The big night is almost upon us! As such, I am long overdue for getting out my first mock draft of 2017.
After the narrow scope of the fourth-overall pick last year, it's been harder to sink my teeth into this year's draft and the 28th pick. So many variables, both in this draft class and in the Cowboys' needs, have made projection difficult.
Nevertheless, I did my best to come up with a draft that I think closely resembles what you'll see on Thursday night. Here are my standard disclaimers:
- Please comment with your thoughts on my picks. If you're a fan of another team I really value your insider perspective and will use it to make my next mock better.
- These are predictions of what teams WILL do and not necessarily what they SHOULD.
- I don't get into predicting trades. It's too much of a crapshoot to spend mental energy on.
With this draft class being unfriendly for QB-needy teams, Cleveland takes one of the most exciting defensive line prospects in the last decade. They will hope for a QB to fall to them #12.
Switching to a 4-3 defense this year, 49ers take Thomas for immediate talent infusion and insurance in case other guys struggle with the transition.
Malik Hooker may have more upside but also has risks. The Bears take the surer thing in Adams, who will bring immediate improvement and leadership.
T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory aren't getting it done as a tandem. With QB Blake Bortles on the hot seat, the Jaguars give him some help with Fournette's potentially elite talent.
Things align perfectly for the Titans to fill their biggest need with the best CB prospect in the class.
Hooker's upside is right there with the best talents in the class, making it impossible for the Jets to pass on him. They need upgrades in the secondary.
Allen can be a stalwart as a 3-4 DE for the next decade. Needs to add power but that's what NFL strength coaches are for.
After Garrett and Thomas, Taco is probably most ready to come in and help a 4-3 defense right out of the gates. Carolina needs immediate talent infusion if they want to get back to contender status.
The Bengals have need at both DE and LB and Reddick's versatility serves both. Comparable to Khalil Mack, he will bring immediate help to their pass rush.
Howard gives Tyrod Taylor a new weapon as he fights to keep the starting QB job. If he fails, Howard becomes some new young QB's best friend.
I've been thinking for a while they would take Drew Brees' understudy at their #32 pick. If that's the plan and then Trubisky is available here, how can they say no?
I think the Browns will give Cody Kessler a shot and wait for a better QB class to add talent if needed. They add another significant defensive talent here with Foster.
Mahomes' college scheme makes him an ideal fit for Bruce Arians' offense. Arizona starts preparing in what is likely Carson Palmer's last year.
Cook isn't a power runner but that's normal for the Eagles' offense. He is a great fit for them, so long as they trust his character.
McKinley may be best suited to convert to a 3-4 OLB of the available pass rushers, which makes him ideal for Indy.
It's been five years since the Ravens' Super Bowl win and Flacco hasn't been given much offensive help since. Davis could form a championship duo with Breshad Perriman.
Matt Jones was solid but did not break out last year as many hoped. McCaffrey solidifies the backfield and gives them an option at WR also, where Washington is also thin.
With Marcus Mariota's ability to move around and extend plays, Ross' speed could make them a dangerous pair in the wide-open AFC South.
Noah Spence was a steal last year but the rest of the Bucs' pass rushers are old men. Barnett gives them one of them best young DE combos in the game.
The Broncos help their young quarterback, whoever it turns out to be, with the draft's other exceptional TE prospect.
Matthew Stafford needs another weapon and Williams falling to this spot is a major gift. He's not Megatron, but Mike could be great with Stafford as his QB.
Able to play any OL position, Lamp can fill one of the Dolphins' many needs up front as they look to get back to the playoffs.
The Giants add Robinson, hopefully keeping Eli's "game worn" jerseys from getting too dirty.
McDowell's raw talent keeps him in the first round despite the concerns about scheme fit and locker room chemistry.
The pick is late enough that Watson doesn't have to start Week One to justify it, which is ideal for the Texans as they let Deshaun compete with Tom Savage.
He should become a star as a 4-3 tackle, which is what the Seahawks need as they rebuild their front lines.
The pick would've been Sidney Jones if not for his recent Achilles injury. The Chiefs are looking to compete and Humphrey should be ready to contribute now.
Dallas gets the edge rusher they desperately need. If Harris is gone, Dallas might go cornerback here as the next tier of pass rushers isn't as enticing.
A perfect replacement for Sam Shields, White should flourish in the Packers' man-heavy scheme.
