After the first week of free agency, most of the biggest names were off the market, and the next focus shifted to the NFL offseason’s greatest and most anticipated event: the NFL Draft. For endless weeks, mock drafts poured out by the dozen. Finally, after so many weeks of debate, grading and regarding draftees, and much wonder as to what each team might do, we know one thing: we know absolutely nothing. No one knows how trades will affect the draft (save for Darrell Revis to Tampa Bay) or what will go on in each team’s war room. But one thing is certain; it should be as entertaining, exciting, perplexing, and intriguing as any other. Now, with the draft less than 24 hours away, here is my final dream mock draft for the Dallas Cowboys:
1) Kansas City Chiefs: Luke Joeckel: Say what you want about Eric Fisher, but I think Joeckel’s big school rep gives him the nudge as the first overall pick.
2) Jacksonville Jaguars: Geno Smith: Smith could fall as far as the second round. However, I think he has the talent to be a top 15 quarterback if coached an developed well. I think Jacksonville will see the opportunity for him to compete against experience and draft their QB of the future.
3) Oakland Raiders: Sharrif Floyd: I honestly don’t think Floyd deserves top 10 consideration, but he is a good DT overall. Oakland has been linked to him for a while, and they lost their top two defensive linemen to free agency this year.
4) Philadelphia Eagles: Dee Milliner: The Eagles have lost Asante Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Dominique Rodgers Cromartie these past few years, and need a lot of defensive back help. Milliner has injury concerns regarding his shoulder, but I think that is just overhyped gossip when there isn’t enough news to keep the NFL juicy. The Eagles draft Milliner very high anyway.
5) Detroit Lions: Eric Fisher: The Lions will be lucky to see Fisher fall to the 5th spot, as there is a chance the top 3 tackles are gone in the first 4 picks. The Lions don’t hesitate at all to solidify their tackle spot with a potential first overall pick.
6) Cleveland Browns: Dion Jordan: The Browns need to add some pass rush to a young and talented defense. Jarvis Jones could be a good pick, but his red flags will cause him to drop. Jordan is just as good of a prospect and can start making this Browns defense pretty scary.
7) Arizona Cardinals: Lane Johnson: The Cardinals need help in plenty different areas, such as safety, offensive line, running back, and quarterback. With Geno Smith off the board, no QB is worth a first round grade, as running back. They could elect to go for Kenny Vaccaro, but Lane Johnson is a better prospect.
8) Buffalo Bills: Kenny Vaccaro: The Bills need help at linebacker and safety, following the release of George Wilson. Vaccaro is a stud safety that will be an immediate unquestioned starter and along with Stephon Gilmore, give the Bills a young and talented secondary led by veteran Jairus Byrd.
9) New York Jets: Chance Warmack: The Jets could opt for a pass rusher here, such as Ezekiel Ansah, but they just lost their starting guard Brandon Moore. Warmack and Jonathan Cooper are the two best guards in this draft, but I think the Jets are the type of team that would like Warmack better.
10) Tennessee Titans: Star Lotuleilei: If Lotuleilei falls as far as the tenth pick, the Titans have to pull the trigger. Lotuleilei is good enough to warrant No.1 consideration, and for a team that can use defensive help, there is no way Lotuleilei is ignored.
11) San Diego Chargers: Jonathan Cooper: The Chargers need help on the offensive line if they have any hopes of keeping Rivers safe for the next few years. Cooper is arguably the best guard, and undoubtedly the best pass blocking guard in this draft class. Cooper will help out the offense tremendously.
12) Miami Dolphins: Xavier Rhodes: The Dolphins may have acquired Brandon Albert by this time, but even if they haven’t, there is no tackle worth a pick this high from the crop left. Rhodes takes over the starting spot and after week 6, Miami fans no longer recognize the name Sean Smith.
13) New York Jets(From Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Ezekiel Ansah: The Jets could have opted for Ansah higher, but luck out when they still get their man at the 13th pick, landing help for both their offensive line and a potential superstar pass rusher in the same round.
14) Carolina Panthers: Sheldon Richardson: The Panthers could use help on defense. Richardson will be the best defensive lineman remaining on the board. The Panthers seal up the middle of the defense and their run game with a mean Richardson taking the leadership role up front.
15) New Orleans Saints: Tavon Austin: This will be the first surprise pick. You can bet the Rams will be waiting to pick up next, and their hopes crushed when the Saints, who haven’t been linked to Austin, swoop in. The Saints could take a safety, such as Elam or Cyprien, or a pass rusher. Mingo, Werner, and Jones will all be on the board. There will have to be a couple surprise picks, and the Saints will start it off by putting together potentially the NFL’s best offense.
