The Dallas Cowboys 2017 NFL Draft Preview With Full Mock

The Dallas Cowboys have a great Defensive Coordinator in Rod Marinelli and need to keep him for next season. Photo Courtesy: Bruce Chandler
The Dallas Cowboys have lost several players on defense and will be looking to the draft for replacements for help. Photo Courtesy: Bruce Chandler
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By Zach Walker

The Cowboys have done very little in free agency. In fact, people could make the case that they put themselves in a difficult draft position by not keeping around any of the defensive backs. The Cowboys have lost: Barry Church, JJ Wilcox, Brandon Carr, and Morris Claiborne. That’s four big time minute-loggers for the Cowboys’ defense. The argument can be made that every one of those players can be upgraded, and that Anthony Brown, the sixth round steal from last year’s draft, replaced either Mo Claiborne or Brandon Carr by his solid play last year. The numbers don’t favor the Cowboys heading into the draft. They have three safeties with game tread, with one of those being Kavon Frazier who has a crumb of time played. Nolan Carroll comes in and is the team’s top corner, but the Cowboys need someone other than Orlando Scandrick to help on the outside, because as far as I can recall, the Cowboys’ haven’t asked Scandrick to go outside, but I could be wrong. But, I’m right that they need help in the secondary.

The Cowboys’ brought in Stephen Paea to reunite him with Rod Marinelli, and bring some mass to the center of the Cowboys’ defensive front. The Cowboys’ need to add some skill on the defensive end position. I read a tid-bit on where Charles Tapper says he is in injury/fatigue recovery/conditioning and maybe he can add to mix in a solid way. The Cowboys might have to really look at the ends in this draft, because DeMarcus Lawrence is heading into free agency and I’m not sure the Cowboys have seen enough of Lawrence to really think of him as a bankable long-term option.

The best part of this draft is just how defensively deep with talent. This draft goes, legitimately, three rounds with defensive starters, not just guys, STARTERS. For the Cowboys on offense, there isn’t much that the Cowboys’ need, some depth and perhaps a young player to put on the outside.

For my mock draft, I’ve given options for the first three rounds. It’s like a snaking pathway, where the reader can be in the driver’s seat of my options. Except for day three picks, those are set.

At 28th Overall (First Round)
Defensive Line Option – UCLA DE Takkarist McKinley
Let’s get the red flag out of the way, he’s currently injured. He had surgery to his shoulder, and that’s going to turn Cowboys’ fans off right away. The idea of redshirting a first rounder isn’t appealing, and luckily McKinley had the surgery early in the draft process as to preserve some offseason activity time with the team that drafts him. He actually played the 2016 season for UCLA with a torn labrum and broken glenoid and still managed ten sacks in eleven games. That’s Marinelli brand football. He’s got the speed and moves to get straight around tackles. He’s undersized and teams could either like or hate that, but McKinley has the upside.

Cornerback Option – Florida CB Teez Tabor
What needs to be known right away, is that Tabor is a scheme fit cornerback. He’s a zone corner, and attacks with burst speed. He has ideal size at six foot flat and two hundred pounds, and has the makings of a big play maker, on par with the Marcus Peters’ of the league. He likes to dirty the jersey in the run support and maybe is a little over-eager to mix it up, but “too much effort” isn’t in the Marinelli defensive mindset.

Safety Option – Michigan SS Jabrill Peppers
His position flex is his biggest ally and his largest hindrance. Guys who have been those flex players have worked out recently, Shaq Thompson and Deone Bucannon have become defensive staples. Peppers is an athlete, through and through. He’s going to live and die early in his career on pure athleticism, while learning by the sword. But, for the Cowboys, a unit needing more young bodies with some skill, if Peppers is there at 28, no chance the Cowboys don’t take him.

At 60th Overall (Second Round)
If Defensive Back Selected in Round One
FSU DE DeMarcus Walker
Walker was a highlight reel playmaker. He had back-to-back killer seasons for the Seminoles, essentially doubling down on his ten and a half sack season with a sixteen sack senior campaign. Unlike Willis, Walker is an “out of the box” end, meaning his weight is ideal for an end in a 4-3.

KSU DE Jordan Willis
Throw on any of Willis’ K-State footage and you’ll see a blurry number 75. Willis is always at maximum revs, and is the ideal player that’ll light up Marinelli’s eyes. Willis isn’t a show player, he’s a work horse.

