clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A way-too-early look at three 2021 NFL Draft prospects that the Cowboys could have on its radar

New, comments

It is never too early to start looking at the upcoming draft class.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NCAA Football: Washington at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone is waiting on whether or not the NFL will have a season in 2020. Assuming that nothing deters current plans from the league, then all eyes will shift to how much head coach Mike McCarthy can elevate a talented, yet inconsistent, roster.

The excitement starts with the offensive side of the ball. Dallas has less than a month to get a deal done with quarterback Dak Prescott before the franchise tag kicks in. There is no shortage of weapons for the two-time Pro Bowler to throw the ball to. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard offer an intriguing one-two punch, the team has an elite wide receiver trio on the roster, and the offensive line still has Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and La’el Collins.

Defense is where the questions are. Linebacker is a position of concern with the uncertainty of Leighton Vander Esch’s health and the up-and-down play from Jaylon Smith. The rebuilding secondary appears to have young talent to work with, but there is a reason why the Cowboys are linked to just about every big name safety that comes available, most notably Jamal Adams.

Many expect the Cowboys to compete for the NFC East crown and a playoff berth in year-one under Mike McCarthy, but it is hard to predict how successful the team will be in the first year of a new regime with the anything-but-normal offseason. Still, after years of failing to breakthrough under Jason Garrett, the hope is that the Cowboys will reach new ceilings with McCarthy in charge.

Assuming that the Cowboys do compete for the division and get back to the postseason, the team will obviously be picking in the back-half of the first round (assuming the pick is not sent to the Jets in exchange for the All-Pro Adams). The 2021 draft class is headlined by quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance, but Dallas should not be addressing that position (unless, of course, they fail to reach a deal with Prescott) and will more than likely have too strong of a record to grab any of those three regardless.

A few of the positions that jump to mind in regards to the Cowboys and next year’s draft include tight end, cornerback, and safety. Dallas just invested two draft picks at corner in the 2020 draft, but it remains to be seen if Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are still with the team beyond the upcoming season. As for tight end, there is hope that Blake Jarwin makes the leap; however, the former undrafted free agent has yet to reach 400 yards receiving in a single season during his young career.

We looked at a few different mock drafts that have been posted, and the consensus appears to believe that the Cowboys will target one of the positions mentioned earlier. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has the Cowboys going with a safety, The Draft Network’s Trevor Sikkema sends a tight end for Dak Prescott to work with, while 247Sports’ Joal Ryan sees Dallas grabbing a corner in round-one.

Talanoa Hufanga, Safety, USC

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 29 USC at Arizona Photo by Carlos Herrera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As the NFL trends more and more towards a pass-heavy league, it is more important than ever to have players in the secondary that have the ability to be versatile and makes things difficult for offenses to execute. Brugler has the Cowboys going out to the West Coast and grabbing current Trojans defensive back Talanoa Hufanga to add to its rebuilding defensive backfield.

27. Dallas Cowboys — *Talanoa Hufanga, SS, USC

You don’t need to know Hufanga’s number, just follow the ball and that is where he will be. His aggressive nature will work against him at times, but he competes with outstanding effort and anticipation to make plays versus the pass and the run.

The former five-star recruit flew all over the field for USC last season, making play after play for the Trojans on the way to earning all-conference honors in 2019. Hufanga amassed 90 total tackles, recorded 7.5 tackles-for-loss, made 3.5 sacks, and totaled three pass deflections as a true sophomore.

Hufanga is a tackling machine, recording 18 tackles, two TFLs, and one sack in a game versus the rival UCLA Bruins late last season. He had four other games with at least 10 tackles in a game (three in which he had 14) and had another with eight.

What makes the USC product so intriguing is that he is always all over the field and always around the football. Hufanga possesses the quickness, intelligence, and physicality that would be a perfect fit in Mike Nolan’s defense.

