Okay, less than a week before draft day and time to get down to serious mock draft business.
Offensive line remains the biggest need for the Cowboys and my latest mock draft continues to reflect that. This team has not addressed the glaring issues on the right side of the offensive line, so that is where I’m still placing my emphasis.
To review, in 2012, the Cowboys had the worst rushing attack in the history of the franchise. The starters on the offensive line are a former 1st round draft pick at left tackle (Tyron Smith), an undrafted left guard (Nate Livings), an undrafted center (Phil Costa), a former 7th round pick at right guard (Mackenzy Bernadeau), and an ex-4th round pick (Doug Free) or an undrafted player (Jermey Parnell) at right tackle.
In contrast, the World Champion Baltimore Ravens started 1st rounder Bryant McKinnie, 2nd rounder Kelechi Osemele, 3rd rounder Marshall Yanda, 1st rounder Michael Oher, and 15 year veteran Matt Birk in the Super Bowl.
The NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers started 1st rounder Joe Staley, 1st rounder Mike Iupati, 1st rounder Anthony Davis, undrafted Alex Boone, and 11-year veteran Jonathan Goodwin in the Super Bowl.
This mock draft is not a prediction of what the Cowboys will do in the draft. More likely, it is exactly what they won’t do!
This is what I would do if these players are available when the Cowboys select. Picks are made based on nfldraftscout.com projections for each player. So, here we go, the Cowboys are on the clock…and the phone is already ringing with teams wanting to talk trade:
COWBOYS MOCK DRAFT 3.O
1st Round – #18 – D.J. FLUKER – T – ALABAMA
Do the Cowboys have a glaring need at right tackle? D. J. Fluker is the top right tackle prospect in this draft.
This 6-5, 339 pound behemoth will be a walk-in, day one starter at right tackle – a powerful road grader who can cave in the right side of the line in the run game. Fluker has great passion for the game, and according to teammate Chance Warmack, was the emotional leader of the best offensive line in college football. Check out the early 3rd quarter of the SEC Championship come from behind win over Georgia. It was Fluker who lit a fire under his teammates during a game changing touchdown drive. He says he wants to be “the Ray Lewis of the offensive line”.
Fluker is a right tackle, not a left tackle. Some think he could be a dominating right guard, but his coaches at Alabama recommend leaving him at right tackle, where he has started the past three seasons. Some analysts question whether he has a quick enough slide step to handle elite speed rushers at this level, but others say he has the most important asset in that regard – the longest arms in this draft, measuring nearly 37 inches with an 87 inch total wingspan.
Fluker graduated in 3 ½ years from Alabama. Having just turned 22 last month, Fluker is three months younger than Tyron Smith, potentially giving the Cowboys two 22-year old bookend tackles, both with nearly 37 inch arms.
2nd Round – #47 – TRADE!!!
The 49ers are calling and they want a safety. Even though the Cowboys also need a safety, my favorite Eric Reid is already taken. So, yes, we’ll trade down.
Dallas trades a 2nd (#47), 3rd (#80), and 4th (#114) round pick to San Francisco for a 2nd (#61), 3rd (#74), 3rd (#93), 4th (#128), and 7th (#237). Both sides add up to exactly 686 points on the Draft Trade Value Chart. Fair deal!
So, the Cowboys add extra 3rd and 7th round picks, giving them 8 total picks. The Niners substantially move up in three separate rounds and still have 11 draft picks.
2nd Round – #61 – BENNIE LOGAN – DT – LSU
In a deep draft for interior defensive linemen, the Cowboys need to get one. Though Bennie Logan (6-2, 309) is listed by some analysts as a 4th round value, I believe he may go as early as the 2nd round. Anyone who studied Alabama guard Chance Warmack got a healthy dose of Bennie Logan’s work. He more than held his own against the player some consider one of the top 5 players in this draft.
Logan is a high character player who earned the right to wear the prestigious #18 jersey his junior season at LSU. That uniform is given to the player who best exemplifies outstanding leadership and work ethic. A strong player (30 bench reps) with enough athleticism to push the pocket. Logan has a real chance to be a starting NT his rookie season. This would allow Jay Ratliff to start at the 3-technique while a combination of Jason Hatcher, Tyrone Crawford, and Sean Lissemore rotate in on the nickel defense.
3rd Round – #74 – TRADE!!!
The Dolphins call and they want WR Stedman Bailey. So, Miami, with extra picks, moves up 8 spots from 82 to 74 and in return, Dallas gets one of Miami’s 5th round picks (#146). Both sides total 220 points on the Trade Value Board. Done deal…Cowboys now have 9 total picks.
3rd Round – #82 – BARRETT JONES – C/G – ALABAMA
Another potential walk-in starter at either right guard or center, Barrett Jones (6-5, 306) may be the most decorated offensive linemen in college football history.
