By Zach Walker
The Cowboys have done right by their guys during the offseason, resigning the meat and potatoes of the Cowboys roster. Players like James Hanna, Kyle Wilber, Rolando McClain, Jeff Heath, Lance Dunbar, and Jack Crawford. The guys that might have been the players that played on the 4-12 team of 2015, but those are the same guys that played roles in getting the 2014 Cowboys to twelve wins and a playoff win. A lot of spots have been filled, and that’s one the best positions for a team to be in prior to the draft. It grants a team flexibility and opens more options at every pick, where a team isn’t pressing to fill a need. That’s one of the best parts about where the Cowboys are sitting. The roster for the most part, is still that 2014 team, minus DeMarco Murray. Beyond that the roster just needs a few additions, or sparks, to position groups. Beyond the draft, the Cowboys will be returning two of the team’s top four leaders back to the field, Tony Romo and Orlando Scandrick, and that alone makes a giant difference. I’ll highlight players at each position in the draft that I believe could really add to the Cowboys, to get team back to the playoffs.
Quarterback: Romo is around forever, could this be a class of QB’s that makes the Cowboys take a developmental guy?
High-end: They’ve got seemingly, every option. Goff, Lynch, Wentz, any of the top signal callers. The Cowboys are in supreme position to either take any one of them, or trade with a team that NEEDS a quarterback. If quarterback is a real FIRST round priority, they’re in position to pull the trigger.
Mid-rounder: If the Cowboys aren’t worried about Romo missing any games between now and the day he hangs them up, and developing a guy for a few seasons, a guy to target, THE guy to target, is Cardale Jones, and I believe he’ll be there in the third round, maybe the fourth. Jones has all of the physical skills to become a truly epic spinner of the pigskin, but could use some time behind an established quarterback like Tony Romo. Jones has Cam Newton-sized upside, in a very team friendly not really risky, high reward return.
Back-end: If the Cowboys are interested in tabbing a quarterback with any of the sixth round picks, that certainly is an option. A player like Vernon Adams from Oregon, who does a ton of the quarterbacking really well but has a downside is that he’s undersized, as in sub-six foot. Adams does his best work on the move, rolling outside of the pocket, increasing his sight lines downfield. Could he be another Jameill Showers? Perhaps. Could he develop into a starter? Pretty unlikely. But could he win a game in the NFL? I’d bet on him with a game.
Running Back: With Alfred Morris joining Darren McFadden, the Cowboys have a premium duo that could both have 1000 yard rushing seasons, and that isn’t a stretch of possibility.
High-end: With the signing of Morris, I’m going to say, with 98 percent certainty, that the fourth pick in the draft won’t be Ezekiel Elliott. So, the running back possibilities start with the second round, and I REALLY doubt Derrick Henry makes it to the 34th pick. If Henry were make it to 34, would it be smart to pick him? Well, they probably won’t keep McFadden around past 2016, but that was likely in cards in the first place. Then it’s a mix of dash (Morris) and smash (Henry). For 2016, having three backs would be tantalizing.
Mid-rounder: This draft has solid mid-round backs. Arkansas’ Alex Collins, Alabama’s Kenyan Drake, and Florida’s Kelvin Taylor. All three of them very capable backs, all three projected in the meat of the draft, third through fifth round. Collins, the Razorbacks’ main offensive lifeline, and with a need of a back next season, having King Razorback himself isn’t too much of a stretch to think Jerry Jones could take Collins. Drake, could be seen as the eventual replacement for Lance Dunbar, while he works into more of an every down mold. And my favorite, Kelvin Taylor. Son of ten thousand yard back Fred Taylor, he really played well, despite late in the season, opponents of Florida pretty much having to assume that the ball was going to stay on the ground with the Gators’ lack of throwing threat, but scored 13 TDs on the ground.
Back-end: Going AAC with my back-end selection of a running back. Kenneth Farrow is a north-south back, straight bourbon, no frills. A built back (220 on a five ten frame) with better balance than vision, though I’m not certain on his hands out of the backfield, Farrow would be a really good pick in the sixth round.
High-end: Not many have Laquon Treadwell as high as I do anymore, I have him going in the top-ten, and won’t change my thinking. Though I do think the Cowboys could use another threat on the outside, a first rounder at fourth overall would be pretty confusing. So in the second, I like Tyler Boyd at that 34th pick. Boyd is a good sized, very smooth athlete who is also a high volume catcher of football, in three seasons Boyd had 254 catches.
Mid-rounder: Mississippi State’s De’Runnya Wilson is a lanky, rebounder-style ‘jump-and-go-get-it’ type of wide out. Not much of a burner, but a body position catcher, quite like Dez, and in the red-zone, could be a big time option across the formation from Dez. Has some issues that could follow, but maybe in the fourth, could be worth it.
Back-end: I’m going to my AAC again, this time to Tulsa’s Keyarris Garrett. Garrett is essentially the same player as Wilson, without the SEC and baggage, but they play the same game. Body positioning and use the arms to snag the rock. Garrett can be had in the sixth, and would be a supreme value pick. To throw a tight end into the mix, in the sixth, East Carolina’s Bryce Williams is a tight end touchdown weapon for coach Pope to get his hands on.
High-end: What if, just what if, Laremy Tunsil isn’t the first, second, or third pick? And the Cowboys drafted him at four. That would be gluttony. Just the most bad-ass offensive line ever possibly assembled. Now, the reality is that that scenario is almost down right dumb, drafting another stud for the line. So would blowing a pick on a second round lineman, but I can dream.
