The playoffs haven't even started yet, and we're already looking at mock drafts. That wasn't the plan, but it is what it is.
Somebody around here once said that your best bet of trying to figure out the draft ahead of time would be to wait until Rick Gosselin from the Dallas Morning News releases his mock two days before the actual draft. Well, Rick doesn't do those mock drafts anymore, and where would the fun be in that anyway?
We know that as a predictor of which players are going to which teams, mock drafts aren't particularly accurate. But for those of us who enjoy talking about the draft, mock drafts can still be a lot of fun regardless, as they can give us a general sense for where a player fits on the draft boards. But as an indicator of exactly which player goes to which team, they're hardly accurate, especially not at this time of the year.
In mid-January last year we published a post with a very similar title to today's post, "Ten options for the 14th pick." The ten candidates at the time were - in descending order of where they actually ended up being picked - Mark Barron (7), Luke Kuechli (9), Stephon Gilmore (10), Quinton Coples (16), Dre Kirkpatrick (17), David DeCastro (24), Whitney Mercilus (26), Courtney Upshaw (35), Janoris Jenkins (39) and Alfonzo Dennard (227). That's not too bad of a tally for mid-January, with seven first rounders and two high seconds. Dennard of course faces felony charges in a trial set for February for allegedly punching a police officer on the eve of the draft.
With all of that in mind, let's review 10 names that mock drafters are associating with the Cowboys this early in the year.
|Russ Lande, National Football Post||Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State||Neither Jason Hatcher or Marcus Spears has become an elite defensive lineman and Hankins would add size and strength to the defensive end position in the Cowboys 34 scheme.|
|Dan Kadar, Mocking The Draft||Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama||Nose tackle Jay Ratliff played in just six games this season and may be due for a more rotational role for the Cowboys. With Josh Brent's playing future looking bleak, Williams could be a great two-down player for the Cowboys, while Ratliff plays inside on third down passing situations.|
|Lou Pickney, DraftKing||Sheldon Richardson, DL, Missouri||I call this the "J.J. Watt" effect, the inevitable move by teams running 3-4 defenses in the copycat NFL to find a guy with proper 3-4 DE size (290-300 pound range) who they hope can provide results similar to what Watt has produced in 2012 for the Texans.|
|Walter Football||Johnathan Jenkins, NT, Georgia||The Cowboys had the option of picking J.J. Watt at No. 9 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. They went with Tyron Smith, who was great in his rookie campaign, but they were hurting at the defensive end position as a consequence. In this scenario, they'd be able to move Jay Ratliff outside. It's something they were thinking about when they were seriously considering taking Dontari Poe in April.|
|Drafttek||Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M||Doug Free (4 years/$32MM) had to be motivated by rotating with an UDFA who played basketball (Jeremy Parnell). Jake comes from good genes in the Matthews clan and has the footwork and athleticism to play the blindside. Sign him up, cut Free's pay and see if he can play guard!|
|NEPatriotsdraft||Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma||The Cowboys could use Tyron Smith and four new guys on the offensive line. Johnson is an under-the-radar prospect that should give Dallas some flexibility on how they deploy their blockers.|
|RealSportsHype||Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina||The Cowboys once again ended their season on a sour note, losing another win or go home game. Top priority should be to upgrade the interior of the offensive line. They really need a dominant guard to open up some running lanes and keep Tony Romo (or whoever the quarterback is upright). UNC guard Jonathan Cooper had a dominant season for the Tar Heels. There may not be much separation between him and Chance Warmack, and he could come off the board in the top half of the first round.|
|Robert Davis, Football's Future||Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama||There may not be a safer pick in the draft. And while guards do not typically carry premium value, a Pro Bowl guard is definitely worth this selection. When the Cowboys were America's Team they had a fantastic offensive line. Adding Warmack to Tyron Smith will go a long way towards regaining a dominant offensive line.|
|Scott Wright, Draftcountdown||Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas||The safety position has been a big problem area in Dallas for many years now. Gerald Sensabaugh is a serviceable starter but the spot opposite him is a mess and must be upgraded. A well-rounded player who is a factor in both coverage and run support, Vaccaro enjoyed an excellent senior season for the Longhorns and possesses the tools to start at either free or strong safety at the next level. This local product would would finally address the Cowboys issues at safety once and for all.|
|Rob Rang, CBSSports||Mike Glennon, QB, North Carolina State||Tony Romo is not the Cowboys' biggest problem but after another "playoff" failure, owner Jerry Jones will have to begin looking seriously at other options. The 6-5, 232-pound Glennon offers a high upside and has enjoyed plenty of success already in his young career, throwing for 30-plus touchdowns in each of his two seasons as NC State's starter -- a plateau previous standout Wolfpack quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Philip Rivers never accomplished.|
Eight linemen (with three Jonathans in the mix), a safety and a QB. One thing we already know is that there will be a lot of good candidates for the Cowboys to choose from once they're on the clock with the 18th pick. In fact, there are so many options that no single player has emerged as a clear-cut favorite for the Cowboys yet. Who'd be your favorite come April?