As the title suggests, this is part two of a series of mock drafts. The goal is to discover what rounds are strong for positions of need and where they are weak to figure out the best round (or rounds) in which to draft each position.
If you missed Mock Draft 1.0, you can click to see the selections, but a quick rundown of the positions by round go:
- Round 1 – Running Back
- Round 2 – Defensive Tackle
- Round 3 – Interior Offensive Lineman
- Round 4 – Wide Receiver
- Round 5 – Linebacker
Like last time, I will be using Mock Draft Databases' consensus big board as a guide to avoid players who are available much later than their current projection.
I will also put each player's ranking from that big board in parentheses after their name.
Unlike last time, The Beast by Dane Brugler of The Athletic is out. I will reference his rankings frequently. Especially when a player I draft or list as an alternate may seem like a reach on the consensus board, but is valued in that round/range by Brugler.
A subscription is required to access The Beast, but it is one of the most in-depth resources for the draft each year. The subscription is worth it just for his draft guide.
A final note before the mock: this series will not feature any trades.
Round 1 – CB emmanuel Forbes (37), Mississippi state
Alternates at the same/similar position: CB Joey Porter Jr (14), Penn State; CB Deonte Banks (24), Maryland; CB Kelee Ringo (34), Georgia; CB Cam Smith (36), South Carolina
Emmanuel Forbes is an extreme outlier as a cornerback (or NFL player in general) weighing only 166 pounds at the combine.
If you can get past the weight, he is an instinctive ball hawk (NCAA record holder for career interceptions returned for touchdowns).
Whether you are a fan of his or not, maybe you question why take a corner in round one after the Stephon Gilmore trade. I addressed this in my team needs article, but will touch on it briefly again.
Three of the top four projected cornerbacks for the Cowboys are scheduled to hit free agency in 2024.
At worst, All-Pro Trevon Diggs should be back on the franchise tag, but that would likely still leave a need for a starter and depth in 2024.
Even so, why address a 2024 problem this early in the 2023 draft?
The Cowboys were in a bad spot at the end of the season at corner due to injuries.
I could see them taking one early as a look toward 2024, to add the depth they so desperately needed last year, and because it's a premium position.
Before the Gilmore trade, a cornerback at 26 was almost a no-brainer. Now, I don't like it unless one of the top three (Christian Gonzalez (6), Devon Witherspoon (8), Joey Porter Jr.) falls.
We'll explore later-round options in future installments of this series.
Round 2 – iol Joe tippmann (37), wisconsin
Alternates at the same/similar position: iOL John Michael Schmitz (46), Minnesota; OT/OG Cody Mauch (54), North Dakota State; OT/OG Matthew Bergeron (68), Syracuse
The goal for all the players listed is a potential starter at left guard as a rookie with position flex for the future.
Terence Steele, Tyron Smith, and Tyler Biadasz are all on expiring contracts. Add in the eventual retirement of Zack Martin and you can see the value of this pick.
The line will likely look much different in 12 months and needs an injection of youth.
Joe Tippmann, after a season at left guard, would carry the Wisconsin center torch that started with Travis Frederick and currently resides with Tyler Biadasz.
Drafting someone who can play multiple roles will be huge for future years and, depending on the plan for left guard, may start right away.
Round 3 – WR Jayden reed (119), Michigan state
Alternates at the same/similar position: WR Marvin Mims (77), Oklahoma; WR Nathaniel Dell (78), Houston; WR Tyler Scott (81), Cincinnati; WR Rashee Rice (82), SMU; WR A.T. Perry (93), Wake Forest; WR Michael Wilson (98), Stanford; TE Luke Schoonmaker (112), Michigan
When I decided to start this series, I had my eye on pick 90 as the ideal spot for a wide receiver. As you can see with the alternates section, there are a handful of wide receivers who could fall within this range.
The problem? All of them were gone besides Reed and TE Luke Schoonmaker.
I went with Reed, who Brugler is higher on than others as his 80th overall player.
