One of my favorite "draft analysts" Matt Miller recently released his first 2017 post-combine 7-round mock draft, and as a Dallas Cowboys fan, I was interested in seeing which player he chose in each round for America's Team. I'll be the first to admit that I wouldn't be too terribly upset if Miller's selections for the Cowboys actually came true after the completion of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Matt Miller pretty much covered all of the positions that really need to be addressed for the Cowboys, and did so with some really good players that can come in and start as rookies. I personally would've went a different direction with a few of his selections, but that's what's fun about these mock drafts.
A few of the players that Miller selected for the Dallas Cowboys were available because of the way they were able to perform at the 2017 NFL combine this past weekend. Some of these prospects improved their draft stock, while others will need to improve their numbers at their College Pro days.
Continue reading below to see who draft analyst, Matt Miller, selected for the Dallas Cowboys in this 2017 mock draft.
Round 1: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Derek Barnett's draft stock likely took a hit this past week because he put up some head scratching numbers in a lot of the drills he took part in. But, I don't think you would hear very many Dallas Cowboys fans complaining if Barnett was available at the end of the first round.
Barnett's combine numbers didn't really match up to what you see from him when studying his game film. This is likely due to the fact he was sick and couldn't keep anything down a couple of days before he took the field in Indianapolis. To his credit though, he came out and competed anyway, but it looks as if his performance was unfortunately uninspiring.
Barnett still has his college pro day to prove to teams that he is still one of the better DE prospects in the 2017 draft. But, if this is indeed the way things turned out after Day One of the 2017 NFL Draft, I'm sure a lot of Cowboys fans will be doing cartwheels.
Round 2: Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson
Miller's selection of tight end Jordan Leggett for the Dallas Cowboys in the second round is the first time in this mock draft I would've probably gone a different direction. I'm just not sure how much the Cowboys think they need to upgrade the TE position. Don't get me wrong, Leggett is a really good player, but I just think there are other positions that need to be filled first.
Jordan Leggett is a physically gifted TE that checks all of the boxes you look for in a NFL tight end. He has the size, speed, and hands to be a dangerous weapon in the passing game, but needs to improve as a blocker. The only negative I have heard about him is he has been questioned about his desire to play football and that he can sometimes be lazy.
Round 3: Chad Hansen, WR, California
Chad Hansen is another player that probably took a bit of a hit to his draft stock due to his performance at the scouting combine. He ran a 4.53 40 yard dash, which was somewhat surprising because he looks much faster when studying his game. I personally thought he would run in the low 4.4 range, but he has a chance to improve at his pro day.
Hansen would be a tremendous selection for the Cowboys in the third round. He fits all of the size/speed parameters they look for in their outside wide receivers. He really just has one year of production at California, but he faced some of the best cornerbacks in college last year and came out on top more times than not.
Round 4: Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado
The Dallas Cowboys would probably like to address the cornerback position earlier than the fourth round, but you can't argue with Matt Miller's selection of Ahkello Witherspoon. He is exactly the type of CB the Cowboys like on the outside.
At 6'3", 198 pounds, Witherspoon would add some much needed length to the position and would probably be a day one starter. He ran a 4.45 40 yard dash and was a top performer in the vertical jump (40.5 inches) and the 60 yard shuffle (11.60 seconds). He does need to clean up his technique and become more physical, but that should come in time with the proper NFL coaching.
Round 6: Deatrich Wise Jr., DE, Arkansas
I'll be completely honest and say that I'm not a big fan of Deatrich Wise. He has the size (6'5", 274) that you look for in a 4-3 DE, but he wasn't very productive in college and will likely struggle in the NFL.
Wise is a stiff athlete, but I can understand why Matt Miller selected him for the Dallas Cowboys. In the sixth round and beyond, you're looking for attributes that teams in the NFL can hopefully develop in hopes of turning the particular prospect into a contributor. Wise has those attributes, but there are other players in the sixth round that I believe could come in and have more of an impact as a rookie.
Round 7: Isaac Rochell, DT, Notre Dame
Isaac Rochell is the type of player that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will love. He has a nonstop motor and a blue-collar work ethic. There's nothing special about his game, but if he can develop his pass rushing skills, he could develop into a potential starter in the NFL.
At 6'4", 280, he could be both a base 4-3 DE or a 3-technique with the Cowboys. That versatility could earn him a rotational role along the defensive line as a rookie while he perfects his craft under Marinelli's tutelage.
Round 7: Riley Bullough, LB, Michigan State
Riley Bullough's best bet make an NFL roster is as a special teams player. He is a bit undersized at 6'2", 226 pounds to be a starting middle linebacker in the NFL, but he has a tenacity about him that coaches will fall in love with.
Studying him on tape he shows his football smarts and an understanding of his run fits, but because of his size he gets bullied by offensive lineman. He could develop into a good backup LB, but he's going to make his living on special teams in the NFL.
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.
Cowboys Draft Target: Oklahoma Sooners RB Rodney Anderson
NAME: Rodney Anderson
CONFERENCE: Big 12
POSITION: Running Back
CLASS: RS Junior
JERSEY: No. 24
RECRUITMENT RATING: 4-star
Rodney Anderson || 2017-18 Highlights ᴴᴰ || Oklahoma Like, Comment, and Subscribe for More! Follow my Instagram: @szhighlights Songs: - "Don't Know Me" by Trae Tha Truth - "Better Days" by Trae Tha Truth I do not own any of these highlights or music clips.