The last great Pittsburgh safety, the one with the big hair, was only 5'10". Pittsburgh will move Peppers around and let him make plays.
The reigning NFC Champions look to keep their infrastructure solid with the conservative, but often profitable, o-line pick.
The Saints badly need a safety and Baker is the consensus as the #3 prospect after Adams and Hooker.
Cowboys Draft Target: Nebraska WR Stanley Morgan Jr.
NAME: Stanley Morgan Jr.
POSITION: Wide Receiver
CONFERENCE: Big Ten
JERSEY: No. 8
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
"Where I come from ... I had to block for Leonard Fournette, I played on the same team as Tyrann Mathieu," Morgan said. "It's just guys like that around me that made me want to work harder, just to keep going and give it my all. It's something that I was born with."
Stanley Morgan Jr. was a consistent and productive wide receiver during his time at Nebraska. He projects as a "Z" receiver in the NFL, but is probably better suited to play in the slot because of his skill set. Might be the best route runner in the entire 2019 WR draft class.
There's no questioning his toughness and competitiveness. His passion for the game shows up on tape. Unafraid to carry his routes across the middle of field. Possess good separation ability due to his precise route running and his ability to change directions on a dime. Has an understanding of how to temper his routes as well and has a way of lulling defensive backs to sleep and catching them off guard.
Has soft natural hands and shows good technique at the catch point. Shows the ability to make contested catches. Large catch radius. Excellent catch focus and body control. Shows the ability to climb the ladder and high point passes. Unfazed with DBs draped on him and shows good spatial awareness along the sideline. Has a little wiggle to be a threat after the catch, but doesn't have homerun ability.
Stanley Morgan Jr. could be labeled as "just a guy" as a wide receiver prospect. There is nothing really special about his game and he has just average speed and athleticism. Despite his productivity and consistency at Nebraska, he may have already reached his peak.
Morgan may be nothing more than a slot receiver in the NFL. He doesn't possess the necessary speed to be a threat down the field and doesn't show a lot of burst out of his breaks. Average speed will limit his big-play ability as well. Struggles to beat press coverage, which could cause cornerbacks to sit on underneath routes.
Doesn't offer anything on special teams. Had a handful of opportunities at Nebraska as a kick and punt returner with very little success. Doesn't show a lot of functional strength on film. Lack of strength and power limits his blocking ability in the passing game. Arrested for marijuana possession in May 2017.
Although Stanley Morgan Jr. has the ability to play the "Z" position with the Dallas Cowboys, they would likely move him into the slot full-time as Cole Beasley's replacement now that he's officially moved on to the Buffalo Bills. He may not have the same kind of change of direction skills as Beasley, but Morgan's precise route running ability immediately makes him a threat in the Cowboys aerial attack as a rookie.
Morgan unfortunately doesn't offer much, if anything, on special teams. He returned a few kickoffs and punts during his time at Nebraska, but had marginal success. He will probably never be more than a WR3 and might have already reached his peak as a prospect, but he is the type of WR who can have a long career in the NFL. As a potential mid-round draft pick he is an intriguing slot option for the Cowboys, but probably won't help fans forget about No. 11 anytime soon.
Cowboys Draft Dilemma: Deebo Samuel (Rd. 2) vs. Stanley Morgan Jr. (Rd. 4)
There are a lot of fans around Cowboys Nation who are hoping former South Carolina Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel is still on the board when the Dallas Cowboys are on the clock in the second-round with the 58th overall selection. Samuel is the dream replacement for Cole Beasley for a lot of us, but would likely be a luxury this early in the draft instead of a need.
I don't want to rain on the parade for all you Deebo Samuel fans, myself included, but I don't know if the Cowboys would pull the trigger on a WR that early. This is especially true considering there is someone who I believe compares favorably to Samuel and could be available at least two rounds later. In case you haven't figured out yet, I'm talking about former Nebraska WR Stanley Morgan Jr.
Deebo Samuel of course is the more hyped WR and is in the running as one of the top five receivers in the 2019 draft class, but Stanley Morgan Jr. shouldn't be considered a consolation prize. These two WRs could be a carbon copy of one another on paper and tested surprisingly similar at the NFL Combine as well.
