The official start to the 2018 league year, and the NFL free agency period, is right around the corner – with a number of upcoming signings already set to shake these rosters up. The Dallas Cowboys likely won’t look drastically different by the time free agency opens and closes, but this part of the roster building process is crucial to succeeding in the Draft.
With some fans distracted by the lure of lucrative contracts being handed out to attractive free agents, the NFL Draft’s starting date of April 26th from Dallas is sneaking up.
That is not the case for the following mock draft sources that we’ll look at to see which prospects are linked to the Cowboys this week.
CBS Sports: Calvin Ridley, WR – Alabama
This pick from Chris Trapasso remains exactly the same from last week, with the need for the Cowboys to upgrade at WR only in position to become more dire, should Dez Bryant be released.
The Dallas Cowboys are certainly doing more than just their due diligence in preparation for Ridley being available to them in the first round, visiting with him at the Combine and reportedly already scheduling a pre-draft visit with the 23-year old Alabama star.
As I’ve written before, Ridley is exactly the type of receiver the Cowboys need to be looking at to support Dak Prescott in year three. The best overall WR available in this draft, Calvin Ridley at pick #19 is gaining momentum – but will the Cowboys have to trade up to secure their next big outside target?
SB Nation: Taven Bryan, DT – Florida
“There may be more high-rated defensive tackles available, but Bryan fits perfectly in the Cowboys’ scheme. They like defensive tackles who can split gaps and get into the backfield, and that is Bryan’s specialty. Michigan’s Maurice Hurst fits the mold as well, but a heart condition discovered at the combine could knock him a little.”
A free agency decision on RFA DT David Irving is coming soon from the Cowboys, and even with Irving returning for 2018, it is hard for Rod Marinelli to have enough pass rushing depth at DT. Bryan would certainly provide that, drafted in the top twenty on pure upside should he land in Dallas.
Far from a finished product, Bryan has the traits to be molded into a disruptive 3T DT – along with enough strength and awareness to contribute right away. I personally wouldn’t be a fan of the Cowboys using their first pick on Taven Bryan, but this is a player that could easily prove a lot of people wrong through his NFL career.
Sporting News: Da’Ron Payne, DT – Alabama
“The Cowboys keep loading up on speed and quickness for Rod Marinelli’s defense. Although they have a dominant edge player in DeMarcus Lawrence and a dangerous swing man in David Irving, they need another big body who can blow up plays in the backfield. Bringing in Payne would give Dallas quite a pile up front after taking end Taco Charlton in the first round last year.”
For the second week in a row, Payne joins his Alabama teammate Calvin Ridley as a possible pick for the Dallas Cowboys. Fitting the profile Stephen Jones has alluded to when it comes to evaluating DTs, Payne can provide solid depth at both the 1T and 3T position inside.
Payne tested as a well-rounded athlete at the Combine, and has a chance to come out from underneath the shadows of so many other Crimson Tide defensive prospects at the next level. He won’t be a flashy pick, but Da’Ron Payne is a ready-made NFL contributor that fills a need for the Cowboys in upgrading their run defense.
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The Cowboys’ free agency strategy is to once again put themselves in position to improve wherever they please using their ten 2018 draft picks. Already impressively close to doing so, the recurring availability of prospects like Calvin Ridley at 19th overall in these mocks drafts should be exciting for Cowboys Nation.
Tangible football things are on the horizon.