Draft season is officially upon us. With the Senior Bowl week wrapped up this weekend and the NFL Scouting Combine coming at the end of the month, teams are in full swing when it comes to college talent evaluation. There are a lot of interesting prospects in some important positions to take a look at this year and for the Dallas Cowboys. We know this team loves to use the draft as a way to make improvements to their roster.
When it comes to ranking prospects there is little doubt things will change as players will go up and some will slide down the board many times over the next couple months. While these mock drafts may look different depending on the source, and the evolving information leading up to draft night, what stays the same is the needs and areas of concern of the Cowboys. It’s clear that the Cowboys will be on the hunt for another play-making wide receiver to pair with CeeDee Lamb, as well as another cornerback to put with Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland.
Those are the pressing needs in many peoples eyes, but we cannot forget the need for offensive line depth as well as adding another piece to the linebacker room. The Cowboys could be well served to look at injecting more size in the middle of the defensive line as well.
For these mock draft exercises we will be using the Pro Football Focus Mock Draft Simulator and in the first installment our focus is to hit on the needs of this roster while being cognizant of how the board falls to us without reaching for needs.
1.26 - CB, Joey Porter Jr., Penn State University
6’2” 192 | 115 tackles, 17 pass defensed, 1 interception in career
Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. projects as an impact defender in the NFL. This is a player with surreal length and physicality on the outside and I thought he took some massive strides in 2022 by becoming a more consistent coverage defender. His leap in play and functional athleticism catapult him into the upper echelon of prospects for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Porter Jr. might be the longest cornerback you’ve ever seen. He’s got incredible reach and influence inside the contact window and at the line of scrimmage. I really appreciated the growth he showed in 2022 with his patience in that area as well; he trusted his footwork and his length to disrupt releases and force receivers to work into their stem with lateral displacement. The pop in his hands in press is significant and further helped to bubble landmarks. Porter Jr. offers effective tackling and a massive tackling radius at the catch point as well, showing plenty of juice as a striker in run support or when he’s recognizing quick game to the flats and able to shoot past blocks from skill players.
A pick in the first round like Joey Porter Jr., is an instant upgrade to your secondary and someone you can pair with Trevon Diggs for years to come. Not only does it address a need for the Cowboys, it fell perfectly here as there was no reach involved when it came to making the selection either. As the board fell in this draft, the highest rated players on the board when the Cowboys were on the clock were Porter Jr. and Nolan Smith, the defensive end from Georgia. While Smith would have been a solid pick and definitely worth consideration in his own right, we opted with filling a need with a player that is high on their board.
2.58 - WR Jalin Hyatt, University of Tennessee
6’0” 180 | 1,769 yards, 19 touchdowns, 108 receptions in his career
Hyatt is a nimble and explosive athlete with easy acceleration. He has the speed necessary to win most foot races and get behind defenders. Hyatt blends his speed with good route timing that enables him to create leverage and run away from coverage. I like his ability to adjust routes on the fly and provide an available target to his quarterback. Hyatt has showcased soft and reliable hands with good tracking ability to maximize his opportunities to win down the field. When he is operating after the catch, Hyatt is twitchy, elusive, and explosive, which makes him a dangerous threat. Hyatt’s ability to win deep sets up the ability to snap off routes and work back down the stem.
Another round in and another need that falls to the Cowboys organically. The Cowboys have a real need for more explosive athletes on the offensive side of the ball and Hyatt fits the bill here. One of the biggest issues the Cowboys faced this past season was the lack of a reliable second wide receiver option for Dak Prescott and adding Hyatt to the fold could solve that problem day one.
While running back is a sneaky need, we chose to bypass Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs for the chance to upgrade the wide receiver room. The value down the line may still present a chance for them to upgrade the backfield while addressing a bigger issue now with a player they like. Wide receiver Parker Washington from Penn State was also still on the board as well but we know the Cowboys like traits and size and with Hyatt being two inches taller and overall bigger, we opted to select the receiver on the board that most closely aligns with what they look for at the position.
3.90 - DT Keondre Coburn, University of Texas
6’2” 344 | 93 tackles, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles in his career
Pros: Keondre Coburn shows to be an effective defensive lineman for multiple reasons. He shows to have a good first step, which allows him to quickly get into offensive linemen. This allows Coburn to establish the line of scrimmage and places him in good position to battle with offensive linemen. Coburn can also use his first step to get into gaps. Coburn gets into gaps and looks to create disruption in the backfield. Overall, Coburn is a scrappy player that can make occasional big-time plays by just his initial quickness and high motor.
The Cowboys saw their defense struggle to stop the run without Jonathan Hankins and his big presence in the middle of the defense at times last year. With Coburn coming in at 344 pounds, that size problem is no longer an issue. Make no mistake about it, getting tougher on the interior of this defense is important for this Cowboys defense and will be something they look to address all offseason. Doing so makes is even easier with this selection as Coburn was by far the best player left on the board with next best available prospect being defensive end Byron Young from Tennessee as the next closest option.
