This is the last mock draft I'll post before the draft so I'll make it count but also keep it brief. My next FanPost will be Mocking the Draft for our NFC East rivals. But just to keep that post short, I'll post my final picks for the Cowboys 2013 draft here:
1st 18th overall Jonathan Cooper OG North Carolina 6"3 315
I'm with KD Drummond -- Cooper is hands down the best interior offensive lineman in this class, and a very strong possibility given the Butch Davis to Dallas connection that gave us LB Bruce Carter. Especially now that the Cowboys failed to sign any former New York Jets guards, Cooper becomes a no-brainer to demote Mackenzy Bernadeau to the swing guard/center spot or the bench, should David Arkin seize Ryan Cook's job and Ronald Leary push Nate Livings for the left guard spot (as the Cowboys clearly hope given Livings' cap hit in 2014).
In my draft scenario Chance Warmack goes very high to the Tennessee Titans (who are allegedly very high on him), and Kenny Vaccaro gets snatched by a safety-desperate St. Louis Rams. West Virginia WR/KR Tavon Austin replaces Emmanuelle Sanders for the Pittsburgh Steelers at 17, and Alabama's D.J. Fluker goes 20th overall to the Chicago Bears to give them a mauler and immediate upgrade over the dismal Jamarcus Webb.
2nd 47th overall Eric Reid S LSU 6"1 209
I had originally thought that Reid would be a late 1st rounder but given the needs of other teams ahead of us at corner and offensive line (i.e. risers like Menelik Watson and Terron Armstead) I could definitely see Reid slipping to 47th if Jeff Fisher passes on taking two safeties in the first two rounds and instead goes for a day 2 wide receiver like SC's Robert Woods or Auburn's DeAndre Hopkins right before Dallas goes on the clock.
Let's face it the safety spot is not settled despite signing veteran Will Allen to give us some injury insurance at the position. Post-Achilles tear Barry Church may or may not have the 'wheels' necessary to play center field in Monte Kiffin's Dallas 2 but he certainly gives us a solid nickle linebacker to pair with Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. Matt Johnson has to prove he can stay on the field alongside either Reid or Church for me to trust him as a starter.
Jason Garrett attended LSU's pro day and besides outside linebacker/pass rusher Barkevious Mingo who's likely to go to the New Orleans Saints at 15 overall I doubt there's a prospect ranked higher than Reid on the Cowboys draft board.
3rd 80th overall Terrance Williams WR Baylor 6"2 208
Only in this draft which is fairly deep for wide receivers would a prospect as productive as Williams slip into the mid-3rd round. Williams lacks elite speed for his size but is a superb route runner. However if Dallas didn't need a tackle or running back so badly in the 4th round I could see Jason Garrett trading up to nab Williams if he's there at the top of the 3rd.
While this might not make sense for 2013 , BTB writer Tom Ryle has convinced me that the Cowboys really love them some Baylor-coached wide receivers considering they put a 3rd round bid on Josh Gordon in the 2012 supplemental draft. Let's face it now that Tony Romo is extended Dallas is going to need more cap room in 2014 to extend Dez Bryant, Sean Lee and possibly Tyron Smith while we can.
Cutting Miles Austin in 2014, especially if his hammies continue to act up, could be the only way for the Boys to keep their own young stars while still having Anthony Spencer on a long term deal (which may or may not get done now that Dallas seems to have barely enough room to sign draft picks and UDFAs thanks to the Romo deal).
For now, pairing Williams with Dez on the outside would allow Miles to play the slot and keep Dwayne Harris as our 4th option for returning punts and kickoffs (I still hope Dallas signs former Arizona Cardinals scat back/return man LaRod Stephens-Howling in free agency).
4th 114th overall Rick Wagner OT Wisconsin 6"3 307
Jason Garrett has good connections with the coaching staff at Wisconsin, as evidenced by his taking a flyer on OC/OG Bill Nagy in the 7th round of the 2011 draft (Nagy might end up as the Detroit Lions starting or backup center this September after they claimed him off waivers). According to NFL Draft Scout, Wagner has worked out for Miami Dolphins scouts but it's possible that the Fins decide they like their former left tackle's little brother Kyle Long or Colorado's David Bakhtiari better (NFL Draft Scout also has Louisiana Tech's Jordan Mills going during a severe run on tackles in the 2nd round, and I've mocked him to the Washington Redskins who urgently need help at Right Tackle now that Kirk Cousins is going to be their opening day starter).
