With Dez Bryant's release, the need for a front-line wide receiver becomes a bit more urgent for the Dallas Cowboys. The 2018 NFL Draft sets up very well for DAL to fill several needs on the offensive and defensive sides of the football. With a lot of depth at positions that the Dallas Cowboys have been looking into, there will be options to move around in this draft that fit what the front office likes to do.
So, here is my new seven-round mock draft, only because the Bryant move made me rethink what I would do.
Using Fanspeak's On The Clock Premium, I explored what it would look like to trade back in the first round, which is becoming my preference if the first round falls right. After picking up an extra pick or two in a trade back in the first, I'd love to see them move up in the second.
I made probably more trades than they would make, but they all make sense from a trade value chart perspective.
I used Connor Livesay's big board from Pro Football Talk Line and set the computer to use multiple big boards, trying to simulate what an NFL Draft actually looks like. Different teams place different value on the players due to their varying evaluations.
Using the running list that KD Drummond has going over at The Cowboys Wire, I made an effort to select players the Dallas Cowboys have met with in some capacity.
Round 1: James Daniels, G/C, Iowa
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Five quarterbacks went in the first 18 selections, which is the best case scenario for the Dallas Cowboys at #19. I've been very vocal about the idea that Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson will all go before the Dallas Cowboys pick at 19. There are enough quarterback needy teams in the first half of the first round, and some in the back half, that it just makes sense.
The top two guard prospects, Quenton Nelson and Isaiah Wynn, were gone by 19, and Harold Landry went at pick 14 to the Green Bay Packers.
The New England Patriots came 'a callin' with #23 and their third rounder (#95) to move up to 19. It's not as good as adding a second rounder, but I didn't want to fall back too far and miss out on who I eventually picked for the Dallas Cowboys.
Iowa guard James Daniels.
He's a player that will fit what the Cowboys want to do with their zone blocking scheme. He has the mobility to get to the outside and to the second level. He completes the Dallas offensive line and allows them to continue being the physical run-first football team that they've morphed into over the last three or four years.
Round 2: DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
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Maryland Wide Receiver DJ Moore slipped to the top of the second round, so I made a move up from 50 to get him.
In order to do so, I had to give up pick 50, New England's pick at the back-end of the third round (95), and pick 192 to equal 534 points. That is about equal to the first of Indianapolis' two second round picks at pick 36 (540 points).
Moore is a good route runner with quickness and speed to make big plays happen. Was very productive at Maryland and has received comparisons to Minnesota Vikings' Wide Receiver Stefon Diggs.
We still have our third rounder to work with and now have filled the two biggest needs on the offensive side of the ball with players who could be day-one starters.
Round 3: Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
Heading into round three, I'm feeling really good about the draft so far. Obviously there are still some needs to address, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
Got an offer from the Carolina Panthers to move back from 81 to 85, while also adding their fifth round pick, number 161.
After making the trade, the time came to address the linebacker position and Josey Jewell is the best one available at this point. Also the best available player at a position where the Dallas Cowboys have a hole.
The Cowboys coaching staff loves linebackers from the Big 10. See Anthony Hitchens, Damien Wilson, and Sean Lee.
Josey Jewell is someone who can come in and rotate with Jaylon Smith at the MIKE linebacker spot right away. He isn't fast (4.8 40) but he has the quickness to be a pretty good linebacker at the NFL level. He will need to work on his coverage ability. He can help on special teams right away as well.
*After the trade back, we are armed with two fourths, two fifths, two sixths and a seventh.
Round 4: Tarvarius Moore, S, Southern Mississippi
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When our pick came up at up at #116 we had some trade-back offers, but Tarvarius Moore, who excited the masses with his Pro-Day 4.32 40-yard dash, was still available. That speed and his true free safety ability couldn't be passed on any longer.
