We are less than two weeks away from the 2018 NFL Draft! For some die-hard fans, the Draft is just about as exciting as the Super Bowl. We wait for it with the same or even more anticipation. A month ago, I presented you with my first Mock Draft of the year.
However, the NFL changes week after week. Heck, just last Friday the Cowboys cut veteran WR Dez Bryant in the middle of April.
In this edition, four of the top quarterbacks find their NFL teams in the top five picks. There's one mock trade (and only one) since I didn't want to exaggerate and some surprises.
I hope you enjoy this one, and as always, let me know your thoughts in the comments section below or tweet me @PepoR99 and let's talk football!
R1/1 - CLE: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
It's time for the Browns to prove they're a serious NFL franchise and the first step to do so is actually taking a franchise quarterback with the first overall pick. Sam Darnold and his play-making ability will provide just that for Cleveland.
R1/2 - NYG: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The Giants will either stay put and take a quarterback or trade their pick for a lot of value. In this mock draft, they take their QB of the future in Josh Rosen and take advantage of a unique opportunity. They won't be drafting this high anytime soon.
R1/3 - NYJ: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Mayfield has been underrated by many, mainly because of his height and his "cocky attitude." But he's too talented. This guy will prove everyone wrong playing for the Jets. He'll do an excellent job in the pros. His arm isn't talked about as much as it should, to be honest.
R1/4 - CLE: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Taking a running back at 4 may be a questionable call. But it's worked out for the Jaguars and for the Cowboys lately. Barkley might be an even better prospect. With a rookie QB, adding Barkley would take a lot of pressure off of his shoulders. Barkley is too good to pass on him.
R1/5 - DEN: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The Broncos added Case Keenum in free agency, but we won't see the same guy we saw playing in Minnesota a year ago. After the Paxton Lynch pick, Denver will be trying to make up for their mistakes by taking the best arm in the Draft. Allen has a long way to go, but has the potential to become one of the best QBs in the league.
R1/6 - IND: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
The Colts have an entire roster to rebuild. Switching to a 4-3 defense makes picking the best pass rusher in the Draft a no-brainer at this point. His impact will be felt from Day 1. Chubb heads to Indy, as do the three second-round picks the Colts took from the Jets.
R1/7 - TB: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Fitzpatrick is a cornerback in some analysts' boards and a safety in others. The Bucs need both. One of the best defensive prospects in the Draft is taken by Tampa Bay and will make his presence felt on the field from whichever spot he's put.
R1/8 - CHI: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
If Barkley isn't the best prospect in the Draft, then it's Nelson. After adding some weapons for Trubisky via free agency, now they draft a blue chip player to protect him and to give a spark to the running game. Nelson's talent is ridiculous.
R1/9 - SF: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia
Tremaine Edmunds is a rangy linebacker and with just 19 years of age, he presents a very high upside for the 49ers and a team who doesn't know what will happen with Reuben Foster. Edmunds' ceiling is very high and he can become one of the game's finest in just a matter of time.
R1/10 - BUF: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
(Trade Alert: Raiders trade 10th pick for the Bills' 12th and 22nd picks)
It might be a little too soon for Lamar Jackson, but it's a quarterback needy league. With the Dolphins sitting at 11, the Bills pull the trigger on Jackson and find their QB of the future.
R1/11 - MIA: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The Dolphins may target a QB here, but the top guys are already gone. Roquan Smith is a game-changer on the defense side of things. Miami needs a lot of help in the roster, and the first guy they get is Smith.
R1/12 - OAK: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
(Trade Alert: Bills trade 12th and 22nd pick for the Raiders' 10th pick)
Denzel Ward is arguably the best cornerback in the class and the Raiders are able to steal him with the 12th pick and still hold another first rounder.
R1/13 - WAS: Derwin James, S, Florida State
Derwin James is easily a top-10 talent but somehow the Redskins steal him at 13 and get a difference maker in the backfield. James doesn't get past the top 15.
