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2018 mock draft tracker: Shock mocks, Cowboys go offensive line in first round?

Tracking mock drafts is always a fun exercise for Cowboys fans.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 02 Big 12 Championship Game - Oklahoma v TCU Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As we like to do on Friday’s during draft season, we track a group of mocks to see who people are thinking the Cowboys might pick in the first round come April.

When surveying the mocks for the Cowboys pick early on in this draft season, it seems the experts have zeroed in on four positions for the Cowboys. Three of them have been on a lot of people’s radar, but one of them represents a creative solution to what could be termed a problem by some observers.

Defensive tackle is coming up a lot for the Cowboys, and it’s obvious by their roster depth that it is an issue. The Cowboys are playing guys out of position to cover, and adding a player or two this offseason is a need. But a first-round need? That is the question, but if they want to go that way there are a few options.

Linebacker is another position under debate. Part of that is the injury concerns about Sean Lee (trouble staying on the field) and Jaylon Smith (still working his way back). It will also likely turn on what happens to Anthony Hitchens in free agency.

Of course there is wide receiver, a subject that has been much-discussed in recent weeks. We usually hear about guys like Calvin Ridley or Christian Kirk, but we got a couple of different names to consider below.

But how about offensive line? More than a couple of mocks note that the Cowboys offensive line took a step back last year, and left guard is a concern. Below you’ll see two ways of dealing with that. Either draft a guard, or draft a right tackle and kick La’el Collins back inside. This seems a little far-fetched to me. Drafting another guard in the first round is unlikely, unless, of course, he’s a Zack Martin clone! And Collins seemed to settle in as the right tackle, switching him again might not be the best play.

Let’s hear what you think. Do you like these four positions as possible first-round choices. Any of these players really stand out to you? Hit the comments BTB.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

Vita Vea, DT, Washington
San Diego Union-Tribune (Brown), Jan 17 The 6-foot-5, 340-pound Pac-12 defensive player of the year might be the strongest prospect in the entire draft class and would have likely been a first-round selection had he left school a year ago. Top needs: DT, WR, TE
ESPN (Kiper), Jan 18 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.
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
DMN (Brugler), Jan 17 Most Cowboys fans weren't thrilled with a Michigan defensive lineman in the first round last year, but they should be intrigued if Dallas goes back to Ann Arbor to upgrade the defensive front. Hurst is a disruptive three-technique prospect who offers the quickness and power to surge through gaps and make plays in the backfield.
Athlon (Fischer), Jan 16 The Dallas defense got some solid production from Maliek Collins and David Irving last season but still need more impact players up front to anchor the middle.
Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
CBS (White), Jan 18 One year after drafting Taco Charlton to improve the defensive line, the Cowboys go back to the well to add one of the best defensive tackles in this draft class. Payne showed in the College Football Playoff how dominant he can be, and he'll be a huge boost for the Cowboys' rush defense while also having the ability to get pressure on the quarterback in passing situations.

LINEBACKERS

Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia
Sporting News (Galko), Jan 17 Smith displayed his high-end burst, vision and tackling ability in the College Football Playoff, and he fits what NFL teams covet at inside linebacker. But NFL teams also are hesitant to draft off-ball linebackers too early. Smith could make himself a more likely top-15 pick if he tests well at the Combine.
Malik Jeffersoon, ILB, Texas
Draftek (Longball), Jan 17 In 2017, Sean Lee missed 6 total games and was injured early in the Week 10 game against Atlanta . . . the Cowboys' record in those 7 games? 1-6! Anthony Hitchens (UFA this off-season) missed the first 4 games of 2017, in which Dallas went 2-2. Have I totally disregarded the middle of what we hope will become the reincarnation of Doomsday Defense ? Jaylon Smith is a beginning of a youth movement in the LB corps and displayed promise in 2017 . . . but he is not totally recovered from his devastating injury during the Fiesta Bowl. Having watched a number of UT games this past season, I must admit a growing fascination with Mr. Jefferson's "mutli-tasking" application of his size and athleticism to run defense, pass defense, and pass rush. He exhibits the qualities of a 3-down LB . . . and that statement is substantiated by 3 years of statistics with the Longhorns: 231 total tackles (160 solo, 71 assists), 26 of those for a loss, 13 sacks, 5 passes defended, and a forced fumble returned 26 yards for a TD. This underclassman would not only provide depth to a potentially-depleted position group, but might push for a starting role!

WIDE RECEIVERS

Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
PFF (Palazzolo), Jan 18 Dallas could go a number of ways here, but they add another receiving threat in Gallup, who can win with speed down the field and toughness at the catch point. He was the nation’s top-graded receiver in 2017 at 92.1 overall, and he adds another weapon for QB Dak Prescott.
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
CBS (Trapasso), Jan 15 The Cowboys need speed on the outside. Washington will undoubtedly bring that to Dallas' offense. He averaged 19.8 yards per reception in his collegiate career.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Draft Countdown (Wright), Jan 17 Most would agree that Dallas already has the leagues premier offensive line. That didn’t happen by accident though. The Cowboys consistency make significant investments up front to put together that dominant group of blockers and it may be time for some more reinforcements. Brown is as impressive of a physical specimen as there is in this draft, checking in at an imposing 6’8” and 345 pounds. While Brown lacks the sheer athleticism and feet to protect the blindside at the next level like he did for the Sooners, he profiles as a potential dominant right tackle. Older fans may remember Brown’s late father, also named Orlando, who played 11 seasons in the NFL with the Browns / Ravens. They even share the same nickname - “Zeus”. In this scenario La’el Collins could kick back inside to his natural position at guard. That would essentially upgrade two positions and help ensure the Cowboys will be able to continue to hang their hat on that o-line for many years to come.
Billy Price, C/G, Ohio State
Walter Football (Campbell), Jan 18 Dallas' offensive line was not the same this past season. Left guard was a major problem area, as Jonathan Cooper was not a viable replacement for Denver-bound Ronald Leary. Here's a much-needed upgrade over Cooper. Billy Price is an excellent interior line prospect and could sneak into the top 20, as he can play both center and guard.

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