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2015 NFL Mock Draft Tracker: Ten Options For The Cowboys' 27th Pick

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For the fourth year in a row, we kick off mock draft season with a look at 10 names of early first-round candidates for the Cowboys. Plus we look back at the early predictions from the last three years to see what became of them.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

In January 2012 we kicked off our mock draft racker when we looked at "Ten Options For The Cowboys' 14th Pick." A year later, we looked at "Ten Options For The Cowboys' 18th Pick." In January 2014 we weren't yet sure which pick the Cowboys would have, so the post was called "Ten Options For The Cowboys' First-Round Pick."

And here we are again. It's January, and we're already looking at mock drafts - even if it's a lot later in January than it was in the previous three years.

But before take a look at which players the pundits have mocked our way this year, let's look back at the predictions made in early January of the previous three years. The following table shows who the 10 candidates were in each of those years, sorted in descending order by where they actually ended up being picked in the draft.

January 2012 January 2013 January 2014
Rd/Pick POS Name Rd/ Pick POS Name Rd/ Pick POS Name
1 (7) S Mark Barron 1 (4) OT Lane Johnson 1 (2) OT Greg Robinson
1 (9) LB Luke Kuechly 1 (7) OG Jonathan Cooper 1 (21) FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
1 (10) CB Stephon Gilmore 1 (10) OG Chance Warmack 2 (37) DT Ra'Shede Hageman
1 (16) DE Quinton Coples 1 (13) DT Sheldon Richardson 2 (46) DT Stephon Tuitt
1 (17) CB Dre Kirkpatrick 1 (15) S Kenny Vaccaro 2 (48) DT Timmy Jernigan
1 (24) OG David DeCastro 2 (49) DT Johnathan Hankins 2 (51) DT Ego Ferguson
1 (26) DE Whitney Mercilus 3 (73) QB Mike Glennon 2 (60) DE Kony Ealy
2 (35) OLB Courtney Upshaw 3 (82) DT John Jenkins 3 (72) DE Scott Crichton
2 (39) CB Janoris Jenkins 5 (137) DT Jesse Williams 3 (83) DT Louis Nix
7 (224) CB Alfonzo Dennard
- - OT Jake Matthews - - DE Vic Beasley

We know that as a predictor of which players are going to which teams, mock drafts aren't particularly accurate. And looking at the table above, the early names are all over the place, both in terms of position groups and in terms of where prospects eventually ended up being drafted. But the 2014 group is especially bad, with only two of the 10 names even getting picked in the first round.

The most interesting aspect in 2013 and especially in 2014 (at least to my mind) is how mock drafts will match a prospect to a perceived need come hell or high water. Then after the draft, the same pundits will blast teams for making need picks instead of drafting the best players available.

The hype around defensive tackles in 2013 is especially interesting, as of the four players initially projected as first-round picks, only one actually ended up being taken in the first round. Do not be surprised if something similar happens this year, where mockers have eight (!!!) defensive linemen penciled in for the Cowboys.

Also noteworthy: Neither Morris Claiborne, Travis Frederick, or Zack Martin appeared in any of the early mocks above.

But having said all that, mock drafts are not completely useless. They may not be a good predictor of what will happen on draft day, especially not at this time of the year, but for those of us who enjoy talking about the draft, mock drafts can still be a lot of fun regardless, as they can help us familiarize ourselves with the potential draft picks and give us a general sense for where a player fits on the draft boards. With that out of the way, here are the 10 names for 2015:

Source Player Rationale
Drafttek Michael Bennett, DE, Ohio State DC Rod Marinelli calls all his DL "Rushmen" and likes to substitute in waves, keeping them fresh. Michael Bennett, an undersized 3-technique candidate, has a non-stop motor and was a human wrecking ball during his career at Ohio State, culminating in the "Final Four" Championship Games.
Rob Rang, CBSSports Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA Rookie Demarcus Lawrence provided flashes of the pass rush ability that earned his high second round selection a year ago but Dallas needs more. At 6-3, 266 pounds, Odighizuwa is stout enough to handle run containment duties while also providing the burst and bend off the edge to improve the pass rush.
Buck Brooks, NFL.com Alvin Dupree, DE, Kentucky The Cowboys desperately need a legitimate pass rushing threat off the edge.
Walter Football Markus Golden, DE, Missouri Aaron Rodgers had all the time he needed in the divisional round of the playoffs. That has to change. Several upgrades can be obtained on the defensive line.
Matt Falk, Draftseason Malcom Brown, DT, Texas The Dallas defense has come a long way but still need help in the middle of the line. Brown is a beast in the middle, can stuff the run and also get in the backfield to make some plays.
Mel Kiper, ESPN Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma Phillips is still pretty raw, but he's got tremendous upside. At 6-foot-6, when you see him run you can barely fathom that he's carrying more than 330 pounds. Put a kid like this under the tutelage of Rod Marinelli and you could end up with something truly special.
Robert Davis, Football's Future Marcus Peters, CB, Washington He's the top corner in the draft on talent, but comes with serious character questions. The Cowboys have been known to gamble on talent, and a player like Peters available at this point may be too hard to pass on.
Dane Brugler, CBSSports Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami (Ohio): With Orlando Scandrick being the only cornerback guaranteed a roster spot on the Cowboys for 2015, Dallas needs secondary help in the draft. After four years on the basketball court, Rollins impressed in his one season on the football field with seven interceptions and could elevate his draft stock into the late first round.
Dan Kadar, SB Nation Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin If the Cowboys let DeMarco Murray walk in free agency, Joseph Randle isn't the type of running back who should be in a lead role. Gordon has the traits of a feature back. He's fast, possesses good size and could step in right away and be productive.
Peter Schrager, Foxsports Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State The Dallas defense could need defensive back help more than at linebacker, but if McKinney slips to 27, I'll be shocked if the Cowboys let him pass on by. Sean Lee will be back next season, and Dallas got solid production from his replacements this year, but McKinney is a potential 10-year starter in the league, too. A 6-5, 250-pound tackling machine could be a good fit.

Six defensive linemen, two corners, a running back, and a linebacker. The only position missing is a safety and we'd have every defensive position covered. Which is good news in a way, because it means the Cowboys can focus on taking the best defensive player on their board and will get an upgrade regardless of position.

And just like in previous years, no single player has yet emerged as a clear-cut favorite for the Cowboys.

Of the 10 players listed here, who'd be your favorite come April?