R1/14 - GB: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
Harold Landry could be in the top 10 conversation, but a 2017 injure-plagued season took a hit at his draft stock. Still, he's one of the best rushers in the Draft and finds his way into the 14th overall pick to Green Bay.
R1/15 - ARI: Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
Arizona could be looking for a quarterback, but just like Miami, it's too late for them in this scenario. I'm higher than most when it comes to Mike Hughes. The Cardinals draft their future starting CB from Central Florida. Hughes will be a very good CB1 in his career.
R1/16 - BAL: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Calvin Ridley falls all the way to the #16 pick to the Baltimore Ravens. Joe Flacco gets a receiver who is always open on tape. Ridley, despite being 24 years old, will be a great receiver in the NFL. He's so good.
R1/17 - LAC: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Chargers find McGlinchey with the 17th pick and don't even think about stealing him. I wouldn't b e surprised if some of the tackles in this draft start going earlier than expected. The Chargers keep adding talent to the OL.
R1/18 - SEA: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Josh Jackson at 18 is a steal for the Seahawks. They're rebuilding their team in unexpected fashion and Josh Jackson could be the foundation for another group of talented cornerbacks in Seattle.
R1/19 - DAL: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Before the Cowboys released Dez Bryant, this wasn't the pick. But Dallas is in a position in which taking a wide receiver in the first two rounds is a must. Courtland Sutton is the pick since he represents the best option to play as an "X" receiver for Dallas. If they'd rather have Hurns play Hurns at "X", DJ Moore is a name to keep an eye on.
I like this pick for Dallas, let me know what you guys think in the comments section below or shoot me a tweet @PepoR99!
R1/20 - DET: Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA
Marcus Davenport may be raw, but he has all the potential he needs to become a quality DE in the NFL. The Lions have Ezekiel Ansah but can still use another edge rusher in their defense.
R1/21 - CIN: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
The Bengals were probably planning on taking an offensive guard here, but Vea at 21 is a steal. Cincinnati, holding the 46th overall pick may look for offensive line help later in the Draft.
R1/22 - OAK: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
After adding Denzel Ward, the Raiders now find a starting linebacker in Rashaan Evans. Evans still needs to work on some things, but should still be taken in the first round.
R1/23 - NE: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
The Patriots lost Nate Solder in free agency and are left with a big hole at tackle. They find Connor Williams late in the first. Williams is a better prospect than much give him credit for.
R1/24 - CAR: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Jaire Alexander's stock has risen over the past month and for good reason. The Panthers start fixing their CB position by taking him at 24. Alexander will find success in Carolina.
R1/25 - TEN: Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
The Titans find Isaiah Wynn available late in the first and steal the second best guard in the class to keep building a talented offensive line.
R1/26 - ATL: Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Da'Ron Payne may end up going earlier than expected, but this time he falls to the Falcons who need help in their front seven. Taking Payne here is excellent value.
R1/27 - NO: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota St.
The Saints may want to get the heir to Drew Brees' throne here. However, they get Dallas Goedert as a new weapon for #9 in what could be his last season in the gridiron.
R1/28 - PIT: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
Leighton Vander Esch at the end of Day 1 makes a ton of sense, especially for the Steelers who will be looking for a linebacker. Vander Esch may not provide an instant impact, but can become an excellent defensive player after being developed for some time.
R1/29 - JAC: DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
The Jaguars need offensive weapons and in this case, it's DJ Moore. Moore is a receiver with safe soft hands and an excellent route runner. Blake Bortles gets help.
R1/30 - MIN: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
The Vikings can go in many different directions here. In this case, they decide to draft Hernandez in order to protect their big free agency investment known as Kirk Cousins. If they find him at 30, it's a no-brainer.
R1/31 - NE: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Tom Brady is awesome. But no TB12 method will save him from time. It's time to look for his future replacement and Mason Rudolph could be just that in a couple of years.
