Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft Roundup
As the Dallas Cowboys prepare for the 2014 NFL Draft, there are no shortage of mock drafts projecting which direction they’ll head in the first round. It wasn’t long ago that there was one name sitting atop the list of Cowboys mock drafts—Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
As the draft process has unfolded, however, Donald has risen up draft boards and now most experts don’t consider him a legitimate option to come to Dallas. Actually, you don’t even see Donald’s name in this mock draft roundup; most analysts are predicting that he’ll be long gone by the time Dallas is on the clock.
Even after the signing of free-agent defensive tackle Henry Melton, though, another defensive tackle has replaced Donald as the most popular selection for Dallas in mock drafts—Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan. Of the mock drafts I assessed, Jernigan’s name appears in Dallas’ draft slot more than any other, by a wide margin.
So is there value in studying mock drafts? On the individual level, the value comes in dissecting one potential path the draft could follow. The real value, though, comes when we study multiple mock drafts. When an individual expert projects a player to a team, it doesn’t mean all that much. When a second one does it, that means a little bit more, and a third means a little bit more, and so on. Thus, something that isn’t terribly useful on the individual level has a lot of value when we aggregate the results.
With that said, let’s take a look at the most popular players being sent to Dallas in mock drafts, each of which I’ve assigned a “likelihood rating.” These subjective ratings are 1 to 10, reflecting how probable it is that each particular prospect will get drafted by Dallas.
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Of the 12 mock drafts I studied, Jernigan was Dallas’ choice in five of them. That’s pretty overwhelming, and it has to make you think. I personally don’t believe Jernigan is a very likely choice for Dallas, for two reasons. First, he’s probably going to be a 1-technique defensive tackle, which is considered less vital than the pass-rushing 3-technique in Dallas's 4-3 scheme.
More important, here’s a dirty little secret about Jernigan: he wasn’t productive at Florida State. He had 8.5 sacks combined in three seasons. Three-technique or not, that kind of production isn’t really what you’d expect out of a first-round pick. Yes, Jernigan is good against the run, but run specialists aren’t worth first-round picks.
Likelihood Rating: 4/10
Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Brugler was the only expert I studied who put Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin to Dallas in his mock draft. Of all the players in this mock draft roundup, though, Martin has the highest “likelihood rating.” Why?
First, the Cowboys have a problem at right tackle. Doug Free’s hot start to the 2013 season overshadowed the fact that he was again one of the worst offensive tackles in the NFL; Pro Football Focus (subscription required) charted only eight right tackles as allowing more pressures last year.
Second, the potentially elite players Dallas probably covets—guys like Aaron Donald and UCLA’s Anthony Barr—aren’t very likely to fall to No. 16. The Cowboys will probably have the choice of taking a top talent at a position that’s not considered a top need, such as right tackle, or reaching on a player at a position of extreme importance, like defensive end.
Likelihood Rating: 9/10
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Ealy is getting first-round consideration because he turned in a decent 2013 season with eight sacks. Although he’s a great athlete, there are two numbers that suggest Ealy is going to get over-drafted.
The first number is 14, which is the number of tackles-for-loss Ealy had last year. Whenever we want to determine how much of a pass-rusher’s sack total is due to variance, meaning he got lucky/unlucky, we should look at tackles-for-loss. The stat is a great proxy for overall explosiveness, and it can help us confirm or discredit sack totals. Ealy’s 14 tackles-for-loss aren't horrible, but it’s not in line with his eight sacks.
The second number that suggests Ealy will get over-drafted is 4.5, as in the number of sacks he totaled in the two seasons prior to 2013. So we have a player who was poor in his first few years in college and didn’t dominate until he was older than most of the competition, so explain to me why he’s first-round material.
Likelihood Rating: 3/10
Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
If the Cowboys want a safety in the first round, they’ll almost assuredly be able to land either Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Louisville’s Calvin Pryor. Athletically, they’re basically the same player.
The reason I see Pryor, or any first-round safety, as improbable is that the Cowboys already have three more athletic safeties on the roster—yes, more athletic—in J.J. Wilcox, Matt Johnson and Jeff Heath. That doesn’t mean each of them can compete at the NFL level, of course, but the team has power in numbers.
With the problems the Cowboys have up front, that should be their primary concern over the far less vital free safety position.
Likelihood Rating: 2/10
Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA
UCLA’s Anthony Barr could play a variety of positions in the NFL, but let’s just examine him as a defensive end for a second. In any pass-rushing prospect, we want to see three things: length, explosiveness and production. Take a look at how Barr stacks up:
Length: 6’5” with 33.5-inch arms
Explosiveness: 34.5-inch vertical, 6.83 three-cone
Production: 23.5 sacks and 41.5 tackles-for-loss since 2012
Bingo! Some have concerns about Barr playing as a 4-3 defensive end, but there’s not really much to worry about with a guy who put up the kind of numbers Barr did the past two seasons.
There’s very little question that the Cowboys are going to be interested in Barr. If he were guaranteed to be available at No. 16, I’d rate him as a near-guarantee to come to Dallas. But since a lot of teams figure to be interested in Barr, he’s probably way worse than a coin flip to fall to the Cowboys.
Likelihood Rating: 5/10