Mock drafts: Cowboys looking for pass rusher
As expected, with the NFL Draft quickly approaching, players’ stock has changed for various reasons and teams have filled some needs via free agency. Judging by the latest gathering of mock drafts, predictions for the Cowboys are all over the map.
Signing free agents like cornerback Brandon Carr and offensive guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings have made it much more difficult to project what the Cowboys will do with the 14th overall selection. Before those additions, corners and guards were the popular choice. While some experts remain confident that those two positions will still be addressed, others have shifted their focus to pass rushing threats.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said last month that his franchise would be looking to enhance their pass rush even if they were able to retain outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, which they did by applying the franchise tag.
“For defense, I’m into pressure,” Jones said at the time.
Jones even added that the Cowboys would seriously consider choosing a “significant” outside linebacker or defensive end over a cornerback if one was available in the early rounds.
“We don’t need to be cavalier on passing on a significant pass rusher,” Jones said.
Here are what the experts think Jones will really do when the Cowboys are on the clock next month.
SI.com’s Don Banks
Pick: Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina.
Comment: “Even with the Brandon Carr signing in free agency, the Cowboys could opt for another cornerback like Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick, South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore or North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins. But as a potential top-10 pick in the eyes of many draft analysts, Coples (6-6, 285) is simply too high to pass on. His inconsistency aside, Coples has pass rush skills, and you can’t find those in the middle of the first round.”
ProFootballTalk.com’s Evan Silva
Pick: Courtney Upshaw, DE, Alabama.
Comment: “He’s an upgrade on Anthony Spencer, whom Dallas reluctantly franchised.”
SportingNews.com’s Russ Lande
Pick: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU.
Comment: “Dallas could use more playmakers along the defensive line. Brockers has the long arms, strength and size to be an excellent starting five-technique end in their 3-4.”
NationalFootballPost.com’s Wes Bunting
Pick: Dre Kirkpatrick, DB, Alabama.
Comment: “Some of the buzz coming out of the NFL Combine is that a number of NFL teams are now looking at Alabama DB Dre Kirkpatrick as the top safety prospect in the draft. Either way the Cowboys have needs still at both corner and safety and Kirkpatrick is the kind of versatile athlete that could play a big role at either spot.”
NFL Network’s Charles Davis
Pick: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama.
Comment: “The Cowboys need cover guys in a big way. Jenkins must ace the interviews with Dallas brass.”
NFL Network’s Chad Reuter
Pick: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State.
Comment: “Cox’s athleticism at the combine impressed 3-4 teams looking for potential stars at the five-technique defensive end spot. The Cowboys addressed needs at guard and cornerback in free agency, so adding to the line would be a smart move.”
Pick: David DeCastro, G, Stanford.
Comment: “The Cowboys had major issues on the interior of their offensive line last year. They signed two guards this offseason, Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, but the latter is just a backup. David DeCastro will still be a strong option if he’s available at No. 14. DeCastro is one of the top interior linemen prospects to come along in years, and he’s the highest-ranked prospect on the board. This is a perfect match. OTHER POSSIBILITIES: 1. Fletcher Cox, DE/DT – The Cowboys could stand to upgrade their defensive front. Fletcher Cox is the top 3-4 end available. 2. Mark Barron, SS – Signing Brodney Pool has not fixed Dallas’ problem at strong safety.”
ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper
Pick: Mark Barron, S, Alabama.
Comment: “I think Mark Barron is such a good football player. He will shore up a back end [of a defense]. He will give leadership to a back end, veteran experience coming from [Alabama coach] Nick Saban that I think makes him a better pick than Kirkpatrick. I think he’s a more consistent player. I think he’s a better player than Dre Kirkpatrick. So I would go Mark Barron. We’ll see what direction they go but I do think it will be a defensive pick for the Cowboys at 14.”
NFL Network’s Charley Casserly
Comment: “Excellent bookend to free-agent acquisition Brandon Carr.”
NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks
Comment: “Jerry Jones would be ecstatic if the board shook out this way with one of the top defensive ends falling out of the top 10. Coples is an ideal five-technique with the size and athleticism to wreak havoc on the interior. Although questions about his motor need to be addressed, Coples could be a star in Rob Ryan’s 3-4.”
CBSSports.com’s Rob Rang
Comment: “With tens of millions of dollars dedicated to cornerback (Brandon Carr) and the offensive line (Mackenzy Bernadeau, Nate Livings) the Cowboys have attempted to address two of their biggest areas of concern through veteran free agency. Dallas is currently set at outside linebacker with superstar DeMarcus Ware on one side and Anthony Spencer getting the franchise tag on the other. If no long-term deal with Spencer is made, however, the Cowboys might be wise to fortify their pass-rush depth with Upshaw.”
NFLDraftScout.com’s Dane Brugler
Comment: “The Cowboys paid a lot of money to secure the services of cornerback Brandon Carr and will more than likely look to address weaknesses in trenches in the first round of the draft. While DeCastro might be tops on their draft board, he is off the board in this scenario, forcing Dallas to look to the defensive line. Brockers doesn’t boast an impressive resume with only average production as a one-year starter in college, but he does possesses immense upside with his rare combination of size, strength and athleticism.”
FOXSports.com’s Peter Schrager
Comment: “The Brandon Carr signing makes for a tremendous upgrade at cornerback for Dallas, but there are some who’ll be clamoring for the Alabama safety, Mark Barron, if he’s still on the board, here. Dallas’ defensive backfield was the team’s Achilles’ heel last year, but they could use a cerebral mauler like DeCastro on the offensive line. Guards got big money in free agency this year. Taking one with the 14th pick in the draft isn’t considered too high anymore.”
MockingTheDraft.com’s Dan Kadar
Comment: “After signing cornerback Brandon Carr, the Cowboys no longer need to add a No. 1 cornerback through the draft. Instead, the team can start to get younger along its defensive line with Brockers, arguably the best 3-4 end in the draft. There will be plenty of corners for the Cowboys to target in later rounds.”
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