R1/32 - PHI: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
The Eagles will be a very powerful team in 2018 after winning the Super Bowl last season. Taking a RB like Derrius Guice would take their offense to the next level.
Cowboys 2018 Draft Needs: Safety
The Dallas Cowboys have some intriguing young talent at safety. But with Byron Jones returning to the cornerback position, a starting spot is open and more talent is needed. As such, safety should be high on the team's draft priorities in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Right now, Dallas has returning starter Jeff Heath and two exciting prospects in Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier. Could a good starting pair and solid depth option be found out of that three? Sure. Maybe.
That "maybe" is the issue, and one the Cowboys may not want to live with in 2018. If they can go from "solid" to "strength" at safety with a high draft pick, it could make a significant impact on the defense now and for years to come.
Remember, those three guys we named are two sixth-round picks (Frazier, Woods) and an undrafted player (Health). While that certainly doesn't preclude them from becoming stars, it doesn't give you great odds.
At this point, we know what Jeff Heath is. While he has a knack for making the occasional interception, he's not a consistent threat and can be a liability at times in coverage. For all the "G.O.A.T." jokes we love to make on Twitter, he's certainly a guy who could be upgraded.
Ideally, that upgrade would come from within. But both Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier seem more like hard-hitters you want playing closer to the line of scrimmage. Neither may be the center-fielder who can really round out the defensive backfield.
The desire for that rangy, play-making threat is what has many Cowboys fans clamoring for the team to trade for veteran All-Pro Earl Thomas from Seattle. A discussion that goes back to last December, Thomas put himself on the Dallas radar by finding Jason Garrett in the locker room and imploring the Cowboys to try to acquire him following a Cowboys-Seahawks game.
Dallas could certainly use a player like Earl Thomas, but at what cost? And is he really worthy that price?
Thomas turns 29 in May and expects to be paid like one of the best safeties in the game. His current deal, which expires in 2018, paid and average of $10 million each year. He's going to want at least that going forward.
That's a lot of money to tie up in a guy who's about to turn 30, and just signing him as a free agent would be concerning. The prospect of also having to send a high draft pick creates even more worry.
Even if the Cowboys could get Thomas for a 2nd, is that the best return for that pick.
Let's say Dallas could draft a top name like Derwin James or Minkah Fitzpatrick in the first round. That player should provide an immediate upgrade while also making a rookie's salary. And unlike Earl Thomas, they should be in their prime for at least another 7-8 seasons instead of maybe another 2-3 years.
Not every high pick turns into an Earl Thomas, though, and that's the debate for what makes the most sense. Do you take a proven elite at a higher salary and with a shorter shelf life, or do you gamble on a rookie?
We don't know how realistic a Thomas trade is at this point. If Seattle won't budge on their first-round pick demand then it's a moot point. But if they do come down to a second, Dallas may have a tough decision to make.
If that doesn't happen, Dallas may very well use their 19th overall pick at safety.
~ ~ ~
Other 2018 Draft Needs articles:
Cowboys 2018 Draft Needs: Cornerback
For years, cornerback has a problem position in Dallas. But after two years of strong drafting and other moves, the CB group looks as solid as it has in some time. As such, it is one of the lower priorities for the Cowboys in the 2018 NFL Draft.
As currently constituted, the cornerbacks are young and deep. Last year's second and third-round picks, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, had strong rookie seasons and will be given even more responsibility now.
Anthony Brown, a sixth-round pick in 2016, remains a solid depth option who has already started 19 games in his short career. He's overachieved for his draft position and will contend for a starting job this year.
Also competing will be Byron Jones, the team's first-round pick in 2015. After two years at safety, Jones is moving back to the corner. It's the position he played in college and his first year with the Cowboys.
Just this week, it was announced that Dallas picked up Jones' first-year option on his rookie deal. This means all four players we've discussed are under contract through next season as well.
Indeed, these are great options. Dallas felt so good about it that they were willing to make veteran Orlando Scandrick a salary cap casualty this offseason. In just two years, the Cowboys have totally made over the position from the days of Scandrick, Brandon Carr, and Morris Claiborne.
