Slowly but surely, the NFL draft is moving closer to happening. With the Cowboys having the #10 pick, you can start narrowing the field of potential picks. You can make that list even smaller if you start ruling out certain positions. Of course, we could always be wrong about ruling certain prospects out, but for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll make certain assumptions.
First assumption, the Cowboys are going to roll into 2021 with Dak Prescott as quarterback, and they believe they will sign him long-term. This mean they won’t be tempted to draft a quarterback. Next is wide receiver. After grabbing CeeDee Lamb in 2020, the Cowboys likely won’t go for a receiver again in the first round. Running back and linebacker don’t represent good value for a #10 pick in this draft, and the Cowboys tend to ignore defensive tackle and safety in the first round.
That leaves cornerback, defensive end, offensive line and tight end as choices. Normally tight end wouldn’t appear on this list, but with one special talent potentially available, it has to be considered.
So how do those position groups line up with Todd McShay’s big board? Let’s take a look at where each players is ranked and what it could mean for Dallas.
3. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon*
HT: 6-6 | WT: 330
Grade: 94 | Previous rank: 2
Sewell gave up only one sack during 2018 and 2019 combined, starting 20 games along the way, but he opted out of this past season. Sewell is massive in pass protection and plays a disciplined game. He has the feet to excel as a zone blocker and the power to move defenders in the run game. Sewell has rare upside and can be a starter from day one in the NFL.
This is one that has popped up on occasion in mock drafts for the Cowboys, but it feels like an extreme long shot. Sewell’s talent feels like it will take him off the board long before Dallas is ready to pick. But, if for some reason a run on quarterbacks and wide receivers causes him to drop to #10, the Cowboys would have to pounce.
6. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida*
HT: 6-6 | WT: 239
Grade: 93 | Previous rank: 6
Pitts sets up as a versatile matchup in the NFL with great size, a big catch radius and the hands to produce. In only eight games this season, he had 770 receiving yards on 43 catches and found the end zone 12 times, tied for the third-most scores in the FBS. The junior amassed 170 yards and four end zone trips in the Gators’ opener in September, and he piled on three TDs in November’s meeting with Kentucky. And he went over 120 yards on seven catches in each of his final two games.
Pitts flashes as a route runner and possesses above-average separation skills for a tight end. He has some speed to be a threat downfield, and he figures to be a real coverage problem for opposing defenses in the NFL.
This is the real wild card. Where the Cowboys scouts and front-office rank Pitts could mean everything as there is a genuine possibility that he is there at #10. Tight end isn’t a premier position, and the Cowboys need at tight end is minimal. But Pitts is a rare talent that could be a generational player. This decision will not be an easy one.
Now begins the real meat of the sandwich. Offensive line and cornerback.
8. Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
HT: 6-4 | WT: 308
Grade: 93 | Previous rank: 17
Slater had significant starting time at both right and left tackle before opting out of the 2020 season, but his frame and physical skills might lend themselves to a better trajectory inside. He gives up ground too much, and speed rushers cause him problems at tackle. But I really like his feel for angles, and he is smooth getting set. Power is there in the run game, and his body control in pass protection is strong.
This will rest on the Cowboys belief in the health of Tyron Smith and La’el Collins. While many Cowboys observers have placed offensive tackle as a need, the Cowboys themselves may not feel this way. At least as much of a need as it would take to use the #10 pick on one. Slater does offer versatility so they could use him in the interior until the need to kick him outside arises down the line. But if that doesn’t happen, would the Cowboys use the tenth pick on a backup for 2020?
9. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama*
HT: 6-2 | WT: 206
Grade: 92 | Previous rank: 7
Surtain, a true shutdown cover corner, finished with a pick-six, 12 pass breakups (tied for third in the country) and 38 tackles in 13 games. I love his instincts and the way he quickly diagnoses wide receivers’ routes and funnels them where he wants them to go. He is also a natural playmaker, with good ball-reaction skills and soft hands. His father, Patrick Surtain Sr., was a Pro Bowl corner in the NFL and a second-round pick in 1998.
HT: 6-2 | WT: 207
Grade: 92 | Previous rank: 18
The first high-end draft prospect to opt out of the 2020 college season, Farley broke up 12 passes and intercepted four in 2019. His blend of size, length and speed is rare, and he has burst to his game. A former wide receiver, he has strong ball skills and flashes the ability to recognize route combinations. Farley is still developing, but the toolbox is there.
Now we’ve reached the true apex of mock predictions for the Cowboys. Surtain and Farley are the most popular picks for the Cowboys in mock drafts, but in this case McShay has Surtain ranked above Farley. Either way, the Cowboys are likely hoping that one of these two guys are available as they represent a nexus of talent and need.
16. Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami (Fla.)*
HT: 6-7 | WT: 253
Grade: 90 | Previous rank: 16
Rousseau is tall, long and quick off the edge. He has power to overwhelm blockers and works back inside once he is even with the quarterback. He opted out of the 2020 season, but he had 15.5 sacks in 2019 for the Hurricanes — which ranked him No. 2 in the country behind Chase Young — and he totaled 19.5 tackles for loss (tied for seventh). As a run-defender, Rousseau can set the edge and make plays. He has future Pro Bowl talent.
17. Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami (Fla.)*
HT: 6-5 | WT: 266
Grade: 90 | Previous rank: 31
A transfer from UCLA, Phillips medically retired from football in 2018 after injury-plagued seasons with the Bruins. But he was able to return, deciding to join the Hurricanes. And wow, did he burst back onto the scene in 2020. In 10 games, Phillips had 8 sacks (tied for 13th in the nation), 15.5 tackles for loss (sixth), 45 tackles and an interception. I love his length and suddenness.
18. Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
HT: 6-3 | WT: 270
Grade: 90 | Previous rank: NR
Paye can slip blocks and make plays in the backfield. He is still developing as a pass-rusher — though he had 6.5 sacks in 2019 and 2.0 in four games this season — but the ceiling is high. I like his range, and he has a professional approach to the game. Paye is possibly a 3-4 OLB candidate in the NFL.
This represents the outside realm of possibility, edge rushers. In normal drafts, there would be plenty of top level talent at edge to choose from. This year’s draft is a little different; the position is somewhat underwhelming. The Cowboys would likely take any trade possibility they could instead of reaching here. especially with DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory on board.
This is still an early draft board. Once the upcoming workouts happen, rankings could change. We also are working on some strong assumptions, ones the Cowboys may not necessarily share. Still, it does show some things about what may happen in April.