round 3 — RB Roschon Johnson (93), Texas
Other available players considered: RB Tyjae Spears (76), Tulane; LB Henry To'oTo'o (89), Alabama; RB Tank Bigsby (95), Auburn; RB Kendre Miller (110), Tulane; CB Cory Trice (122), Purdue; LB/S Marte Mapu (171), Sacramento State
After picking Benton in the second, my hope was for OG Chandler Zavala or OL Tyler Steen to be on the board at 90 — as in round two, the offensive linemen I wanted were gone before my pick.
The drop-off of talent between the offensive linemen available here versus the ones I expect to be on the board in round four wasn't enough to justify bypassing a more talented player.
After considering a cornerback and linebacker, I decided to go running back.
I had six running backs I loved at this spot and considered waiting to see if one of those six would still be there in the fourth. I went ahead and took a running back to not miss out on that tier of backs.
There may have been better pure runners available, but Roschon Johnson's fit both now and in the future is easy to forecast.
Brugler describes Johnson as “a quick-footed, physical ball carrier with valuable third-down skills as a pass-catcher and blocker. He should immediately upgrade an NFL team's running back rotation and be a core special teamer.”
His well-rounded game will allow him to play a lot of snaps as a rookie and have a long career.
Round 4 — OL Braeden Daniels (141), Utah
Other available players considered: LB Noah Sewell (100), Oregon; OL Andrew Vorhees (118), USC; CB Jakorian Bennett (120), Louisville; LB Owen Pappoe (124), Auburn; CB Terrell Smith (132), Minnesota; DE/LB Yasir Abdullah (142), Louisville; LB Ivan Pace Jr (152), Cincinnati
Finally, a round worked out like I hoped. There were multiple offensive linemen, a few linebackers, and some cornerbacks I was targeting still on the board.
In the end, I decided offensive line over linebacker since it's a more premium position. With corner, it would stretch better into the fifth so offensive line was the pick.
I was very tempted to take USC iOL Andrew Vorhees who was a projected third-round pick until he tore his ACL at the combine in February.
The fact that Braeden Daniels is healthy and provides guard/tackle versatility gave him the edge over Vorhees.
Daniels is my first carryover pick from the mock draft series. I touch on Vorhees and Daniels in round five of this mock more in-depth; check it out to get more thoughts/info on both.
Round 5 — CB Darrell Luter Jr (184), South Alabama
Other available players considered: WR Andrei Iosivas (145), Princeton; QB Aidan O'Connell (190), Purdue; QB Clayton Tune (202), Houston; LB Ventrell Miller (216), Florida; LB Cam Jones (224), Indiana; DL Tyler Lacy (226), Oklahoma State
This was another carryover pick from my mock draft series.
Darrell Luter carries a fifth-round grade from Brugler and has a physical/athletic profile similar to 2022's fifth-round corner DaRon Bland.
This round has a few of these tall, long corners so I knew I could be patient for one.
There wasn't a “flashing red light” prospect available in the previous rounds, so I was glad to see Luter still on the board here.
A few linebackers and quarterbacks were considered as well.
At linebacker, I'd rather bring in a veteran free agent versus drafting another one this late since they have several day-three linebackers from the 2021 and 2022 drafts.
There shouldn't be a need for a cornerback this year, but there likely will be a need next year. With how deep the position is, I love round five for corner given it's a pick made for next year.
Round 6 — QB Clayton Tune (202), Houston
Other available players considered: WR Puka Nacua (192), BYU; WR Jalen Moreno-Cropper (217), Fresno State; LB Ventrell Miller (216), Florida; LB Mohamoud Diabate (254), Utah
The Cowboys have come out and said they plan on taking a developmental quarterback at some point in this draft.
Clayton Tune is a three-time team captain with 44 career starts and 104 career touchdown passes who was praised for being a hard worker.
He's probably a career backup, but leadership and experience are good qualities for that role.
Sixth-round picks rarely pan out so why not shoot for the moon at the most valuable position in all of sports?
Round 7 — DE Tavius Robinson (221), Ole Miss
Other available players considered: DE Caleb Murphy (290), Ferris State
As I said in my “by round” section, I'm looking for a kicker or high-upside traits in round seven.
Tavius Robinson is 6'6″, 257 pounds with nearly 34″ arms, and ran a 4.66s 40-yard dash. That's the traits you look for at this point in the draft.
Last year, he was also a team captain, led Ole Miss with seven sacks, and led the nation with five forced fumbles.
At pick 244, the player they select is likely on the practice squad as a rookie so taking a player with both great measurables and production in the SEC to try to develop for a year is as good a bet as any.
- I am not thrilled at the idea of Mayer but don't hate it at all. He will most likely be the best player available and a day-one starter.
- I understand the concern at left guard, but unless Wright makes it to 26, Mayer is a better player than the guards who will be available.
- There's also a chance one of Torrence/Avila or another guard of near equal talent will be there at 58.
- With that being said, my board was wiped out for offensive line at 58 and 90 which speaks to the uncertain nature of the draft.
- I love the value of Benton/Johnson in rounds two and three. Both should compete for the primary backup role and play a lot of snaps as rookies.
- Daniels may not start at left guard as a rookie, but having a player like him to help cover a multitude of injuries would be beneficial.
- His flexibility would also come in handy in future years with potential free-agent departures and eventual retirements.
- I have a feeling the Cowboys won't wait until the fifth to pick a cornerback, but if they do, there should be a few that fit the height/length thresholds the team covets — including my favorite, Luter.
- We wrapped up the mock with one of the quarterbacks the Cowboys are most connected to and a toolsy, productive defensive end from a major conference.
- It's rounds six and seven, these picks rarely matter.
- My biggest regret was not getting a linebacker or a speedy wide receiver, but with only seven picks, it's hard to check all the boxes.
Thanks for reading and HAPPY DRAFT DAY!!