The Cowboys used a third-round pick last year to select WR Jalen Tolbert. Though he didn't have the rookie season his training camp hype had us expecting, I still believe he has the talent to become a really good NFL player.
I bring him up because if he doesn't develop, the third is a good round for a dart throw at another wide receiver.
There are a lot of names and though the board was largely washed in this mock, I still like the chances of a good player being there.
With this selection, it becomes a numbers game. Between the receiver at 90, Tolbert, and Michael Gallup, I'm betting one can be a solid WR3.
Dallas already has a star WR1 and one of the better WR2s of the past decade, so an average WR3 would suffice.
Point is, I don't think Dallas has to spend a first or second-round pick on a receiver or tight end.
Will one that moves the needle make it to 90? That is the concern.
Round 4 – DT Kobie Turner (114), Wake forest
Alternates at the same/similar position: DT Jaquelin Roy (116), LSU; DT Bryon Young (118), Alabama; DT Moro Ojomo (139), Texas
If and when the Cowboys pick a defensive tackle, it will mark the fifth straight draft they have done so.
Yet, Dallas still needs some beef along the defensive line.
I'd prefer someone who can provide something comparable to the level of run-stuffing that NT Johnathan Hankins brings to plug the middle and free up the linebackers.
After trading for him midseason, Hankins provided a major boost and his absence was felt during the last four games of the regular season.
Dallas has not traditionally invested in nose tackle, but hopefully, Hankins changes that.
Unfortunately, Kobie Turner isn't that big-bodied space eater, but it was either him or a lesser player to fit that need. At this point, the Cowboys just need bodies at defensive tackle and Turner was the best available.
It's not a great class for interior defensive linemen, so waiting until pick 129 is not ideal.
Round 5 – RB Chris Rodriguez Jr. (183), Kentucky
Alternates at the same/similar position: RB Chase Brown (120), Illinois; RB Kenny McIntosh (124), Georgia; RB Sean Tucker (133), Syracuse; RB Deuce Vaughn (136), Kansas State; RB Eric Gray (141), Oklahoma
Here's the beauty of the Tony Pollard situation: Dallas doesn't have to force a pick at the position early this year.
They do need to draft one to push the current backs for RB2. If they don't extend Pollard or draft a potential 2024 starter to replace him in this year's draft, they still have next offseason to do so.
I believe a future starter to replace Pollard can be found in round four this year.
If they pass or miss out on running backs in the first four rounds, they should look for a big, bruising back to take some goalline and short-yardage work from Pollard.
Though Pollard is bigger than many portray and capable of handling such duties, I want him to stay fresh for the playoffs.
At 217 pounds, Chris Rodriguez is known as a power back, so he'd make a fine pick here to compliment Pollard.
As in Mock Draft 1.0, another just ok draft.
I picked premium positions early (cornerback and wide receiver) versus a running back and defensive tackle which are generally considered bigger needs.
What I learned about the positions I drafted by round:
— Though one of the most important positions in football, I don't want a corner in round one. It's a deep class and I want a day-one contributor for Dallas in round one this year.
I don't think any option at 26 will do much besides provide depth which can be done in the later rounds.
— I like round two for offensive linemen. Not to list all the names again, but there are several who can start at left guard from day one and can also slide to potentially vacated positions in 2024.
— As stated above, I was excited about my round-three wide receiver choices, but my list of names became one by 90.
I selected WR Jonathan Mingo from Ole Miss in round four of 1.0 and mentioned he'd probably be gone before pick 129 (Brugler has him as his 86th overall player).
Maybe add him to the list of names at 90 and I feel a little better about it.
— I'm sure if Dallas keeps drafting defensive tackles, they'll eventually hit.
After this mock, I hope it's before the fourth round. As it currently stands, Osa Odighizuwa looks to be the only one they got right of the last five.
— More so than any other position, gems can be found late into day three at running back every year. That doesn't mean every, or even many, day-three running backs turn into starters.
With Pollard in the fold for at least one more year, I don't hate waiting to draft one, even if that's a role-specific backup on day three. Not ideal, but definitely not the worse-case scenario.