Many believe the Cowboys may look at either linebacker or running back here with their final top 100 pick but we are all at the mercy of how the board falls. You make the best selection you can and feel good about it.
4.129 - RB Tyjae Spears, Tulane University
5’10 195 | 2,910 yards, 34 touchdowns, zero fumbles in his career
Spears is an explosive runner with easy acceleration and the breakaway speed needed to gain significant chunks of yardage. Tulane features a blended run scheme that utilizes a balanced approach to zone and gap runs and Spears is comfortable functioning in either concept. While he isn’t a big bruising back, I am impressed with how competitive Spears is through contact and how he battles to maximize every touch. He does well to set up tacklers and string together moves to make it difficult for opponents to square up on him. Spears has exciting twitch, flexibility, and elusiveness that enable him to be shifty and dynamic with the football in his hands. He is a decisive runner that hits the hole with conviction both between the tackles and when working off-tackle. Spears has good vision, ball security, and contact balance.
Nobody has seen their stock rise higher than Spears has after coming out of Senior Bowl week. Even many have their doubts that when it is all said and done that Spears will be available with this pick for the Cowboys, but in the meantime, while he is here, the Cowboys run the card up happily with this selection.
Spears boasts the production and big-play ability out of the backfield they will be looking to replace if they were to lose Tony Pollard. He has good hands and can be a pass-catching option out of the backfield as the Cowboys look to rebuild they’re running back room with. To get an offensive weapon in the fourth round like Spears is a home run pick in this spot and the Cowboys would feel good to do so.
5.163 - OT Luke Haggard, Indiana University
6’7” 305 | 25 career starts all at left tackle
Light-footed athlete out of his stance with the mobility to match to the apex.
Has good recovery athleticism and can reset base laterally to maintain positioning.
Has enough length to fully extend and prevent rushers from getting inside his torso.
Able to turn and direct rushers outside the apex with modest hip flexibility.
Flashes above-average knock-back power when he’s able to fully drive and extend.
Displays good balance and footwork when tracking rushers upfield.
Has good timing and synergy with his hands and can extend while resetting base.
Able to chip interior defenders, then rotate outside and gather edge rushers.
Can recognize stunts quickly and can replace hands after initial contact.
Assignment-sound run blocker with football IQ and nasty finishes in space.
At this point in the draft you start looking for traits and prospects you can build upon. Luke Haggard has all of that as he is a hulking man who is a raw prospect you can look forward to working with. The depth of this current offensive line specifically at the tackle position may see a big change here soon with the futures of Tyron Smith and Jason Peters up in the air.
Adding more young talent at the position is always a good idea and with Tyler Smith as the future at left tackle, and some other young options in the room such as Matt Waletzko, it can’t hurt to keep trying to hit on this position to find more quality players.
5.170 - S Trey Dean III, University of Florida
6’3” 207 | 255 total tackles, 13.5 TFL, four interceptions in his career
Pros: Trey Dean III is a former corner that moved to the safety position. Dean is a big-bodied defensive back that has great height and length. Dean appears to be a good athlete from the way he can play sideline to sideline. Against the run, Dean does a good job of flowing downhill to the line of scrimmage to meet the ball carrier. Dean is a contact seeker that likes to deliver the big blow. In pass coverage, Dean’s experience shows in his ability to play the ball in the air. On deep throws, Dean has the speed to run with receivers down the field and locate the football.
Safety is one of the stronger and more complete positions on the Cowboys roster with four legitimate guys that get playing time and make an impact. However, with Donovan Wilson being a free agent there may be some tough decisions and roster churning going on at the position and a guy like Trey Dean III may be able to come in and provide some cheaper, younger, depth in the back end.
With a tough mentality and willingness to come down and make a big hit, Dean looks to be much in the mold of what Wilson is, and if they feel strongly enough about the prospect, they may think he can come in and develop into the role Wilson once occupied freeing up money while doing so.
5.176 - TE Josh Whyle, University of Cincinnati
6’6” 250 | 88 receptions, 1,062 yards, 15 touchdowns in his career
Whyle is a good athlete that shines in the passing game where his hands, body control, and ball skills are top traits. He is a good route-runner that can win at every level of the field. His ability to snap through route breaks and produce after the catch are surprising qualities given his body composition. Whyle’s blend of size and ball skills make him a legitimate seam threat. Whyle is sure-handed and has made his share of highlight-reel grabs outside of his frame in addition to handling the routine receptions.
Having studied Whyle across three seasons, I find myself impressed with how he’s been able to develop as a blocker. It’s clear that he’s added both mass and functional strength, which has made him much more effective, in addition to his improved hand technique and leverage when blocking. He is a willing and aggressive blocker that has shown notable growth. Whyle is experienced as a blocker and receiver both inline and from the slot.
The Cowboys have some questions to answer when it comes to Dalton Schultz this offseason. For many the answer is easy as they believe the Cowboys should move on and let Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot take over the position, while saving money by not giving Schultz what he will command on the open market.
