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2016 Cowboys Mock Draft: Build Around Tony Romo, Make A Push For The Super Bowl

How could the Cowboys draft if they decided to not draft a QB with their first pick?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We are just over three months away from the start of the 2016 NFL Draft, but that doesn't stop the endless discussion on who the Cowboys should pick or what the Cowboys should do, does it? Nope, in fact here at BTB, we typically get a headstart on everything related to the silver and blue. There is no need to dive back into what went wrong in 2015, we all know by now that this team has quite a few holes to fill. However, with the addition of Sean Lee, the Cowboys are tied for third in Pro Bowlers with five players. If Tony Romo and Dez Bryant had remained healthy throughout the season, they probably would have made that list as well, and perhaps more Cowboys would have joined them. We're not interested in the shoulda, woulda, coulda, though. Still, this is a team that was contending for a Super Bowl before all the attrition set in.

So, for this mock draft exercise, we're going to operate under the assumption that Will McClay and the Jones' are going to give it another shot by going big in 2016, and we'll exclude compensatory picks for now. With the fourth pick, the Cowboys could perhaps get their franchise quarterback of the future (please do), but what about the franchise quarterback they already have? That fourth pick is worth an awful lot to the Cowboys, but it could mean an awful lot more as trade bait. Jerry Jones loves to trade and if there is a chance to stockpile picks and build this team, it may be too good an offer for Jerry to pass on.

In the 26 drafts since 1990, the fourth overall pick has only been involved in the trade-down activity in three drafts, a fairly low number.

Year Trade Team Trading Down Value Team Trading Up Value Net Value
1992 4 + 58 = 6 + 28 + 84 Bengals 2,120 Redskins 2,430 +310
2003 4 = 13 + 22 +116 Bears 1,800 Jets 1,992 +192
2014 4 = 9 + 115 + next 1st* Browns 1,800 Bills 1,884 +84

*A pick in the following year's draft is generally valued one round lower. In this case, it's valued at 420 points, the value of the 16th pick in the second round.

There really isn't much to be gleaned from such a small sample size, but two things do stand out. First, all three teams trading up gave up two first-round picks to get the fourth overall pick. Second, the combined net value of the three trades is within 10% of the trusty old trade value chart, and the teams trading up never gave up more than three picks. With that out of the way, let's play with the Draft Value Chart to find a couple of trade scenarios that fit the above, shall we?

Two firsts:

Unfortunately, there are no teams with two first-round picks in this draft, so that scenario won't work out. And while there's always the option that someone will trade a future first, that's kind of hard to model.

Equivalent draft value:

Two options have the Cowboys receiving roughly equivalent trade value and three picks for their fourth overall pick:

Rams 15 + 43 + 45 (1,920 points) for Cowboys 4 (1,800 points)

Saints 12 + 47 + 78 (1,830 points) for Cowboys 4 (1,800 points)

There are many more permutations of trade scenarios possible, but for today's mock, we'll use the trade with the Saints.

Round 1

Trade 4th overall pick to the New Orleans Saints for picks 12, 47, and 79. The Saints wanted Jaylen Ramsey pretty bad for their extremely leaky secondary.

Pick 12

The Cowboys select Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
(Big Board Ranking - CBS: 6th, SB Nation: 14th, Drafttek: 9th)

Analysis: With a lot of the top players gone including quarterbacks Jared Goff and Paxton Lynch, Dallas decided to upgrade their strengths. In 2015, the passing game stalled a bit without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, and Devin Street were often non-factors. Even when Bryant returned, the passing game still suffered. The Cowboys love to take players that are the best at their position. Treadwell offers the Cowboys that extremely talented receiver but also sets their passing game over the top. You thought Chicago was fierce with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery? Move over Chi-Town, here come the Dallas Cowboys.

Round 2

Pick 34

Dallas was tempted to get more picks, the Rams and Chargers were lurking. However, Dallas decided that 34th pick was too valuable and the second round is shaping up to be a sweet spot.

The Cowboys select Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
(Big Board Ranking - CBS: 32nd, SB Nation: 18th, Drafttek: 30th)

Analysis: Unfortunately, Carson Wentz was off the board to the Texans at the end of round one. The Cowboys really need a big physical cornerback on their defense. Preferably, one that can play zone and press coverages without looking lost in the shuffle. Apple, is climbing up the boards right now, but should he be there at 34, this makes too much sense. The Cowboys need impactful players on their defense and Apple can provide that. He's big, physical, and has all the tools to be a solid addition to the team. Apple is also pretty savvy in run defense and has a knack to pluck the ball out of the air.

