We’re now past the combine in the 2020 NFL offseason, which is a milestone on the march to the annual NFL draft. We still have plenty of things that need to happen before we get to those three glorious days in late April like free agency, Pro Days, the 30 official visits, approval of a new CBA, franchise tags and other stuff, but we’re making headway.
This week, we take a look at our first post-combine mock draft roundup. And for the first time since Grant Delpit/Xavier McKinney were dominating the proceedings, we’re starting to see mockers coalesce around one name. We haven’t reached a consensus, or even a majority, but we definitely have a new leader in the clubhouse.
With Byron Jones basically already written out of the Cowboys plans, getting a replacement in the first round is starting to dominate the thinking of many mockers.
We’ll start with our friend, John Owning.
Round 1, Pick 17: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
The combine could not have gone much better for Florida CB CJ Henderson, who measured in at 6-foot-1 and 204 pounds with 31 5/8-inch hands before testing above the 70th percentile in the 40-yard dash (4.39), vertical jump (37.5) and broad jump 10-foot-7.
Even though his 20 reps of 225 pounds on the bench means nothing in terms of his ability to play CB at the next level, it does indicate that he has a good work ethic off the field – 200-pounders don’t just rep 225 pounds 20 times without putting in serious work in the gym for a long time.
As good as the combine was, Henderson’s coverage ability may be even better, as the Florida product may be the best pure cover cornerback outside of Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah.
The Pick: CB CJ Henderson, Florida
The impending free agency of Byron Jones and the team’s need to sign quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper puts cornerback near the top of the wishlist for the Dallas Cowboys this draft season. That’s perfect as the No. 2 corner in the class falls right into their laps at No. 17 overall.
CJ Henderson has ideal size and very good instincts to play in a man coverage defense. The main questions are his penchant for playing too far off in coverage while trying to bait quarterbacks into mistakes and his lack of prowess as a tackler. Both can be fixed at the next level.
Henderson is ready to be a Day 1 starter in the NFL, something the Cowboys need with Jones expected to find his way out of town.
17) Dallas Cowboys – CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
After the announcement that Cowboys #1 cornerback Byron Jones will be hitting free agency, the position suddenly became one of their top priorities. In this scenario, the Cowboys land the prospect many see as the #2 cornerback in the class in CJ Henderson (4.39s forty-yard dash). After bursting onto the scene as a freshman with 4 interceptions, Henderson developed into a lockdown presence for the Gators.
C.J. Henderson CB, Florida
It’s looking like the Dallas Cowboys are going to have a heavy secondary need after free agency. C.J. Henderson cannot only fly in speed, as was evident by his 4.39 40-yard dash, but he also put up 20 reps in the bench press to show his strength.
The Cowboys had a formal interview with Henderson at the combine, and I expect him to be a target at No. 17.
17. Dallas Cowboys – C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
Henderson has a chance to be drafted in the top 10 so this might be the latest he comes off the board. With Byron Jones destined to reach free agency, cornerback shoots near the top of Dallas’ draft needs. Henderson needs to be a better playmaker at the catch point, but he is a plus athlete with the size to blanket receivers.
That’s five out of 12 mocks going for C.J. Henderson as a replacement for Byron Jones. Henderson is climbing draft boards after an excellent combine and is considered by many to be the second-best corner in the draft after Jeff Okudah. His coverage skills are top-notch. While you never want to draft for need, if your getting value while filling a need, that’s an enviable position. Given how many mocks don’t think Henderson will even be available at #17, it’s not a bad value pick.
The only other corner to make it in our roundup is Kristian Fulton.
17. DALLAS COWBOYS – CB KRISTIAN FULTON, LSU
With a 4.46 40-yard dash and a sub-7 three-cone, Fulton put any concerns about his athleticism to rest at the Combine. While safety has been the popular fit for Dallas here, corner may offer more value with the impending departure of Byron Jones.
There are some mockers who are still standing by the early consensus around a safety being the pick at #17. McKinney is still the favorite there.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Offseason needs: Safety, cornerback, defensive tackle, pass rusher
With the fate of Amari Cooper, Byron Jones, and Dak Prescott up in the air, the Cowboys are the most intriguing team going into free agency. What happens with that trio will determine the direction Dallas takes in the first round. Jones is the most likely to leave, putting defensive back squarely at the top of the team’s needs. McKinney bowed out of the combine with cramps, but he’s considered by many as the top safety this year.
17. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
The Cowboys need an upgrade at free safety to get better at covering backs and tight ends. At 6-0, 201 pounds, McKinney could do it all for Dallas to complement Xavier Woods, handling tight ends in coverage and cleaning up against running backs.
17. Dallas Cowboys
Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama We’ll have more of a tell on what the Cowboys might do at No. 17 after free agency. They have a quartet of players in need of new deals (Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Byron Jones and Robert Quinn), and whoever is the odd man out will leave behind an opening. Henderson, for instance, would make sense as a replacement at corner for Jones. But that secondary is already looking for help on the back end. Xavier Woods is a capable safety, but with Darian Thompson, Kavon Frazier and Jeff Heath all pending free agents, the other spot is wide open. Dallas hasn’t had a high-impact safety like McKinney, who had 95 tackles and pulled in three interceptions last season, in years. His 4.63 40 time was a bit disappointing, but McKinney does have some range to his game, and he is super instinctive.
And we’ll still have one for Grant Delpit.
Round 1, Pick 17: Grant Delpit, SAF, LSU
In the days leading up to the trade deadline, the Cowboys were trying to trade for Jamal Adams. Talks broke down and the trade never happened. However, it’s clear the Cowboys want and need to upgrade at safety. Xavier Woods is entering the last year of his rookie deal and has been solid at the one safety spot. However, the trio of Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier, and Darian Thompson has been a disaster at the other safety spot. Many consider Delpit the top safety in the draft and a potential top 15 pick. His instincts and ability to create plays around the line of scrimmage is second to none in this draft class. Pairing him with Woods would finally give the Cowboys a set of starting caliber safeties.
There’s a growing contingent of observers who think the Cowboys should take one of the top-tier wide receivers in the first round. Sometimes it’s because they think Amari Cooper could leave.
CeeDee Lamb - WR
School: Oklahoma | Year: Junior
Assuming veteran receiver Amari Cooper departs in free agency, Lamb would be a great fit for Dallas.
Other times, it’s in addition to keeping Cooper.
17. DALLAS COWBOYS
(8-8)CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma: The Cowboys could target a safety here — and Xavier McKinney makes a ton of sense — but if Lamb is on the board, even if Amari Cooper returns, Jerry Jones will think long and hard about grabbing him.
What’s your call BTB? What player do you favor at this moment in time for the Cowboys pick at #17?