The Dallas Cowboys are on the verge of starting another dynasty it seems, but could use a strong 2017 NFL Draft. A seven-round mock draft for Big D.
The Dallas Cowboys didn’t have their season end the way many had hoped after going 13-3 in the regular season. Despite Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott’s best efforts, their defense wasn’t enough in the NFC Divisional Round to withstand Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. However, the future is bright for the Cowboys and could be brighter following the 2017 NFL Draft.
Article continues below ...
Landing two offensive stars in the 2016 draft—Prescott and Elliott—was the culmination of their offensive drafting after compiling the best offensive line in football. What’s more, they could have a potential defensive stud coming along in Jaylon Smith as he continues to rehab from his knee injury in his final collegiate game. After a potentially all-time great draft class, where do the Cowboys now go?
Despite winning the NFC East, there are still holes on both sides of the ball that the Cowboys need to address, especially defensively. That’s where their primary focus should lie in the 2017 NFL Draft. However, a few complementary offensive pieces wouldn’t hurt in the slightest at particular spots.
December 2, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Sidney Jones (26) defends against Colorado Buffaloes wide receiver Kabion Ento (17) during the fourth quarter in the Pac-12 championship at Levi’s Stadium. The Huskies defeated the Buffaloes 41-10. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1: Sidney Jones, CB – Washington
Despite Anthony Brown’s emergence after being a sixth-round pick one year ago, the Dallas Cowboys enter the new NFL year with holes at the position. Both Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne are slated to hit free agency. Though Dallas has the ability to clear cap room to be able to re-sign one of the pair, they have other needs they also might like to pursue. Additionally, adding a first-round talent in the secondary wouldn’t be a bad idea regardless.
Thankfully for the Cowboys, Washington Huskies standout Sidney Jones falls right into their laps in this mock draft. No, he’s not a trade up to No. 1 to draft Myles Garrett, but Jones has the makings of an absolute star at the position. Most scouts will laud Jones’ ability as a cover corner and that’s warranted. He’s physical in press coverage, but has the speed and athleticism to make plays beyond the line of scrimmage. However, he also has the physical tools and instincts that make him likely able to succeed in zone schemes at the next level as well.
No matter how the Cowboys feel about Brown or approach free agency, adding Jones to the mix would be a tremendous asset for the defense moving forward. While an edge rusher would also be in play with their first-round pick, they can’t afford to pass on a player like Jones if he’s there. He’s one of the three best cornerbacks in this draft class (no matter the order) that’s deep at the position.
Nov 26, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive end Demarcus Walker (44) chases down Florida Gators quarterback Austin Appleby (12) during the second half of the game at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2: DeMarcus Walker, EDGE – Florida State
After passing on an edge rusher in the first round, the Cowboys are still able to address a major need late in the second round. Though his stock has fluctuated since the start of the 2016 college football season, Florida State Seminoles star DeMarcus Walker has the makings of a player who’s set to have a long productive career in the NFL. That’s especially true for a team like the Cowboys who need someone with his skill-set so desperately.
In terms of productivity, it’s hard to ignore what Walker was able to do for the Seminoles during his 2016 campaign. He finished the year with a monstrous 16 sacks. What’s more, he had 21.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles for FSU. He has the size and skill set to be able to succeed in both the 4-3 and 3-4 schemes coming off of the edge at 6-3, 281 pounds. Obviously that lends itself to him playing defensive end as a pass rushing monster in the Cowboys’ 4-3.
When you watched Dallas’ demise in the playoffs, the issue was clear for their defense in that they were unable to consistently get after Aaron Rodgers. That’s something they have to remedy moving forward and not something that anyone on their roster can really do anything about the issue. Subsequently, addressing that with a selection of Walker in the second round would be the wisest move.
Oct 29, 2016; Greenville, NC, USA; East Carolina Pirates wide receiver Zay Jones (7) makes a third quarter touchdown catch against the Connecticut Huskies at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. East Carolina defeated Connecticut 41-3. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Round 3: Zay Jones, WR – East Carolina
Terrance Williams is set to hit free agency this offseason and the Cowboys are going to face an interesting decision regarding their No. 2 receiver from the 2016 season. While Williams has long been a player to show flashes and make big plays, consistency has never been part of his game. Thus, whether or not they ultimately re-sign him seems relatively up in the air this offseason. However, if they can get a player the caliber of Zay Jones in the third round, the decision to let Williams walk would be much easier.
Jones is one of the most productive receivers in the history of college football, though he played at the relatively small East Carolina. The Pirates star wideout hauled in 158 catches for over 1,700 yards in his senior season. While the offense in Greenville, NC catered to him putting up that kind of production, it’s still hard to ignore that level of proficiency as a receiver when playing against FBS level competition.
What’s been more impressive, though, is to go back and watch the film of Jones throughout his career at ECU and while he performed at the Senior Bowl. He has tremendous hands, but also is a fantastic route runner that can simply get open and make plays on the ball no matter where he is on the field. Jones would be a nice complement to Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley and a fantastic young weapon for Prescott to grow alongside.