Pick 47 (From Saints)

The Cowboys select Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
(Big Board Ranking - CBS: 49th, SB Nation: 60h, Drafttek: 149th)

Analysis: The Cowboys haven't spent big resources on the defensive tackle position lately. However, they are getting a great look at Butler right now at the Senior Bowl and I like what I'm hearing. He penetrates the pocket with strength and can give blockers more than they can handle. Vernon plays with a ton of intensity and gives his all for all four quarters. His motor is outstanding and he has played every position on the line. The Cowboys need more athletic rushers at the point of attack, Butler fits that mold.

Round 3

The Eagles come calling wanting to get up to the 67th pick (250 points). They are offering picks 79 and 141 totaling 230.5 points. The Eagles would win the trade back by the equivalent of a late sixth-round pick. The Cowboys decide that trading with the enemy is ridiculous. No dice.

Pick 67

The Cowboys select Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech
(Big Board Ranking - CBS: 62nd, SB Nation: 66th, Drafttek: 91st)

Analysis: Dallas might have let the 2015 draft get away from them a little bit, but when Dixon was still on the board at 67, it was slapping them in the face. The Cowboys seem to love LA Tech guys in this draft, perhaps it's because their coaches got time to see them in the Senior Bowl. Dixon probably hangs around to the third because he doesn't just have that breakaway speed that grabs you. It's his ability to know all of the little wrinkles and nuances of the position that make him intriguing. He's a patient runner with toughness and great vision. His production was great at LA Tech but 900 career touches is a lot of wear. The Cowboys believed that they found their consistent backup to Darren McFadden and who knows from there what he may do?

Pick 78 (From Saints)

The Cowboys select Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
(Big Board Ranking - CBS: 71st, SB Nation: 80th, Drafttek: 163rd)

Analysis: Hackenberg is falling on a lot of folks' boards due to his seeming lack of feel for the game. He's got arm strength and talent, played well when Bill O'Brien was his coach, yet has really struggled without him. He's durable and his footwork is above average, he has great zip and ability in the passing game. He may just be a product of a poor offense that did nothing to help him, still there are quite a few concerns around him though the talent is NFL-ready. He's got a lot to work with but needs a lot of work with NFL coaches. Still, in the middle of the third round is not a bad place to look for him.

Round 4

Pick 98

The Cowboys select Scooby Wright III, Arizona
(Big Board Ranking - CBS: 111th, SB Nation: - -, Drafttek: 27th)

Analysis: Wright gives the Cowboys a sure-fire middle linebacker with instincts Brugler calls "Jedi-like". If the Cowboys move on from Rolando McClain, here is a hungry player that was outstanding at Arizona. Wright's timing is second to none and he's a tackling machine. The lateral agility mixed with his high motor and energy are two things that will impress Matt Eberflus and Rod Marinelli. Wright is just an all-around great player and the Cowboys' defense can't get enough of those. He's receiving comparisons to Chris Borland, another instinctual linebacker that interested resident Cowboys' draftnik Bryan Broaddus. Wright makes plays, lots of them, and he's usually the guy causing fumbles. We will take that any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Pick 109 (From Saints)

The Cowboys select Eric Murray, CB, Minnesota
(Big Board Ranking - CBS: 129th, SB Nation: - -, Drafttek: 164th)

Analysis: Dallas decides to double-up on cornerback and this is a Senior Bowl pick right here, Murray may have only one interception in his collegiate days as a Gopher, but he's one of the most consistent players. Murray is a tough competitor and as well-rounded a cornerback as you may find. He's skilled in both zone and press coverage and has good size, speed, and physicality. Murray is also very confident and has been lauded by all of his coaches as a great leader and learner. Not to mention, Murray excels in run defense and in blitz packages.

Round 6

Pick 171

The Cowboys select Anthony Zettel DE, Penn State
(Big Board Ranking - CBS: 183rd, SB Nation: - -, Drafttek: 76th)

Analysis: Often overshadowed by Austin Johnson and Carl Nassib, Zettel was a big player for the Nittany Lions too. Zettel will be an interesting prospect for Marinelli due to his elite first-step quickness and snap anticipation. Zettel is just a very disruptive player and has a lot to give you on gamedays. Nobody in the Big 10 finished with more tackles for a loss than Joey Bosa (21.5), but Zettel was 2nd with 17. Zettel also racked up 8 sacks and 42 tackles and 8 passes defended too. Zettel has some polishing to do at the next level, but this could be a fun little project for Hot Rod.

After all that, the Cowboys only traded once but were able to get really good returns on the trade. The Saints' look to be trying to make one last run with Sean Payton and Drew Brees, without giving up 2017 collateral. It seems worth it though for Jaylen Ramsey, who is a top five prospect by most gurus' boards. Plus, the New Orleans Saints are having issues in their secondary to say the least. Either way, the Cowboys in this scenario got depth above all else. They also got potential starters at positions of need while making the most of their selections. Not to mention, five players in the top 100, not too bad for the Jones'.

This is the first of many mocks that will continue to float around the interwebs for eternity until the draft begins. As always, we encourage your participation, even if you hate it all.

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