In January 2012 we kicked off our mock draft tracker when we looked at "Ten Options For The Cowboys' 14th Pick" and have repeated that exercise every year since, which makes this the sixth year that we've run this post.
And that means we have lots of early January mocks drafts to look back on and marvel at what became of all those early picks. So before we take a look at which players the pundits have mocked our way this year, let's look back at the predictions made in early January of the previous four years.
The following table shows who the 10 candidates in each of those years were, sorted in descending order by where they eventually ended up being picked in the draft. For your convenience, first-round picks are marked in green, second-round picks in yellow, and all later-round picks in orange.
|January 2013||January 2014||January 2015||January 2016|
|Rd/Pk||POS||Name||Rd/ Pk||POS||Name||Rd/ Pk||POS||Name||Rd/ Pk||POS||Name|
|1 (4)||OT||Lane Johnson||1 (2)||OT||Greg Robinson||1 (15)||RB||Melvin Gordon||1 (1)||QB||Jared Goff|
|1 (7)||OG||Jonathan Cooper||1 (21)||FS||
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
||1 (18)||CB||Marcus Peters||1 (5)||CB||Jalen Ramsey|
|1 (10)||OG||Chance Warmack||2 (37)||DT||Ra'Shede Hageman||1 (22)||DE||Bud Dupree||1 (7)||DE||DeForest Buckner|
|1 (13)||DT||Sheldon Richardson||2 (46)||DT||Stephon Tuitt||1 (32)||DT||Malcom Brown||1 (23)||WR||Laquon Teadwell|
|1 (15)||S||Kenny Vaccaro||2 (48)||DT||Timmy Jernigan||2 (43)||LB||Benardrick McKinney||1 (26)||QB||Paxton Lynch|
|2 (49)||DT||Johnathan Hankins||2 (51)||DT||Ego Ferguson||2 (52)||DT||Jordan Phillips||1 (29)||DT||R. Nkem- diche|
|3 (73)||QB||Mike Glennon||2 (60)||DE||Kony Ealy||2 (58)||DE||Markus Golden||2 (32)||DE||Emmanuel Ogbah|
|3 (82)||DT||John Jenkins||3 (72)||DE||Scott Crichton||2 (62)||CB||Quinten Rollins||2 (34)||LB||Jaylon Smith|
|5 (137)||DT||Jesse Williams||3 (83)||DT||Louis Nix||3 (74)||OT||Owa Odighizuwa||2 (36)||LB||Myles Jack|
|- -||OT||Jake Matthews||- -||DE||Vic Beasley||6 (180)||OT||Michael Bennett||2 (46)||DT||A'Shawn Robinson|
What's interesting about this table is that the prospects are all over the place in terms of where they were eventually drafted. Of course, we know that that mock drafts aren't particularly accurate, especially not this early in the year. But it's still a little surprising how far off the pundits were in their assessments of where a player would eventually be taken.
We've heard all about how Aaron Donald climbed the draft boards in 2014, and how Byron Jones jumped out of obscurity into the first round in 2015. But that also happens in reverse. A lot. Prospects that pundits loudly proclaim to be "can't miss" first-rounders end up outside the first round for a variety of reasons. Consider that the Cowboys had the fourth-overall pick last year, and the draftniks still mocked four players to Dallas that would end up getting picked in the second round.
