The Dallas Cowboys have pressing needs on defense and depth concerns on offense to address in the 2017 NFL Draft, which they do in this 7-round mock draft.
After winning the NFC East a season ago before going winless in the playoffs once again, the Dallas Cowboys will be looking to return to those regular season heights while improving in the postseason. On offense with their line and the likes of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant, it’s not hard to see them doing their part. With that said, their defense could use some work and that makes the 2017 NFL Draft monumentally important right away.
From their line to their secondary, the Cowboys have needs that have to be addressed. The rush off of the edge and on the line is something that needed addressing last season, but was simply left to let lie. However, the issues in the secondary are a product of free agency as they lost three of their fours starting players from the defensive backfield a year ago.
Lucky for Dallas, they should be able to get players at cornerback and on the edge that can start from Day 1. The question is merely how they go about finding the right guys and where they can get the best value early in the draft at two deep position groups. That’ll be the challenge in this draft.
Let’s then see what they do in this Dallas Cowboys seven-round mock draft six days out from the event.
Note: This mock was compiled using the Fanspeak On the Clock simulator.
Oct 15, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators running back Mark Thompson (24) carries the ball as Missouri Tigers defensive end Charles Harris (91) defends during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The Gators won 40-14. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1, Pick 28: Charles Harris, EDGE – Missouri
One of the traits of this draft that everyone talks about is the depth at edge rusher. That’s music to the ears of the Dallas Cowboys as bolstering their pass rush is of paramount importance this offseason. Their lacking in that department helped cost them the Divisional Round matchup against the Green Bay Packers and they have to do as much as possible on the edge and interior to help fix that moving forward.
Charles Harris is a player with the natural and teachable ability to be an instant-impact player on the edge for Dallas. While playing at Missouri, there are times on his tape where he looks uncomfortable — and that’s likely because he was. When evaluating a player on tape, never discount situation and Harris was in a spot where he was asked to play a role unnatural for him. But in terms of what he can do right away, it’s hard not to love what you see.
Also when watching the tape, you see one of the most devastating singular pass-rushing moves in this draft class when it comes to Harris’ spin move. He may rely on it a tad too often, but it’s lightning quick and absolutely lethal. It’s also a move that highlights his speed and quickness when coming off of the edge, two of his best assets. He needs to improve his burst and you’d like to see him incorporate more power into his arsenal. However, he can have an immediate impact and has the upside to become even more dominant as his career progresses.
If Chidobe Awuzie is on the board with the 60th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and the Dallas Cowboys failed to take him, their front office would have to officially be labeled as hopeless. The Colorado Buffaloes product was one of the anchors of one of the best college defenses in the country and has all of the traits of a No. 1 cornerback in the NFL, something that Dallas is so clearly lacking in the wake of losing Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr in free agency this offseason.
At 6-0, 202 pounds, Awuzie has nice size and length on the outside that make him a good matchup against essentially any type of receiver. What’s more, his bit of bulk on his body make him a plus defender as far as cornerbacks are concerned as it pertains to coming up and defending the run on the outside. However, that doesn’t even begin to mention his greatest trait, which is clearly his abilities in coverage.
Awuzie has uncanny speed and quickness on the outside and is a blanked in man-to-man coverage. He might in fact be my favorite corner in the draft when it comes to being a pure cover-corner. He would fit well into a Rod Marinelli defense and help alleviate the pressure on guys like Anthony Brown and Orlando Scandrick while hopefully keeping Nolan Carroll away from having to play any kind of meaningful football for the Cowboys in 2017.
Sep 10, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Eddie Jackson (4) prepares to hit Western Kentucky Hilltoppers tight end Stevie Donatell (87) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Round 3, Pick 28: Eddie Jackson, S – Alabama
Prior to the 2016 season, Eddie Jackson was considered one of the stars of the vaunted Alabama Crimson Tide defense. However, he suffered a torn ACL early in the season and was thus forced to miss the rest of the campaign. With that said, Jackson has enough of a body of work from his time in Tuscaloosa to have proven that he can fill multiple holes for the Cowboys right away and should be able to do so effectively.
One of the knocks I’ve seen on Jackson is the talent that he had around him at Alabama. Because of that, many people look at him and think that his turnover numbers when healthy were inflated and less a result of his natural ability in coverage as a strong safety with centerfield capabilities. However, if that’s the case, then why do other Crimson Tide players not get similar knocks against them. He’s an effective player who’s able to patrol the middle of the field and make plays. He’ll need to bulk up a bit to become a more physical tackler, but the skills and instincts are there.