Brevin Jordan, Tight End, Miami

NCAA Football: Florida at Miami Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

On paper, not many teams across the National Football League can stack up with the amount of talent that the Dallas Cowboys have on the offensive side of the ball. A franchise-caliber quarterback, a top-five running back, arguably the best wide receiver trio in the league, and an always solid offensive line gives McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore a ton to work with.

Still, there is one question mark: tight end. Many expect Blake Jarwin to take that next step in his career and become a reliable target for Prescott alongside the three-headed monster of Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb. The supremely athletic Jarwin has shown big flashes of potential — most notably when he lines up against the New York Giants — and the expectation is that this is the year he puts everything together without having to share snaps with the veteran Jason Witten.

However, Jarwin is far from a finished product and it remains to be seen if he truly will take a leap in his development. That said, tight end is a position that is becoming popular for the Cowboys in extremely early mock drafts. Sikkema is on that train as well, giving the Cowboys one of the top tight ends in the class.

28. Dallas Cowboys — Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami

Three tight ends in the first round? It could happen if the flashes we’ve seen from these prospects turn into full-time production and offensive emphasis in 2020. Brevin Jordan is quite the athlete for his size; he’s a game-changer on offense.

The 2021 tight end class appears to be strong, headlined by Jordan, Florida’s Kyle Pitts, and Penn State’s Pat Freiemuth. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Jordan does not have the large frame that many tight ends possess, but he makes up for it with his soft hands and his athletic ability.

Playing with inconsistent quarterback play since arriving in Miami, the former four-star recruit has been a reliable go-to target for whoever is behind center. Jordan earned first-team All-ACC honors as a sophomore and looks to bet set for a strong junior campaign now that the Hurricanes will have former Houston signal caller D’Eriq King running former Auburn and SMU offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee’s spread scheme.

The Cowboys are set at just about every other skill position on the offensive side, but tight end is the position that Dallas could target early next April if Jarwin does not take the jump that many are hoping and expecting. Brevin Jordan has the potential to add another element to what should already be a dynamic passing attack. Would the Cowboys draft a pass catcher in back-to-back first rounds?

Elijah Molden, Corner, Washington

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 07 Cal at Washington Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Washington does not receive the same kind of hype that programs such as LSU, Ohio State, and Florida get in regards to defensive backs, but the Huskies have put their fair share of DBs into the league: Marcus Peters, Budda Baker, Byron Murphy, Desmond Trufant, and Taylor Rapp to name a few.

Elijah Molden appears to be the next in line from Washington. The former four-star recruit had a breakout season in 2019, making 79 total tackles, 5.5 TFLs, four interceptions, and 12 pass deflections en route to earning first-team All-Pac 12 honors. 247Sports sees the talented Molden heading to the DFW area late in the first-round next April.

28. DALLAS COWBOYS: ELIJAH MOLDEN, WASHINGTON, CB

“The next great Washington defensive back,” per Pro Football Talk, Elijah Molden is a Huskies senior coming off a season where he nabbed his first four collegiate interceptions, and was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team.

Cowboys fans have been calling for defensive backs that make plays on the ball, and Molden certainly fits that description. The Oregon native made things difficult on Pac-12 quarterbacks last season, seemingly always deflecting a ball in the air — if he wasn’t coming down with the interception.

The current Huskies star ranks as PFF’s third best returning corner entering the 2020 college football season, and he was named to Walter Camp Football Foundation’s preseason first-team All-American team. There are big expectations for Molden entering his senior season, and the talented defensive back should have a very good shot to hear his name called early in the 2021 draft.

Mike Nolan and the defensive coaching staff have been emphasizing creating turnovers and playing the ball, and the 5-foot-10, 186-pound corner fits the bill. Dallas grabbed Trevon Diggs in the second-round and Reggie Robinson in the fourth this past April, but that should not prevent the team from adding more talent to the secondary if given the opportunity. The Cowboys coaching staff appears to prefer bigger, longer DBs, but Molden certainly has the talent to fit in.