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ESPN’s Todd McShay mock draft 3.0 has the Cowboys bringing the Payne (Da’Ron)

The Cowboys beef up the middle of their defensive line.

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

You may not have noticed, but there is a definite trend with Todd McShay’s picks for the Cowboys in the 2018 draft. It’s always been a different player in his three mocks to date, but they all play the same position, defensive tackle.

Back in December of 2017, before the season was even over, McShay had the Cowboys grabbing defensive tackle Christian Wilkins of Clemson. Of course, this was back when most people thought Wilkins was going to make the jump to the NFL, but he decided to return for another season of college ball.

Then in February, McShay helped jump-start the trend of picking defensive tackle Maurice Hurst for Dallas. Hurst has been diagnosed with a heart condition, so it will be up to each team to decide how that will affect their evaluation of him. Right now, it’s kind of a question mark.

In his third mock draft of the season, McShay carries on his trend of defensive tackles with a player whose name is popping up more and more when discussing the Cowboys 19th pick.

19. Dallas Cowboys

Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama*

Payne’s sack total is underwhelming (three total in college), but just turn on the tape. He’s a highly disruptive player in the middle and would help Dallas’ effort to upgrade the Cowboys’ pass rush (38 sacks last year was a big improvement). Payne would be a good fit as a 3-technique in Rod Marinelli’s system, and would pair well with DeMarcus Lawrence (franchise tagged). With Jason Witten turning 36 this offseason, TE Dallas Goedert is another good option.

Payne does look like a disruptive player from the middle on tape, and his recent Combine numbers do nothing but increase his stock. But, for any observer of the Cowboys, Maliek Collin’s natural position is 3-tech, and when he played it exclusively as a rookie he looked pretty darn good. Most think the Cowboys would love to get him moved back over to that spot. So if Payne was drafted, he would look like the natural fit at the 1-tech spot instead of the 3-tech as McShay suggests, where his athleticism matched with his size (6’ 2”, 311 pounds) is a good fit for Rod Marinelli’s defense. He values quick, disruptive players over space-eaters, and Payne looks like that. He would also be versatile enough to play both spots as needed.

Payne ran a sub-5.0 40-time (4.91) and was pretty dang quick out of the gate.

Payne’s 1.67-second split was one hundredth of a second faster than that of Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, who went No. 3 overall in that 2016 draft. It wasn’t far off from the 10-yard number posted by 49ers defensive end Solomon Thomas (1.65), who went No. 3 overall last year.

Payne can move, and has been playing with the highest-level of competition possible in college. He fits a need for Dallas who need help in the middle of their defensive line. He also seems to pass the Stephen Jones Test for a 1-tech to be taken high in the draft - he must have some 3-tech traits. Payne’s quickness and disruptive nature in the backfield should pass that test.

Here are some players the Cowboys passed on in the McShay mock.

#21 - DT Taven Bryan

#23 - G Will Hernandez

#26 - S Justin Reid

#29 - WR D.J. Moore

#30 - G Billy Price

#32 - WR D.J. Chark

Not drafted in the first round - G Isaiah Wynn, DE Harold Landry, WR Courtland Sutton

Are you down with bringing the “Payne”?

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