2014 NFL Mock Drafts: Where First Round Defensive Linemen Are Slotted

Could Auburn's Dee Ford (95) be a darkhorse candidate for the Cowboys? - Kevin C. Cox

We review 20 mock drafts by some of the bigger names in the mock draft business and look at where the various mock drafts are slotting which defensive linemen and what that could mean for the Dallas Cowboys.

If you have reviewed the Cowboys roster recently, you probably noticed that the team is fairly thin at defensive end:

  • DTs: Melton, McClain, Hayden, Bass, Kearse
  • DEs: Selvie, Mincey, Crawford

Intriguingly, DallasCowboys.com lists Henry Melton as a defensive end, which just goes to show that the rushmen positions are probably still in flux, and who ends up playing where probably won't be decided until after training camp.

Over the past couple of months, we've focused (almost exclusively) on defensive tackles as the Cowboys' draft priority. But what if the Cowboys are looking beyond just defensive tackles and are looking to "revamp" their defensive line with an edge rusher in the draft? What if they are not "locked in" on Donald and Jernigan?

To get a better feel for the entire defensive line landscape in the draft, we'll look at a summary of 20 mocks below and see what they collectively have to say about where the top defensive linemen are slotted in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. But instead of focusing on the defensive tackles only, we'll include the edge rushers as well.

Taken individually, mock drafts typically are not very accurate. But taken together, the predictive value of many mock drafts is arguably greater than that of a single mock. At the very least, looking at a broad range of mocks gives you a better understanding of the pre-draft consensus regarding where individual players could be slotted. Whether that consensus opinion means anything on draft day is an entirely different discussion

Source Date Clowney Mack Barr Donald Jernigan Ford Ealy Hageman Nix
Gabriel & Galko (NFP) 3/27 1 6 18 16 - - - - 29 15 25
Eric Galko (Optimum Scouting) 3/27 2 5 13 12 - - - - 24 17 22
Walter Football 3/26 2 3 11 12 - - 32 27 20 29
Mike Tanier (Sports on Earth) 3/26 7 5 9 16 - - - - 24 15 32
Dan Pompei (Sports on Earth) 3/26 3 1 15 14 26 - - 27 29 25
Russ Lande (Sports on Earth) 3/26 7 6 20 14 - - 27 - - 29 25
Ourlads.com 3/26 3 9 11 16 19 - - - - - - 14
Bucky Brooks (NFL.com) 3/25 1 3 6 8 10 20 16 14 29
Chris Burke (SI.com) 3/25 2 6 10 11 14 29 24 - - 16
Rob Rang (CBSSports.com) 3/25 3 6 11 14 16 22 20 - - 29
Dane Brugler (CBSSports.com) 3/25 3 6 7 16 14 - - 31 - - 25
Drafttek 3/25 3 5 16 14 - - - - 29 - - 11
Pat Kirwan (CBSSports.com) 3/24 2 9 16 12 14 24 27 15 25
Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com) 3/20 1 6 11 16 14 27 - - - - 25
Will Brinson (CBSSports.com) 3/20 3 6 11 12 14 27 20 29 16
Rob Warner (FFToolbox.com) 3/20 5 8 20 14 16 29 30 24 19
Pete Prisco (CBSSports.com) 3/19 3 6 11 12 16 27 - - 20 29
Luke Easterling (The Draft Report) 3/19 3 6 11 14 - - 20 16 30 29
Charles Davis (NFL.com) 3/18 1 3 11 32 14 24 - - 30 29
Don Banks (SI.com) 3/18 3 6 11 14 16 20 24 29 - -

This draft class is headlined by three edge rushers in Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack and Anthony Barr. The first two don't drop out of the top ten in a single mock draft, but a couple of mock drafts have Anthony Barr falling to the 16th spot, or have him close enough that the Cowboys may start thinking about trading up - the Cowboys' first and third could potentially get them the 11th pick.

Aaron Donald and Timmy Jernigan look to be in range for the Cowboys. Only four of the 20 mocks have both Donald and Jernigan gone by the 16th pick. Jernigan's "performance" in these mocks is a little baffling. Not only is he increasingly being dropped out of the first round altogether lately, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of (mock draft) interest in his services outside of Dallas and Chicago.

The situation gets a little murkier after that. The consensus on Kony Ealy and Dee Ford seems to be that they'll most likely drop into the mid twenties, if they are taken in the first round at all. Both could be interesting targets in a trade-down scenario, though which one is the better fit for Dallas remains an open question. Ealy is thought to have more upside, largely based on his physique, while Ford may be a little undersized but has already piqued the Cowboys' interest: The Cowboys talked to him at the Senior Bowl, where he was easily the best edge rusher and wowed observers with his speed, power and explosion.

Ra'Shede Hageman, after falling out of favor with the mock draft crowd for a while, seems to be making a (mock draft) comeback lately. But the most interesting player here, from the point of view of his mock draft position is Louis Nix. Notice how he makes the first round in all but one of the mocks? That's more than can be said of Jernigan, Ealy, Ford and Hageman. And I would bet that if there is such persistent interest in a prospect, chances are he'll go a lot higher in the draft than where he is currently being mocked.

Using the same 20 mocks above, I've reordered the data to better understand which teams the draft analysts think are in the race for a defensive lineman. For the table below, I've listed all teams by draft position who are projected to pick a defensive lineman in at least four of the 20 mocks above:

Pick No. Team # mocks with DL pick
1 Houston 5
2 St. Louis 4
3 Jacksonville 12
5 Oakland 4
6 Atlanta 11
11 Tennessee 11
12 NY Giants 5
14 Chicago 15
15 Pittsburgh 4
16 Dallas 15
20 Arizona 9
24 Cincinnati 7
25 San Diego 6
27 New Orleans 7
29 New England 14

This table should be a pretty good indicator of which teams are likely to be in the hunt for a defensive lineman in 41 days. Jadeveon Clowney looks highly unlikely to fall beyond the third spot. Atlanta at number six will also take an edge rusher, which will most likely be Khalil Mack. The Titans are the Barr-interceptors, the Giants are showing an emerging interest in Aaron Donald, and Chicago and Dallas are heavily mocked landing spots for a defensive tackle.

If the Cowboys are looking to trade down, Arizona and Cincinnati could potentially be interested in moving up for a defensive lineman.

In summary then, these mock drafts suggest there's a reasonable chance that either Donald or Jernigan are available when the Cowboys are on the clock. There's also a slim chance that Anthony Barr could still be available, but knowing how fast premium edge rushers fly off the boards on draft day, that's probably a very remote chance.

But if the Cowboys have their eyes set on an edge rusher, Dee Ford and Kony Ealy are almost certain to be available, perhaps even if the Cowboys were to trade down a few spots.

So many options, and just one pick to make.

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