NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock released his top five players per position on Tuesday. 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 Edge Rushers:
1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
2. Tim Williams, Alabama
3. Derek Barnett, Tennessee
4. Solomon Thomas, Stanford
5. Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
No big surprises here, these are the usual names we've gotten used to at the top of the prospect rankings. For now, the five prospects here would appear to be out of range for the Cowboys at No. 28, where you might find the likes of Taco Charlton and Charles Harris waiting for the Cowboys. Keep in mind though that where a prospect is ranked in February means very little on draft day, as we'll see further below.
Next up: Cornerbacks
1. Sidney , Washington
2. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
3. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
4. Teez Tabor, Florida
5. Tre'Davious White, LSU
We've gotten used to Sidney Jones being mocked to the Cowboys at No. 28, so the fact that Mayock has him atop the list here does come as a bit of a surprise. Overall though, Mayock's top five are the same exact players NFL.com has in its own top five.
But unlike the edge rushers, where Mayock's top 5 may be out of reach for the Cowboys, at least one top 5 corner should be available when the Cowboys are on the clock.
The Cowboys may or may not try to re-sign Brandon Carr and/or Morris Claiborne, and they'll have to show their cards in free agency, so we'll know soon enough whether a corner could be in play for the Cowboys' top pick.
1. O.J. Howard, Alabama
2. David Njoku, Miami
3. Evan Engram, Ole Miss
4. Jake Butt, Michigan
5. Gerald Everett, South Alabama
This might be one of the best tight end classes in recent memory, and the Cowboys may feel it's time to bring Jason Witten's successor on board - though folks have been saying that since the Cowboys drafted Martellus Bennett in 2008.
The added advantage here is that the Cowboys may not need to invest a first-rounder to get a top quality tight end.
1. Corey Davis, Western Michigan (6-3, 213)
2. Mike Williams, Clemson (6-3, 225)
3. Jon Ross, Washington (5-11, 190)
4. Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington (6-1, 198)
5. Zay Jones, East Carolina (6-2, 202)
Davis and Williams perfectly fit the template of the tall, possession-type receiver the Cowboys are looking for in their wide receivers, and if either of them fall the Cowboys could be tempted to pick either of them. Cooper Kupp and Zay Jones are two surprising entries here, as I haven't seen either of them ranked this high so far.
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 10, 2016. Here's an overview of those rankings for edge rushers and corners, and where the players actually ended up getting drafted:
|2016 Edge Rushers
|1. Joey Bosa||3||1. Jalen Ramsey||5|
|2. Noah Spence||39||2. Vernon Hargreaves||11|
|3. Shaq Lawson||19||3. Mackensie Alexander||54|
|4. Leonard Floyd||9||4. Eli Apple||10|
|5. Kevin Dodd||33||5. Cyrus Jones||60|
Overall, I think Mayock did a good job with his rankings last year and there's simply no way to have an accurate read about a draft class in early February. A lot can happen between now and draft day, and these rankings are a timely reminder of that.
Over the last three years, the Cowboys must have done well by Mayock's reckoning.
- 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).
- In 2015, 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).
- Last year, Ezekiel Elliott was the top running back on Mayock's fifth and final list, and Dak Prescott (#5 QB) and Jaylon Smith (#1 LB) had been on his fourth list before he dropped both for his final list.
Wouldn't it be nice to have more names from Mayock's top 5 lists end up playing for the Cowboys?