It won’t be long now. The NFL draft is just around the corner, April 23-25, and with that the Cowboys will use a first-round pick for the first time since the 2018 draft. At least we think they will, there is always the possibility of some kind of trade that will take the place of that selection. The odds, though, are that the Cowboys will have a new player once the night of the 23rd ends.
The real question is just who that player will be. There have been plenty of guesses and, for the most part, they involve areas of need. Free agency losses and previous holes on the roster combine to create a profile of need for teams. For the Cowboys, it’s generally thought of as cornerback, defensive end, safety and wide receiver.
Three of those positions make up the bulk of mock draft selections for the Cowboys, with cornerback and defensive end the clear majority. With that in mind, let’s sample 10 different mocks to see where the Cowboys might go with pick #17.
The consensus has emerged around two names. The first one we sample is K’Lavon Chaisson.
(1) 17. K’Lavon Chaisson – EDGE, LSU
Far from a sure thing, Chaisson was the player selected at 17 due to the way the board fell for the Cowboys. With the top three wide receivers, DT Javon Kinlaw, CB C.J. Henderson, and even CB Kristian Fulton all off the board, Dallas was left with only a few viable options. The most surprising prospect still on the board was Louisville OT Mekhi Becton who is one of the highly touted offensive linemen that are expected to go in the top-15 selections. However, as tantalizing as Becton was, the show elected to address the needs at edge rusher first with a boom-or-bust Chaisson pick. Jeff Cavanaugh made his presence felt by suggesting either of the linebacker combination of Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray and LSU’s Patrick Queen, but ultimately sided with the rest of the hosts.
17. DALLAS COWBOYS — EDGE K’LAVON CHAISSON, LSU
Not even 21 years old yet, Chaisson is a player who has a good deal of perceived upside with his athletic traits. He’s got a long way to go to fulfill that, though, as he earned only a 78.9 pass-rushing grade this past season and racked up 35 pressures on 370 pass-rushing snaps.
17. Dallas Cowboys: K’Lavon Chaisson, DE/OLB, LSU
After giving up on Taco Charlton and losing Robert Quinn in free agency, Dallas could use an edge rusher to go across from Demarcus Lawrence.
Chaisson (6-4, 254) has a lot of upside to fill out his frame and develop into a dangerous edge rusher. He is fast, long, and athletic on the edge. In 2019, he had 60 tackles with 6.5 sacks, a forced fumble and two passes broken up while dealing with an ankle injury. Chaisson missed almost all of his 2018 season with a knee injury. In 2017, he had 27 tackles with two sacks and two passes batted.
Chaisson is one of those picks that has some people divided. His physical gifts are evident and he certainly looks the part, but he doesn’t come without risk. He has had injury issues and his production in college doesn’t scream first-round pick. He is young and raw so the thought is that some proper coaching will transform him into a terror.
As a bonus mock, we selected him in the SB Nation writer’s mock.
Honestly, the selection of Chaisson in the SB Nation mock draft was due to another player going one spot ahead of the Cowboys to the Falcons. That player was cornerback C.J. Henderson. He is the other name that consistently finds its way into mock drafts for Dallas.
17. Dallas Cowboys: C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
Not only did Byron Jones depart in free agency, but only one of the team’s top five corners—Anthony Brown—is under contract beyond 2020. Tied for the fewest interceptions (seven) in 2019, it’s been a perennial problem for the Cowboys, who are also tied for the fewest interceptions (43) over the past five seasons. Henderson is sticky in coverage due to his impressive combination of size, length, speed and fluid movement.
CJ HENDERSON Cornerback Florida
The loss of Byron Jones is a big deal for the Cowboys’ secondary since he was their number one corner. Jones got a huge contract from the Miami Dolphins in the offseason, but Dallas couldn’t match it with Dak Prescott on a franchise tag and Amari Cooper getting a long term deal.
The Cowboys do have a decent mix of options at corner right now, but Henderson does have some upside to start right away. Henderson’s best fit is as a man-to-man corner due to his tremendous ball skills and smooth running style.
There are flaws in Henderson’s game, including weakness in run support, but those can be smoothed out in time. Landing a guy at corner who can contribute from Day 1 is a big win for Dallas, which is looking to try and win the NFC East right now.
17. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) – C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida: Dallas’ troubled secondary gets a Christmas gift in April when Henderson falls to them.
Chaisson and Henderson tend to dominate Cowboys mocks, with Chaisson usually coming after Henderson has already been picked. That’s the worry if you’re on the Henderson train, that he’s already gone by #17. There is also the idea that both players are gone and the top three wide receivers are also picked, so what does Dallas do then? Or do they prefer a different player altogether?
Here are a few wildcard picks.
Round 1, Pick 17: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
While many Cowboys fans are hoping Florida’s CJ Henderson falls to pick No. 17, South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw is a darn good consolation prize.
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 324 pounds with massive 34 7/8-inch arms, Kinlaw is a giant human being who was built to destroy opposing offensive lines. Last season, Kinlaw’s dominance wasn’t adequately captured by traditional stats, as 35 tackles, six for loss, and six sacks aren’t truly indicative of Kinlaw’s play.
Kinlaw is the true embodiment of “disruption equals production,” as he was consistently wreaking havoc in opposing backfields before teammates would finish the job. Kinlaw utilized his size and absurd power to bludgeon opposing blockers with heavy strikes, which enabled Kinlaw to consistently reset the line of scrimmage against single blocks.
Early on, there was a lot of opinion that Kinlaw would not make it down to #17. Additionally, the Cowboys went out and signed Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe to man the interior, for this year at least. Still, through all that, it would be hard to pass on Kinlaw if he does make it to #17.
Remember when Xavier McKinney and Grant Delpit were all the rage for the Cowboys in mock drafts? Once Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was signed, that sort of subsided. It should be noted that Clinton-Dix only signed a one-year deal and Xavier Woods’ deal is up after this year. Maybe a safety is not a bad idea after all.
First Round (17th Overall) – Xavier McKinney, S [NFL Draft Profile]
The days of completely ignoring the safety position are officially a thing of the past. Alabama safety Xavier McKinney is one of the most versatile players in the draft, capable of playing free safety, strong safety, and slot cornerback at a high level. He’s probably the best safety in the class (Isaiah Simmons doesn’t count) and should be an impact player right out of the gate.
Okay, how about some real wildcard picks?
17. Dallas Cowboys (8-8) A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
The Cowboys lost aging Robert Quinn as their top complementary pass rusher opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. Epenesa (6-5, 274 pounds) is a powerful, explosive, big-bodied player. He can push blockers out of the way to get to the QB, and he also stands strong against the run.
Epenesa was a hot name early on, but has lost momentum as the draft preseason moved along.
And then there would be the real shocker.
17 DAL OL Cesar Ruiz Michigan
Surprised? Don’t be. With Travis Frederick retiring unexpectedly, the Cowboys scoop up Ruiz, Mel Kiper’s top-ranked interior offensive lineman.
Most observers think this would only happen if the Cowboys traded back in the first round. Could they just go ahead and pull the trigger at #17?
What’s your call on the Cowboys first-round pick?