It seems like much longer, but it was only a little less than four weeks ago that the Cowboys' season came to an end in Green Bay. Since then, mock drafters across the nation have been busy getting their ducks in a row for what could well be a defense-focused draft for the Cowboys.
In today's roundup of the freshest, juiciest mocks published over the last few days, 11 out of 15 mocks have the Cowboys picking a defensive player for Rod Marinelli, but it's the running backs that also make a strong showing.
|Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin|
|ESPN (McShay), Feb 5||Murray has been great, but it's easier to find effective running backs (especially behind Dallas' offensive line) than it is to find elite receivers like Bryant. Gordon's running style is very similar to Murray's; he runs hard, is a work horse, gets from 0 to 60 in a flash and shows great vision and patience as a runner. He isn't great in pass protection or as a receiver, but he's getting better.|
Draft Breakdown (Perez), Feb 5
||The Reason: This is what makes pre-free agency mock drafts difficult. If the Cowboys reach an agreement with Demarco Murray, this clearly isn’t the pick. But if they don’t, Jerry Jones and company will look to replenish the running back room with another blue-chip talent. Melvin Gordon is the best running back to enter the NFL in many years, as he has the game-breaking speed, better than advertised power, and top-tier patience to be one of the NFL’s top running backs.|
|Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia|
|CBSSports (Brugler), Feb 2||This pick will almost certainly be defense ... unless a prospect like Gurley falls to Dallas. The Cowboys need defensive help, but a special talent like Gurley might be too intriguing if the trainers sign off on his medicals and DeMarco Murray hits the open market.|
|Rotoworld (Norris), Feb 2||Can Gurley help immediately? I think thats the big question. But if Demarco Murray moves on, why not select the best back in the class to run behind the line where so many early picks were invested? It is where the Cowboys win, along with Tony Romo and Dez Bryant.|
|Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA|
|CBSSports (Rang), Feb 2||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.|
|Optimum Scouting (Galko), Jan 27||With great length, explosiveness off the edge and tremendous burst through contact, Odighizuwa would be a great fit opposite Demarcus Lawrence for the Cowboys to build their defensive line.
|Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon|
|CBSSports (Kirwan), Feb 4||The Cowboys need all the defensive players they can find after doing it with mirrors last year.|
|Eli Herold, DE, Virginia|
|SI.com (Burke), Feb 5||Keep an eye on Harold because he could be one of those "risers" at the combine. The 6-4, 250-pounder is arguably a better 3-4 OLB fit, but he'd be just fine lined up wide for the Cowboys. If nothing else, Harold will make noise on passing downs.|
|Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State|
|NFL.com (Zierlein), Feb 5||Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli looks for one-gappers who can play upfield and can rush the passer. That is exactly what Bennett can do.|
|Malcolm Brown, DT, Texas|
|DraftAce.com, Jan 28||The Cowboys have to replace Nick Hayden, who has been a weak link on the defensive line all season. Hayden plays in a rotation, primarily being used against the run. Brown is a better fit for this role as a run defender, and would pair nicely with Henry Melton and Tyrone Crawford who are their primary interior pass-rushers.
|Alex Carter, CB, Stanford|
|Drattek.com, Feb 4||Would you pay $8MM in 2015 (as part of a $50MM contract) to a CB who graded -8.8 in pass coverage during the 2014 season (grade courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com)? And likewise, would you have invested the overall #6 pick from the 2012 Draft on a CB who not only is injury-prone, but graded -5.0 on pass coverage during the 2014 season? And if your name is Orlando Scandrick and you graded +9.4 in pass coverage during the 2014 season, are you concerned if the CB opposite of you next season is named either Sterling Moore or Tyler Patmon? Those 3 questions are courtesy of the Dallas faithful who will ask, "Why in the hell are you drafting a CB #1 when we need pass rush?" Alex Carter not only has the physical attributes of an NFL CB, but is quite the technician as you can see by this video.|
|Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami (OH)
EDSFootball, Feb 6
||Rollins has one of the most interesting stories of prospects in this year's draft class. After spending four years on the basketball team as the team's starting point guard, Rollins played only one year of college football and was the conference's Defensive Player of the Year with seven interceptions. After a strong week of practice at the Senior Bowl, Rollins also intercepted a pass during the game as well and he has the potential to sneak into the first round.|
| Shaq Thomson, LB, Washington
|DraftCountdown (Wright), Jan 30||Even though the defensive line is a more pressing need Washington OLB Shaq Thompson is simply too talented and too good of a fit for a Rod Marinelli defense to pass up at this point. Thompson is a linebacker / safety hybrid who also saw extensive action at running back for the Huskies. Now that is a versatile athlete! [...] Thompson may need just the right set of circumstances in terms of scheme and role to maximize his potential at the next level but his best fit will likely come on the weakside in a 4-3 front. Think Thomas Davis without the durability concerns.|
|Gerod Holliman, FS, Louisville|
|Bleacher Report (Miller), Feb 2||Gerod Holliman had 14 interceptions in 2014. The Dallas Cowboys, as a team, had 18 in three more games. An upgrade across the board is needed on defense, but they were able to win an NFC East title without a great player on defense. That has to change in 2015. Cowboys do need help at defensive end, defensive tackle and linebacker, but the strategy has to be drafting the best available player on defense.|
|Andrus Peat, OT, Standford
|SB Nation (Kadar), Feb 2||This might be overkill considering how many high draft picks the Cowboys have used on the offensive line. But Doug Free and Jeremy Parnell are both free agents. If Free is brought back on a short deal, for instance, Peat could be added as his eventual replacement.|