It may not be a bad idea as the young talent on the roster is certainly evident and adding a Josh Whyle to the mix surely would add to it. What Whyle does well is what the Cowboys covet in a tight end. Dallas will continue to look to improve their blocking on the edge and being able to do so while adding a receiving threat at the same time is a no-brainer with this late round selection.
6.204 - EDGE Brenton Cox Jr., University of Florida
6’4” 253 | 138 total tackles, 34.5 TFL, 14.5 sacks in his career
On the field, Cox showcases the ideal combination of size, speed, and athleticism that NFL teams covet in an edge rusher. Cox is a productive run defender that has the natural play strength to set the edge. Cox has strong hands in that he can engage with offensive linemen and control them with his hands and shed them when he needs to make a play on a ball carrier that’s near. Cox also has the athleticism to chase plays down on the backside when he is left as the unblocked defender on the backside of plays.
As a pass rusher, Cox has pass-rush reps that align with him being labeled an effective pass rusher. But those reps are inconsistent. Rushing the passer, Cox lacks consistency and is hard to rely upon as a consistent edge rusher in that his collegiate career has seen him get near the quarterback but he has lacked the actual sack production. It appears that Cox triggers late from transitioning to playing the run to rushing the quarterback and lacks an effective rush plan.
As you get into the later rounds the prospects get tougher to evaluate and hard decisions need to be made by the staff. On traits alone, Cox Jr., is a home run pick. A man that possess ideal defensive end size and athleticism that every team in the league would love to get the most out of potential wise.
The problem here is there has been off the field concerns and consistency issues with his play. Cox transferred from Georgia to play for their biggest rival, and actually did not complete this 2022 season before stepping away from the Gators to focus on the draft mid-season. Cox Jr. is a player you will need to do your homework on before bringing into the fold, but this seems like a textbook selection in the late rounds and something that the Dallas Cowboys try to do at least once per draft.
6.212 - G Caleb Chandler, University of Louisville
6’4” 300 | 1st team All-ACC in 2021, AP preseason All-ACC team 2022
Pros: Caleb Chandler is an active offensive lineman that is asked to make blocks on every level of the defense. In the run game, Chandler has the athleticism to work to the second level and beyond to make effective blocks. Once on the second level, he has the athletic ability to gather himself to make contact with defenders in space. In pass protection, Chandler shows off his short-area quickness. He has the ability to react to twists and stunts by the defense to pick up new defenders that show. Chandler also does a good job of moving his feet while engaged with defenders to try and sustain the blocks as long as possible. Overall, due to his athleticism and high IQ, Chandler is an interior offensive lineman with great upside as a player.
Late in the draft here you are trusting your board, looking at what you may have already taken care of and seeing if there is any way to plug in holes with guys you think you can work with and build depth around. Chandler fits the mold perfectly. The Cowboys have some roster questions to ask at the interior offensive line spots and some may think this should garner earlier attention, however the board didn't fall that way and instead the Cowboys take a guard out of Louisville with an impressive history.
Chandler may not be asked to do much in his rookie season, but being able to develop and getting in the building and working with these veterans and coaches could garner a late-round steal for the Dallas Cowboys.
7.246 - QB Max Duggan, Texas-Christian University
6’2” 214 | 9,618 passing yards, 60.3 completion %, 73 passing TDs, 28 interceptions in career
During the 2022 season, Duggan operated well in an RPO offense where the reads are quick in progression, but there are also opportunities for Duggan to push the ball vertically down the field, giving his receiver a chance to make a play. Working the short game, Duggan excels at throwing quick screens to receivers with the ability to get the ball out of his hands without completely setting his feet and throwing from multiple arm angles in the RPO game. Duggan also has shown to master the process of the ball fake while reading the defender to make a decision on whether or not to pull the ball or throw it. In an offense where there are designed vertical shots, Duggan is a quarterback who is more than willing to give his receiver a chance to make a play on the ball down the field.
As a runner, Duggan is a quarterback that has to be accounted for in the running game. During the 2022 season, Duggan has multiple games where he rips off big runs, proving that he is a threat from the QB position running the football. Duggan shows to be a plus-level athlete at the quarterback position that can make a single defender miss in the open field, and is fast enough to pull away from some defenders in the open field.
We have all heard by now that owner Jerry Jones is a fan of Max Duggan and when something like that is made public you listen to ol’ Mr. Jones. Duggan was a Heisman finalist and took his team to the national championship game in 2022. Duggan is a winner and a team can use as many of those as you can get.
This late in the draft there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a quarterback and seeing if you can’t develop him in your system. The Cowboys alluded to the fact that they were looking to do so this year any way and the fact the owner likes him makes it an added bonus here in Dallas. The hopes are that the Cowboys don't have any need for Duggan in the near future but to bring in a young, cheap, accomplished arm to compete in practice and see if they can develop is something the Cowboys are definitely looking to do this draft season.