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2017 NFL Draft: Who Are The Cowboys' Top Three First-Round Targets?

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The BTB writers weigh in with their top three picks, in order of preference, for the Cowboy at No. 28.

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The 2017 NFL draft will take place in a little over two weeks, and Cowboys fans are in a conundrum: even the latest round of mock drafts are all over the place, and while there seems to be a solid rotation of DEs, CBs, and safeties mocked the Cowboys' way, no single player has a significant lead among the draft analysts out there.

So today, I'm asking my fellow BTB writers for their assessment: Who are their top three picks, in order of preference, for the Cowboy at No. 28?

You'll find the top three picks for each BTB writer below, followed by each writer's comments. And because I asked the initial question, you'll have to labor through my take first:

1. Takkarist McKinley, DE
2. Gareon Conley, CB
3. Taco Charlton, DE

OCC: The Cowboys have enough guys to play LDE, and can even find them later in the draft, but RDE is a different animal. McKinley could be the best pure pass rusher for the Cowboys at RDE since DeMarcus Ware.

The other Ohio State CB, Gareon Conley, allowed a passer rating of 13.6 against his coverage last year, per @PFF, and I'd like some of that for the Cowboys.

Taco Charlton has good college production and the measurables every NFL GM dreams of, even if his SPARQ wasn't spectacular.

If all three are gone by No. 28, I'm trading down for extra picks.

David Halprin
1. Taco Charlton, DE
2. Takkarist McKinley, DE
3. Kevin King, CB

Dave: The Cowboys need someone to consistently put pressure on the passer, and among their large rotation of current players, no one has stepped up to the plate. Charlton seems like a guy who can do that, while McKinley is the next best candidate for that task that may still be available in the 'late first round' range that Dallas now occupies. If those guys are gone, cornerback is another position of need and King has the size and athleticism the Cowboys like in defensive backs, and he is versatile, having basically played all over the secondary. Choosing among the crop of corners likely to be available is a tough task, but I'll take King for the above attributes.

Danny Phantom
1. Takkarist McKinley, DE
2. Taco Charlton, DE
3. Charles Harris, DE

Danny: We are still a few weeks away but Takk has solidified himself as my favorite target in this draft. He's gradually gotten better throughout college and his production is now reflecting his raw potential. He's got great explosiveness off the line of scrimmage and overall athleticism to wreak havoc on the edge. He's good now and will be great later.

Next, I'm rolling with Taco Supreme because of his upside. Like Takk, he still needs developing to be a monster in this league, but he's got the explosiveness and power to be a strong force on the edge.

There are a handful of corners I could put next and be okay with, but I feel strongly that one of them will still be there at pick 60, so I'm going with that last DE who is worthy of a first round pick, Charles Harris. It's hard to see Harris' measureables and be excited about his upside, but you can't look past how great he looks on tape. He's about as sexy of a pick as Zack Martin or Travis Frederick, but like them, he does something incredibly well - plays great football. He may be a one-trick pony, but that trick is an explosive burst to the quarterback and that's a trick we can use.

1. Derek Barnett, DE
2. Haason Reddick, LB
3. Taco Charlton, DE

Joseph: Barnett could easily go in the top 15 but I included him here because it wouldn’t surprise me if he dropped due to a lack of measureables, and if he does, it’d be a dream scenario. He is very advanced as far as pass-rush technique and hand usage for a 20 (soon to be 21) year old. While he lacks elite quick twitch/speed/explosiveness, and doesn’t have ideal length, he has a natural ability to dip his shoulder, bend and flatten to the quarterback, great balance, a strong first step and anticipates the snap well. After Myles Garrett he is arguably the most complete defensive end in the draft, Solomon Thomas is more versatile but as far as pure pass-rush ability off the edge, I like Barnett more.

Reddick may be out of left field for some but I absolutely love him. He showed at the Senior Bowl that he has the speed, agility, change of direction, coverage ability, and anticipation to play as a traditional 4-3 linebacker, but he would also bring rare ability from that position as a blitzer/pass-rusher. His elite ability to pass-rush from the 4-3 linebacker spot would be extremely intriguing to me, especially in the "3-2-6" alignments that Rod Marinelli employed late in 2016 where he routinely blitzed Sean Lee or safeties, either off the edge or on twists/stunts. Now imagine inserting Reddick’s athleticism and speed into that alignment, coupled with the fact that he brings some uniqueness as far as having some developed pass-rush technique due to how he was used off the edge at Temple. He could be a creative solution to the Cowboys’ need for a more explosive pass-rush. On paper linebacker may not be a huge need but we all know Sean Lee’s injury history and despite the optimism surrounding Jaylon Smith nobody truly knows how he will look on the field or if he can stay healthy.

