NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock released his top five players per position on Wednesday. This is Mayock's first go at a top five this year, and the rankings are bound to change after the NFL Combine. But Mayock is one of the bigger names in the draft business, so his rankings carry some weight. You can find the full rankings here, and we'll only do a quick run-through of the priority positions the Cowboys may address in this year's draft.
First up, the top Quarterbacks:
1. Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
2. Jared Goff, California
3. Paxton Lynch, Memphis
4. Connor Cook, Michigan State
5. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
The big surprise here is that Wentz is the top guy among QBs. If you've been following Mayock, he's been dropping hints to that effect, but now we have it in black and white. Also of note: Dak Prescott makes the top five and could be a very interesting prospect for a team looking for a developmental quarterback to groom for the next two or three years.
Next up: Defensive Ends
1. Joey Bosa, Ohio State
2. Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky
3. Shaq Lawson, Clemson
4. Leonard Floyd, Georgia
5. Kevin Dodd, Clemson
No surprise at the top here, as we've gotten used to Bosa's name in mock drafts by now. Spence has risen up the ranks more recently and there's now even talks about Spence being an option for the Cowboys at No. 4. Keep in mind though that where a prospect is ranked in February means very little on draft day, as we'll see further below.
Interior Defensive Linemen
1. DeForest Buckner, Oregon
2. Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
3. Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
4. Jarran Reed, Alabama
5. A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
It's highly unlikely the Cowboys would pick a DT with their first pick, but their second pick could definitely be in play for a DT. That means the Cowboys could potentially be in play for any of the defensive tackles ranked 3-5. The Cowboys have been notoriously fickle about investing their first-round pick in a defensive tackle that can only play the 1-technique position, but the Cowboys could definitely benefit from an upgrade at the position.
1. Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
2. Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
3. Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
4. Eli Apple, Ohio State
5. Cyrus Jones, Alabama
Ramsey is reportedly is the #1 player on the Cowboys draft board. That may or may not be true, but he is certainly in play for the Cowboys' top pick, just as the other corners here could be in play at the top of the second round.
1. Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
2. Myles Jack, UCLA
3. Reggie Ragland, Alabama
4. Darron Lee, Ohio State
5. Deion Jones, LSU
The Cowboys may or may not try to re-sign Rolando McClain, and they may or may not try to get this year what they failed to get two years ago in Ryan Shazier. Either way, linebacker is certainly in play for the Cowboys' top pick, and it's slightly surprising to see Mayock ranking Smith ahead of Myles Jack.
Mayock's rankings are an interesting data point as we continue to build up knowledge for the draft, but he is far from infallible. Almost exactly a year ago, Mayock published his first top five ranking on February 11, 2015. Here's an overview of those rankings for corners and linebackers, and where the players actually ended up getting drafted:
|2016 Corners||2016 Linebackers|
|1. Trae Waynes||11||1. Paul Dawson||99|
|2. Marcus Peters||18||2. Benardrick McKinney||43|
|3. Jalen Collins||42||3. Denzel Perryman||48|
|4. P.J. Williams||78||4. Eric Kendricks||45|
|5. Kevin Johnson||16||5. Stephone Anthony||31|
A lot can happen between now and draft day, and last year's rankings are a timely reminder of that. In 2014, the Cowboys had two picks on Mayock's final top five for the 2014 draft published in May: Zack Martin (#4 OT) and DeMarcus Lawrence (#4 OLB). Last year, the Cowboys came away with three players from Mayocks final top five for 2015: La'el Collins (#1 OT), Randy Gregory (#4 DE), and Byron Jones (#5 CB).
Wouldn't it be nice to have at least two, or possibly even three names from the lists above end up playing for the Cowboys?