The latest hot name in Cowboys mock drafts is a wide receiver.
This is our first mock draft tracker after the release of wide receiver Dez Bryant. While wide receiver had been a popular choice even before Bryant’s release, it is now the consensus position for mockers. There is a lot of depth at receiver in this draft so many Cowboys observers caution against having to go receiver in the first round, but the mocks are doing it anyway.
In our most recent tracker, we looked at 13 mock drafts for the Cowboys, and 10 of them had the Cowboys going wide receiver in the first round. D.J. Moore has emerged as the consensus candidate with six mocks placing him as the Cowboys pick. Courtland Sutton and Calvin Ridley make the grade in two mocks apiece.
That leaves three mocks. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, defensive end Harold Landry and guard Will Hernandez populate those three remaining mocks. For the first time in 2018, our mock draft tracker doesn’t have a defensive tackle in the survey.
David Moore listed DJ Moore (no relation) as one of the prospects worth taking should the Cowboys stay at 19.
D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
Some will say this is a bit high, but he’s impressed a lot of teams and there’s no way he’s there when the Cowboys pick in the second round...He had a school record 80 receptions for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns while playing for four quarterbacks last season...Built like a running back and outstanding in run after catch...Needs to show more burst out of his break.
What about Calvin Ridley? Would you like to see the Alabama receiver in silver and blue?
SUMMARY: A three-year starter at Alabama, Ridley took the baton from Amari Cooper as the Crimson Tide’s No. 1 receiver, lining up all over the formation as the “Z” receiver. His stats took a dip his final two seasons (only four 100-yard receiving games in his final 30 starts), but that was due to a limited offensive identity with inconsistent quarterback play by Jalen Hurts and defenses rolling coverage to Ridley’s side of the field -- while it hurt his production, an inaccurate quarterback helped his evaluation because it forced Ridley to consistently bail out poor throws. Ridley is electric and elusive in his movements to create his own separation and threaten the defense after the catch. He is a dynamic, yet composed route runner with the savvy, explosiveness and twitch reminiscent of Stefon Diggs. Ridley isn’t a power finisher and his lack of body strength is the main hurdle keeping him from being a premier NFL pass-catcher, but he is a natural hands-catcher with reliable ball skills. Since Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama has produced two top-10 wide receiver prospects (Cooper, Julio Jones) and Ridley could be the third, projecting as a high-end No. 2 NFL wideout and solid first-round player.
Moore and Ridley appear to be the two names at WR that the Cowboys will consider drafting on day one, but what about SMU’s Cortland Sutton?
Question: Is No. 19 too high to draft Courtland Sutton, a very talented but unfinished product?
Brugler: It would be too early for me, yes. But the Cowboys might disagree. It might come down to how committed they are to finding the new “X” receiver. Sutton has the potential to be a No. 1 in the NFL. He is a big, loose athlete with strong ball skills, making him an obvious candidate to fill Dez’s role. But right now he lacks polish as a route runner. Will he get there? He certainly could. But it is a projection. Personally, I’d rather bet on Ridley or Moore, two pass catchers further along in their development. But the Cowboys might look to bank on the potential of Sutton. If they do, a trade back scenario is possible, taking Sutton in the mid-20s and picking up an extra day two draft pick.
Former LSU Tigers receiver DJ Chark is yet another name to consider early.
Question: I still don’t understand why D.J. Chark isn’t talked about in the same conversation with D.J. Moore, Calvin Ridley and even Christian Kirk. Can you help me understand why?
Bryan: I went to school at LSU. I live and die with how their games go. Chark is one of the reasons I tend to die. He’s a wildly inconsistent player. His ability is outstanding. His ability to finish is not. No one in this draft looks the part more than him, but you need to beware of what potentially lies ahead.
David: Honestly, I feel like we’ve talked plenty about Chark. He’s not a guy I would draft at No. 19, because the tape isn’t consistent enough. But his physical tools make him an awfully attractive option – and we know the Cowboys have met with him. The only problem is that I doubt he’ll hang around all the way to pick No. 50. If Dallas wants him, they may have to trade up.
Now that Byron Jones will be playing corner, his versatility will be put to the test this season.
When the Cowboys chose Jones with the 27th overall pick in the 2015 draft, it was as a cornerback with safety skills. The thought was to play him at cornerback for the first few years of his career, knowing he could play safety down the road.
With Richard coming over from the Seattle Seahawks, where he preferred bigger corners, like Richard Sherman, the Cowboys are hoping the finally cash in on Jones’ gifts.
”I’m a longer corner,” said the 6-foot Jones. “I’ve got speed, good athleticism. I think you can use that on the outside.”
Then again, Jones’ versatility to cover bigger tight ends and shifty wide receivers in the slot could see him play inside, while also playing a hybrid role in a dime package.
The fifth-year option for Byron is expected to be as costly as what as previously expectations.
