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Mel Kiper Mock Draft 2.0: Linebacker is the call in the first round

Should the Cowboys pick a linebacker in the first round?

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship Game-Alabama vs Georgia Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Back on January 18th, ESPN’s Mel Kiper released his first mock draft and the Cowboys got a player that many fans have been clamoring for - Vita Vea. The big man in the middle could certainly help a Cowboys run defense that was not as stout in 2017. So now that Kiper has released his second mock draft of the season, we take a look again to see if the Cowboys still get Vea. Unfortunately for fans of the big man from Washington, they do not. But the Cowboys do get some help on defense, at a position that could become a priority depending on the results of free agency.

Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama

I almost went with a tight end here, as South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst reminds me of a young Jason Witten, who can’t play forever. But middle linebacker is another need, especially if Dallas can’t retain free agent Anthony Hitchens, and Evans could play there or be insurance for Sean Lee, who will be 32 when the 2018 season begins and has struggled with injuries in his career. Evans had 15 sacks at Alabama and is a threat as a pass-rusher on third down. He’s smart and battle-tested after playing under Nick Saban. I really like this pick for the Cowboys.

Evans is a solid pick for the Cowboys if the team is unable to sign Anthony Hitchens. We’ve discussed all too often the injury/recovery issues facing Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith; Lee can go down at any time and Smith may or may not improve to the point he needs to in 2018. Hitchens is an excellent insurance policy for both, but if he is gone, the Cowboys have no depth. If Hitchens stays, the Cowboys could still certainly use another quality linebacker, especially with Lee’s age, but the need is not quite as strong.

Evans is a do-it-all type linebacker with speed and physicality; he should be able to stay on the field for all three downs. He shows a knack for getting to the quarterback when asked to blitz and was a leader on the defense of the NCAA National Champs. The Cowboys really love players from teams in the Power 5 conferences.

Evans is battling with Leighton Vander Esch for the position behind Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds at the linebacker spot in most mock drafts and rankings. In Kiper’s mock, Edmunds goes at #8 and Smith goes #10. Evans is the next linebacker taken, ahead of Vander Esch who goes at #28.

If you wanted Vea or Da’Ron Payne, they were both gone, a possibility the Cowboys might face on draft day. Vea went 13th and Payne went 17th. Also gone was Calvin Ridley.

There is an interesting situation in this mock set up by Kiper - safety Derwin James makes it all the way to 18th, one spot ahead of Dallas. Kiper has the Seahawks taking him at that spot. If that happens on draft day, would the Cowboys pull the trigger on a trade up to grab a falling James? And if they didn’t and Seattle took him, would the Seahawks be more inclined to then trade Earl Thomas?

Players the Cowboys passed on include defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, guards James Daniels and Isaiah Wynn, and basically any wide receiver not named Ridley.

So what’s your call BTB? Is Evans a good pick or should Dallas have looked elsewhere?

Here is a highlight reel of Evans.

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