Before we get into the player, we should really try to get to know Rodney Anderson the person. He attended Katy High School in Katy, Texas, one of the powerhouse HS football programs in the state. He was a four-star recruit who received offers from Auburn, Baylor, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma. He originally committed to Texas A&M, but changed his mind and decided to go to Oklahoma instead. He had an up-and-down career on the football field at Oklahoma because of injuries, but did graduate with a degree in Arts and Sciences in May 2018 and is pursuing his Master's in Human Relations.
Rodney Anderson has the ideal size and athleticism to become a featured back in the NFL. He shows good patience and vision on film to allow his offensive lineman to secure their blocks before sticking his foot in the ground and exploding through the hole. He runs behind his pads and shows good strength, loose hips, and balance to run through arm tackles. More than capable of picking up those "dirty yards" and is surprisingly slippery as a runner in the open field.
Anderson is capable of playing in a power scheme or a zone heavy scheme like the Dallas Cowboys deploy. He has been featured in a number of rushing concepts including gap/power, read action, and power sweeps. His talent also carries over to the passing game. He possesses soft hands and looks natural catching the ball both out of the backfield and down the field as a receiver. Solid in pass protection, but this is an area of his game where he can improve.
The biggest negative about Rodney Anderson is his injury history at Oklahoma. He is basically a one-year wonder because of three separate season-ending injuries, but bad things happen in three so maybe that's behind him. Durability will be a question mark entering the NFL though.
His vision is sometimes questionable, especially on inside and outside zone reads. Has a tendency to to try to bounce runs to the outside too often or cut back too quickly. Shows good explosiveness, but only average burst through the hole. Seems to have adequate long speed on tape, but is 40 yard dash time will be heavily scrutinized if he's able to run at the NFL Scouting Combine.
In the passing game he needs to improve his route running and pass protection if he wants to be a three-down back in the NFL. The talent is there, just not the production and consistency. Will also have to prove he can be productive against stacked boxes at the next level since he rarely saw any in college due to Oklahoma's spread offense.
If the Dallas Cowboys are looking for a running back capable of being a featured back in the NFL, while also spelling Ezekiel Elliott from time to time, then Rodney Anderson is there guy. His combination of power, balance, explosiveness, and scheme diversity could come in handy as their RB2. Not only would he provide a good insurance policy if the unthinkable were to happen to Zeke, but he could take over if they decide not to give No. 21 a contract extension.
There is a lot to like about Rodney Anderson's game and his ability to contribute in the running and passing game, but he is not by any means a clean prospect. Despite his immense talent, his injury history and lack of consistency in college is bothersome. But, as a mid-round pick the reward far outweighs the risks. Paired with Elliott, the Cowboys could have a formidable one-two punch in their backfield and could pound opposing defenses into submission.
Cowboys Draft Target: South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel
Our search for a new pass catcher for the Cowboys in this years' draft class continues, this time with a wide receiver.
South Carolina's Deebo Samuel put himself on the map with a strong Sophomore season, but fell off a bit due to a severe leg injury early in 2017. After a strong 2018 campaign, and an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, Samuel has played himself back into early Day Two draft discussions.
I don't know that anyone "won" Senior Bowl week more than Deebo Samuel did this January. Samuel, who had to deal with some poor quarterback play throughout his college career, didn't get much of a break in that department either at the Senior Bowl. But, he did show out every day at practice, and seemed to go viral on Twitter at least once a day.
During his actual collegiate season, Samuel finished with 882 yards and 11 touchdowns on 62 catches, solid production especially coming off an injury and playing in a limited offense. Initially in the NFL, Samuel is going to make his money in the slot. He's a shifty yet explosive receiver type than can quickly beat defenders with his speed. He's not the speedster than someone like Marquise Brown is, but he is explosive enough in his own right, especially in terms of short-area quickness.
Samuel isn't someone who will go up and grab the ball consistently, or even make up for inaccurate throws as often as some others might be able to. But he does have reliable hands, and his ability to get open quickly and create separation should give someone like Dak Prescott easy windows to find him in for completions.
What makes Deebo Samuel so fun for me to watch, though, is his ability after the catch. Despite his lack of size, Samuel is tough as nails, and rarely defers out of bounds or avoids contact. He's built well enough to withstand that contact as well, and when he gets free, he's hard to catch and bring down.
Drafting Deebo Samuel 58th overall would be a heck of a haul for the Dallas Cowboys. In need of another playmaker in the passing game, the Cowboys could make immediate use of Samuel's talents in 2019, specifically as a slot receiver.
As has been mentioned ad nauseam, it seems unlikely that Cole Beasley will be returning to the team this season, which makes the need for a slot wide-out that much greater. Samuel has big play ability from the slot already, and has traits which project him to potentially work outside as well. If he tests well enough at the combine, reps on the outside could very well be in his future.
Samuel should be on every Cowboys fans' shortlist of draft targets in the second round this year.
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