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Mel Kiper’s Mock Draft 1.0 has the Cowboys beefing up their defense

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A big man for the middle in Dallas?

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Penn State v Washington Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

We’re heading into prime mock draft season, and ESPN’s Mel Kiper has joined the party with his first mock draft. There is definitely a good debate about which direction the Cowboys should go in 2018. Most years, people would automatically say defense just because of how mediocre-to-poor that side of the ball has been, while the offense has shined. But in 2017, especially toward the end of the year, the Cowboys defense was the dominant unit. With a resurrected pass rush and a rebuilt secondary, Dallas was getting top performance on that side of the ball. Meanwhile, the offense struggled. So have the tables turned, are we now looking at an offensive draft?

Not according to Kiper.

19. Dallas Cowboys

*Vita Vea, DT, Washington

The Cowboys took a step backward in 2017, and it was a regression across the board. Receiver could be a target here, along with offensive tackle. But what’s tough to find on the free-agent market is a disruptive defensive tackle, which Dallas just didn’t have. Vea is a freakish talent at 6-4, 346 pounds who can be a three-down player and add an interior pass-rush presence.

If you looked at the Cowboys roster, this pick makes a ton of sense. Defensive tackle, particularly the 1-tech, is an area of concern. Maliek Collins looks okay as the 3-tech, although his 2017 fell short of expectations. At the 1-tech, after Stephen Paea retired injured, the Cowboys went through a rotation of guys, each with deficiencies. Guys like David Irving and Datone Jones were playing out of their natural positions, and the depth was questionable. Drafting Vea and plopping him down as your 1-tech makes a lot of sense.

Except it doesn’t. Well, it makes sense purely looking at roster needs, but the Cowboys have famously stayed away from drafting defensive tackles in the first round. You have to go back a long way before you’ll find a pure defensive tackle taken by Dallas in the first round. The famous Sharif Floyd incident, when the Cowboys ultimately passed on the defensive tackle in the draft, changed the Cowboys internal organizational structure. They have also gone bargain hunting in free agency at the position, creating the impression they just won’t spend a lot of money/draft resources filling the middle of their line.

Vea looks like a special player. He’s a run-stopper, but he’s also going to get push up the middle, forcing quarterbacks to roll out into the waiting arms of DeMarcus Lawrence and company. At least that would be the plan.

Some of the other players the Cowboys could have taken in this mock draft include:

DE Sam Hubbard | DT Maurice Hurst | WR Christian Kirk | WR Courtland Sutton | ILB Rashaan Evans

So what’s your call BTB? Is Vea a good pick at #19 in this case?

Enjoy some highlights.