16) Saint Louis Rams: Cordarelle Patterson: The Rams will be fuming, coming within one pick of landing perhaps this year’s biggest offensive firework. However, since losing Danny Amendola, the Rams are hurting for a legitimate offensive focus. Patterson is this year’s best sideline wide receiver, and although it isn’t as flashy as a Tavon Austin selection, the Rams still make good work out of the 16th pick.
17) Pittsburgh Steelers: Jarvis Jones: The Steelers have extensively been linked to Jones. At 17, Jones is still a little risk, but the Steelers will not be able to contain themselves and will select Jones, who has the potential to be the DROY.
18) ***The Cowboys, seeing that the best offensive linemen are off the board, will be in a bit of a situation. They will still be able to take Fluker, Mingo, Werner, or Elam, but will think about their options. With a deep class, it is not worth taking a late first round talent at pick 18. Jerry Jones has been looking to trade down, and the Falcons have been interested in trading up. After a short phone conversation, the Falcons send their first round pick (30th overall) and second round pick (60th overall) to the Cowboys in exchange for the Cowboys first round pick (18th overall)***Atlanta Falcons(From Dallas Cowboys): Desmond Trufant: The Falcons lost both of two valuable cornerbacks, Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson, to free agency. They are hurting for a corner and a defensive end. Bjoern Werner could be a steal here, but the Falcons opt with their corner of the future in an air offense loaded division.
20) Chicago Bears: Alec Ogletree: The Bears will need a middle linebacker to replace the loss of Brian Urlacher. D.J. Fluker could be a good choice to upgrade their offensive line, but in a defensive minded organization, the need for a linebacker overrules.
21) Cincinnati Bengals: Jonathan Cyprien: The Bengals don’t have any glaring needs, but a safety could help tremendously. Cyprien is a safety who is pretty raw, but with just a little bit of coaching, can join Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick to form one of the AFC’s best defensive backfields.
22) Saint Louis Rams: Matt Elam: The Rams could take a running back here, like Eddie Lacy, but there is no running back that warrants a first round selection. Already having obtained their lead wide receiver, the Rams add to their young, salty defensive back core with Matt Elam. Elam will immediately start, bringing an intimidating face to the safety group.
23) Minnesota Vikings: Keenan Allen: The Vikings need a wide receiver after trading away Percy Harvin. Allen is a good WR talent, and despite his red flags, the Vikings take a risk and take a playmaker.
24) Indianpolis Colts: Bjoern Werner: The Colts will be looking to replace Dwight Freeney. Freeney was out of place playing OLB, but Werner has good size to play in the 3-4 or 4-3. Not many people have Werner falling this far, and the Colts secure a great talent for a steal of a price.
25) Minnesota Vikings: D.J. Hayden: The Vikings will need to help replace the loss of Antoine Winfield. With Trufant, Milliner, and Rhodes all off the board, the Vikings go with Hayden, another good CB talent and have their new starter.
26) Green Bay Packers: Tyrann Mathieu: Just kidding : ) Real pick though: Datone Jones: The Packers will need a safety, but at 26, I doubt they salivate at any one of the rookies left. Instead they take a prospect who may not fit in very well immediately, but will be a project that can develop into a star in a couple seasons, assuming he is able to drop some weight.
27) Houston Texans: Damontre Moore: The Texans never seemed to fully recover from losing Mario Williams, despite the presence of J.J. Watt. I think the Texans go ahead and form the best pass rushing duo in the AFC with Moore, hoping he turns into a 13 sack/season player in a year or two.
28) Denver Broncos: DeAndre Hopkins: I think the Broncos make another surprise move by drafting Hopkins. Although they just added star receiver Wes Welker to add to an already solid crop of DeMaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. But Decker is soon to be on a contract year, and Welker will be 32 playing this season. The Broncos need an insurance plan, and seeing the talent available, take a flyer on Hopkins.
29) New England Patriots: Sam Montgomery: The Patriots have already built arguably the AFC’s best offense. Recently, they have shifted their attention to building a competent defense. Following last year’s selection of a bright, young defensive end, the Patriots add to their pass rush with Montgomery.
30) Dallas Cowboys (From Atlanta Falcons) Eric Reid: The Cowboys have huge needs at both offensive line and safety. The Cowboys do a good job of acquiring a second round pick and filling a big need with a more than capable starter who can be a ball hawk, lock down half the field, rejoin his former teammate (with whom the Tigers led one of the best college defenses in 2011) and be the single high centerfielder the Cowboys will need to shut opposing offenses down in Monte Kiffin’s new defense.
Well, that’s how the first round should ideally unfold for the Cowboys. Here are the rest of the Cowboys picks:
Round 2 (47): Larry Warford: The Cowboys desperately need help at offensive line. Warford is a prospect that will immediately start and be a star on the line. He can pass block, run block, and is all around a player that could even be in the first round. But I doubt that happens, due to a lack of high picked guards, and falls into the Cowboys lap, and the Cowboys offensive line will be extremely improved, giving Romo time to take apart defenses with his two best friends Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, as well as allow Murray to carry the rock and close out games.