Also particularly noteworthy about the table above: Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Byron Jones, and Ezekiel Elliott don't show up anywhere. Having said that, mock drafts are not completely useless. They may not be a good predictor of what will happen on draft day, especially not at this time of the year, but for those of us who enjoy talking about the draft, mock drafts can still be a lot of fun regardless, as they can help familiarize us with the potential draft picks and give us a general sense for where a player fits on the draft boards. With that out of the way, here are the 10 names for 2017:
|Chris Burke, SI.com||Charles Harris
|I understand why we can be quick to assume even moderately undersized players will have to swap positions in the NFL. Harris, listed at 235 pounds by Missouri, falls into that DE-to-OLB transition range. But why push a guy out of his comfort zone before seeing what he can do? Harris has been electrifying off the edge for the Tigers, with a spin move that’s NFL-ready. At the very least, he could be a passing-situation playmaker for Rod Marinelli.|
|Matt Miller, Bleacher Report||Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois||With so much uncertainty on the defensive line in 2017 for Dallas, adding a known commodity in Smoot makes for a smart and easy selection. He's athletic, powerful and can play either weak-side or strong-side defensive end right out of the gate. The Cowboys could go linebacker or look to strengthen the secondary, but pass-rushers are hard to overlook when they're available at this point in the draft.|
|Lou Pickney, DraftKing||Carl Lawson, DE/OLB, Auburn||Lawson has had a monster 2016 season for Auburn, and while any rookie for Dallas in 2017 is going to face near-impossible expectations after what Zeke and Dak have done there, he would fill a major need for a team that hasn't shown many deficiencies this season.|
|Ben Standig, CSN||Chris Wormley, DL, Michigan||Running away with the NFC East title with a rookie quarterback was shocking enough, but don't overlook the fact that the Cowboys also did so with a hodgepodge defensive line. The 302-pound Wormley, who had six sacks for Wolverines during the regular season, could play tackle or end depending on scheme.|
|Rob Rang, CBSSports||Sidney Jones, CB, Washington||Teams drafting late in the first round have the advantage of simply taking the best player available. In this draft, that very well could be at cornerback, a position Dallas could use greater depth. Jones is a silky smooth athlete with the poise and ballskills scouts covet at the position and is more physical in run support than his 6-foot, 181-pound frame implies.|
|Dan Kadar, SB Nation||Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State||Lattimore wouldn't talk about his draft plans following Ohio State’s blow loss to Clemson, but if he goes pro he’s almost guaranteed to be a top-40 pick. For Dallas, he profiles as a lockdown cornerback thanks to his size and quickness.|
|Eddie Brown, UT San Diego||Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma||The Cowboys could use someone to stretch the field, opposite of Dez Bryant - considering Bryant can’t be counted on to play a complete schedule. Westbrook is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award - best receiver in the nation - and a Heisman finalist. Of his school-record 15 touchdowns, 11 have been for 40 yards or more.|
|Walter Football||Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan||Here's a big receiver for Dak Prescott to grow with. This season, Davis has 91 receptions for 1,427 yards and 18 touchdowns. Sources say the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Davis is long and athletic. He has impressed evaluators with good route-running, hands and deceptive speed. They like his run-after-the-catch skills and size.|
|Luke Easterling, Draftwire||O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama||Jason Witten will be 35 next season, so this isn’t exactly a luxury pick, despite having much bigger needs on defense. Howard is a matchup nightmare and would give Dak Prescott another dangerous weapon.|
|Emily Kaplan, MMQB||Jake Butt, TE, Michigan||The end of the Jason Witten era is nearing, and the Cowboys would love to find a successor. Though they could wait to pick a tight end in later rounds, I see the Joneses snagging one of the surest prospects in Jake Butt. (Though we’ll likely need updates on Butt’s surgery after a torn ACL sustained in the Orange Bowl before we pen this one in.)|
|Jason McIntyre, Big Lead||Charles Harris, DE, Missouri||Talented, but has a penchant for a big game – three sacks against Georgia – and then vanishing (1/2 sack total in seven other games). His tape against Georgia is very impressive.|
|Dane Brugler, CBSSports||Sidney Jones, CB, Washington||Rookie Anthony Brown looks like a future starter, but Morris Claiborne is a free agent after the season, Brandon Carr hasn't lived up to his contract and Orlando Scandrick has struggled to stay healthy. Jones is well-versed in man and zone schemes, blanketing receivers all over the field.|
|Drafttek||Sidney Jones, CB, Washington||2017 Draft Priorities: EDGE and CB!|
Four defensive linemen and two targets each at corner, wide receiver, and tight end. Which suggests the Cowboys may have some priority positions, but probably not that one overriding position of need. Which is good news in a way, because it means the Cowboys can focus on taking the best player on their board and will get an upgrade regardless of position.
And just like in previous years, no single player has yet emerged as a clear-cut favorite for the Cowboys.
Of the 10 players listed here, who'd be your favorite come April?