Even the bottom of the cornerback depth chart has some intrigue. Duke Thomas was emerging in last year's camp and preseason before a foot injury landed him on injured reserve. He'll be just 24 in May and back to compete for a roster spot.
Also returning is Marquez White, a sixth-round pick last year, who spent the season on the practice squad. There wasn't enough room for him on the 2017 roster, but White will hope to follow in the footsteps of Anthony Brown and Kavon Frazier as late-round selections who've emerged as contributors.
Assuming Thomas or White earns a roster spot, that's already five CBs for your 2018 roster. Given that, Dallas can afford to not spend any draft picks at the position if they choose.
That doesn't mean the Cowboys won't add a talent if they like somebody in those later rounds. Even with their current stockpile, they'll draft a kid if they think he can compete for a roster spot.
If a cornerback is drafted, the fifth round is the highest I could see it happening. And even then, it would have to a real value.
More than likely, if any CBs are selected at all, it will be in those final two rounds. It's a luxury the Cowboys can finally enjoy thanks to their successful drafting in recent years.
Hopefully, that trend continues this week.
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Other 2018 Draft Needs articles:
Cowboys Draft: Grading “Hit Rate” During the Jason Garrett Era
With the NFL Draft coming Thursday, I thought it would be good to take a retrospective look at how the Dallas Cowboys have done in the NFL Draft during the Jason Garrett era. Garrett certainly isn't the sole decision maker when it comes to the draft, but he has a big say in who the team selects over draft weekend.
I'll admit off the top that determining whether they hit on a prospect is a very difficult and subjective thing to do, but I'm going to try anyway.
The way I would define whether a player was a hit would be to define if that player had an impact relative to their draft position.
If we look to before the Jason Garrett era, at a player like DeMarcus Ware, it's obvious that he was a hit. He's a future Hall of Famer. Marcus Spears, taken a few picks after Ware, I'd argue was a miss. He was a good player for Dallas as a 3-4 defensive end, but never produced like you hoped a player taken with the 20th overall pick would, recording only 10 sacks in his 124 game career. Chris Canty and Jay Ratliff, taken in the same 2005 draft, I'd consider hits as they were selected in the 4th and 7th rounds respectively. Ratliff in particular was a tremendous nose tackle for the Dallas Cowboys before moving on to play for the Washington Redskins.
We'll start with the 2011 draft, since that was the first season of Jason Garrett's head coaching tenure.
2011 Draft [Players: 8 / Hits: 3 / Hit Rate: 37.5%]
The 2011 draft marked the first time under the Jerry Jones regime that the Dallas Cowboys spent a first round pick on an offensive lineman, drafting Tyron Smith ninth overall out of the University of Southern California.
Tyron Smith has long been regarded as one of the best left tackles in the NFL and has Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections to prove it. If the end of 2017 is any indication, Tyron Smith could be the most valuable player on the Dallas Cowboys. Smith stepped in right away at RT his rookie year before taking over at LT his second year and has been dominant ever since.
DeMarco Murray, to me was a hit, though his time with the team was short-lived. Anytime you can turn a third round pick into the league's leading rusher, I'd say he made a contribution relative to his draft status.
Murray averaged 4.8 yards per carry during his time with the Cowboys. His rookie season he ran for almost 900 yards on 164 carries and had 1,000 total yards on only 180 touches. His second season, he only played 10 games and his production dropped. In 2013 he had his first thousand-yard season before leading the league in 2014. Even though the Cowboys declined to offer him a second contract, there's no doubt that he contributed far beyond what you would hope for a third round pick.
The other hit of the 2011 draft was WR/KR Dwayne Harris. He never really had much of a role on the offense, but his return ability in addition to his play on the coverage teams was valuable. He had two punt returns for touchdowns in his time with the Cowboys and in 2013 and 2014, had more than 1,100 all-purpose yards.