***As Seattle makes their pick at number 56, the Cowboys, seeing their chance, call the Houston Texans. Wanting to move up to nab a player that the Broncos could be very interested in. The Cowboys offer their 5th round pick (151) and their remaining second round pick (60) to the Texans for their second round pick (57). Houston accepts and Dallas leap frogs the Broncos to select...***
Round 2: (57): Kawaan Short: Short is a very good, disruptive tackle that can glue the Monte Kiffin defense together. With a centerfielding safety in place, two strong corners, and a pair of outstanding linebackers, the Tampa 2 defense just needs to add some talent to the front 4. DeMarcus Ware should do a good job from his side, but Hatcher, Ratliff, Lissemore and Crawford in the middle will need an infusion of young blood.
***Dallas is in it with another trade. Anthony Spencer, who is undersized to play the strong side DE position, is offered to the Denver Broncos (who just lost Elvis Dumervil) in exchange for the Broncos 2nd and 3rd round picks. Denver counter offers with a 2nd and a 4th, and after throwing in their 7th rounder as well, Dallas agrees to send Spencer to the Broncos, forming one of the AFC’s best pass rushing duos between Spencer and Miller, and Dallas receives the Broncos second round pick (58), 4th round pick (125) and 7th round pick (234)***
Round 2 (58): Alex Okafor: The Cowboys need to replace Anthony Spencer. As good as he is, he is just not made for a 4-3 defense. At 250, he is undersized. He could play it well if he was younger, but at age 29, being undersized is quite an issue. Instead, Dallas finds a younger replacement, who is also a great pass rusher and run defender (12.5 sacks in 2012). He is almost 15 pounds bigger than Spencer, and much more suited for the LDE role in Dallas. This move only makes more sense when you conisder that Dallas needs to get young and talented at DE, as DeMarcus Ware is also going to be 31 in 2013.
Round 3: Barrett Jones: The Cowboys continue their epic draft haul, bringing in their 5th starter with Barrett Jones. Larry Warford improves but does not solve the offensive line issues by himself. Jones can play guard or center (will likely play center), and start turning the offensive line into a strength. He may fall this far due to his injury concerns. While Dallas should not expect him to save the line, they should still take him. Phil Costa is good insurance as a backup.
Round 4(114): Le’Veon Bell: The Cowboys should be in the hunt for a running back that is durable and can start 4 or 5 games if necessary. In comes Le’Veon Bell. Bell has had experience starting for the Spartans and is a workhorse back that can carry the ball 30 times a game. He is a tough downfield runner that can provide a different skill set than Murray, and be relied upon to hold his own if asked to start, especially behind a revitalized interior offensive line.
Round 4(125): Alvin Bailey: Bailey is another interior line prospect, but I don’t have him here to start. While he can definitely challenge Livings for the final interior offensive line spot, he is more of an insurance policy. Behind Livings and Warford, the two likely starters, he would be the best interior guard on the roster. Along with Ronald Leary, the Cowboys would be set at their backup and starting guard spots, allowing Kevin Kowalski, Ryan Cook, and Mackenzy Bernadeau to become expendable. From that group, Dallas will be able to pull the best interior linemen and improve the pass protection for Romo. There are chances that one of those linemen likely gets injured, and having Bailey to fill in could prove to be very valuable.
Round 6: Kenny Stills: The Cowboys could use depth at wide receiver. Kenny Stills is an underrated prospect who has blazing 4.3 speed, strong hands, the ability to catch jumpballs, and the versatility to play the slot and come outside on some plays as well. If Dallas can form a nice Still/Harris rotation, they could employ many different offensive game plans. Stills is a deep threat that can get past the defense and make the catch, while Harris is a guy that can be there for the catch when a play breaks down, and get good yards on screens. With a Dez/Austin/Still/Harris core of WR’s, Dallas will have great depth and a very strong position with many contributors.
Round 7: Ontario McCalebb: In the 7th round, Dallas will only be looking for a situational player that has a very long shot at becoming a starter. McCalebb in no way will challenge Murray or Bell for reps, but can be a nice guy to take a carry or 2 every game. He has blazing speed and ability to follow blockers, making his true value evident in the return game. He can set up the Cowboys with much better field position in the kick return game, and will likely be the primary backup to Bell, should Murray go down and Bell be the starter.
I really don’t believe it is possible for Dallas to come up with a draft like this. Like I said, this is just a dream mock. I’m sure that any Dallas fan would be immensely happy with a draft haul like this, producing 5 new starters, 2 regular contributors, and a couple key backup players. The offensive line will feature big time upgrades in the middle, a young stud anchoring the defensive line, an up and coming defensive end, a true centerfielder safety, a running back that will be an important factor, insurance at WR, and a good kick return game.