If you are looking at Cowboys’ picks in mock drafts, the odds are good you are looking at a defensive end in the first round. That’s pretty much the consensus around the mock draft world - the Cowboys will try to improve their greatest weakness, pressuring the passer. Today, we have two mock drafts, and two different defensive ends.
SB Nation has a three-round mock draft out, and at pick #28 for the Cowboys they have:
28. Dallas Cowboys: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
If Barnett happens to fall in the draft – which could happen if he doesn’t test well – the Cowboys should pounce.
Bleacher Report has a seven-round mock draft out, and at pick #28 for the Cowboys they have:
The Pick: DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
Everyone in Dallas knows the defensive end position is the biggest need this offseason. Without the money to spend in free agency to go after a top-tier pass-rusher, adding one through the draft is where the Cowboys have to invest a first-round pick.
Takkarist McKinley has power, length and play speed. He's a three-tool player coming off the edge and has shown the dip and bend skills to get after quarterbacks. There's also enough power to push back offensive tackles when they get hands on his frame.
McKinley is dealing with shoulder injuries that may eventually require surgery. If he's healthy, the tools are that of a top-20 player. The Cowboys have the stability to draft McKinley in Round 1 and allow him time to heal if surgery is required.
In the SB Nation mock, they have Takkarist McKinley going at the pick after the Cowboys, to the Green Bay Packers. In the Bleacher Report mock, they have Derek Barnett going to the New York Giants at pick #23.
So BTB, which defensive end would you prefer?
Our own Joseph.Hatz has broken down both players in draft previews here at BTB.
Everybody knows he lacks the quickness, speed, and athleticism that jumps off the tape, but there are aspects to his game that require a different type of athleticism that seem to largely go unnoticed. His natural ability to bend and flatten once he’s beaten the tackle to their outside shoulder, his balance, his first step and anticipation off the snap. He is much more refined than your average defensive end as far as pass-rush technique, and while some may view that as an indication of a prospect with a "low ceiling" who doesn’t have as much room for improvement as other prospects, I also think it is foolish to just assume that pass-rush technique can be taught and applied as naturally as Barnett is already doing it at just 20 years old (he turns 21 in June).
I do wonder how the Cowboys scouting department and coaching staff will view him though since Rod Marinelli puts such a premium on athleticism and speed. I could see him loving Barnett’s motor, first step, and developed hand usage/technique, but I could also see him writing him off due to his lack of "quick-twitch" off the edge. Whatever the case may be, if Barnett is there at 28 the Cowboys should not overthink it, he would be more than worthy of that selection even if he doesn’t fit the picture-perfect ideal of what a edge rusher looks like in Marinelli’s scheme. The only real question for me if he is available is if someone like Taco Charlton or Takkarist McKinley is also available, which way do you go?
This is an ideal candidate for the Cowboys late in the first round as McKinley shows all the physical talent to be a pure weak-side, "LEO" defensive end with speed, bend, and explosiveness. He is the type of quarterback hunter off the edge that this defense sorely needs, and he could provide an immediate impact as a rookie as part of the Cowboys defensive line rotation. He was slated to participate in the Senior Bowl next week but only recently decided to bow out because he is reportedly considering surgery to repair a torn right labrum in his shoulder, an injury that he has supposedly been playing with for years now. I believe this could benefit the Cowboys, because while he certainly seems destined to be a first-round pick come April (pending the prognosis following surgery), I think that he could have cemented himself in the top 15-20 selections with an impressive week at the Senior Bowl.
This looks like a player that could easily be the Cowboys best pass-rusher off the edge at some point during his rookie season. He may not be ready to start and play 40-50 snaps right away due to his size and considering that he struggles at times against the run, but he wouldn’t have to considering the heavy rotation the Cowboys employ. His natural pass-rush ability and long-term potential make him a very strong candidate if he is still available when the Cowboys are on the clock.
So on one hand, you have Barnett, who seems to be a little higher-rated among draft scouts, and is a more fundamental player who lacks the elite athleticism you normally expect in a pass-rushing defensive end. But he has superb production and is able to play the run or the pass. On the other hand, you have McKinley, a kid with all the physical traits and athleticism you expect in a classic pass rusher, but only has one year of high production and could be a liability against the run. He also has the shoulder injury to deal with.
So who ya got BTB? Vote in the poll and hit the comments to support your choice.