The major let down from this draft was the Bruce Carter selection. There was always a lot of hope for Carter in the Monte Kiffin/Rod Marinelli defense, but he never quite fit. They tried him at WILL, now manned by Sean Lee, thinking his athleticism and ball skills would make him a natural fit, but his performance was generally underwhelming.
2012 Draft [Players: 7 / Hits: 3 / Hit Rate: 42.9%]
In 2012, the Dallas Cowboys used their second rounder to move up to number six overall to select cornerback Morris Claiborne out of LSU. At the time they told us there hadn't been a corner in the draft as good as Claiborne since Deion Sanders.
Can we stop comparing draftees to Hall of Famers, please?
Pretty much everything that ensued in Claiborne's career with the Dallas Cowboys was a let down.
Claiborne couldn't stay healthy enough to be on the field and eventually lost his job to 2008 fifth-round pick Orlando Scandrick. When he played, he was a good player, but he was never on the field consistently enough or good enough when he was on the field to justify being taken sixth overall.
The three players I'd argue they hit on in this draft are Tyrone Crawford, Kyle Wilber, and James Hanna.
You're going to tell me that Tyrone Crawford is a bad player, and I'm going to argue that he isn't a bad player, he just has a bad contract. Crawford has been a steady player who has moved all over the defensive line and constantly played in roles that didn't necessarily fit him the best. He's been a stand-up teammate and has been productive for this team. Playing out of position as the right defensive end last season, Crawford had four sacks for the Cowboys. That's not nothing. Over the last four years, he's averaged four sacks a season. Again, not spectacular, but steady. He was the team's third round pick in 2012, and though he didn't start a game in 2012 and didn't play in 2013, the last four years have been good, even if they haven't matched his contract.
Kyle Wilber, the team's fourth round pick in 2012, wasn't a diamond in the rough, but like Crawford was a steady and solid player for the team, especially on special teams. On the team's coverage units, he became one of the better special teams players in the league while also providing some nice situational pass rush and was good depth at linebacker.
James Hanna, who just retired because of a knee that wasn't getting better, was a sixth round pick and as Jason Witten's backup for much of his career was a dependable player. The team began to rely upon his blocking ability when they would go with multiple tight end sets. Though he only caught one touchdown in his career, he did catch 37 passes in his 78 game career. When you're a backup to a future Hall of Famer who never comes off the field, a reception every other game from a sixth round pick is a contribution.
Because of the failure of Morris Claiborne and because they had to use a second round pick to move up and get him, this draft has to be categorized as a failure, despite the solid contributions from Crawford, Wilber, and Hanna.
2013 Draft [Players: 7 / Hits: 2 / Hit Rate: 28.5%]
Proclaimed a reach on draft day by analysts around the NFL world, the Dallas Cowboys smartly traded back in the 2013 NFL Draft, picked up a 3rd round pick and selected Travis Frederick out of Wisconsin. He has been everything the Dallas Cowboys have hoped for and more, like Tyron, racking up Pro Bowl appearances and All-Pro selections.
The other hit in this class, though he's been a frustrating player at times, is Terrance Williams. Yes, I know, you want your wide receivers to go for 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns, but if you have that expectation of a third round wide receiver in a run-first offense playing third fiddle to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, then you have unrealistic expectations.
Williams has had consistency issues, but he's made some plays.
Cowboys Playing Seahawks, they are down by 3 points in the 4th quarter with 4:55 left. It is 3rd & 20 when Tony Romo Scrambles out of a jam and throws a 22 yarder to Williams on the sideline. What a catch and obviously the Cowboys go on to win!
Gavin Escobar, Joseph Randle, and JJ Wilcox were the other notable players from this draft. Randle, you know his issues. They hoped he could take the reins in 2015 after letting DeMarco Murray walk in free agency, but he couldn't keep himself out of trouble.
Wilcox had his moments, but was inconsistent. His angles in pursuit and his less than stellar pass defense are just as memorable as the big hits he produced from time to time.