He makes a great addition to the safety rotation and can potentially be "the guy" at free safety. He'll have value immediately as a special teams gunner with his speed and could compete to be the full-time free safety right away.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
The other player I considered was Penn State TE Mike Gesicki. It's time for this team to begin looking at life without Jason Witten and Gesicki has some impressive athletic ability.
According to PlayerProfiler.com, he was no worse than the 95th percentile in any measurable and compares favorably to Vernon Davis -- hopefully without some of the headaches.
To get him, I sent both of our fifth round picks to Detroit to make the pick.
I traded pick 137 to the Seattle Seahawks for picks 141 and 168, though it was awfully tempting to stay there and take Nyheim Hines.
Round 5: Nyheim Hines, RB, North Carolina State
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Was able to pick up an extra fifth, move back and get a player who can contribute offensively and on special teams right away, Nyheim Hines. A dynamic pass catcher, Hines would be an excellent change of pace back to Ezekiel Elliott and Rod Smith.
He rushed for more than 1,100 yards and scored 12 touchdowns in 2017 at NC State, so he could be more Darren Sproles-like as a runner and receiver than anything they have on the roster at the moment.
Breeland Speaks, DT, Ole Miss
National 30 Visit
Attempting to add some depth with promise along the defensive line, Breeland Speaks is a nice addition who could fill some of the Tyrone Crawford role if he sticks. He can take some running-down snaps at defensive end or move inside and play some 3T defensive tackle for you as well.
Here's what NDTScouting.com's Jonah Tuls had to say about Speaks.
"I have a feeling Breeland Speaks will get drafted higher than he should because of his athletic traits and tools as a pass rusher, but his experience is mostly as a two-gap defensive end who is relatively unproven and underdeveloped with his plan of attack. Comparison: Jonathan Babineaux."
Jonah Tuls - NDTScouting.com
Round 6: Trenton Thompson, DT, Georgia
Part of the National Championship winning Georgia Bulldogs, the Dallas Cowboys like getting players from the Power 5 conferences and players who have good motors. Thompson has that.
Here's what Connor Livesay from ProFootballTalkline.com had to say about Thompson.
"Trenton Thompson was built in a lab, and passes the eye test with ease. At 6-foot-4 297lbs, Thompson has extremely good size and matches that with a fluid lower half that allows him to move well laterally and vertically. Has very heavy hands and you can see that from the tape when he strikes offensive lineman. Unfortunately, injuries and inconsistent play plagued Thompson’s career, but he can be a quality three-technique in the NFL if he’s able to stay healthy and hungry."
Connor Livesay - ProFootballTalkLine.com
208 - Leon Jacobs, LB, Wisconsin
Another linebacker from the Big 10 who can be competition for Damien Wilson on the strongside, but also has some weakside EDGE potential for you as well.
"The thing with Leon Jacobs is that he may be scheme specific to just a 3-4 scheme as an outside linebacker who can drop if asked, but rush with a blend of speed and power as well. He is incredibly raw and will take time to develop mental processing, however. Comparison: Aaron Curry"
Jonah Tuls - NDTScouting.com
Round 7: 236 - Dimitri Flowers, FB, Oklahoma
Yes, they signed Jamize Olawale in free agency, but that shouldn't prevent them from drafting one of the better chess pieces in the 2018 NFL Draft. I outlined my affection for Dimitri Flowers in last week's edition of my mock draft.
Dimitri Flowers is a pet cat of mine that I think could be a dynamic weapon for the Dallas Cowboys offense. He can run, catch, and block. He can lineup in the backfield, in-line as a tight end, or in the slot as a receiver.
If you watch his tape, you see him catching passes over the middle, down the seem, and along the sideline.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
While I don't expect that this is the way the draft is going to unfold, I do think trading back in the first and then up in the second is going to be the best option for the Dallas Cowboys to get the guard, wide receiver, and/or linebacker they need in the first two rounds.
Take it easy on me in the comment section. Thanks for reading.
Cowboys Draft Target: Washington Safety Taylor Rapp
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.
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.
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.
Should the 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.
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?
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.
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.
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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