The NFL officially announced yesterday that 56 players have been granted special eligibility for the 2011 NFL Draft on April 28-30 at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Those 56 mark an NFL record as the previous record was 53 (2010 & 2008).
The deadline for declaring was January 15th, and now that the deadline has passed, there will be no more surprises about who will or will not enter the draft, and many draftniks are releasing their early versions of their mock drafts, which we've summarized after the break.
A theme that is increasingly popping up in the discussions about the Cowboys number nine pick is the realization that the top prospects, including both cornerbacks, could be gone by the time it's the Cowboys' turn to pick, and no offensive linemen or safeties are seen as good enough to warrant a top 10 selection.
Cowboys Executive Vice President Stephen Jones recently said the Cowboys are going to follow a BPA approach:
"We're going to take the best player that's available when it comes time for us to pick. I know that's the old saying that people get tired of hearing about, but that's what we need to do with this team. You never know who is going to be injured and who is not going to work out from year-to-year, so you just need to take good football players, and that's what we're going to do."
We'll see about that. For now, here's who the mockers like for the Cowboys.
Walter Football, 1/20/2011: Cameron Jordan, DE/DT, California
Jay Ratliff and Stephen Bowen figure to start on Dallas' defensive line for a long time. There is a void at the right end position, however, currently occupied by an ineffective Igor Olshansky. The Cowboys could use an upgrade there, and Cameron Jordan happens to be the best player available who makes sense for Dallas at this juncture. The Cowboys could be the first team to move down. In this version of my 2011 NFL Mock Draft, none of the top players available fit Dallas' needs (RB, CB, S, DE, OL).
Mel Kiper's first mock draft is out (1/19/2011): Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska.
A great value here, Amukamara is the best pure ball-hawking corner in the draft. A technician with outstanding instincts, ball skills and anticipation, he immediately provides an upgrade in the Dallas secondary. The Cowboys need help at corner, and this spot is still a tad too early to go with offensive line help based on current grades, so this makes sense. Amukamara is the kind of player that can help the pass rush and also make quick decisions turn into interceptions.
Todd McShay (1/19/2011) also gives the nod to Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska.
Defenses field a lot of nickel packages in today's NFL and the Cowboys need help at corner. Mike Jenkins took a big step backward in 2010, Terence Newman isn't getting any younger and Orlando Scandrick is a No. 3 corner at best. Amukamara is fluid, has great instincts and anticipation and plays the ball well and is even versatile enough to help out at safety if needed.
Mocking Dan, SB Nation's resident draft guru (1/19/2011): Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State:
This is a tough scenario for the Cowboys. Both top cornerbacks are gone and no offensive lineman is good enough for a top 10 selection. Although the Cowboys typically don't draft defensive linemen in the first round, Heyward showed in the Sugar Bowl he's a top-flight player. This could also be an intriguing spot for a trade. It's not as costly as a top-five pick and some team may want to move up and grab a quarterback.
Drafttek.com, 1/18/2011:Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State.
After a week of attempting "value picks" and not addressing the obvious OL deficiencies, the Cowboy Braintrust decided to place a higher priority on the Big Uglies and ended up with the top OT in the draft. Sherrod can play either bookend and the interchangeability between he and Doug Free will be valuable on game-day inactive decisions.
CBSSports.com (Chad Reuter), 1/17/2011: Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
If Dallas doesn't consider any of the offensive tackle prospects worthy of this selection, then they go with the best player on the board in Dareus.
CBSsports.com (Rob Rang), 1/17/2011: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
Excluding outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer (college defensive ends) the Cowboys spent one first-round pick this decade on the big men up front (DE Marcus Spears, 2005). Dallas could use a highly rated offensive tackle here, but with no OT worthy of this pick, they shift to the defensive side of the ball or trade down. Clayborn's production dropped this season, but not his value in the eyes of scouts, who view him as the top senior defensive lineman (and among the safer prospects) in the draft.
SI.com (Andrew Perloff): Tyron Smith, OT, USC
Assuming the Cowboys think they can sign Nnamdi Asomugha to help solidify the secondary, they'll turn to the offensive line in the draft. Smith has a good chance to come out of the predraft process as the top offensive lineman.
Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft overview (min. two rounds deep)
||1st Round||2nd Round||3rd Round||4th Round
||5th Round||6th Round||7th Round
|Kegbearer||1/20/2011||Mike Pouncey C/G, Florida
||Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
||Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor
||Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU
||John Moffitt,G, Wisconsin
||Mario Harvey, MLB, Marshall
||[used to trade up in the 6th round]
|Draftsite||1/20/2011||Brandon Harris, CB, Miami
||Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma
||Stefen Wisniewski, OG, Penn State
||Jason Pinkston, OT, Pittsburgh
||Ryan Winterswyk, DE, Boise State
||Karl Klug, DT, Iowa
||Wayne Daniels, OLB, TCU
|NewNFLdraft||1/20/2011||Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
||Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
||Justin Boren, G, Ohio St
||Jeron Johnson, SS, Boise St
||Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, LSU
||Ian Williams, DT, ND
||Jason Teague, CB/FS, TCU
|Walter Football||1/20/2011||Cameron Jordan, DE/DT, California
||Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
||Deunta Williams, FS, North Carolina
||Marcus Gilbert, OT, Florida
|NE Patriots Draft||1/16/2011||Marcell Dareus, DE, Alabama
||Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
||Curtis Brown, CB, Texas
|CDS Draft||1/18/2011||Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College)
||DeAndre McDaniel, SS, Clemson
||Chris Marve , LB, Vanderbilt
|Drafttek||1/18/2011||Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
||DeAndre McDaniel, SS, Clemson