Lastly, I have Taco Charlton. If McKinley weren’t expected to miss most, if not all of training camp he’d be my number three but here we are. Charlton only has one season of high-level production, but he excelled against top competition (Ohio St., Florida St., Wisconsin with LT Ryan Ramczyk) and has a very high ceiling with his athleticism at 6-6, 275+ with 34+ inch arms. Under the tutelage of Rod Marinelli the sky could be the limit, but worst case scenario you have a three-down player who can hold up against the run and give you probably about 6-7 sacks a year.

Tom Ryle
1. Kevin King, CB
2. Gareon Conley, CB
3. T.J. Watt, EDGE

Tom: I'll put forth that I am no draft analyst, but rely on what I see people I trust saying. But I do think that the Cowboys are better served taking a corner at 28 than a pass rusher, because of the numbers they have on the roster already.

King and Conley both seem to fit the profile for corner that the Cowboys like physically, and both have high SPARQ scores - King is the best in the CB class. They just feel like the kind of players that Dallas would rate higher than some others, and are very close. The team would likely be very pleased with either one.

Likewise, Watt is freakishly athletic, and because of his production already despite limited experience as a pass rusher, he has tremendous upside. I favor him over Taco Charlton because so many of those people I trust have questions about Charlton's fit in the Cowboys' scheme. And Watt's intangibles seem tailor made for a Jason Garrett coached team.

Michael Sisemore
1. Charles Harris, DE
2. T.J. Watt, EDGE
3. Takkarist McKinley, DE

Michael: I feel the Cowboys trust the depth at cornerback far more than that of edge rushers. Dallas has the opportunity to get a pretty good edge player at 28. They have tons of bodies at pass rusher but there is a problem: none of them are very good. They need more talent and you can't keep putting off the pass rush. There will certainly be solid cornerback prospects at pick 60 but I'm not sure there will be at edge rusher. It's the second-highest priority for teams after quarterback. The run will start early and they need the best they can get.

Manik Aggarwal
1. Takkarist McKinley, DE
2. Taco Charlton, DE
3. Gareon Conley, CB

Manik: The Dallas Cowboys have struck out in recent memory with high-round picks along the defensive line and cornerback. After trading up to draft Morris Claiborne, they have not taken a defensive back in the top round other than sure-fire Byron Jones at safety. Along the defensive line, their recent picks have not proven to be worthy of second round selections.

Since the entire offense is addressed (for the time first in many years), the Cowboys can reliably select a star defensive player, either on the defensive line or secondary. Look for Dallas to select a defensive lineman in the first round because once pressure is placed on opposing quarterbacks, the current group of defensive backs are adequate enough to line up with much of the league.

Dawn Macelli
1. Gareon Conley, CB
2. Kevin King, CB
3. T.J. Watt, EDGE

Dawn: I have been saying that since Dallas watched a large portion of their secondary walk away in free agency,  they are putting a higher priority on the defensive backfield than the defensive line. I have seen nothing thus far that convinces me otherwise.

As the second corner in the Buckeyes defense, Conley allowed a 37% completion percentage to opposing offenses. That's not too shabby especially considering that he was the second best corner on the team behind Marshon Lattimore. King offers similar flexibility to what Byron Jones gave the team a couple seasons back, and he is a big, physical guy who is not afraid to lower his shoulder. He also rarely gets burned. Either player will give Dallas a quick boost in the secondary, although there will be a learning curve.

Watt is not quite the impact guy that his brother is for the Texans, but he is still a late first round talent. Dallas should look his way if they cannot get the talent they want at corner.


If we award three points for the No. 1 pick, two for the No. 2 pick, and one point for the No. 3 pick, this is what our collective preferences add up to:

Player Points
Takkarist McKinley 12
Taco Charlton 9
Gareon Conley 8
Kevin King 6
T.J. Watt 4
Charles Harris 4
Derek Barnett 3
Haason Reddick 2

So there you have it folks. Takkarist McKinley is the consensus favorite, but he only shows up on five of the eight ballots cast, which means that there are a lot of alternatives for the Cowboys in two weeks. Taco Charlton also got five votes, Gareon Conley got four, while Kevin King and T.J. Watt got three each.

In the end, that may be a good thing because it probably means the Cowboys will have a lot of options once they are on the clock.

Over to you: Who are your top three picks, in order of preference, for the Cowboy at No. 28?