My turn at the mock draft thing, with an examination of our roster and some potential UFAs to think of at the end.
Everyone says this is a deep draft, so I’m going to take advantage by getting a huge number of picks and make a trade down. Now, I will always be looking for opportunities to make further trades, though I’m pleased with the initial trade and how everything falls to us. I will say that if I can get good value for 2015 picks I’ll stockpile those. The best drafters are those with the most picks, because over the long haul, the difference between teams’ drafting ability is surprisingly small. With that said, here we go…
Pick 16 (1st Round): With Aaron Donald gone, trading down is definitely the way to go. The problem is that I don’t see a market for most of the teams following us. The Jets might be interested, and if they offer us 18 and 104, I’ll take it, but if I did that I would also continue to look to trade even farther down, though that’s not available in this mock. I hope that the rumors that Philly wants to get into the top 10 for Mike Evans are true. Spend like a maniac to replace DeSean, Chip. Kansas City is already short its 2nd, and I think they want all the picks they can. New England is right out. San Francisco would have been a great option but I think they’re going to be too busy trying to figure out how to replace Aldon Smith.
There is, however, one team that might be looking to trade up that has a lot of extra picks, and that is Cleveland. I don’t really want to trade all the way down to 26, which is slightly past the bulk of our supposed targets, but after Aaron Donald, I think I’d rather have 26, 71, and 127 (Trade value 1000 to 980) than Zack Martin.
Pick 26 (1st): We now have 13 overall picks. We don’t have to take a defensive lineman here, and we have a number of holes to fill. Sitting right there is a player at a position we absolutely need help at, with what seems the perfect variety of skills for us, CB Kyle Fuller (27th on the CBS Big Board). He’s not an elite athlete, but he’s not shabby, he studies hard, and he’ll stick his nose in at corner. He’ll make a great Tampa-2 corner in my mind and you never have too many corners, especially in our division.
I thought seriously about either Marquise Lee (28) or Allen Robinson (30), but Lee doesn’t match the Cowboys body type and I don’t know that Robinson is an RKG. There were several players in the 33-36 range that I thought about, Kony Ealy (35), RaShede Hageman (33), Cyrus Kouandijo (34), and Xavier Sua-Filo (36). Of those, the one that interested me the most was Sua-Filo, even though he could possibly still be there at 47. I just don’t think Ealy and Hageman are that much better than later DL options. Cyrus could well be an excellent RT, he certainly has the physical tools, but I don’t know as I want him starting next year.
Fuller won’t start, per se, but he’d see the field in nickel and dime packages, play special teams, and maybe even play some safety like he did in college. I have no worries that he’d be on the field enough to warrant a 1st round pick.
Pick 47 (2nd): Well, look here. We a player who is a RKG, plays with power, plays hard, and happens to be at a position of need. I think we have the second coming of Greg Ellis in Scott Crichton (49). Before someone complains that Ellis wasn’t a great player, realize that he was a good player for a long time. I think Crichton will be as well. I’d like to tell you who else I considered here, but when I saw Crichton on the board I ran right up with the card.
Pick 71 (3rd): Part of the reason I was sanguine about trading out so far down in the first round was the fact that there’s just so much talent in this draft. Sitting at this pick is a player that needs some coaching up, but another RKG. We’re doubling up at DE, but we need it and Trent Murphy (71) is just too useful to pass up. He may be more of a rotation DE, but I think that Marinelli wants rotation DEs. I think he wants to have a swarm of players to rotate in. I believe the ‘Boys will end up with several defensive linemen in this draft, and they’ve already shown that they like hard-working, high-effort players who produce, even if their measurables aren’t perfect. It was tough to pass on Gabe Jackson (73), but our offensive line was pretty good last year and returns everyone. We absolutely need more offensive linemen, but when it came to the choice between Murphy or Jackson I went with Murphy. Can’t really do wrong with either, though.
Pick 78 (3rd): Ah, the joys of multiple close picks. Another reason to take Murphy at 71 is the hope that Jackson might fall, as OGs sometimes do. In this exercise, he didn’t, so, we’ll have to settle for OG Dakota Dozier (83). Dozier has some things to coach up, and he’s from a small school, but at 6-4, 313lbs, with very good athleticism he’s got a chance to be really good. I actually think it’s more likely that Jackson is here than Dozier, but we’ll see. I also considered Ego Ferguson (80) and Chris Borland (79) here, but I think Dozier’s ceiling is much higher than either of them and I really don’t see his floor being lower than several earlier offensive linemen. He’s got the measurables, just not the experience of a big school.