Wagner reminds me of a more NFL-ready version of the 2007 Doug Free, who also went in the 4th round. While Wagner may lack ideal strength for the position, he guarded Russell Wilson's blind side in the not-so-pass rush-dominated Big Ten. He also opened up a lot of holes for Montee Ball, so we know he can run block reasonably well. Given the need to clear out more cap space to sign the rookies or collect final cut down free agents for depth, I see Doug Free as being sent packing in training camp once Parnell convinces the coaches he's ready to start at right tackle and Wagner proves he can be our swing tackle. Meanwhile I expect my pet cat Darrion Weems to show the coaches he can be a solid backup right tackle this season as the offensive line youth movement continues.
5th 151st overall David Bass DE Missouri Western 6"4 269
It may be wishful thinking on my part to suggest that Bass is still available here, but without signing a veteran defensive end after cut downs in early September Dallas would roll into the regular season with only Jason Hatcher sliding over from the one technique spot or Alex Albright backing up Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. I think that's unacceptable.
Bass showed he could play against the big boys at the Senior Bowl and is one of those mid-round sleepers like Portland State's Marquis Jackson that I foresee Dallas targeting on Day 3 once the big school pass rushers are off the board (in other words no Devin Taylor for us in this draft). Should Bass get snatched in the mid to late 4th I could see Dallas taking Jackson, or even targeting Western Kentucky's Quanterus Smith or Princeton's Mike Catapano in the 6th.
6th 185th overall Michael Ford RB LSU 5"11 215
Ford is another prospect I think Garrett had his eye on when he visited LSU's pro day, along with DT Bennie Logan and high motor defensive end Lavar Edwards who was stuck behind Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo during his time in Baton Rouge but still showed up on tape. In this draft scenario Edwards gets nabbed in the 5th, however, and Logan goes in the early 4th despite his inconsistencies. Since Dallas addressed scat back in free agency by landing Stephens-Howling, the Cowboys can afford to find a back who's reasonably fast (clocked at around 4.45 at LSU's pro day) but who also has better size than Lance Dunbar to chip pass rushers. Basically Ford and Dunbar can fight it out for the 3rd running back slot with the loser going to the practice squad. I suspect Ford will be the winner of the competition in training camp.
Alternate picks here could include Maryland DT Joe Vellano, Princeton DT Caraun Reid, or a Will linebacker who's slipped into the later rounds like Ohio State's Etienne Sabino or Florida's Jelani Jenkins.
7th 229th overall Michael Williams TE Alabama 6"6 270
Although Williams ran a very slow time at Alabama's pro day I can't help but think Jason Garrett has heard good things about his work ethic from his buddy Nick Saban. Since Dallas doesn't have a 7th round pick I got creative and had the Cowboys offer the Bengals a 5th rounder in 2014 to give us their 7th this year (the Bengals don't mind because they have a compensatory pick in the 7th that they use to select knucklehead running back Michael Dyer from Arkansas Baptist, formerly of Auburn and Arkansas State).
Let's face it the Cowboys running game was never the same after losing Marty B -- and in my mock draft I have the Giants selecting Dion Sims out of Michigan State to replace Bennett's blocking that he took to the Windy City. Williams probably won't get very many catches in our offense and will have teams thinking 'run' when he's paired with Jason Witten. But that's ok he can give Jeremy Parnell a lot of help on the right side and make our rushing attack 'two handed' again, with killer screens to Murray or Stephens-Howling on either side of the field.
I decided to burn a 2014 pick (which should be more than compensated by a compensatory selection from the NFL starting in the 4th or 5th for losing former first rounder Mike Jenkins) to bolster the running game, and because I didn't expect Williams to make it to the undrafted ranks.
Check out my next FanPost "A Few Good UDFAs -- Part III" for our undrafted free agent haul!
You can also view my previous mock here.