He’s a 4-year starter for a 3-time national champion. He started at right guard his freshman and sophomore seasons, moved to left tackle and won the Outland Award as a junior, then switched to center and won the Rimington Award as a senior.
His position flexibility would give Cowboys offensive coordinator Bill Callahan many options on his offensive line. Assuming center Phil Costa is healthy, Jones could start his career at right guard and then eventually switch to center and make all the line calls once he learns the league. Otherwise, just put him at center and he’ll probably be a Jeff Saturday-clone for the next decade.
Jones is a 4.0 student, who earned his Master’s in Accounting in December. He won the Campbell Trophy, the Academic Heisman, his senior year, following in the footsteps of fellow center Alex Mack, who was Cleveland’s 1st round pick in 2008.
Jones does not receive a 1st round grade from most analysts because he lacks the athleticism to be a dominating offensive lineman. However, he appears to have enough strength (27 bench reps) and mobility to handle the physical demands of the NFL. Jones was unable to work out for scouts this spring after undergoing foot surgery in January. He should be fully healthy by this summer, but that is another reason he’s projected by many to be a 3rd or 4th round pick. Some teams may have him off their board entirely due to the injury. However, assuming he received medical clearance, I suspect he’ll be drafted somewhere in the 2nd round. If you ask me, this is a 3rd round steal.
3rd Round – #93 – MALLICIAH GOODMAN – DE – Clemson
Switching from a 3-4 to Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 defense, the Cowboys only have two true 4-3 rush defensive ends on their roster, Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. This is a great opportunity to add a strong, long limbed player who can bend the corner and get to the quarterback.
Malliciah Goodman (6-4, 276) has nearly 37 inch arms, 11 inch hands, ran a 4.67 forty at his Pro Day, bench pressed 225 pounds 26 times, and showed why he can bend his knees and rush off the edge with a 7.10 cone drill.
A Parade All American coming out of high school, Goodman played a lot during his four years at Clemson but didn’t produce big numbers until the second half of his senior season. Easily his best game was the bowl win over LSU, where he abused a freshman right tackle, registering three sacks and countless quarterback pressures. He’s another smart player, graduating in 3 ½ years.
4th Round – #128 – TONY JEFFERSON – S – OKLAHOMA
Talk all you want about potential 1st round safeties Kenny Vaccaro and Eric Reid. I’ll take Tony Jefferson in the 4th round.
I talked to an NFL scout in January who told me he ranked Jefferson as a late 2nd or early 3rd round pick, behind Vaccaro only because the Texas safety has better size (6-0, 214). Truth is, Jefferson is only slightly shorter than Vaccaro, a shade under 5-11 and 213 pounds.
Since talking to that scout, Jefferson’s draft stock has taken a hit due to the fact he hasn’t tested well, battling a hamstring issue this spring. He pulled up at the combine after running a 4.64 forty, which was only slightly behind Vaccaro’s 4.59. Again at Jefferson’s Pro Day, the hamstring acted up on him before he was able to perform position drills.
One thing about the draft process, scouts want to see players do drills with their own eyes. Jefferson’s inability to perform the last two months has dropped his stock while other safeties, like Jonathan Cyprien, Phillip Thomas and J.J. Wilcox, have passed him on draft boards.
I have a higher opinion of Jefferson due to the fact I’ve had the chance to watch every game he’s played the last three years. He’s been the best player on an underperforming Sooner defense for three years. In fact, when Oklahoma played Texas each of the last three years, Tony Jefferson was the best safety on the field on either side.
Jefferson led the team with 119 tackles last year. He’s had 8 picks, 18 tackles for loss and 7 sacks in three years. Contrast those numbers to Vaccaro’s 5 interceptions, 16 tackles for loss and 2 sacks in 4 seasons. It’s pretty comparable, but Vaccaro gets the 1st round hype.
Ever since stepping straight into the starting lineup as an 18-year old true freshman in 2010, Jefferson has been a smart, instinctive playmaker. He is also two years younger than Vaccaro and a year younger than Eric Reid, having just turned 21 in January.
Of the top 10 safety prospects, Jefferson is the only one who started at a major BCS school his true freshman season. All the other safeties either redshirted or were backups their first year of college. This is something I always look for in safeties. Is the stage too big for them? Can they handle the mental side of the safety position?
That’s what caught my eye on Barry Church at Toledo. Here was a guy who stepped on campus as a true freshman and immediately was a 4-year All-Conference safety. He didn’t test well either (4.69 forty), which was why he went undrafted. However, two years later, Church emerged as the leader of the secondary until being felled by an Achilles injury last year.
Tony Jefferson may not be a starter his rookie season, but he has a lot of experience playing close to the line of scrimmage and creating havoc on blitzes. Monte Kiffin will figure out a way to use him in sub-packages right away. He has the instincts, ball skills and playmaking ability this defense needs.