The underrated part of the Cowboys adding Jackson to the fold would be what he can provide on special teams. Jackson proved to be a prolific return man throughout his time under Nick Saban and Dallas not-so-secretly could use an upgrade there. Frankly, watching Lucky Whitehead return kicks is causing more trips to the cardiologist than not. Jackson can help alleviate that while also helping ease the blow of losing Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox in free agency.
Nov 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Jarron Jones (94) tackles USC Trojans running back Ronald Jones II (25) in the second quarter at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC won 45-27. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Round 4, Pick 26: Jarron Jones, DL – Notre Dame
Getting into Round 4, the Cowboys enter tricky territory. Particularly in this simulation, they’re in a position where they don’t really have a pressing need that could be immediately filled by one of the best players available. What’s more, there aren’t a number of guys that you could really consider the best player available at this spot. Subsequently, the Cowboys instead look at a high-risk, high-reward type of player that could pay off big in a position of need.
Taking Jarron Jones in the fourth round would likely be a reach in relation to where he’d otherwise go. However, with no option to trade down, I would rather them reach on this type of player than take a gamble on a player with a lower ceiling that doesn’t directly help them right out of the gate. At his best when you watch his film, Jones has that type of potential.
The Notre Dame defensive tackle wasn’t an every-down player, largely due to his injury history throughout his career at South Bend. When he was on the field and healthy, though, he was a disruptive force that could make noise against both the run and the pass. He’s capable of that type of impact, even though he didn’t have much production in college. He’s a rare blend of size and athleticism that could be dominant in the right environment and role and Dallas could provide that for him potentially.
Dec 5, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Mack Hollins (13) carries the ball during the third quarter against the Clemson Tigers in the ACC football championship game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Round 6, Pick 27: Mack Hollins, WR – North Carolina
Despite re-signing both Terrance Williams and Brice Butler in free agency, the Cowboys depth at wide receiver leaves a great deal to be desired. They’re fine up top with Dez Bryant and with Cole Beasley with the slot. However, more than a few fans in Dallas are less than pleased with what Williams offers in the way of consistency. What’s more, Butler is a player that’s shown various flashes of talent throughout his career, but that hasn’t been able to put the whole package together.
Thus, adding depth at the position would be something that the Cowboys would be wise to do in this draft. With a relatively deep class at the position, though, they wait until Day 3 and pick the perfect type of player at that point in the draft. Mack Hollins out of North Carolina suffered from injuries in his senior season, but brings a lot of promising things to the table.
Hollins has the size and playmaking ability in the open field that teams love, standing at 6-4 at 221 pounds. He can make plays on the ball in traffic, but also showed off at the Combine that he has speed that’s solid for his size and doesn’t take him long to his stride either. He could be a vertical threat for the Cowboys and potentially could develop into a guy that usurps Williams opposite of Bryant on the outside eventually. That won’t be immediate, but he could still be a weapon in the 2017 season and a player that’s also able to use his size effectively on special teams right away.
Nov 12, 2016; Syracuse, NY, USA; (Editors note: Caption correction) North Carolina State Wolfpack running back Matthew Dayes (21) runs into the end zone for a touchdown against the Syracuse Orange during the third quarter at the Carrier Dome. North Carolina State defeated Syracuse 35-20. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Round 7, Pick 10: Matthew Dayes, RB – NC State
Much of the talk about the losses of the Cowboys this offseason in free agency has been focused on the defensive side of the ball. Thats’ certainly warranted considering the breadth of talent that departed for new homes. However, one of the underrated subtractions from the roster was Lance Dunbar in the backfield. Primarily a third-down pass-catcher, losing him as a complement to Ezekiel Elliott could hinder the offense.
The Cowboys look to counteract that by drafting Matthew Dayes out of North Carolina State. Though quite productive in college, Dayes doesn’t have the necessary size and strength to hold up in the NFL as an every-down back. However, he has great athletic traits and nice hands. He could step into a Dunbar-like role and have an impact right away for the Boys.
Round 7, Pick 28: Darrell Daniels, TE – Washington
There are many people throughout the draft process who have called for Dallas to look for Jason Witten’s eventual replacement. Though Witten developed a rapport with Dak Prescott as the year progressed, his physical dominance is dwindling and the questions of many effective years he has left remain. Instead of going early, though, they wait and get an intriguing option in Darrell Daniels.
Daniels most certainly isn’t going to be in the mix on rushing downs as his blocking leaves plenty to be desired. However, the 6-3, 247-pounder is a terrific athlete and a great receiving tight end. He could complement Witten if he progresses a bit as a route-runner immediately and potentially progress into more of a complete player down the line.