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: Jarron Jones, DL – Notre Dame
Though the Cowboys were sure to address their line one year ago in the draft when they selected Maliek Collins, they still leave much to be desired up front. It’s an area that they simply must add quality depth to and that they must put starting-caliber talent into. When selecting in the fourth round, they are again gifted exactly what they need when Jarron Jones falls to them and answers their prayers.
While some people say that Jones best translates as a 3-4 defensive end, he has the versatile size and traits of a player that should be able to compete as a tackle on a four-man front. His value is a bit diminished because of his lack of production while with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but the film tells a different story. The value of disruption can’t be ignored and Jones is absolutely phenomenal in regards to creating those types of plays up front.
Against the run, Jones is an absolute space eater at 6-5, 315 pounds, but he also has the athletic traits to be able to make tackles and plays in the trenches. What’s more, Jones would also add a great deal to the Cowboys pass rush as he has an underrated array of skills when it comes to generating a rush up the middle. Adding Jones and Walker to the line would address the defense’s biggest weakness heading into the future and would make Dallas a much more formidable defense as they look to build another dynasty.
Oct 29, 2016; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Louisville Cardinals tight end Cole Hikutini (18) runs with the ball as Virginia Cavaliers linebacker Micah Kiser (53) chases in the fourth quarter at Scott Stadium. The Cardinals won 32-25. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Round 6: Cole Hikutini, TE – Louisville
Jason Witten has undeniably been a stalwart for many years in the Cowboys offense. Even in the 2016 season when much of his athleticism has left him, he’s still somehow able to use his physicality and wherewithal to get open, make catches and even make plays after the catch. However, he’s not going to be able to play forever and Dallas needs to start eyeing a true contingency plan for the day that he’s no longer able to just get the job done.
Cole Hikutini out of Louisville won’t be a player that’s ready to take up the mantle from Witten on Day 1. What he does bring to the table immediately is his ability as a receiver. Hikutini has nice hands and accomplished route running ability, being one of the stalwarts in the Louisville offense along the way of Lamar Jackson’s Heisman Trophy winning 2016 campaign. Out of the gate, he could certainly come into the fold in certain packages and be a receiving threat at the position.
Why he’s not ready to take over the position of TE1 on the Cowboys depth chart just yet, though, is that Hikutini needs a fair amount of work when it comes to his blocking. For a team like Dallas that focuses so heavily on the run game, that’s obviously paramount as part of his development. However, he has the frame to hold his own in the trenches, but just needs to be taught further in terms of technique and how to use his frame and strength. Learning behind Witten for a year or two will be valuable and landing him in the sixth round could ultimately turn out to be great value.
Jan 28, 2017; Mobile, AL, USA; South squad running back Matt Dayes of North Carolina State (20) fumbles the ball against North squad inside linebacker Ben Gedeon of Michigan (42) and outside linebacker Vince Biegel of Wisconsin (47) during the first quarter at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Round 7 (Pick 10): Ben Gedeon, LB – Michigan
Obviously the potential addition of Jaylon Smith for the Cowboys changes the need at linebacker moving forward. However, even with Smith joining Sean Lee and likely being an immediate starter, this is still a team that needs depth at the position moving forward regardless. That’s even more so the case when you consider Smith coming off of his injury history and the injury history of Lee. That’s where a player like Ben Gedeon out of Michigan could be a steal in the seventh round.
We’ll start with the limitations of Gedeon off the bat, which is his ability in pass coverage. The Wolverines product isn’t a great athlete by any means and struggles when he’s asked to drop back and either defend tight ends or cover the middle of the field in zone. Subsequently, having him on the field during obvious passing downs would not be a great look for the Cowboys as he’s going to do more harm than good in those situations.
With that being said, having Gedeon playing on run downs would be a tremendous asset for an already formidable Dallas defense in that regard. Gedeon has great instincts and a high football IQ when coming up against the run, something he put on display at the Senior Bowl. Once he recognizes the play, he’s also a solid tackler that rarely whiffs or sees his contact get blown through. In the seventh round for a team that needs depth, the Cowboys couldn’t ask for a better pick than Gedeon.
Jan 1, 2016; Pasadena, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal safety Dallas Lloyd (29) defends against Iowa Hawkeyes tight end Henry Krieger Coble (80) during the third quarter in the 2016 Rose Bowl at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Round 7 (Pick 28): Dallas Lloyd, SS – Stanford
The Cowboys, once again, have decisions to make when it comes to free agency. One of the biggest challenges they face what they’re going to do at strong safety moving forward. While Byron Jones is becoming a star at the free safety slot, both Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox are set to hit the open market. While the predominant belief is that the Cowboys will look to re-sign an underrate performer in Church, they still will need depth moving forward.
In that regard, Dallas Lloyd out of Stanford might be a steal in the seventh round, but will at least be a serviceable backup. Lloyd shined in the Sun Bowl for the Cardinal as he came up with a monstrous pick-six that really changed the game while he was also able to make plays in the passing game and coming up against the run.
Lloyd isn’t the greatest athlete in the world and his coverage abilities are far from being elite. However, he’s a sure tackler in the open field and has a nose for the ball whenever it’s thrown in his direction. Again, there is limited upside when it comes to a player like Lloyd, but he has shown enough for teams to believe that he can have a role at least on special teams and potentially in spot work in the secondary. For a seventh-round pick, that’s what the Cowboys should be looking to add.