Don't take my word for it of course. Take a look for yourself…
Stanley Morgan Jr.
|Arm length||31 3/8"||32 3/8"|
|Hand size||10"||9 7/8"|
|20 yard shuffle||4.14||4.13|
|3 cone drill||7.03||6.78|
As you can see from the measurements and the testing, Deebo Samuel and Stanley Morgan Jr. are amazingly similar on paper. The similarities don't end there though. Both players are devastating with the ball in their hands and easily create separation through their route stems.
The only real difference I have seen between the two is Samuel is a little more thickly built and has been more productive as an outside receiver so far in his career. He is also the more powerful of the two, which serves him well in contested catch situations. That's not saying Morgan can't be just as effective as an outside WR. He just wasn't utilized in that manner during his time at Nebraska.
As far as the Dallas Cowboys are concerned though, both Samuel and Morgan would be ideal inside/outside WR candidates capable of replacing Cole Beasley in the slot. The only question now is which receiver would the Cowboys prefer?
It's really a tossup if you don't really know these receivers and have never watched them play, but not if you take into consideration what we know about the Dallas Cowboys. They like bargains, which is why I have a hard time believing they wouldn't be bargain shoppers in the 2019 NFL Draft like they have been so far in free agency.
As much as we all love Deebo Samuel and the skill set he would bring to the Cowboys, investing a second-round pick might be too high for Dallas considering they can get a similar player at least two rounds later. Stanley Morgan Jr. is a bargain I just don't think they could pass up.
This is all speculation of course, but it's definitely something to take into consideration when the 2019 NFL Draft gets underway.
Deebo Samuel or Stanley Morgan Jr.? Which receiver would you draft?
Cowboys Draft Target: Mississippi State S Johnathan Abram
NAME: Johnathan Abram
SCHOOL: Mississippi State
JERSEY: No. 38
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
HT: 5' 11 3/8"
|Tackles||Tackles||Tackles||Tackles||Tackles||Def Int||Def Int||Def Int||Def Int||Def Int||Fumbles||Fumbles||Fumbles||Fumbles|
Johnathan Abram, playing for the Bulldogs of Mississippi State University, is considered the hardest hitting safety in college football. He's top NFL prospect, who is projected to be selected in the late 1st to early 2nd round(s) of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Johnathan Abram's biggest strength as a safety prospect is his ability to play around the line of scrimmage as a box safety, which is why he's projected to be a strong safety in the NFL. Possesses the prototypical size for the position. He also has the ability and skill set to play a hybrid safety/linebacker role as well.
Abram is at his best when he's playing downhill and sideline to sideline against the run. His size, strength, and physicality allow him to stack and shed blocks like a linebacker. Aggressive tackler who is always looking to deliver a big hit. Also shows good technique to get his head across the ball carrier's chest while wrapping up to make the tackle.
Shows adequate range and speed in coverage. Is able to flip his hips and redirect to change direction quickly, but there is some stiffness there as well. Has the size and athletic ability to match up with tight ends. Shows an understanding of route recognition. His physicality in the run game carries over into the passing game.
The biggest concern about Johnathan Abram's game is his ability, or lack thereof, in coverage. Whether it's an man or zone coverage, he struggles with his responsibilities and can be eaten alive by receivers who know what they're doing. This doesn't bode well for his transition to the NFL, which has become a heavy passing league.
His aggressive nature will get him into trouble in the passing game. Can be clunky in his transitions against good route runners. Will panic and grab when he's caught out of position, which has generated, or should have, flags being thrown. Lack of desired range will keep him from becoming a deep safety, making him a strong safety only.
Questionable ball skills. Only has two interceptions and 10 pass deflections in his career. Struggles locating the ball and doesn't show instincts or anticipation to jump routes. Can be too aggressive against the run, causing him to over pursue and create cutback lanes.
If the Dallas Cowboys are looking for a hard-hitting strong safety who excels around the line of scrimmage, then Johnathan Abram is their guy. He is a heatseeking missile when playing downhill or sideline to sideline, and would play that Kam Chancellor type role on the backend of Kris Richard's defense. He has outstanding size and speed for the position, and is a more fluid athlete then he's given credit for. More of a "traditional" throwback safety.
Abram unfortunately struggles in coverage, despite showing good range and long speed. He may be nothing more than a box safety or nickel/dime linebacker in the NFL. This could hurt his chances of landing with the Cowboys, especially if they are looking for an interchangeable safety to pair with Xavier Woods. But, if there are looking for that "enforcer" type of player, they'd probably have to take him at 58 in the second-round because it's unlikely he will still be there when they're on the clock in the third-round.
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