Pick 119 (4th): This is a hard pick, but it reflects, I think, that you can’t actually predict the draft. On the one hand, we’ve already taken a guard, but the best player here is clearly David Yankey (119). I think he should have stayed for his senior year and if so, he would talked about as top guard in the 2015 draft. However, here he is. He also offers more tackle flexibility than most, and 6-6, 315lbs he has the size to play either position. I will say I almost picked Josh Mauro (122). We need more DEs, and he’s said it would be a dream to play in Dallas. However, Yankey’s clearly a superior talent but if the ‘Boys were to take Mauro in this spot I would not complain. I also thought about A.J. McCarron (123) as a groomable QB, but I’m not all that high on him.
Pick 127 (4th): The Cowboys still need help at a number of places. One of those is OLB. I’m actually a fan of making Carter the Mike, Lee the Will, and Holloman the Sam, but we need help here so I’m taking Christian Kirksey (130) here. He’s limited to the Will, but because Lee can play both Mike and Will, he can essentially back up two positions. He’s not particularly big, but he’s quick, fast, and known for his coverage ability. These traits will help on special teams as well. Charles Sims (129) was very tempting here, and I think he’ll be a good RB, but while I don’t think too much of Randle, the need at LB outweighed the need at RB. I also thought about TE Arthur Lynch (128), who’s a very good blocking TE. I also gave some thought to Aaron Murray who’s listed at 139. I think he’s the best of the bunch of later QBs, but again, a coverage LB at this point in the draft is too valuable.
As a side note, we now have our haul from Pick 16: Kyle Fuller, Trent Murphy, and Christian Kirksey. Any doubts that trading down instead of taking Zack Martin is the way to go? As I said, if Donald falls to us, fine, but he won’t.
Pick 158 (5th): This is a tough choice because of a classic risk/reward scenario. On the one hand, Matt Patchan (158) is still out there. He’d make an excellent replacement for Doug Free. In fact, he could be a top-flight OT on either end of the line, assuming of course that he actually plays. On the other hand, there’s Taylor Hart (166), who is a middling athlete at DE but smart and versatile at 6-6ft, 281lbs. I think Patchan’s ceiling is much higher but I think Marinelli could figure out quite a bit to do with Hart. Go with the safe pick here, and take Hart. I also contemplated Utah TE Jake Murphy (161). Were the Cowboys choosing between the two I wouldn’t be surprised if they take Murphy.
I’ll be honest though that, while I can’t in this exercise, I would actually trade picks 158 and 229 to Jacksonville for picks 179 and 205 (31.7 to 31.2). I would then take QB David Fales (180) and RB De’Anthony Thomas (209). Yes, I really we already have Lance Dunbar, but in the 6th round you’re looking for upside and he could be something.
Pick 229 (7th): At 6-8, 316lbs, Cornelius Lucas (235) has the size to play RT. What he needs is to be coached up to take advantage of that size and pretty good athleticism.
Pick 231 (7th): Jonathan Bales has shown that the single most important predictor of future NFL success for RBs is their speed. Obviously, it’s not the only thing, but if you have to look at one thing, that’s the thing to look at. Senorise Perry (236) showed 4.38 speed at his pro day, can catch and block. He’s not likely to be a star, but he could be a nice backup.
Pick 238 (7th): CBS compares Marcel Jensen (243) to John Phillips, and I know I wouldn’t mind having Phillips back at a rookie contract. If he does meet that comparison, he’ll be a useful blocker, a decent red-zone target, and a useful special teams player.
Pick 248 (7th): L’Damian Washington (269) is 6-4, 195lbs, with 4.46 speed. He’s got the measurable the ‘Boys look for in their WRs, but he’s raw. I think the biggest key is his willingness to tackle on special teams.
Pick 251 (7th): With 4.44 speed, good agility, and some ups, Kendall James (253) might be able to overcome mediocre height (5-10) at CB. Has the potential to be a steal with that speed, willingness to tackle in run plays, slot and zone experience. Even if he doesn’t end up a starting CB, he was a start special teamer both covering and returning.
Pick 254 (7th): Quincy Enunwa (285) was a team captain, an RKG, is fairly big at 6-2, 225lbs, with good speed at 4.45. However, he’s tight, slow to get to top speed, and needs to work on his hands. However, he’ll play special teams, likes to block, and works hard.
Now, this is what my roster would generally speaking look like going into training camp.
QB: Romo, Orton, Weeden
I would have liked to find a QB to develop, and would have if I had been able to convince Jacksonville to make the later trade. However, I might see a UFA QB here for the practice squad, like perhaps Garrett Gilbert (281) or Casey Pachall (415).
