It’s difficult to know from a distance whether ESPN mock drafters Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. are getting information from inside the Cowboys organization or not when it comes to their mocks. They seem to be fixated on one particular position for the Cowboys at pick number 26. Last month they both came out with mock drafts that had the Cowboys taking a tight end with their first pick.
Now, McShay is back with another mock, and once again it’s a tight end for Dallas.
26. Dallas Cowboys
Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
Dalton Schultz out, Mayer in. The latter is the most complete tight end in this draft class and could be a plug-and-play starter as Dak Prescott’s new security blanket. At 6-foot-5 and 249 pounds, Mayer is a legit blocker who would provide Tony Pollard with more running lanes. And while he’s not much of a vertical threat, his excellent ball skills would open up the offense at the intermediate level. Mayer posted back-to-back seasons with at least 800 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, and he’s a bulldozer after the catch.
As we usually do here, we’ll concede that Mayer is a quality player who may have a high upside in the NFL. So the stipulation is made that on talent alone, it’s not a crazy pick. But is it the right one?
As we’ve discussed before, tight ends rarely hit the ground running in the NFL, so his instant impact this year could be negligible. We’ve also noted that many of the best tight ends in the league come from later rounds with the third through fifth rounds being a particular sweet spot. Then, as previously discussed, the Cowboys have two promising assets in Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot who displayed plenty of potential in their rookie seasons.
All of that would argue for the Cowboys to go in a different direction, but do McShay and Kiper know something the general public doesn’t, do they have inside information? It’s possible, but the best window we have into the Cowboys intentions comes from their pre-draft visit list, specifically their 30 pre-draft national visitors. This list has always been a strong indicator of what they’ll do in the draft.
From that list, we can see the Cowboys talking to four wide receivers that could fit into the top 50 prospects in the draft. They also have a linebacker, a cornerback, and a guard in that grouping. But for tight ends? They have two on the list, and both are likely Day 3 prospects. This list isn’t the final word by any means, but it certainly doesn’t indicate the Cowboys are looking at tight ends early in the draft.
So is this just a case of McShay and Kiper using the easy formula of - they lost a starter (Dalton Schultz), so we’ll replace the starter?
Who could have the Cowboys picked instead of Mayer? They could have had Jordan Addison (WR USC), Deonte Banks (CB Maryland), Jalin Hyatt (WR Tennessee), or O’Cyrus Torrence (G Florida). Torrence sliding into a somewhat open position at guard would be an underrated move that might help the team the most this season.
And if you want to throw in a wild card, they could go Jahmyr Gibbs (RB Alabama). The idea of picking a running back in the first round is still controversial, but if they want a Tony Pollard clone who would possibly allow them to let Pollard go next year, Gibbs is the guy.
McShay gifts us with a second-round pick in this mock.
58. Dallas Cowboys
Trenton Simpson, ILB, Clemson
Despite re-signing Leighton Vander Esch, Dallas could look to add to the linebacker corps. Simpson is a good value pick for the Cowboys here, and he brings versatility, man coverage skills and range against the run.
This pick makes sense all around. The Cowboys are bringing in Simpson as one of their 30 visits, so it checks the box there. They are also thin at linebacker, and need to start looking to the future of the position. Simpson also represents good value at this pick in the draft.