5th Round – #146 – REX BURKHEAD – RB – NEBRASKA
Rex Burkhead is easily my favorite player in this draft. Though I’m clearly in the minority, I consider the Plano Senior High product to be among the top 5 running backs in this draft.
The so-called experts project him as a 6th or 7th round pick, so I guess we’ll take a chance and wait until the 5th round to draft him, though I’d take him in the 3rd if my spies tell me Bill Belichick has his eye on him, which I suspect he does.
Burkhead (5-10, 215) has the same “through the roof” makeup as Sean Lee in terms of work ethic, intelligence, athleticism, character, leadership, and productivity. The only thing lacking is long speed, as evidenced by 40 times that range in the 4.6-4.7 range. All his other measurables rank among the top 2-3 running backs at the combine: 39 vertical, 21 bench reps, 10-5 broad jump, 4.09 shuttle, 6.85 cone drill.
He’s a two-time team captain, the 5th leading rusher in Nebraska school history, two-time team weightlifter of the year, two-time 1st team Academic All American, Campbell Trophy (Academic Heisman) Finalist, AFCA Good Works Team.
That 69 yard TD run by 7-year old brain cancer patient Jack Hoffman at the Nebraska spring game last week is some of Rex Burkhead’s work. He will be a core special teams player, can run between the tackles, has enough receiving ability to play in the slot, can even line up at fullback, and even threw 3 TD passes in his college career. Rex Burkhead will be one of the most popular Cowboys players to come along in a long time.
5th Round – #157 – STEVE WILLIAMS – CB – California
A Dallas Skyline product, Steve Williams turned pro after his junior season at Cal and opened eyes at the Combine with an announced hand held forty time of 4.25. That time was later adjusted to 4.42, still plenty fast.
Williams also posted terrific numbers in the vertical (40 ½) and broad jumps (10-8). That leaping ability should serve him well as he battles a lack of height (5-9, 181).
Cal’s defensive MVP in 2012, Williams is a competitive corner who amassed 25 pass breakups in three seasons, ranking 6th all-time in school history. He also had 6 career interceptions.
This could be the player who replaces Orlando Scandrick, another 5th round product, as the Cowboys slot corner in the next year or two. In the meantime, he should be a quality 4th corner and special teams demon as a gunner on coverage units.
6th Round – #185 – PHILIP LUTZENKIRCHEN – TE – Auburn
Even though the Cowboys are looking for a blocking tight end, I can’t resist taking a flyer on an accomplished player who looks a lot like Jason Witten. If not for the fact he’s coming off hip surgery in October, Lutzenkirchen would be long gone by this point in the draft.
Lutzenkirchen (6-3, 258) was used as both an H-back and in-line tight end at Auburn. He has a lot of experience blocking on the edge in Auburn’s offense and with 33 ¼ inch arms and an 80 inch wingspan, he has enough length to be able to make those reach blocks on the edge.
He was a real red zone threat with 14 touchdown catches, at least a couple of the one handed variety.
A fan favorite, he appears to be a Witten clone in other ways too. He’s not terribly athletic but a heady player who does it all, earning the respect of teammates, coaches, and opponents.
Former Auburn coach Gene Chizik describes Lutzenkirchen this way: He’s a very positive, upbeat guy, a young man I have a high level of respect for. Very selfless. He’s always remembered for his catches but his blocking, everything he brought to the table in the locker room, encouraging young guys, teammates have a very high regard for him.”
There is a risk factor due to the torn labrum and bone spurs in his hip that required surgery. However, this player’s potential and intangibles are worth the gamble this late in the draft. And, as insurance, signing a blocking tight end like Nebraska’s Ben Cotton as a priority free agent should take care of the tight end depth on this team.
7th Round – #237 – JARON BROWN – WR – Clemson
The Cowboys have a real need for a big outside receiver to develop behind Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, and this just might be the guy.
Jaron Brown was a three-year starter at Clemson, but when you have Sammy Watkins and Deandre Hopkins manning the other receiver spots, Tiger QB Tajh Boyd didn’t have enough footballs around to satisfy everyone.
Brown (6-2, 204) only had 87 catches and 8 touchdowns in his career, but he blew up his Pro Day. He ran a 4.4 forty with 17 bench reps, a 35 ½ vertical and 6.82 cone drill. Academic All-Conference all four years, he has his college degree and was a team captain as a senior.
He has special teams value with punt and kickoff return experience and should do very well covering kicks.
So, there you have it. Two trades and nine draft picks – a tackle, guard/center, running back, tight end, and wide receiver on offense, and a defensive tackle, defensive end, cornerback, and safety on defense.
And now you know who the Cowboys won’t draft this year.
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