The Dallas Cowboys have crucial decisions to make in 20 days in the 2017 NFL Draft. A 7-round mock draft for the Boys to see what they can do.
Being less than a month away from the 2017 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys are in need of not only revamping their defense, but they still need to work on depth issues at other areas of their roster. Their starting offense is all but set, however there are spots on the offensive side of the ball need a little fine-tuning and depth as well.
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For instance, what if Jason Witten finally succumbs to Father Time and begins to break down in the 2017 season. Should the Cowboys really feel settled with the tight end depth chart of Geoff Swaim, James Hanna, Rico Gathers and Connor Hamlett?
If the Cowboys believe they can get close to the play of Witten, they don’t know for sure. Swaim isn’t even close to the player of Witten. Meanwhile, there is a lot of unknown with Gathers as he continues his transition from college basketball player to NFL tight end. Simply, there needs to be a Plan B at tight end, and even a closer look at the wide receiver depth on the Cowboys as well.
Remember, the Cowboys don’t have a fifth-round pick, but two seventh-rounders in what is a very important draft for a Cowboys team that just went 13-3 overall. If recent history tells us anything, the draft pick to worry about isn’t the first-round selection, but keep a close eye on what direction the Cowboys go in the second round. There hasn’t been much production on the field lately from the round, though the potential is still there with players still on the roster.
Jan 1, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Derek Barnett (9) rushes past Northwestern Wildcats offensive lineman Eric Olson (76) during the first half in the 2016 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1, Pick 28: Derek Barnett, DE – Tennessee
As important as drafting a safety is for the Cowboys in this draft, just as important is finding a pass rusher who can come in and make an impact right now. Derek Barnett is the type of player who should be able to do that with relative ease. Barnett weighs 259 pounds and posted 4.88-second 40-yard dash at the Combine. The Tennessee product is the type of defensive end who could fill in from Day 1 and become a starter in Dallas.
The pass rush of the Cowboys wasn’t near what it needed to be last season, and due to that, their run in the playoffs was short-lived without a win. In fact, their past two playoff games have come against Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. And both times, the lack of a pass rush was a crucial factor in the Cowboys losing.
Barnett has some of the most impressive production of any pass-rusher in this class, considering the competition he played against (42 tackles for loss and 29 sacks vs. the SEC in three seasons).
Like in a previous Cowboys mock draft, the first-round pick needs to go to improving the pass rush, and Barnett might be just the right guy to join the Cowboys defense that has some parts already in place and make them improved from last season.
Nov 19, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert (10) scores a touchdown as he is tackled by Utah Utes defensive back Marcus Williams (20) during the second half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Oregon won 30-28. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
The Cowboys need a playmaking defensive back, and safety Marcus Williams has been described as that to a tee by NFLDraftScout.com draft expert Rob Rang. In the CBS Draft Profile, Rang wrote of the Utah safety:
The NFL loves playmakers and few have proven better on the defensive side of the ball in this area than Williams, who created 18 turnovers over the past three seasons.
Last season at Utah, Williams totaled 64 tackles (46 solo), with one of those tackles going for a loss, along with five interceptions and two forced fumbles. For his collegiate career (2014-16), Williams played in 34 games with stats of 188 tackles (four for a loss), 11 interceptions and four forced fumbles.
Of his 11 interceptions, Williams had five in each of the past two seasons, along with eight total passes defensed in his three-year collegiate career, including five in 2015.
Williams would be a nice addition to the Cowboys defense and could step in to play the spot once held by Barry Church, who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason in free agency. The Cowboys depth chart for safeties right now includes Byron Jones, Jameill Showers, Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier. This is an excellent spot for the Cowboys to draft a safety to play alongside Jones in a starting role.
The abilities and talent of Alex Anzalone aren’t in question for teams looking to add another linebacker to their roster. What seems to be the biggest question about the 6-3, 241-pound outside linebacker from Florida is the simple question: Can he stay healthy?
In four seasons at Florida, Anzalone totaled 75 tackles (five for loss), three sacks, two passes defended and one fumble recovery. He never played in more than eight games in a season, however. This is a spot where the Cowboys have found talent and used it in their defensive rotation before, including last season when they selected defensive tackle Maliek Collins 67th overall on the third round. That pick paid off with 17 tackles, five sacks and one forced fumble.
Looking at Anzalone and his Combine numbers, it shows he’s a quality athlete with a 40-yard dash time of 4.63 seconds, 16 reps on the bench press and a vertical jump of 30.5 inches. Those numbers alone won’t make him a quality NFL player, but he does seem to have the support of many in that he can become a future starter in the league.
Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated has Anzalone being mock drafted by the New York Jets (107th) in the third round, so if this is a round the Cowboys want to go with an outside linebacker, and with one that impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl, they had better do it with the 92nd overall selection.
Oct 15, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Tulsa Golden Hurricane quarterback Dane Evans (9) fumbles the ball while being pressured by Houston Cougars safety Garrett Davis (1) in the second half at TDECU Stadium. Houston Cougars cornerback Howard Wilson (6) picked up the fumble and returned the fumble for a touchdown. Houston Cougars won 38 to 31. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Round 4, Pick 133: Howard Wilson, CB — Houston
A fourth-round projection, Howard Wilson finished his three-year career with the Houston Cougars by collecting 107 tackles (3.5 for a loss), nine interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 15 passes defensed and two fumble recoveries. With numbers like that, even if he did play in the American Athletic Conference (AAC), Wilson has shown he deserves a chance to play in the NFL,. And the Cowboys should take a close look at him before the start of the NFL Draft.
The cornerback depth of the Cowboys is almost non-existent, though they did sign Nolan Carroll through free agency and already had Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown on the roster. This team for sure will select a cornerback or two in this upcoming draft. In the fourth round, if still on the board, a player with the abilities of Wilson deserves an opportunity to make his name on a roster.
Wilson’s combine numbers included a 4.57-second 40-yard dash, a 33.5-inch vertical jump and a shuttle time of 3.94 seconds. Though NFL Combine numbers aren’t the final story of any NFL player, it does provide a nice measurement of the speed and athleticism of Wilson. With his Combine numbers and stats at the collegiate level, using a fourth-round pick on Wilson wouldn’t be a bad move by the Cowboys on Day 3 of the draft.
Nov 19, 2016; Syracuse, NY, USA; Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Travis Rudolph (15) carries the ball as Syracuse Orange defensive back Christopher Fredrick (28) defends during the first quarter of a game at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Round 6, Pick 211: Travis Rudolph, WR — Florida State
Though the Cowboys draft should be focused on defense, mixing in some offense in the late rounds will help the franchise as well. Here in the sixth round, a selection of a wide receiver in Travis Rudolph could work out well for the Cowboys.
Even with the likes of Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley and even Terrence Williams to a certain extent, the Cowboys do need to make sure they are complete with their depth at wide receiver. Not every Cowboys wide receiver has a job set in stone, and they really do need competition from within to improve at all stages of wide receiver.
At Florida State, Rudolph finished his three seasons with 36 games played, totaling 153 receptions for 2,311 yards and 18 touchdowns, averaging 15.1 yards per reception. In 2015, Rudolph caught for 916 yards on 59 receptions, and this past season, he caught 56 passes for 840 yards.
All 22’s Hector Longo reported that the New England Patriots worked out Rudolph this offseason. So if even the defending Super Bowl champions are working him out, it would be in the best interest for the Cowboys to take a peek at the Florida State wide receiver as well. He has his kinks to work out an certainly his limitations, but he could wind up being great value in Round 6.
December 2, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Washington Huskies tight end Darrell Daniels (15) scores a touchdown past Colorado Buffaloes linebacker Kenneth Olugbode (31) during the second quarter in the Pac-12 championship at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Round 7, Pick 228 (from Bills): Darrell Daniels, TE — Washington
Having a 40-yard dash time of 4.55 seconds at the NFL Combine, Washington Huskies tight end Darrell Daniels didn’t haul in a lot of receptions during his final collegiate season (17 receptions for 307 yards), but he did make three touchdown catches. For his career, Daniels totaled 47 receptions for 728 yards and five touchdowns.
The Cowboys have a lot of uncertainty at tight end with the players behind Jason Witten, so adding a tight end with some speed and one who seems to have athleticism can’t be too bad for them to add into their mix of players competing for a roster spot this offseason.
Round 7, Pick 246: Brendan Langley, CB — Lamar
In his NFL.com Draft Profile, Lamar cornerback Brendan Langley is compared to Anthony Brown, whom the Cowboys already have on their roster as a sixth-round pick last year.
What stands out for drafting Langley is his pure speed, with a 40-yard dash time of 4.43 seconds at the Combine ,and his strength with 22 bench press reps at 225 pounds. Langley could be a project to a degree, but the Cowboys do need bodies at cornerback to compete for playing time and depth purposes. So with their final draft pick of the 2017 Draft, Langley could fit nicely at this spot.