Gavin Escobar was supposed to be the Aaron Hernandez -- on the field only -- to Jason Witten's Rob Gronkowski as the Dallas Cowboys tried to emulate the New England Patriots by becoming more of a 12-personnel team (two tight ends). Though he was a nice red zone target, he wasn't utilized by the coaching staff. It's debatable whether that's on him or on them, but one thing for sure is they didn't get the return you'd expect from a second round pick. Since he left Dallas, he's struggled to catch on with a team.
2014 Draft [Players: 9 / Hits: 3 / Hit Rate: 33.3%]
Though they selected nine players in this draft, it's notable that the Dallas Cowboys used five of those selections on seventh-round picks and used their third rounder to move up in the second to select DeMarcus Lawrence.
These three are obvious to me and hopefully to you as well. Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Anthony Hitchens.
What really needs to be said about Zack Martin is, just like Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick before him, he's been as good as gold. He's been an All-Pro player every year since entering the league and combined with Smith and Frederick to become the best offensive line in football. He's lived up to his draft billing.
DeMarcus Lawrence, though he's struggled with injuries, has been a force at defensive end. After not registering a sack during the regular season of his rookie year, Lawrence came up big on back to back plays in the final minute of the playoff game against Detroit in 2014. In 2015 he continued to show promise in the last half of the season, recording eight sacks, but 2016 was marred by back injuries and he registered only one sack. 2017 showed what we hoped he would be, as he registered 14.5 sacks. The Dallas Cowboys gave him the franchise tag this offseason and hope to sign him to a long-term deal.
Anthony Hitchens, the team's fourth round pick, struggled with injuries at times and became a vital player on the team's linebacker depth chart, especially in 2017. As mostly a part-time player for the Cowboys, he never registered fewer than 70 combined tackles when playing all 16 games. In 2017 in particular he showed his worth while Sean Lee was on the shelf and turned that into a big contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. Hitchens is what you hope for out of your fourth round and later draft selections - someone who can be a vital depth chart piece, a rotational player, and start if you need him to.
While the number of hits they made looks low, if you took out the seventh rounders, who typically have a hard time making a roster, then the hit rate goes up to 75%. Pretty good.
2015 Draft [Players: 8 / Hits: 3 / Hit Rate: 37.5%]
This wasn't a great draft for the Dallas Cowboys as they've received zilch from their second and third round picks, Randy Gregory and Chaz Green.
You know Randy Gregory's issues by now and hopefully the man is getting his life together and is in a good place. Anything from him on the football field at this point is gravy.
Chaz Green nearly got Dak Prescott killed during the Atlanta Falcons game in 2017. His inability to block Adrian Clayborn was the low-light of that season. There's a good chance he's off the roster when preseason cut down day approaches.
Where they did hit was on Byron Jones, though they've not done him any favors by switching him back and forth between safety and corner. He hasn't been a superstar like the first rounders before him, but as the 28th overall pick, he's been good. He's been a lock down cover player on opposing tight ends and has made it difficult for teams to take the top off the Dallas Cowboys defense with his length and athleticism. Being moved back to cornerback, I think we are about to see the best version of Byron Jones yet.
Damien Wilson, though a frustrating player at times, has been a steadfast presence as the SAM linebacker and on special teams. A former fourth round pick who doesn't play a lot, Wilson has become a solid edge-setting presence on running downs. Again, not spectacular, but when you ask him to defend the run, he's been really good.
The final hit from this class is tight end Geoff Swaim. Yes, he hasn't made much of an impact, but he's done enough to make the roster and has nine catches for 95 yards in his career. Like Hanna, when you play behind the greatest tight end to ever play the game, you aren't getting a lot of opportunities to showcase your receiving ability. He's been steady in the run game and the team likes him as a depth tight end piece.