RB: Murray, Dunbar, Randle, Perry
I would have also liked to add an RB such as Sims, but while I’m not a big fan of Randle because of his lack of speed, he’s a reasonable backup. I do think Perry has a chance, but primarily on the practice squad as a backup to Dunbar if he gets hurt. I would like them to sign George Atkinson III (346) as a UFA. He’s raw, but has a nice size and speed combination. He’d definitely be practice squad material.
WR: Bryant, Williams, Harris, Beasley, Benford, Lewis, Newsome, Washington, Enunwa
So we know and like what we have in our top four. We’ll keep five, so while I wanted to get one earlier, none matched our positions so I grabbed two late. This is Benford’s spot to lose in some ways, but he has to step forward. The rest will be fighting him for that spot on the 53 plus a practice squad spot. One UFA to watch would be Marcus Lucas (335).
TE/FB: Clutts, Witten, Hanna, Escobar, Jensen
Not much to say here. I think Jensen would be competing with Clutts and the winner is the better blocker. A UFA here would be Asa Watson (332), Ben’s little brother.
Technically, he’d be the only one listed here, but Bernadeau is the backup. I’d also give Leary some reps in training camp just in case. I’d also sign James Stone (287) as a UFA.
OG: Bernadeau, Leary, DeGeare, Dominguez, Olsen, Dozier, Yankey
Training camp would shake out the pecking order here, but I think we would be extremely happy with the depth here.
OT: Smith, Free, Parnell, Weems, Wetzel, Lucas
I don’t think that Lucas would take over as the backup OT this year, but I don’t know that we need that this year. I actually think Parnell has played reasonably well, certainly compared to what I’ve seen of backups around the league. I’d like him or Weems to take a step up, of course, but, for 2014, this isn’t bad. I would have liked to replace Free, but as I said, I don’t think Kouandijo is the answer. Kevin Graf (272) might be a UFA target.
DE: Crawford, Mincey, Okpalaugo, Rayford, Selvie, Crichton, Murphy, Hart
While it would be nice to have Ware, we’ve just made this a very deep position for us. We’ll be unlikely to have a single person with 10 or more sacks, but I could see several with 6 or 7. Rayford has a history of sacks in minimal opportunities. He didn’t have a chance to show this coming in late, but maybe there’s something. There’s enough talent here that I’m not positive how much playing time Selvie would get despite his yeoman work last year. Also note that Crawford, Mincey, and Hart have a lot of position flex.
DT: Melton, Bass, McClain, Hayden, Kearse
Not as much depth here, as I only see three staying on the roster. Hayden did not actually play very well last year according to PFF. Nevertheless, I think three will be enough because of the flexibility of the tackles. Zack Kerr (286) would be an interesting UFA with nice arm length and size. Also looks to be an RKG.
LB: Lee, Carter, Holloman, Wilbur, Durant, Lawrence, Lemon, Spears, Stewart, Williams, Wilson, Kirksey
I’d like to have more depth here, given the injury ravages of the past, however, a top five of Lee, Carter, Holloman, Wilber, and Kirksey is not shabby. Glenn Carson (309) was a 3 down ILB at Penn State as possible UFA. I’d also look at Marquise Flowers at (288) for an OLB UFA. He’s got speed and size but is raw and needs to stand up better at the point of attack.
CB: Carr, Scandrick, Claiborne, Webb, Moore, Fuller, James
Even drafting two, I’m not sure if we don’t want 2 or 3 reasonable UFAs here. We’ll keep 4 or 5 on the 53 and 1 or 2 on the practice squad and that means we need up to 7. Yeah, I know we have 7 here, but I don’t think Moore would accept the practice squad so he’d have to be on the 53. He’s a nice player but I’d like to do better. Also, I’d like to see a serious competition from Webb, James and a few others. Here are some names to think of: Carrington Byndom (291), Charles Sawyer (329), Marcus Williams (345), Dexter McDougle (359).
S: Church, Wilcox, Johnson, Heath, Hamilton
Again, I’m of the belief that an average pass rush would have made this position group look much better. We had one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL last year and these guys got picked apart. Nevertheless, I do think there’s some talent here. I would like to see Ty Zimmerman signed as a UFA. He might not be a great safety prospect, but he’s a smart useful player who’ll be very good at special teams, in my opinion.
Overall, I think this makes for a lot of competition for Jason Garrett to smile about. We're also achieving a great deal of the depth that he's hoping for with much fewer blank spots. We're still one year away from eliminating those, I think, but we're getting there.