If Defensive Lineman Selected in Round One
UCLA CB Fabian Moreau

Moreau is a great example of a player attacking the draft season. He crushed his opportunity at the East-West Shrine game, and had a great pro day, except that he tore a pectoral muscle. Moreau is as quick as electricity, and can route-mirror with receivers to limit separation. Given that he’s got a pre-draft injury, he’s now on the Cowboys’ second round radar.

Washington CB Sidney Jones
If we’re taking true value pick, the Cowboys will take a long look a Sidney Jones. Arguably, the top corner in this draft, Jones popped his Achilles at his pro day and has since fumbled down draft charts. Jones, healthy, is a beast in coverage, and to the team to mop him up and wait for the long term payoff, they could be snagging the steal of the draft.

At 92nd Overall (Third Round)
Michigan TE Jake Butt

The recent Jason Witten contract extension makes this pick less likely, but I move forward. Jake Butt was the top tight end in this class, knee injury in the bowl game, sliding down boards. Butt would be looked at as the post-Jason Witten era tight end, it would allow for him to grow and heal under the best in the game, and take up the mantle in three or so seasons.

Oklahoma WR DeDe Westbrook
If you were tuning in to Big 12 football, DeDe Westbrook was probably the player you were looking for. This is the player that the Cowboys don’t already have and have been needing, the deep dagger. At a hat, Westbrook can fly through a defense then be handing the ball to a ref at the end. He’s got crippling speed, and lightning reflex, all brought together with reliable hands. Westbrook would be an instant success within the Cowboys’ offense.

Alabama DT Dalvin Tomlinson

Out of the shadow and into the fray, Tomlinson helped Alabama reload as quickly as possible with a great season, 62 tackles from a defensive tackle position is take notice play ruining ability. Great head a top his shoulders, having turned down Harvard for football in Alabama, or is that smart? I’m only being cynical, Tomlinson would be a beyond solid pick.

At 132nd Overall (Fourth Round)
Miami OL Danny Isidora

With Doug Free retiring, that writes Chaz Green as a day one starter at right tackle, with Joe Looney playing behind. And the Cowboys didn’t keep Ron Leary around and instead signed Jonathan Cooper, a first rounder who has failed to stay healthy for any stretch of his career. The Cowboys would surely like to add some young depth in the trenches. Isidora played right guard for three seasons at the U, and showcased some solid nasty. He was truly a staple for Brad Kaaya, keeping him upright, and really flashed his nose when in space at the second level. He’s got the perfect size too, to also work at center because he’s going to need to become versed in multiple positions.

At 212th Overall (Sixth Round)
UCLA DL Eddie Vanderdoes

I know the Cowboys really like these UCLA guys. But Jim Mora Jr. has been a great hire for the Bruins and that statement doesn’t do it justice. All I’ve read about Vanderdoes is that he’s just “too heavy” and “not quick enough”. Partly that’s do with an injury from 2015, but what I saw at the Senior Bowl, I just didn’t see room for big time criticism. He might not be Aaron Donald off the snap, but his power… its corruptible power that he plays with. He was just effortlessly sliding his opposition back as if they had zero clue what sport they were playing. Of all of the Bruins that the Cowboys are looking at, I like Vanderdoes the most.

At 231st Overall (Seventh Round)
TCU LB Josh Carraway

It might be a bit of grasping for hope to think that Josh Carraway would be here in the seventh round, but Carraway is in the odd position flux. At the NFL level is he a standup linebacker, or is he a hand on the turf rusher? He’s got the size to be a force at linebacker, but has the pass rush moves to make him dangerous, however his lack of bulk will probably see him enveloped at the NFL level. The Cowboys could use some more linebackers with noses for the quarterback, for when they do decide to blitz a backer.

At 249th Overall (Seventh Round)
SMU SS Darrion Millines

As per usual, I end my Cowboys’ mock with a SMU Mustang. Millines had a killer season to end his career at the Hilltop. Five interceptions, but besides his ball skills, he shakes it up in the field with his physicality. Millines’ absence from the field was so amplifying, as if the Mustangs didn’t have a player out there to supplement him not being out there. Millines is going to be available for the Cowboys in the last two rounds, goes with playing at SMU, but he’s a zero risk, all upside player at a position of need.