The NFL Draft is less than three weeks away now, and what's more fun than reading mock drafts at this time of the year? The Dallas Cowboys have a couple of needs to address with this year's class and we all have players on our minds that we hope they draft. Who knows if any of those players will be any good.
Using Fanspeak's On the Clock Simulator, I attempted to take a realistic approach to the mock draft, without making any trades. For example, in the simulator Calvin Ridley was available in the second round. That isn't going to happen. Ridley is a top-20 player, so I didn't select him.
What you'll read below, is my best -- and only -- attempt at mocking the draft.
Feel free to mock me in the comment section.
I don't believe wide receiver is as big of a need for the Cowboys as many people do. They now have seven wide receivers under contract for the 2018 season. Now, a lot of things can change, but I believe they are set at the position and just need to figure out which five or six are going to be on the roster come week one.
Also, I don't believe there is a huge need at cornerback, given that they're running four deep there with the move of Byron Jones to the position. Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Anthony Brown pencil in as your top four, and Xavier Woods can also play some slot corner if needed. Aside from depth, they're set at corner.
19. Will Hernandez - Guard, UTEP
Will Hernandez fits an immediate need and is a favorite of Inside The Star draft analysts, Kevin Brady and Sean Martin. It came down to Hernandez and James Daniels from Iowa, and I went with the guy who has already built a rapport with the Dallas Cowboys OL.
He has a strength and nastiness that will fit right in with the rest of the DAL offensive line, and will immediately open holes for Ezekiel Elliott.
50. Leighton Vander Esch - Linebacker, Boise State
Projecting as a late-first rounder by some and a second rounder by others, I couldn't help but take Leighton Vander Esch as a player who could rotate in with Jaylon Smith day one, then take over for Sean Lee in 2019.
Other options I passed on were TE Dallas Goedert and WR James Washington. Taven Bryan was also available, but I felt the 3T spot was a bit crowded with David Irving and Maliek Collins to add another under tackle.
One of my favorites, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo from the University of Oklahoma, was also available, but seeing as how there is a greater need at LB than EDGE, I went that direction.
It also seems that many in the Draft Twitter community are lower on Obo than I am, which probably means I have some fan bias when it comes to the former Sooner.
81. Mark Andrews - Tight End, University of Oklahoma
Some will think that this is a waste of a pick, but it's time to begin finding the successor to Jason Witten, and Mark Andrews is that.
While at the moment seen as more of a "move tight end," Andrews can play in sub-packages while learning the finer points of blocking at the tight end position from a future Hall of Famer in Witten.
At Oklahoma, Andrews displayed really good hands and route running ability. His run after catch prowess led to many big gains for the Sooners as a favorite of Baker Mayfield. In three years at OU, he caught 22 touchdowns and averaged more than 15 yards a catch for his career.
The Dallas Cowboys like to use 12 personnel and with Andrews, they could motion him out to create mismatches and he's an excellent fit for Dallas as they continue to adopt more and more RPO concepts.
At 6'5", 254 lbs, he has the frame to become a good blocker and continue to be a red-zone weapon for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys.
116. DeShon Elliott - Safety, University of Texas
The Cowboys have been doing a nice job of revamping their secondary and DeShon Elliott can fit right in with their safety group. He had a nice 2017 with the Longhorns, picking off six passes and converting 8.5 tackles for loss.
With Woods and Jeff Heath manning the free safety positions, Elliott can begin to rotate in with Kavon Frazier as well as manning some TE coverage roles.
137. Shaquem Griffin - Linebacker, University of Central Florida
Linebacker Shaquem Griffin is a favorite of Draft analyst Kevin Turner from 105.3 The Fan, and he's got me convinced that Griffin is a guy I want on my team.
Like the Dallas Cowboys did a year ago at cornerback, I attacked the LB position given the health concerns of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith. Griffin can be a situational MIKE and WILL while also playing some special teams for you as well.
While he does have a disability that will limit him, effort will never be the issue with Griffin.
171. Deadrin Senat - Defensive Tackle, University of South Florida
Finally getting a chance to address the gaping hole at the 1T Nose Tackle spot, South Florida's Deadrin Senat's presence fills that hole.
While Vita Vea is the cream of the crop, Senat is no slouch himself.
I took him a bit higher than I should, but with only one fifth round selection and three in the sixth, I felt it was a justifiable reach for a guy who can push for snaps day one on the interior of the defensive line.
His senior season was pretty awesome. He had 66-combined tackles, 10.5 for loss and six sacks. He's rotating in on early downs right away and helps the run defense tremendously.
192. Nyheim Hines - Running Back, North Carolina State
Hines ran for 1,113 yards and 12 touchdowns while playing in the ACC. The only thing that limits him is his size. But he can be a chunk player on 10 touches a game and has some experience lining up as a wide receiver as he did his freshmen year. Before becoming the lead back, he averaged more than 12 yards per reception his first two seasons.
