Before we hit the scouting combine where things could dramatically change, we’ll check in on the latest ESPN mock draft. This edition comes from Mel Kiper.
Kiper decides to spice things up a little by adding trades to his mock in the first round, but the Dallas Cowboys do not move away from their 24th pick in the mock, standing pat and letting the draft come to them.
Making mock drafts before the free agency period has happened is always tough sledding. One move in free agency could totally change an organization’s focus in the draft. With the Cowboys having quite a few high-profile free agents from their 2021 roster, projecting their draft strategy right now is very difficult. Will they re-sign Randy Gregory, Dalton Schultz, or Jayron Kearse? Will Amari Cooper or DeMarcus Lawrence end up as cap casualties? So many questions right now.
That won’t stop us from mocking the draft. So let’s go. Who does Kiper have at #24?
24. Dallas Cowboys
George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
As I mentioned in January when going through my first mock draft for this class, the Cowboys’ big list of free agents makes this a tough pick to project before April. They could have needs at all three levels of the defense depending on how free agency shakes out.
For now, let’s get them a defensive end who would allow Micah Parsons to play more snaps at linebacker. Karlaftis didn’t have eye-popping stats in 2021, but he is a good run defender who could get more sacks in the NFL than he had in college. He had just 4.5 last season. He’s tough and physical, though he doesn’t have the physical tools of a few other edge rushers in this class. Karlaftis’ athletic testing numbers at the combine will be closely watched.
Hmm. Everything about the reasoning on this pick seems wrong. Obviously there is a debate about what position Micah Parsons should be playing, so that may color one’s opinion here.
I'm becoming more of Team DE for Micah Parsons next year, but if they keep Tank and Gregory that might not be feasible. I get the arguments of Team LB, but giving him a full amount of pass-rushing opportunities could create a 20-sack season. That's a rare thing in the NFL.— Dave Halprin (@dave_halprin) February 25, 2022
I’m not sure why the Cowboys would want to give Parsons fewer snaps at defensive end when currently he is their best defensive end at rushing the passer. If you are Team LB for Parsons, this pick might make sense. Of course, the Cowboys could also re-sign Randy Gregory. Yes, he’s much more expensive than a rookie, but Kiper’s further reasoning for selecting Karlaftis reeks of trying to come up with reasons rather than real excitement around the pick.
Kiper says: Karlaftis didn’t have eye-popping stats in 2021, but he is a good run defender who could get more sacks in the NFL than he had in college. Red-alert. If you are drafting a defensive end in the first round because of run support, you are wasting a real opportunity to improve your team. Defensive ends who are known for run support come later in the draft, not at #24.
Also, what’s with wishing that he might have more sacks in the pros than in college? Of course this can happen, but making it a basis of your draft strategy seems really flimsy.
We shouldn’t disparage Karlaftis here. Kiper could be totally off in his assessment of Karlaftis’ skills. His combine performance could also change the perception of his strengths and weaknesses to some extent. Our own DannyPhantom included him in his “defensive prospects to watch for the Cowboys” article earlier today.
But Kiper’s reasoning here, especially around him being a run-first defensive guy who might be able to pass rush in the pros feels super thin for a first-round pick.