No favors have been done thus far for the former first-round pick, with the Dallas Cowboys ping-ponging him from cornerback to safety in his rookie season, only to then offer up a soft commitment to safety while still utilizing him as a cornerback from time to time in the two years following his debut. While the uber-athletic Jones certainly has the ability to play several positions, he’s much better suited to being locked in full-time at CB, something the Cowboys will finally commit him to full-time -- thanks in no small part to the addition of Kris Richard as passing game coordinator and secondary coach.
If the Cowboys truly believe Jones can be an elite CB for the remainder of his career, they could and should pull the trigger, otherwise he’ll become an unrestricted free agent once the curtains close on this coming season. And should they be wise enough to do such a thing, Todd Archer of ESPN points out the cost would be highly favorable (especially as opposed to negotiating in a potential free market environment), as NFL rules work in the Cowboys’ financial favor here.
Considering Jones took most of them at safety in 2017, that’s what position his option payout would be based upon -- as opposed to the higher-end salary of a corner.
Speaking of Byron, the Cowboys’ defensive backs are thrilled to be playing under new secondary coach Kris Richard.
The Dallas Cowboys overhauled their group of assistant coaches this off-season, and one of the prize hires is new secondary coach Kris Richard.
Richard spent the past three years as the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive coordinator and coached the defensive backs before that (2010-2014). He is credited with developing the famed “Legion of Boom” secondary and hopes to make a similar impact with the Cowboys’ secondary. He certainly made a favorable first impression on his new squad in the first formal meetings Monday as the off-season program officially began.
“He’s exactly what we thought he was – very passionate, very enthusiastic,” safety Jeff Heath said during a recent promotional appearance for the Dallas Rattlers lacrosse team. “I think he’s going to be really good for us.”
So, this may be something to keep an eye on. *eyes emoji*
Maybe it means nothing, after all, they are voluntary workouts. Still, it is sort of interesting that safety Earl Thomas has not been present at voluntary workouts for the Seattle Seahawks.
Again, these are voluntary workouts. Players miss them for a variety of reasons and we shouldn’t put too much emphasis on them. He could start showing up at any time.
But up in Seattle, many are seeing this as a sign that Thomas and the Seahawks are headed for rough waters.
B/R’s Mike Tannier wrote a lengthy and informative piece on how analytics impact how NFL teams draft. In there, Tannier looks at ‘the analytics of playmaking’, among other things.
Calvin Ridley, D.J. Moore and the Analytics of Playmaking
Boy, Moneyball sounds more like plain-old common sense with every new header, doesn’t it? But college production can be tricky to interpret because of all of the different systems, levels, calibers of quarterback and other variables.
Calvin Ridley’s raw stats look pretty good—224 career catches, 2,781 yards and 19 touchdowns in three seasons—especially factoring in Alabama’s run-heavy offense and option-style quarterbacking. But for someone touted as a DeSean Jackson-level deep threat, Ridley caught a relatively low percentage of his team’s touchdown passes, and his vertical leap at the combine (just 31”) suggests that he may not be as explosive or capable of hauling in a contested pass as the NFL’s elite receivers.
By contrast, D.J. Moore’s raw numbers in three seasons at Maryland are less impressive than Ridley’s (146-2,027-17), but his career yards-per-catch rate is higher (13.9 to 12.4) and his production came in a Maryland scheme that’s even more run-oriented than the Alabama offense. Throw in a 39.5-inch vertical leap, and there are many reasons to believe Moore will outperform Ridley at the start of his NFL career.
He also wrote on the value of the running back position in the draft.
Saquon Barkley and the Great Moneyball Running Back Debate
Running backs are not as valued by the NFL, particularly in the draft, as they were 20 to 30 years ago. There are a variety of reasons: RBs have short careers, teams are now more pass-oriented, two- to three-back committees are often more effective and affordable than the one-man workhorse model, and so on.
But recent seasons have seen an uptick in early draft selections for running backs like Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott. Is that a trend that bodes well for Penn State’s Saquon Barkley—arguably the best pure prospect in this draft class—and the deep pool of running backs behind him?
While the recent successes of Gurley and Elliott—and a 2011 rookie wage scale that prevents teams from signing rookies to Reggie Bush-sized cap-buster contracts—should buoy Barkley in the top 10 selections, lots of successful, popular college running backs will still have to wait until Day 3 to hear their names called. There were 30 running backs or fullbacks selected last year and 22 of them left the board in the fourth round or later.
Speaking of running back, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys grab a guy that can be used in both the run and the passing game.
As the Cowboys look to the draft, they don’t need to have an every-down type to potentially replace Elliott if something happens to him. A year ago, the Cowboys had a lot of interest in San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey but saw the Philadelphia Eagles grab him before their pick. They opted to take receiver Ryan Switzer, who they believe can play that mismatch role some while also returning kicks.
Possible picks: North Carolina State’s Nyheim Hines, Southern Miss’ Ito Smith, Iowa’s Akrum Wadley
Prediction: On the third day of the draft, the Cowboys will draft a running back. Since Smith was a pre-draft visitor, he would seem to have an edge since Hines could be gone by Day 2 or early in Day 3. In addition to drafting a back, the Cowboys will add one or two as an undrafted free agent.