Mid-rounder: Seriously, think about it. Do the Cowboys even need a rotation lineman in this draft? They drafted Chaz Green last season, and he and Charles Brown can fight over that swing tackle position. Twist my arm and make me pick a player in the mid-section, I’d take a flyer on Tyler Marz of Wisconsin. He a big guy that would be very at-home on the right side, where his strength can bail out his maybe too tight bend.
Back-end: Hate to drone on, but the offensive line is pretty set. If you’re keen on adding to it in the sixth, take a long look at Rees Odhiambo from Boise State. When in doubt, trust the Blue Turf Broncos.
Defensive Line: Gregory messed up, Lawrence is coming off of back surgery, and Greg Hardy has been pretty much blacklisted. The likely upgrade position in this draft is the defensive line. The Cowboys grabbed Cedric Thornton from Philly to bulk up the interior of the line and help in the run support game. But spice and zest is needing to be added.
High-end: Joey Bosa is obviously a name Cowboys’ fans have become accustomed to hearing when mock drafts are being thrown around. Bosa isn’t J.J. Watt, but I think he’s only a shade or two off. DeForest Buckner, also a guy linked to us, and he is a giant. In the second round, two names, Carl Nassib of Penn State and Vernon Butler of Louisiana Tech. These guys are motor-men, un-restricted go-getters. Carl Nassib reminds me a lot of Conner Barwin, with maybe Ryan Kerrigan upside. Vernon Butler is a season under Rod Marinelli away from being a dominant force. Butler has got the push and press, he needs to sand the edges smooth and work with a five-tool belt, but he’s going to make his team look very smart.
Mid-rounder: In the middle of the draft, I doubt the Cowboys could land Bronson Kaufusi from BYU, so I’ll take a run at FCS stud Ronald Blair from Appalachian State. He’s a good run stuffer, a good pass rusher, and pretty solid all-around athlete. He has the size to play multiple positions along the defensive line, and could be a very good rotational player.
Back-end: In the sixth, I’ll be very comfortable with Theiren Cockran, from Minnesota. I can remember how damn disruptive he was in the season opener against TCU, and has a very round game. He’s a hunter, another high-motor play-chaser. From an interior lineman pick in the sixth, Antwaun Woods from USC, is a good-to-great player, when he’s healthy, with a string of muscle tears, like Brian Orakpo, and I think the injury history could work against Woods, and could work well for the Cowboys as a low risk sixth round pick.
Linebackers: The linebackers on the Cowboys are good, but could be better. Rolando McClain signed another one year deal, so maybe a rotation player for this season that can step into the void when McClain moves on next season, could be had in this draft.
High-end: Myles Jack is a tantalizing prospect at four. Major athlete, on par with Byron Jones type of uber-athlete. The medical history kind of scares me, and Cowboys’ fans can’t be blamed for thinking of Sean Lee or Bruce Carter. When it comes to drafting injured linebackers, and at fourth overall, the Cowboys can’t strikeout on an oft-injured player. Not saying that Jack can’t be great, because his ceiling might not even be known, because of how he split time as a running back too. In the second round, the very injured, needing to be redshirted his rookie year, Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith. It’d be an unpopular pick, because it’s a non-impact year one from a rookie, and that sucks, but for the next season, it could be a great pick.
Mid-rounder: It’s Tyler Matakevich. The Temple standout is truly my dark horse in this draft on defense. He’s a true lunch pale, blue-collar, prepared high-IQ player. I saw him seemingly single-handedly beat SMU this past season. In four seasons of playing, he has 492 tackles and ten turnovers forced. No bones about it, I want this player in the third.
Back-end: Zeek Bigger plays a tenacious brand of defense, a sort-of tornado player with supreme range and agility. He could be a player that really shines on special teams that moves his way into a bigger role.
Defensive Backs: Byron Jones is a major keeper, and with Scandrick coming back, both should be better in 2016. Safety is still a concern, though Barry Church played a much better back half of the season than the first eight. The torpedo J.J. Wilcox is still calibrated for strong safety, more so than the free safety position that he is.
High-end: My dream is Jalen Ramsey being there at four, I believe he is the golden piece to the Cowboys’ defensive puzzle. He’s seemingly the cog missing from the secondary, a flexible option at safety or cornerback that allows the Cowboys to put Scandrick on who they want, and put either Byron Jones or Ramsey on the tight-end. In the second, I like Artie Burns from the U. He’s a physical, bordering on the mean side of man coverage corner. Solid size and makes tackles too.
Mid-rounder: Back to the Blue Turf with Darian Thompson. Thompson is a ball-hawk with strong tackling skills, though he can get caught taking too aggressive of an angle. Zack Sanchez is a nice technical corner that drifts into the red maybe a tad quickly, but was really good for the Sooners.
Back-end: Going biased for the last one. SMU’s Shakiel Randolph has NFL defensive back size, at six foot four and 215 pounds. He’s played corner, safety, and even played linebacker in SMU’s nickel package. He’s an easily coached, malleable piece that could fit a lot of roles for the Cowboys.
2016 Full Mock Draft
1st (4th): Florida State DB Jalen Ramsey
2nd (34th): Penn State DE Carl Nassib
3rd (67th): Temple LB Tyler Matakevich
4th (101st): Ohio State QB Cardale Jones
4th (135th): Appalachian State DL Ronald Blair
6th (189th): Tulsa WR Keyarris Garrett
6th (212nd): Houston RB Kenneth Farrow
6th (216th): USC DT Antwaun Woods
6th (217th): SMU DB Shakiel Randolph