The franchise-tag business is thankfully behind us and we are now in a little lull before the free agency madness kicks off next week. What a perfect time to look at the latest, greatest mock drafts out there.
One of the nice things about mock drafts is they keep supplying a steady stream of new names to consider, especially for the later round picks. For the first round pick though, most of the names are fairly well known by now.
So it is with some trepidation that I scan the weekly crop of mock drafts, always worried that we may have reached a point where everybody has reached a consensus on who the Cowboys' first round pick should be. Thankfully, that is not yet the case this week. We have mocks from six fairly renowned draft analysts who propose five different names for the Cowboys.
Scott Wright from Draftcountdown, former scout Dan Shonka from Ourlads, Evan Silva from Rotoworld, Ryan van Bibber from our own SBNation mothership, Rob Rang from CBSSports and Russ Lande from the SportingNews all weigh in after the break on who the Cowboys should pick with the 14th pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
Scott Wright, Draftcountdown.com, 3/5/2012: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The Cowboys have had major issues at the safety position for nearly a decade and it might finally be time to do something about it. It looks like Gerald Sensabaugh is entrenched at free safety but they can do better at strong safety. Alabama’s Mark Barron is far and away the top safety prospect in this class and the only consensus first round talent. Not only does Barron have a nice blend of size and speed but he also earns high marks for his football intangibles. Barron is definitely more of an in-the-box type but he has also flashed some playmaking ability in coverage. In many ways Barron compares favorably to LaRon Landry and he would likely be the best safety that Dallas has had since Darren Woodson.
The Cowboys could also look at a cornerback, but this is probably too early for Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick or North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins. After not drafting an offensive lineman in the first round for a couple of decades perhaps Jerry Jones will be emboldened by the success of Tyron Smith and grab another blocker such as Stanford OG David DeCastro. There has actually been some speculation that Dallas might opt to bring in a quarterback of the future early on, but they wouldn’t do it in round one... would they?
Dan Shonka, Ourlads.com, 3/4/2012: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
DeCastro is the best guard we've evaluated since Steve Hutchinson in 2001. DeCastro is intense, explosive, patient, and has excellent recoverability in pass protection. Jerry Jones brought in Bill Callahan to coordinate the running game offense. DeCastro helps solidify the line in pass protection and in the running game.
Evan Silva, Rotoworld.com, 3/2/2012: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
Dallas is expected to place the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer, but a long-term commitment won't be necessary if the team steals Upshaw near the end of the top 15. A versatile, high-motor pass rusher, Upshaw was also impressively durable (zero missed games due to injury) and productive (35.5 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks) during his Alabama career. College teammate Dre Kirkpatrick would also be given consideration here, but Upshaw is the higher-rated draft prospect.
Ryan van Bibber, SBNation.com, 3/5/2012: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
Dallas seems intent to find help for their secondary in free agency. Of course, they could also go all in on Saints' free agent guard Carl Nicks. Whatever they do, it could shape their pick here. For this mock, we assume they sign one of the top cornerbacks, Cortland Finnegan or Brandon Carr in free agency. DeCastro then beefs up their interior line, giving Dallas an elite protector that will be a focal point of their front five for years to come.
Rob Rang, NFLDraftscout/CBSsports.com, 3/5/2012: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Cowboys' defense made gains under Rob Ryan, but inconsistencies in the secondary led to plenty of breakdowns. Kirkpatrick's recent arrest for marijuana possession could scare off some teams but Jerry Jones has shown a willingness to overlook off-field transgressions in the past. There is no denying Kirkpatrick's size and physicality would be a welcome addition to a defense in need of a shakeup in the secondary.
Russ Lande, Sporting News, 3/1/2012: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Jerry Jones has long shown a willingness to gamble on players with character concerns. With their dire need for a cornerback, the Cowboys take a shot with Jenkins, who was dismissed by Florida after three arrests in two years.