We aren’t too far away from the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. As such, seven-round final mocks are all the rage and today we have one from Matt Miller via ESPN. Miller brings up an interesting scenario for the first-round Cowboys pick that was popular a couple of months ago, before the shakeup of the roster involving Amari Cooper, La’el Collins and Randy Gregory.
Once upon a time, linebacker was a popular mock draft choice for the Cowboys in the first round. Georgia’s Nakobe Dean was usually the guy, but this represented the Cowboys thin depth at linebacker and the discussion around how much time Micah Parsons might spend at defensive end going forward.
Since that time in the early offseason, the Cowboys have opened up some holes on the roster with some of their moves, and they came out and suggested Parsons would remain a linebacker who occasionally plays pass rusher. They also brought back Leighton Vander Esch on a one-year deal providing a veteran presence along side Parsons.
With all that, the idea of a linebacker in the first round kind of flickered out. But, what if it happens? That’s exactly what Matt Miller is proposing.
24. Dallas Cowboys
Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
The Cowboys are a true wild card in this draft and could realistically select a wide receiver or offensive lineman here. In this mock draft, we have Jerry Jones & Co. addressing the biggest need on defense — linebacker.
Lloyd has been a proven playmaker at Utah and has the three-down ability the Cowboys desperately need in the middle of the field. And like last year’s top pick, Micah Parsons, he is also pretty good at rushing the quarterback.
The downside of this pick is that the Cowboys ignore their two biggest needs - left guard and wide receiver. We know they have holes at those positions and there is talent around to fill those holes. Kenyon Green was already gone by the Cowboys pick in this draft, but Zion Johnson was available. Similarly there was a run on wide receivers but Treylon Burks was still there.
The other objection is probably around the position itself. The Cowboys have already spent a couple of high resources on off-the-ball linebackers in recent drafts (Vander Esch, Parsons), something that goes against the grain of diminishing value of the position from the rest of the league.
On the other hand, the Cowboys had Lloyd in as one of their 30 pre-draft visitors. That is always a clue as to who they may draft. And even with Vander Esch back, the position is thin. Parsons is obviously the future, but Jabril Cox is an unknown. Lloyd could represent the other linebacker next to Parsons for the next few years.
It would probably upset the fanbase if this was the pick, but it’s not out of the question depending on just how highly the Cowboys rate Lloyd on their board.
In the second round, the Cowboys finally address one of their two big needs.
56. Dallas Cowboys
John Metchie III, WR, Alabama
Metchie’s production the past two seasons despite being in a crowded receiver room at Alabama — one that featured three future first-rounders in 2020 — proves his lasting power.
The Cowboys already have one receiver with recovery time from an ACL as an issue, would they make it two? This pick seems to rely heavily on the medicals. But it would certainly solve one of the two big needs for the Cowboys.
And in round three they solve the other.
88. Dallas Cowboys
Darian Kinnard, OG, Kentucky
A tackle at Kentucky, Kinnard projects as a guard at the next level. The Cowboys could use Kinnard — who is training in Frisco, Texas, during the pre-draft process — to play either inside or outside with quickness, length and toughness.
The Cowboys get their guard. They could back this up by signing a free agent veteran guard after the draft for some competition and depth.
Taking a linebacker in thefirst round would be a controversial decision, but if you subscribe to the theory that it is the biggest need on defense, it’s not totally crazy. An objective look at the roster would suggest that linebacker is the biggest need on defense, and that certainly seems to be the thinking of the Cowboys based on pre-draft visits, and the free agents they re-signed or brought in this offseason.
There has been a lot of talk about defensive end, but the Cowboys re-signed Dorance Armstrong and added Dante Fowler. They also did not bring in any first-round talent at the position for pre-draft visits. That tells a lot of what the Cowboys are thinking at the position. They also re-signed a couple of safeties, and they have plenty of bodies at cornerback and defensive tackle. So in some regards linebacker makes sense in the first round. But another off-the-ball linebacker in round one for the Cowboys? That might be a little excessive.