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NFL Draft

Final Cowboys Mock Drafts Before Free Agency Address Defensive Interior, Receiver

Sean Martin



Final Cowboys Mock Drafts Before Free Agency Address Defensive Interior, WR

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?

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SB Nation: Taven Bryan, DT - Florida

Dan Kadar of SB Nation:

"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."


Florida's Taven Bryan is another prospect I've discussed as a target for the Dallas Cowboys, with a full scouting report available at Slant Sports.

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

Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News:

"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.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

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.

Tell us what you think about "Final Cowboys Mock Drafts Before Free Agency Address Defensive Interior, Receiver" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.



  1. Reynaldo Laporte

    March 13, 2018 at 11:06 am

    Any mock that has us drafting a WO in the first round immediately loses credibility to me. Fortunately for us this is a lot of talent to be had at the reciever position.

  2. Patsy Lucente

    March 20, 2018 at 11:19 am

    I do believe that if we have a chance to draft a top-notch receiver to take some of the pressure off of Dez Bryant that that would be the smartest thing to do for the Cowboys because it would definitely make an instant impact which they need to do 2 be an explosive offense and I do believe Dez Bryant is worth keeping his numbers went down since Dak Prescott became the new quarterback! I also think it would not be a bad move to try and trade David Irving for Earl Thomas which would make another instant impact with our secondary and our new secondary coach who’s going to be our defensive coordinator next year I think they should look at a tight end in the second round someone that’s comparable to a Jason Witten and also trying to find a diamond in the rough running back to compliment Ezekiel Elliott….

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Washington Safety Taylor Rapp

Kevin Brady



Cowboys Draft Target: Washington Safety Taylor Rapp
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

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.

The Player

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.

The Fit

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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NFL Draft

Should the Dallas Cowboys Make Offensive Tackle a Draft Priority?

Brian Martin



Should Dallas Cowboys Make Offensive Tackle a Draft Priority?

The 2019 NFL Draft will be an interesting one for the Dallas Cowboys. From the outside looking in it doesn't seem as if they have any clear "needs" that need to be addressed. But, if you were to dive deeper into their roster you'd probably discover things might not be as stable as we'd like to believe.

The Dallas Cowboys could obviously stand to upgrade several positions. So far this offseason wide receiver, tight end, and safety have been at the forefront of the discussion, but one position not being mentioned is offensive tackle. Why?

There has to be growing concerns within the organization about Tyron Smith's inability to stay healthy for an entire season. He has a bothersome back and it has continued to make him unavailable for at least two or three games these past few seasons. How much longer can they afford to roll the dice with his back issues?

Then there is La'el Collins, who is entering a contract year in 2019. Collins' best attribute during his time with the Cowboys is probably his availability. He's battled through some injuries himself these past couple years, but managed to play through it. Unfortunately though, his career has been up-and-down since taking over as the starting right tackle. It's probably time to find his successor.

La'el Collins

Dallas Cowboys RT La'el Collins

Sadly, Dallas doesn't have much offensive tackle depth behind Smith and Collins. Cameron Fleming, the Cowboys swing tackle in 2018, is now a free agent and is probably looking to join a team where he can earn a little more playing time. The only other OT candidate on the roster might be Connor Williams, but even that's an unknown sense he's never played tackle in the NFL.

I don't know what the Cowboys brass thinks of all of this, but I find it more than a little concerning. We know all too well what happens when the OT play isn't up to par. Chaz Green anyone!? That game alone against the Falcons is one we would all like to forget, but serves as a reminder of just how important it is to have an emergency plan in place.

The Cowboys of course have one or two ways of solidifying their tackle position. They can use free agency once again to find a swing tackle like they did with Cameron Fleming last year, or they can use one of their draft picks this year. The latter seems to be the wiser move, especially with Collins' contract coming to an end.

The Dallas Cowboys may have Tyron Smith and La'el Collins as their starters for the upcoming 2019 season, but it's never too early to start preparing for the future. That's why it wouldn't surprise me at all if Dallas used one of their draft picks this year on an offensive tackle. In fact, I'd encourage it.

I really like the idea of providing some competition at the RT position. If La'el Collins wins out fine. The rookie OT can then serve as the swing tackle and take over next season when Collins' contract expires. But, if the rookie wins Collins could also be become a trade asset. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Do you think offensive tackle should be a Dallas Cowboys draft priority?

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft Target: Kentucky CB Lonnie Johnson Jr.

Kevin Brady



Cowboys Draft Target: Kentucky CB Lonnie Johnson Jr.

Since Kris Richard has taken over the back-end of the Dallas Cowboys defense, they have clearly shown a bias towards a "type" of cornerback. Richard, looking to build this Dallas unit in a similar form to his Seattle teams, has prioritized long corners both in height and arm length.

As his responsibilities within the organization increase, it's only fair to expect Kris Richard to have more say in who the Cowboys' defense acquires in terms of talent. This means we should anticipate more defensive backs who fit his type, such as Kentucky Wildcats cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr.

The Player

So why does Lonnie Johnson fit the mold of what Kris Richard tends to look for? Well, for starters, he is 6'3" and 206 lbs with 32 1/4" arms. He's a long corner with excellent size and the trait profile which indicates he could be the perfect candidate to play cornerback in Dallas.

But while he might look great on paper, the tape is always the most important factor for evaluating and projecting talent. And, for Johnson, the tape isn't all-that great. Despite his length, Johnson struggled mightily in press-man coverage at Kentucky. Too often he is late or ineffective with his hands, leaving him susceptible to being blown by by the opposing receiver. He often loses balance due to poor footwork, and is rather average with his hips and quick change of direction.

Where Johnson was his best in college was in zone coverage, playing his deep third of Kentucky's cover-three look. Rarely did he allow receivers behind him in zone coverage, and displayed good instincts when deciding whether to jump routes or play more conservatively when playing in that deep third. He was not nearly as comfortable underneath, and Kentucky didn't ask him to play in that role too often. Because of how big he is, Johnson is able to contest at the catch point regularly, yet he only deflected 9 passes in 2 years.

What gives me the most hope for Lonnie Johnson as a prospect (besides his length) is his Senior Bowl performance. Johnson impressed daily at the Senior Bowl, looking more comfortable in man coverage and playing much better in his press technique.

Was this Johnson becoming more comfortable over time and a sign of things to come at the next level, or was it an anomaly that we shouldn't read too much into? The answer to that question is up to the individual teams, but his combine performance will play a huge role in how those teams answer.

The Fit

As I've discussed already, Lonnie Johnson Jr. fits what Kris Richard tends to look for in his cornerbacks. He is long, tall, and relatively athletic, making him a clay piece for a coach like Richard to develop.

The question is, however, how much development can really occur? The highs for Johnson are rather high when he maximizes his natural abilities on the field. But too often he is sloppy in technique, or looks lost in man coverage. Whether or not Richard can "fix" Johnson completely may never be seen, but teams (especially this one) could fall in love with him as a prospect for what he can become if it all comes together.

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