Jerry in his Victoria's Secret grin
The Dallas Cowboys will not be part of championship weekend as the 2012 NFL season draws closer to the biggest game of the year. Instead, they will once again be on the outside looking in and focusing on the results of the East-West Shrine Game and preparing for Senior Bowl week.
But that should come as no surprise, since the Cowboys have been wallowing in mediocrity for well over a decade. There will always be ghosts of draft's past that haunt this franchise and Jerry Jones' ability to evaluate talent. The 2009 draft, anyone?
So as the Cowboys forge ahead into the 2013 offseason, one would imagine that they have completely immersed themselves in draft preparation. What else would they be doing, right? Heaven forbid the Cowboys would actually be relevant this deep into the postseason.
As the bitterness of another disappointing season continues to wear off, the optimism slowly starts to build again.
And what better way to provide some of that optimism than with a mock draft. Several recent factors like switching to a 4-3 defense and the completion of the East-West Shrine Game will start to have an impact on the Cowboys' draft.
Let's analyze just how much of an impact it will actually make.
The Cowboys, picking 18th in the first round, select the 6'3", 290-pound defensive tackle. Sheldon Richardson would be an ideal fit for Monte Kiffin's 4-3 alignment, and the Cowboys really need to hit a home run with a defensive impact player.
There is a lot to like about Richardson's game; he's explosive and he shows great burst and power as he disengages from blocks and closes in on his target. Richardson was a first-team All-SEC player and finished the season with 75 tackles, 10.5 of which were for losses.
Originally, a player like Chance Warmack would've been the consensus pick here. But with the shift to a 4-3 defense and not enough horses along the defensive line, this is the direction the Cowboys need to go.
Barrett Jones is Jerry Jones' shot at redemption for not being able to draft Max Unger a few years back. Being able to get Jones at this spot would be a major coup for the Cowboys.
Jones brings so much versatility to the offensive line and this pick makes sense for this franchise.
He's 6'5", he makes outstanding protection reads, he holds up well at the point of attack and he was a highly productive player in the toughest conference in the country. Jason Garrett's connections to Nick Saban will probably allow him to gain greater insight into this player.
Regardless of the situation, this is simply a must get for the Cowboys. Jones and Tyron Smith will anchor this offensive line for a decade.
I know it's hard to shake the images of Notre Dame's defense getting slaughtered by Alabama, but Zeke Motta is an example of how the East-West Shrine Game and practices allowed him to rebound. Motta not only turned in a solid week of practice, but he was also a solid performer in the game. I watched every Shrine Game practice, and with Motta, his coverage ability is what really jumped out.
He really started to build some nice momentum as the week progressed and it showed in his practices. This is a prime example of where value and need meet pick.
In the 2012 draft another Notre Dame safety, Harrison Smith, was selected in the first round and enjoyed a stellar rookie campaign. His success could provide some ancillary benefits for Motta.
Motta might not have that same immediate impact initially, but he does provide the Cowboys with another young safety to add to the mix with the ability to compete, challenge and potentially start at some point during 2013.
With injuries, question marks and depth issues at safety, this could be an important pick.
The Cowboys need a running back, and Christine Michael more than fits the bill. The key here is if Michael is available in the fourth round. With the 2013 draft being rather weak in the running back department, Michael's performance in the East-West Shrine Game was perfect timing.
He shows good balance, acceleration, vision and he's not afraid to lower his shoulder and lay some wood on an opposing defender. Michael looks like a player who runs with a purpose.
After dealing with injuries in his past and playing in the shadow of Cyrus Gray, the time is now for Michael to build momentum heading into the draft.
Should Michael be off the board at this point, then the Cowboys must turn their attention to Stanford's Stepfan Taylor or Pitt's Ray Graham. Graham was also a Shrine Game participant but didn't have quite the impact that Michael had. Graham would still be a solid option for the Cowboys as he brings a lot of versatility to his game.
The Cowboys add another attacking defensive lineman to the mix with the selection of Bennie Logan. Logan has good size at 6'3" and 295 pounds. He was a major contributor to LSU's defense and was named second-team All-SEC.
He finished 2012 with 62 tackles, seven for losses and three sacks.
The Cowboys would provide themselves with solid depth, versatility and a nice rotation on the defensive line. When you watch Logan play he really does a nice job at attacking the gaps, and in this new 4-3 alignment, that's a key attribute.
Terron Armstead started turning heads at the East-West Shrine Game practices, and he also had a solid game in pass protection and run blocking. He's a 6'5", 305-pound tackle who is raw but possesses some nice upside to his game.
He showed solid footwork and technique, and it was nice to see a small-school prospect gain some recognition.
With Doug Free struggling, the Cowboys will need to address the tackle position for either his departure or to provide him with competition along with Jermey Parnell. The Cowboys could also address tackle in free agency, but landing a prospect this late in the draft would be a nice pickup.
Vontaze Burfict and Alfonzo Dennard are two examples of why taking a chance on a character pick could pay dividends. But there are two big "what if's" at this stage of the draft. The Cowboys would have to acquire a seventh-round pick, and Tyrann Mathieu would have to be available.
If both scenarios happen, then this is a no-brainer. With the imminent departure of Mike Jenkins and injuries at cornerback always a concern, this would be a great way to end the 2013 draft. His talent is undeniable, and he could help at cornerback, kickoffs and special teams.
It might be the end to the season, but it's definitely the season to be mocking. These will change time and time again as the offseason events unfold, but it's never too early to be optimistic.