2016 Draft [Players: 9 / Hits: 5 / Hit Rate: 55.5%]
Let me preface this by saying, we still need more information to truly determine whether a player has been a hit for a team or not. So, we will review this again next year. That being said, I think they knocked the ball out of the park with this class.
The biggest hits so far are obviously Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. What they did in their rookie years, going 13-3, Elliott leading the league in rushing, Prescott being in MVP conversations, is hard to top for first-year production.
Dak is in a bit of a prove it year, though, after the second half of his 2017 season fell flat. I still believe he's the future of this franchise and will lead them to the promised land, but he has to prove it.
Elliott's only issue was the railroading provided by Roger Goodell and the NFL's league office. When he's on the field, he's an electric and physical presence that has shown an ability to take the ball for a score every time he touches it.
Maliek Collins had an excellent rookie year as the 3T defensive tackle, recording six sacks and providing consistent pressure down the stretch. In his second year, he played out of position as the 1T and wasn't bad, but sacks are a little less likely when getting double teamed every play.
Anthony Brown, selected in sixth round, has been a really good player for the Dallas Cowboys. In 2016 when injuries to Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne forced him into action, he played really well and gave the front office confidence that they could move on from Brandon Carr and Claiborne that offseason. He had a down start to the year in 2017, but rebounded in the second half and was a solid depth piece for the team. As the Cowboys fourth cornerback and hopefully operating mostly out of the slot, he can be a really good player for Dallas.
Kavon Frazier has shown flashes of being a physical presence in the secondary for the Dallas Cowboys defense. Another sixth round pick, he'll get the chance to expand his role this season under new defensive backs coach Kris Richard. As the tone setter in the secondary, he's already become a valuable piece to Rod Marinelli's defense.
The verdict is still out on Jaylon Smith, only because of his draft position, but with a solid 2018 campaign, we could move him into the hit column. Health will be key for Smith, and it appears there is good news on that front.
Rico Gathers and Charles Tapper haven't really had a chance to showcase what they could be because of injuries, but if they can get on the roster and contribute, then there's a good chance this turns into a 100% hit rate class. Both Tapper and Gathers have the potential to be good depth for the Dallas Cowboys.
Like 2016, we still need more information to fully assess these players as hits, but the early returns are very promising for players like Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Ryan Switzer -- as a returner -- and Xavier Woods.
Taco Charlton showed something in the last half of the 2017 season to be hopeful about his 2018 prospects. However, he needs to become more than just a rotational player for his selection to be viewed as a hit.
The team thought enough of Noah Brown at the end of training camp in 2017 to keep six wide receivers on the roster. He didn't get many opportunities to play, but has some potential to be a solid fourth or fifth receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. They currently have a bit of a log-jam on the WR depth chart, but given opportunities, he has the athleticism and hands to be an effective player in the NFL.
Marquez White is still a bit of an unknown with being relegated to the practice squad in 2017, but he'll have a shot to earn the fifth cornerback spot in training camp.
✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
So, only factoring in the draft classes from 2011-2016, giving the 2017 class a bit more time to marinate, Jason Garrett has led the Dallas Cowboys to a hit rate of 38.8% on 49 players drafted. If you take out the tremendous success of the 2016 class you're looking at a hit rate of 35.9%.
The rate could go down if players from the 2016 class don't maintain their current trajectory, or if Byron Jones takes a step back in his move to cornerback. But it still has a chance to go up depending on what Jaylon Smith and Randy Gregory do this year.
On average, this team adds about three players per draft class who end up making contributions to the team relative to their draft position. The Dallas Cowboys have gotten pretty good at this over the last several years and have a great chance to make several more key additions to the roster in the 2018 NFL Draft.
This doesn't even include the contributions made by undrafted free agents like Cole Beasley, La'el Collins, Dan Bailey, Chris Jones, Cooper Rush, and Jeff Heath.
Though we may feel one way or the other about the group of players that gets selected this weekend, only time will tell if the team hit on them or not. What we do know is that three or four players from this weekend's draft class will make contributions.
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