Before all these draft prospects hit the field in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine, we thought it’s only right to put out our first of many mock drafts for the Dallas Cowboys. After all, one of the best parts of the NFL Draft season is the thousands of mock draft exercises we all read while waiting for the real thing.
(Note: For the mock draft exercises, we will utilize the CBS prospect rankings board)
PICK 17 - XAVIER MCKINNEY, S, ALABAMA (CBS RANK: 15)
Analysis: Certainly one of the top safeties in the draft, Xavier McKinney was very productive in his time at Alabama. McKinney’s instincts are very good and his best place is likely closer to the line of scrimmage than on the back end in coverage. McKinney is a physical finisher and he has some experience reading quarterbacks, too. Though he could stand some technical refinement in tackling, he will bring toughness and athleticism to any defense.
Connor’s take: While it’s tough to imagine McKinney being the best player available when the Cowboys are on the clock at 17, it’s hard to imagine a player that fits the Cowboys as well as McKinney does. McKinney brings a dynamic playmaking ability as a dual-threat safety. McKinney has experience playing deep, down in the box, and nickel at Alabama. The selection of McKinney will provide the defense with an instant upgrade, and keep Xavier Woods at his natural FS position.
PICK 51 - JORDAN ELLIOTT, DL, MISSOURI (CBS RANK: 67)
Analysis: An ascending player in the minds of many draft scouts, Jordan Elliott has a balanced tool set to work with as he enters the NFL. Elliott is an outstanding run defender and does a nice job of shooting through his gaps and he’s very slippery when he wants to be. Elliott is going to need some work on a pass rush plan but he does hold up very well at the point of attack and is impressively strong.
Connor’s take: The selection of Elliott comes with plenty of projection, but plenty of upside as well. Elliott is a strong, athletic nose tackle, with the explosive traits to play as an under tackle as well. Elliott comes into the league lacking elite production and will need to refine his technique quite a bit, but offers elite size, explosiveness at the position, and a high-upside projectable skill set at the defensive tackle position.
PICK 82 - NOAH IGBINOGHENE, CB, AUBURN (CBS RANK: 74)
Analysis: A former receiver turned cornerback, Noah Igbinoghene has really impressed for a guy who has only spent two years playing the position. He has great play strength and is a superb athlete. He does a nice job at mirroring his man and carrying the receiver all over the field. Igbinoghene definitely has some moments that show how new he is to playing corner but overall he held his own for two years against SEC competition.
Connor’s take: Noah Igbinoghene will likely be a name to rise up the ranks after the combine. The former track-star plays with tremendous athleticism for a smaller corner prospect. Igbinoghene provides excellent man-to-man cover abilities both outside and in the slot. Igbinoghene is an ascending player with excellent traits at the position as a former wide receiver.
PICK 123 - VAN JEFFERSON, WR, FLORIDA (CBS RANK: 126)
Analysis: For what he lacks in athleticism, Van Jefferson makes up for in route running ability. Jefferson seems to always keep himself ahead of his defenders in processing ability. Jefferson has natural hands and comes from an NFL pedigree as his father was a former NFL receiver and now coaches in the league. Jefferson is technically sound in just about every category. He didn’t have the best production in college but not always to the fault of his own.
Connor’s take: If you’re looking for a receiver in this draft class that consistently gets open as a route runner, Van Jefferson should be at the top of the list. Jefferson is bigger than your traditional slot, but that it’s the position he’ll likely project too at the next level. Jefferson is a savvy route runner with adequate athleticism to pair with very solid hands and very good football IQ coming from a football family. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Jefferson ended up being one of the more productive receivers in this draft class.
PICK 165 - COLBY PARKINSON, TE, STANFORD (CBS RANK: 174)
Analysis: At 6’7, Colby Parkinson will enter the league as one of the biggest tight end prospects. He certainly has an enormous catch radius and could transform into a great mismatch player in the NFL. His hands and ball skills are great but he offers little to nothing as an inline player at the moment. He has a lot of technical work ahead of him.
Connor’s take: Watching Parkinson’s tape, I came away a bit underwhelmed. With his size, you’d expect Parkinson to play much bigger, faster, and stronger than he did on tape. Parkinson struggles as an inline blocker, and when asked to play with athleticism up the seam or after the catch. With his height, he is a mismatch against defensive backs and smaller linebackers. On day three, Parkinson wouldn’t be a bad developmental tight end behind Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz.
PICK 232 - CARTER COUGHLIN, LB, MINNESOTA (CBS RANK: 243)
Analysis: Carter Coughlin has impressive initial burst off the ball and he can cause some problems as a pass rusher. He’s a high-effort player that will give you everything he has but needs to improve his strength as a run defender. Coughlin will need to cut his teeth on special teams as he transitions to a linebacker role in the NFL.
Connor’s take: Coming out of Minnesota, Coughlin is the definition of a tweener. Playing both EDGE and off the ball at Minnesota will give NFL teams plenty of snaps to evaluate his skill set. Due to his size, Coughlin will likely need to play as an off the ball linebacker, which makes his fit with the Cowboys a bit more likely.