Yesterday, ESPN's Mel Kiper played GM for all NFL teams and picked rounds 1-3 of the draft. Kiper cautions that the result isn't necessarily what he thinks will happen, but rather is the sum of what he thinks are the best picks for each team based on player values and team needs.
The result of the three-round mock is split up into two separate posts for the AFC and NFC, most of which is hidden behind the ESPN NFL (In$ider) paywall. The Cowboys picks aren't hidden behind the paywall, so after the break we look at who Kiper thinks the Cowboys should pick, not who he thinks they will pick.
Kiper has the Cowboys taking Alabama safety Mark Barron with their first pick. He picks Barron ahead of Fletcher Cox (#15), Stephon Gilmore (#17), Dre Kirkpatrick (#20) and David DeCastro (#21).
In the second round, Kiper thinks the Cowboys should pick Clemson OLB Andre Branch, followed by little-known cornerback prospect Justin Bethel out of Presbyterian. Bethel is ranked 190th by CBSsports and 154th by Drafttek, so picking Bethel with the 81st pick is a bit of a surprise.
Here's Kiper's explanation:
The Cowboys need to shore up their coverage and they get a lot of help here, both in the secondary and with an added piece in the pass rush. Barron makes too much sense. He has a good chance to be there at No. 14 and in this simulation he was. He provides an immediate upgrade.
Branch is a guy scouts disagree on, but only on whether he's got the talent of a late-first grade. Midway through Round 2, Dallas can't go wrong, and he'll provide depth on the edge. You can't have too many pass-rushers.
Bethel could be one of the sleepers of the draft. A star at Presbyterian, he has plenty of physical talent and Dallas isn't out of the woods in the secondary simply with the addition of Brandon Carr.
Kiper goes defense all the way, and doesn't take an offensive lineman with the first three Cowboys picks. Barron has emerged as a recent favorite for the Cowboys at #14, and Branch is often mocked as a late first-round pick, so it looks like the Cowboys would get same value with their second pick. Bethel looks like a reach, but I know next to nothing about the guy so he may well be a sleeper of the draft.
Overall though, I'm left a little underwhelmed, probably because the second- and third round picks are not names that I've previously associated with the Cowboys. Which may very well be the way I'll feel after the draft as well when the Cowboys predictably will draft a couple of players that I didn't have on my priority list either.
What do you think about Kiper's mock?