Over the weekend, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock released an updated, post-Combine version of his top five players per position (full rankings here). The Cowboys have been very busy in free agency so far, but there still are a number of positions of need for the Cowboys. Notably, the Cowboys haven't made any free agency moves so far along the defensive line, so we'll look at the defensive line and other positions of need as we review how Mayock's rankings have changed since his pre-Combine version from February.
Defensive Tackles: A popular topic among many Cowboys fans is the idea of drafting a big guy for the middle of the defensive line. While it remains to be seen whether the Cowboys have any interest in doing that, it is also clear that outside of Kenyon Coleman, Jay Ratliff is the oldest Cowboys defender currently under contract: he'll turn 31 at the start of the season.
|Rank||Previous Ranking (2/14)
||Updated Rank (3/16)
|1||Michael Brockers, LSU||Dontari Poe, Memphis|
|2||Jerel Worthy, Michigan State||Fletcher Cox, Mississippi St.|
|3||Dontari Poe, Memphis||Michael Brockers, LSU|
|4||Devon Still, Penn State||Jerel Worthy, Michigan State|
||Fletcher Cox, Mississippi St.
||Kendall Reyes, UConn|
|Kendall Reyes, UConn||Devon Still, Penn State
|Brandon Thompson, Clemson|
Mike Mayock gets off the Michael Brockers train and elevates combine phenom Dontari Poe to the number one spot. Fletcher Cox also sees his stock jump dramatically as he moves into the number two spot. The 6-4, 298-pound Cox is gaining momentum as the flavor-of-the-week candidate for the Cowboys as a defensive end, and he could be available at the #14 position.
After the break, we look at offensive linemen, corners and defensive ends and OLBs.
Interior Offensive Linemen
|1||David DeCastro, Stanford||Peter Konz, Wisconsin|
|2||Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin||Philip Blake, Baylor|
|3||Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State||Ben Jones, Georgia
|4||Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State||David Molk, Michigan
|5||Brandon Brooks, Miami (OH)||Michael Brewster, Ohio State
Where Mayock had previously lumped the interior linemen together in one top five list, he has now split them out by position. Not much has changed for the guards, save for the addition of Brandon Brooks as the fifth-ranked guard.
Mayock does not seem to share the medical concerns that have been associated with Peter Konz, and keeps him atop the center board. Of note, some of the names on the center list are projected to go as late as the fifth/sixth rounds. If the Cowboys want a center, they'll likely find one waiting for them in almost every round.
David DeCastro remains the fan favorite for now, but many of the other names on this list are also worthy of consideration in a trade down scenario or with later-round picks.
Cornerbacks: With the acquisition of Brandon Carr, it seems unlikely that the Cowboys will use their first pick on a corner. But the Cowboys will probably have a keen eye on any corners who start slipping on draft day, as cornerback is widely believed to have some of the best depth in this draft and the Cowboys can always use more corners.
|Rank||Previous Ranking (1/24)
||Updated Rank (2/14)
|1||Morris Claiborne, LSU||Morris Claiborne, LSU|
|2||Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama||Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
|3||Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama||Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama|
|4||Trumaine Johnson, Montana||Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama|
|5||Leonard Johnson, Iowa State||Josh Robinson, Central Florida
Unfortunately, if you had harbored hopes of perhaps snatching up Stephon Gilmore with the Cowboys' second-round pick, those dreams are likely over. Similarly, many mock drafts had Josh Robinson as a later-round favorite for the Cowboys, but his exceptional combine showing has him being talked about as a potential first-rounder.
Defensive Ends/OLBs: Even though the Cowboys slapped the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer, the Cowboys are still likely to look for ways in which to improve their pass rush. The latest rumor, according to Calvin Watkins at ESPNDallas, is that there is mutual interest between the Cowboys and outside linebacker Erik Walden. Regardless of how that turns out, an improved pass rush must rank at the very top of the Cowboys' to-do list entering the draft.
|Rank||Defensive Ends (3/16)
|1||Quinton Coples, North Carolina||Melvin Ingram, South Carolina|
|2||Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
||Whitney Mercilus, Illinois|
|3||Nick Perry, USC||Andre Branch, Clemson|
|4||Vinny Curry, Marshall||Ronell Lewis, Oklahoma
|5||Jared Crick, Nebraska
||Shea McClellin, Boise State
DEs and OLBs are another position that Mayock had lumped together in his previous positional rankings, and he pulls them apart this time. Notably absent from both lists: Bruce Irvin, who had turned heads at the combine and is another fan favorite as a Cowboys pick, but who may have hurt his draft stock a little with an arrest on Saturday for allegedly breaking a sign in a Jimmy Johns Sandwich Shop.
The Cowboys showed a lot of interest in J.J. Watt last year. Whether the Cowboys try to improve their pass rush via a DE or OLB remains a topic of much debate. But we do already have one hint of where they may be leaning: OLB Ronell Lewis has received an invitation for an official pre-draft visit with the Cowboys.
Overall, many of the dark horses that we had been secretly hoping would be available in the later rounds for the Cowboys are making a push for the top: Stephon Gilmore, Josh Robinson, Fletcher Cox or Shea McClellin are no longer flying under the radar - if they ever were.