I know, I know, it's way too early to start thinking about the 2017 NFL Draft. The regular season is still months away, training camp hasn't even started, no major injuries have occurred, and Tony Romo is still the team's starting quarterback! There's no need to worry, right? It may not be as drastic as MLB franchises and the homework that they do, but there is no question that scouts and people involved in player personnel are already looking at players in next year's draft and perhaps even the year after that.
Let me start out by saying, I'm an absolute glutton for punishment for the draft. Predicting what will come about 300+ days from now is virtually impossible. In all honesty, not many people knew about Carson Wentz 100 days before the draft. Players come from all over and players come out nowhere, but it's still fun to predict things and look to the future. Let's get started, which 2017 NFL Draft prospects make sense for the Cowboys?
Marquis Haynes, Defensive End, Ole Miss
I firmly believe that Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence are the long-term options at defensive end, but that doesn't entirely eliminate the Cowboys from using a pick towards the position in next year's draft. Dallas has done an excellent job at building their offensive line. Doing the same to their defensive line would bode well for their defense. It's been awhile since the Cowboys have finished near the top of the league in generating sacks.
A combination of Gregory, Lawrence, and Marquis Haynes could change that. A contributor from the start of his freshman year, Haynes is a player that is only going to get better once he puts on more weight and figure out ways to not just rely on just speed and athleticism to get to the quarterback. Haynes is an underclassmen, but if he puts in another productive season in his junior year, he'd be wise to enter his name in the draft.
Mike Williams, Wide Receiver, Clemson
Let's say they go the receiver route, for that to happen it would mean that Terrance Williams signed a mega contract elsewhere. If that is the case, the Cowboys would likely draft a receiver and promote Brice Butler to a starting role. When looking at receivers, the Cowboys look for a specific mold of a player. The following table is directly taken from Marcus Mosher's Cowboys' Draft Trends article.
As you can see above, each of their attributes are all very similar. One player that fits this trend is Mike Williams out of Clemson. If it weren't for a freakish neck injury, Williams would've likely gone in the 2016 NFL Draft, but Clemson's chances of a national title improve tremendously with the type of presence Williams brings to an offense. Williams is a 6'5", 205-pound athletic specimen that is exactly what you want for a No. 2 receiver in the NFL. He's a guy who could make an impact in the redzone and take some attention away from Dez Bryant at the opposite end of the field.
Jamal Adams, Safety, LSU
Like many, I don't think Byron Jones will experience many bumps in the road at free safety. Jones' combination of fluidity, range, instincts, and speed are going to be of great use in the center fielder role of the Cowboys' defense. However, the Cowboys will need to add some youth next to him. Barry Church proved in 2014 that his best days were behind him.
The addition of an LSU defensive back in Jamal Adams would be huge. Similar to Jones, Adams can play both cornerback and safety. He's a ballhawk that can bring a takeaway-minded presence that lacked just that in 2015. Similar to Haynes, Adams has been a big contributor in his first two seasons and if he has another good season in his junior year, he could very well be a top-45 pick in the draft.
DeMarcus Walker, Defensive End, Florida State
Another name, another defensive end. Deciding to come back another year at school, Walker will be able to touch up on his skills. He likely would've been a mid-to-late day two pick in this past year's draft if he had to declared. His technique and future NFL skillset will need to be polished, but he has the quickness, explosion, and athleticism teams look for in their pass rushers. Plus, imagine how good of a story it would be if the Cowboys continue to corner the market on pass rushers with the name DeMarcus!
Patrick Mahomes II, Quarterback, Texas Tech
One player I've monitored for quite some time now is Patrick Mahomes II. Playing in the spread, Mahomes II has used his athleticism and arm talent to come in and completely kick incumbent quarterback Davis Webb out of the program. As of now, Mahomes II's skillset tailors more to the collegiate level, but if he can make progressions in 2016 to become more of a conservative quarterback, he has all of the intangibles to absolutely shoot up draft boards.
If Dak Prescott doesn't show enough progress by year's end, I highly doubt that the Cowboys just give up on him. But if that is the case, quarterback could be an option in the draft and while they won't likely be in position to get the top quarterback in next year's draft, Mahomes II's rawness will keep him from going top ten. However, there's a ton to like out of the kid if he does declare for the draft.