Next Thursday evening, the 77th NFL Draft will take place at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. I just started working again (finally) almost three weeks ago, so the past few weeks have been a blur for me. This is one of my favorite times of the year as a writer and a fan of football, but towards the end of the draft season, I just cannot wait for the real draft to begin. Months of analyzing and breaking down prospects begin to take a toll on your mind, so I know I am thankful that the real thing is almost here.
This has been an interesting offseason leading up to the draft. The Cowboys arguably had one of their most productive offseasons in recent memory. Some holes have been filled, and the front office did a good job of acquiring talent for a reasonable price. However, there are a few needs that still remain.
The center issue was never resolved in free agency. I wouldn't say the team is done addressing the guard position even though they signed two of them. The defensive line still lacks a disruptive five technique. Even with the addition of Brandon Carr, the secondary still has some holes in it. You can never have enough pass rushers, and I consider adding another one a need. I love Raymond Radway, but his inexperience and injury push me in the direction of wanting another wide receiver on the depth chart.
I don't think the Cowboys are a team that is far away from being a serious contender. Yes, they have needs, but this isn't a team that lacks star power. It will be hard for them to answer all of those needs in one draft. If they manage to acquire 3-4 really good players this year, that would be a solid draft.
The problem is predicting who the Cowboys will take this year. This draft is unlike any other in recent memory with no clear cut option. Instead there are a variety of ways the team could go, and it's good to have options. Here is my first crack at a full mock draft for the Cowboys.
Take the jump to see who will be possibly wearing the star...
14th overall- Fletcher Cox DT Mississippi State
Fletcher Cox has been a player associated to the Cowboys at 14. I am not blown away by his game tape as some are, but the kid plays a solid game. At just 21 years young, Cox has the type of upside that makes him a good sell in the war room. We need a disruptive defensive end to get after the passer and stop the run, so he definitely fits the criteria we are looking for.
His stock is currently on the upswing, so don't be surprised if he is gone when the Cowboys go on the clock. About a month ago, I didn't believe that would be true. Now there is talk of teams in the top ten really favoring the young defensive tackle.
The only problem I have with Cox is that he tends to play too high. That is something he will learn with experience and better coaching. Once he learns how to keep his pad level down, he will begin to play with good technique. When you combine good technique with physical talent, you end up with a solid player.
The Chargers selected Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget last year with the 18th overall pick. Cox reminds me a lot of Liuget, and I have no problem "reaching" for a good five technique four selections earlier. David DeCastro would be a great pick, but I just don't see him falling to us at 14. If Fletcher Cox actually makes it to 14, he will be the Cowboys first pick of the draft.
45th overall- Doug Martin RB Boise State
The 14th overall pick is difficult enough, but the 45th pick may be even harder to mock. The Cowboys could go in so many different directions with this pick. In this mock I attempted to make picks I think the Cowboys will make. They brought Martin in for a visit for a reason, so they obviously must like him. Jerry, Stephen and Jason have all committed to the best player available strategy, and this is a pick that would fall under that category.
Martin resembles a running back the Cowboys showed some interest in last draft, Mark Ingram. At 5'9, 220 pounds, he has a stocky build and is a physical running back. With Felix Jones entering a contract year, it makes sense for the Cowboys to add another running back. Jones and DeMarco Murray have also had trouble staying healthy, so adding another running back to the stable wouldn't be a bad idea.
Personally, I might go for a guard or another defensive player, but Martin is beginning to look like a real option at 45.
81st overall- Cam Johnson DE/OLB Virginia
Now that Jason Garrett has gotten his offensive fix, we turn the war room back over to the furious Rob Ryan. Cam Johnson is a prospect that should intrigue the Cowboys for a couple of reasons. He has the versatility to line up at defensive end, and as a pass rusher. Anthony Spencer did receive the franchise tag, but that still doesn't make his spot on the team safe.
Even with Spencer returning, it is time for the Cowboys to bolster their pass rush. At 6'4, 268, Johnson is the larger type of pass rusher the Cowboys would feel more comfortable with. Having another pass rusher on the team allows Ryan to become more creative within his scheme.
Johnson wasn't a Valley Ranch invite, but I just think he is the type of pass rusher that makes sense in the mid-rounds of the draft.
113 overall- Ryan Broyles WR Oklahoma
I feel losing Laurent Robinson was a huge loss, so I make up for his departure by adding one of the best wide receivers in the history of college football. This is the typical type of risk versus reward draft pick we have seen from the Cowboys recently. A college superstar suffers a devastating knee injury, the Cowboys draft them. Two years running we have seen them do it at inside linebacker with Sean Lee and Bruce Carter.
Broyles recently worked out at the Oklahoma pro day, and looked really good for a player who isn't even 100 percent healthy. I just have a feeling that he will become a Cowboy. He is the type of wide receiver that could really open things up in the slot. Having him as your #3 or #4 receiving option would be a luxury, but a good one at that.
135 overall- Ron Brooks CB LSU
The Cowboys will probably go for a cornerback a lot earlier, but Ron Brooks is a versatile defensive back who would be a great compensation pick for losing Stephen Bowen. He is a talented cornerback who is very feisty and physical, so he should fit right into Ryan's defense. I could see him contributing from the nickel/dime packages early on, and then possibly developing into something even more down the road.
152 overall- Ronald Leary OG Memphis
By focusing on other positions, I waited to address the guard position until the 5th round. Leary was a Valley Ranch invite, and the Cowboys are clearly interested in him. He has the ability to play multiple positions on the offensive line, that is something the Cowboys love in offensive lineman. By adding another talented interior lineman, the team will have a great battle in training camp.
186 overall- Quentin Saulsberry OC Mississippi State
Phil Costa was one of the worst centers in the NFL last year. I just don't see how the Cowboys will have any success with him at center. Saulsberry would be one of the steals of the draft this late. He can play multiple positions and he doesn't have the snap issues Costa has. If you are keeping count, that is the second Mississippi State Bulldog that the Cowboys have drafted in this mock draft.
222 overall- Chris Greenwood CB Albion
When you are making mock draft selections this late, you go with upside. I did consider adding a tight end here, but went with another cornerback. Greenwood is an interesting prospect from a small school, but he has a big game. New defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson personally worked out with Greenwood recently, so there is some interest there.
At the Michigan pro day, Greenwood weighed in at 6'1, 193 pounds. He ran a 4.41 40 yard dash and had a 43 inch vertical jump. With his size and athleticism, he is definitely worth a late-round selection. Greenwood could possibly develop into the cornerback Alan Ball was supposed to be.