And here we are again. It's early January, the playoffs haven't even started yet, and we're already looking at mock drafts. As in previous years, that wasn't the plan, but it is what it is.
But before we dive into this year's crop of names already being thrown around as potential number one picks for the Cowboys, let's look back at the predictions made in early January of the previous two years. The following table shows who the ten candidates were in each of those years, sorted in descending order of where they actually ended up being picked.
|January 2012||January 2013|
|1 (7)||S||Mark Barron||1 (4)||OT||Lane Johnson|
|1 (9)||LB||Luke Kuechly||1 (7)||OG||Jonathan Cooper|
|1 (10)||CB||Stephon Gilmore||1 (10)||OG||Chance Warmack|
|1 (16)||DE||Quinton Coples||1 (13)||DT||Sheldon Richardson|
|1 (17)||CB||Dre Kirkpatrick||1 (15)||S||Kenny Vaccaro|
|1 (24)||OG||David DeCastro||2 (49)||DT||Johnathan Hankins|
|1 (26)||DE||Whitney Mercilus||3 (73)||QB||Mike Glennon|
|2 (35)||OLB||Courtney Upshaw||3 (82)||DT||John Jenkins|
|2 (39)||CB||Janoris Jenkins||5 (137)||DT||Jesse Williams|
||- -||OT||Jake Matthews|
We know that as a predictor of which players are going to which teams, mock drafts aren't particularly accurate. And looking at the table above, the early names are all over the place, both in terms of position groups and in terms of where prospects eventually ended up being drafted. The hype around defensive tackles in 2013 is especially interesting, as of the four players initially projected as first-round picks, only one actually ended up being taken in the first round. Do not be surprised if something similar happens this year, where mockers have eight (!!!) defensive linemen penciled in for the Cowboys.
Also noteworthy: Neither Morris Claiborne nor Travis Frederick appeared in any of the the early mocks above. In fairness though, nobody could anticipate that early on that the Cowboys would be moving around the draft board on draft day.
But having said all that, mock drafts are not completely useless. They may not be a good predictor of what will happen on draft day, especially not at this time of the year, but for those of us who enjoy talking about the draft, mock drafts can still be a lot of fun regardless, as they can help us familiarize ourselves with the potential draft picks and give us a general sense for where a player fits on the draft boards. With that out of the way, here are the ten names for 2014:
|Rob Rang, CBSSports||Kony Ealy, DE,
|Tony Romo's issues in the fourth quarter pale in comparison to the full game bludgeoning that occurs weekly to the Cowboys' defense. Expect there to be significant turnover in personnel over the offseason should Dallas elect to keep their 4-3 alignment. Adding a versatile and athletic edge rusher like Ealy would go a long way towards adding some danger to the Dallas defense.|
|Dane Brugler, CBSSports||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS
|The Cowboys drafted the strong safety of the future last season with J.J. Wilcox, but free safety is a different discussion. Clinton-Dix would provide an immediate upgrade over Barry Church at free safety.|
|Todd McShay, ESPN||Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame||The Cowboys' choice here could just come down to taking the best defensive player available, given the issues they've had on that side of the ball. But in particular, they need D-line help in a very bad way, and I think Tuitt would be an interesting fit. He makes the most sense as a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 alignment, but given his athleticism and quickness I feel as though he could also work as a 3-technique D-tackle who gets up the field and disrupts. Tuitt is still a work in progress, but his ceiling is awfully high. Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan is another option here."|
|Dan Kadar, SB Nation||Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota||Jason Hatcher was a superstar for the Cowboys this season, but Nick Hayden struggled next to him. The addition of Hageman would improve one of the league's worst run defenses, and add an extra element to the pass rush. If the Cowboys happen to show three-man fronts, Hageman has the athleticism to play end as well.|
|Robert Davis, Football's Future||Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida St.||The transition from a 3-4 alignment to a 4-3 did not go very smooth this year. Different personnel is needed, and is starts up front. Monte Kiffin needs to apply pressure up the gut, and that's where Jernigan comes in. He has excellent quickness and could be a difference maker inside.|
|Walter Football||Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson||Despite having DeMarcus Ware on the roster, the Cowboys inexplicably finished in the bottom 10 of sacks this season. Ware being injured has been a problem, but there's no one else who can consistently get to the quarterback. Monte Kiffin is likely to be fired, so Dallas could return to its previous 3-4 defense. If so, Vic Beasley would make a ton of sense.|
|Jeff Risdon, RealGM Football||Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU||Even though linemate Anthony Johnson gets more attention, Ferguson’s more consistent [in his] effort and [his] propensity for timely impact plays. Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli would love Ego.|
|Eric Galko, Optimum Scouting||Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn||Robinson is reportedly 50/50 on declaring for the draft, and may wait until after the championship game. However, if he does declare, he may be in contention to be the top offensive tackle in this class. Pairing him with Tyron Smith should finally give this offense two bookend tackles|
|Matt Falk, Draftseason||Scott Crichton DE, Oregon State||George Selvie has done a good job, but Dallas needs to add depth and someone to push for a startin[g] position. Crichton has had a huge year at Oregon State. While his home is at defensive end, he can play all along the defensive line making him a hot commodity.|
|Shawn Zobel, Draftheadquarters||Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame||Notre Dame's Louis Nix is a junior who has declared for the upcoming draft. A massive 325 pound fire hydrant of a nose tackle, Nix would fit well as a one-technique defensive tackle in Dallas' new defense. With the ability to clog run lanes and take up blockers, he'd be as good as it gets if the Cowboys are looking for a wide-bodied tackle to keep linebacker Sean Lee clean at the second level. Adding Nix to the mix would be a major upgrade for the Dallas defense.|
Eight defensive linemen, a safety and a tackle, that about sums up the popular sentiment about who the Cowboys should draft in the 2014 NFL draft. And just like in previous years, no single player has yet emerged as a clear-cut favorite for the Cowboys, though Kony Ealy and Timmy Jernigan did show up in more mocks than the other players.
Who'd be your favorite come April?
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