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NFL Mock Draft 2017: 3-round Projection Addresses Key Needs For Cowboys

The latest NFL mock draft offers three picks at positions Cowboys fans looking to address the team's biggest needs are going to like.

NCAA Football: Russell Athletic Bowl-West Virginia vs Miami
West Virginia CB cornerback Rasul Douglas (13) breaks up a pass for Miami WR Malcolm Lewis (9).
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

For a large percentage of discerning football fans it's chic to ridicule mock drafts and the draft analysts who publish them. Yet it's those very same draft analysts and the big boards and mock drafts they produce that will drive a large part of our overall perception of the value and ranking of the 2017 draft prospects.

And as much as we collectively ridicule and mock those draft analysts, almost our entire outraged or thrilled evaluation of a given draft is based on where others ranked the players our team picked.

One of the reasons we are so wary of mock drafters and draft analysts is that most of their predictions for the draft inevitably look silly once those predictions are compared with the actual draft results. But that applies to all draftniks, and odds are that the one draft analyst you trust above all others is just as inaccurate as all the other draft analysts you dislike so much.

This early in the draft process, mock drafts are probably better used as a chance to get to know some of the draft prospects rather than as a prediction of how the draft could unfold in April.

On Monday,’s Chad Reuter posted a three-round 2017 NFL Mock Draft, attempting to look at how the picks could play out in three months. Predictably, the mock is primarily based on the perceived needs for each team, so if you think the Cowboys have needs at DE, CB, and WR, you're in luck, because those are exactly the positions Reuter has the Cowboys filling with their first three picks.

Reuter has the Cowboys using their first-round pick on a pass rusher, a popular choice among Cowboys fans looking to address perhaps the team's biggest need. The pick at No. 28 is Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton, and Reuter offers a rather generic take on why Charlton is the pick, writing, "A pass rusher with size, just like Jerry Jones likes 'em." has the Charlton ranked third among all defensive linemen and compares him to Chandler Jones:

Charlton is an ascending prospect with the size, length, athleticism and pass-rushing potential that NFL general managers dream of. What you see today might not be what you get. While his production coming out of college will be modest, he could become a substantially better player as a pro if he's committed to the weight room and willing to absorb coaching. High-impact defensive end with all-pro potential is his ceiling. His floor is solid starter.

But while Charlton looks like a good pick that addresses a key need - and we certainly wouldn't want to see Charlton lining up for the Giants twice a year against the Cowboys - Cowboys GM-in-all-but-name Will McClay won't let defensive needs force his hand in the draft.

“I think one of the things that you learn is if you plan you’re going to get a player on this side of the ball then you force it. What we’re going to do is let the chips fall where they may. We’re going to grade and evaluate the players and we’re going to pick the right players for us. We have our objectives and goals in mind."

Depending on what happens with Terrance Williams and Brice Butler in free agency, the Cowboys may also have a need at wide receiver, and that's exactly the position Reuter has the Cowboys picking in the second round in Ohio State wide receiver Curtis Samuel.

Samuel is an interesting prospect, even if he doesn't fit the template of the tall, possession-type receiver the Cowboys are looking for in their wide receivers. He is a converted running back (he was stuck behind Ezekiel Elliott at Ohio State) and came into his own as a dual threat in 2016, when he was the only player in FBS to gain more than 700 yards rushing and 700 yards receiving. Samuel could be the player the Cowboys envisioned an injury-free Lance Dunbar could be but almost never was.

Samuel is ranked 32nd overall on the CBS Sports’ big board, Drafttek has him ranked 79th overall, and's Daniel Jeremiah has him ranked 41st on his board. Here's Jeremiah's take on Samuel:

Samuel splits his time pretty equally between lining up at running back and in the slot. As a runner, he excels on outside runs where he can incorporate his speed and burst to turn the corner and run away from defenders or make them miss. He doesn't have much power as an inside runner but he can get skinny and burst through the hole. He lacks the size and strength to carry a heavy load at the next level. He is special as a slot receiver. He is sudden, efficient and instinctive. He can explode by defenders on vertical routes and he's dynamic after the catch. Overall, I think Samuel could emerge as an elite playmaker at the next level. He should primarily play in the slot but he's capable of handling 8-10 carries per game as well.

In the third round, Reuter has the Cowboys going after a corner in West Virginia's Rasul Douglas. At 6'2", Douglas has intriguing length for a corner, but was pretty much an unknown commodity until he led the country with eight interceptions in 2016 and was named an all-conference performer by the Big 12.

CBS ranks him 80th overall, Drafttek has him at 163, and Draftcountdown ranks him 32nd overall. That's quite a significant disparity, and may have to do with the fact that Douglas is a JuCo transfer (Check out more of his background from Jake Trotter’s piece on ESPN) and a late bloomer, but it may also be an indication that Douglas could become one of the biggest risers in the draft process this year as teams increasingly look for taller corners.

The three players above would all fill positions of need for the Cowboys, even if the Cowboys may not be as focused on needs as the draft community is. In the end, I believe there is only one way to evaluate this mock, all subsequent mocks, and ultimately the Cowboys' 2017 draft itself:

Will these selections put the Cowboys in a position to win in the divisional round of the 2017 playoffs?

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