He's the guy you want giving Ezekiel Elliott a breather a couple series a game and on third downs.
193. Jeff Holland - EDGE, Auburn University
Jeff Holland fills a need for some depth at EDGE and comes out of a Power 5 Conference, like this team likes to draft. He was a productive player at Auburn who had 9.5 sacks in 2017 to go along with 12.5 tackles for loss.
He can come in and compete for snaps on the weakside of the defensive line while continuing to refine his game.
208. Joseph Noteboom - Tackle, Texas Christian University
Joseph Noteboom. I'm pretty much ready to move on from the Chaz Green experiment. Noteboom is Jonah Tuls 171st ranked player and someone who could be the swing tackle and provide some competition on the offensive line.
236. Dimitri Flowers - H-Back, University of Oklahoma
I grabbed another Sooner, Dimitri Flowers, here because he is probably one of the more underrated offensive players in the draft.
He's a great receiver for his size and can run the ball with fluidity. He can do a little lead blocking, but needs some work on that front. Flowers scored 17 rushing and receiving touchdowns over his final three seasons at OU, and averaged more than 16 yards per reception on 54 catches.
He's a chess piece that would allow Dallas to be really creative in their formations.
Imagine him and Ezekiel Elliott lined up in shotgun on either side of Dak Prescott and the RPO and route options you could have with those two guys.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Well, Cowboys Nation, there you have it. The Dallas Cowboys didn't ask me, but I gave it my best shot.
Have the Dallas Cowboys Overcome Their 2nd-Round Curse?
You may not be aware or maybe you've simply forgotten, but the Dallas Cowboys have struggled drafting players in the 2nd-round who can come in and contribute. Typically players drafted this highly are not only immediate contributors as a rookie, but are cornerstone players for years to come. That hasn't been the case for the Cowboys.
I don't know where you stand, but I was beginning to think the Dallas Cowboys were cursed with their 2nd-round draft picks. I know this was an area where they would gamble on players for some reason or another, but unfortunately it never really paid off. Hopefully, things are changing for the better.
Let's take a look back at past drafts to see what I'm talking about.
Past 2nd-Round Draft Picks Dating Back to 2006:
2018 Connor Williams
2017 Chidobe Awuzie
2016 Jaylon Smith
2015 Randy Gregory
2014 DeMarcus Lawrence
2013 Gavin Escobar
2012 (no selection) used to trade for Morris Claiborne
2011 Bruce Carter
2010 Sean Lee
2009 (no selection) traded out of 2nd-round
2008 Martellus Bennett
2007 (no selection) used to trade back into 1st for Anthony Spencer
2006 Anthony Fasano
You may be wondering why I decided to start all the way back in 2006. Well, I believe that's when the 2nd-round draft picks curse started for the Dallas Cowboys.
Anthony Fasano ended up having a solid career in the NFL, but he never lived up to his draft status as a former 2nd-round draft pick. The same can be said for Martellus Bennett, Gavin Escobar, and Bruce Carter. Shed a tear for them if you want, but I'd put them in the "bust" category.
The sad truth is, Sean Lee is the only 2nd-round draft pick on this list to ever see a second contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Although, I guess you can include DeMarcus Lawrence since he will be playing under the franchise tag in 2018. But, that's still not a very good hit percentage in the 2nd-round for more than a decade. Luckily, it looks as if things are changing.
DeMarcus Lawrence might end up being another "hit" for the Cowboys. It may have taken him four years to reach his potential, but there's no denying how dominant he was last season. If he can maintain that dominance this season, he could be looking at a big payday from the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys took a risk on the next two players they drafted after D-Law. They knew Randy Gregory had his off the field issues, but were willing to take a chance on his talent in the 2nd-round. That has yet to pay off, but Gregory has a chance to rebound now that it looks as if he has his life back in order.
The Cowboys took another risk in the following draft when they drafted Jaylon Smith. No one knew if he would ever be able to play again after the devastating knee injury he sustained in his final collegiate game, but it's looking as if he could make a full recovery and return to his pre-injury form. Year 3 will be big for him, but he could end up being an absolute steal.
Fortunately, the Cowboys 2017 and 2018 2nd-round draft picks (Chidobe Awuzie and Connor Williams) look to be cornerstone players for years to come. That's what you're looking for in players drafted this highly.
I say all of this because it's really looking like the Dallas Cowboys have finally broken their 2nd-round curse. Maybe it's a change in draft philosophy or maybe it's because Will McClay's voice carries more weight in the draft room, but it's definitely good news for the future of the franchise. Hopefully it continues.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys 2nd-round curse has ended?
Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?
The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.
But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.
Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.
Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.
First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.
On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.
What about the rest of the class?
Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.
After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.
How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?
One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.
Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.
But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.
Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.
Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.
Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.
One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.
In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.
Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?
Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.
The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.
Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.
Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.
For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.
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