Dallas Cowboys 7-Round Mock Draft After Start of Free Agency
Over the past few seasons, the Cowboys have opted to focus more on the draft rather than signing big names in free agency to fill needs. Instead, they've turned their attention to mid-level players, such as Nolan Carroll and Stephen Paea to help round out the roster going into the draft.
The idea is to have a roster that doesn't force their hand at any position when the time comes to make their selection. Take recently signed Nolan Carroll, for example. The Cowboys clearly had a need at cornerback, but with Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Brown and the aforementioned Carroll, the team has three reliable players they could use if the board doesn't fall the way they anticipated.
The Cowboys want to improve their defense and plan on spending a majority of their picks trying to improve their pass rush and secondary. But they will stay true to their board and pick the best player that falls to them.
Round 1: Pick 28
The Pick: DE T.J. Watt, Wisconsin
Heading into free agency, the Cowboys' biggest need was an edge-rusher. After the first wave of free agency, it's still a need for Dallas. The team's best rusher, DeMarcus Lawrence underwent his second back surgery in as many years. Randy Gregory will be suspended for the entire 2017 season, and Jack Crawford just signed with Atlanta via free agency.
The Cowboys are awfully specific in what they look for in a first-round pick under Stephen Jones and Will McClay. It's a big reason why they've had so much success in drafting in the first round in the past seven years. Dallas is searching for a high-character player who had success at a big school. In their past seven drafts, the Cowboys have drafted players in the first round from Ohio State, UConn, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, LSU, USC, and Oklahoma State.
Dallas wants to select players who won't wilt under the bright lights of AT&T Stadium. In this mock draft, the Cowboys select T.J. Watt from Wisconsin. He doesn't have a ton of experience as an every-down rusher, and that's why he falls this late in the first round, but Dallas would be banking on his tools in the NFL.
Watt is also a special athlete, something Dallas loves. In 2016, the Cowboys had one of the most athletic draft classes in the NFL. Watt is a SPARQ athlete who tested in the 94th percentile for edge-rushers in the NFL. His athleticism, character and non-stop motor will endear himself to Jason Garrett and Rod Marinelli.
Round 2: Pick 60
The Pick: CB Adoree' Jackson, USC
The second round is a spot where the Cowboys have struggled in the past five drafts. They've taken many risks, and very few have panned out the way they had hoped. But one thing is clear: Dallas is going to target a high-upside player in this round. They've done this with Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory and Bruce Carter.
USC's Adoree' Jackson has all the talent in the world to develop into a really nice cornerback in the NFL. It's easy to see his athleticism on tape and the playmaking he could bring to a team on both defense and on special teams. But there are way too many times where Jackson struggled with speed. Both John Ross of Washington and Notre Dame's Will Fuller were able to beat him regularly down the field.
Despite the bad tape, Charlie Campbell of Walter Football reported that Dallas would consider Jackson in the bottom of the first round, but it's far more likely he's a target at 60 rather than 28. His talent says first round, but the inconsistencies in his tape and the deep cornerback class allow the Cowboys to snag Jackson in the bottom of the second round.
Round 3: Pick 92
The Pick: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC
The Cowboys were able to retain Brice Butler and Terrance Williams in free agency, but that doesn't mean they will be done adding talent to the position. Butler signed a one-year deal with very little guaranteed money. The team signed Butler before knowing they could sign Williams.
Ideally, Dallas would draft Smith-Schuster to compete with Butler for the No. 4 spot as he learns the offense. Once comfortable in the system, he would then push Butler off the roster.
JuJu Smith-Schuster didn't have a fantastic combine, but he did measure in at 6'1", weighing 215 pounds. His biggest assets are his hands (measured at 10 1/2 inches at the combine) and his physicality. The Cowboys rely on their outside receivers to be able to hold up on the edges in the run game, but also the ability to make plays down the sideline.
He's one of the youngest players in the draft (doesn't turn 21 until November 22), but he still will be able to contribute to an offense right away as he's growing into his body. He's been a productive receiver at USC and would be an ideal fit opposite Dez Bryant in the future. The signing of Terrance Williams allows them to be patient at this position and to take the best player available. In this case, it's JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Round 4: Pick 133
The Pick: DE Daeshon Hall, Texas A&M
With the Cowboys already addressing their need at pass-rusher and cornerback in the first two rounds, the team could decide to take a chance in the fourth round on another talented defensive lineman like they did in 2016 with Charles Tapper. Dallas loves to take explosive edge-rushers and place them into Rod Marinelli's defense, hoping for the best.
A player who could fit that description in 2017 is Daeshon Hall from Texas A&M. Hall measured in at the combine at 6'5", weighing 266 pounds. At that size, he finished in the 93rd percentile in the broad jump and in the 90th percentile in the vertical jump for defensive linemen. This is an explosive athlete who Marinelli could redshirt for a year and then turn him loose in 2018.
The measurements are outstanding, but he's so green as a prospect that it's not likely he would see the field as a rookie. His arsenal of moves needs plenty of work, but there are times when he flashes. The inconsistencies in his game will cause him to fall, but in the right system and with patient coaching, Hall could be a useful player in the future for Dallas.
Round 6: Pick 211
The Pick: RB Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego St.
The Cowboys will likely lose third-down specialist Lance Dunbar in free agency, and there is no guarantee that Darren McFadden will be back either. That leaves a spot open for a pass-catching back who can also help out in the return game.
One of the most productive backs in college football history, Pumphrey ran for 2,133 yards in his final year at San Diego State. But at 5'8", 176 pounds, there are legit questions if his body will be able to hold up in the NFL. Teams will knock Pumphrey for his size and for good reason. He won't be able to sustain a massive workload in the NFL, but he can help out on passing downs and runs against favorable boxes.
As a receiver and a home-run threat out of the backfield, Pumphrey makes a lot of sense as Dunbar's replacement. He's one of the better zone runners in this draft class, specifically on outside zone runs. He makes sense this late in the draft as a possible No. 3 running back in Dallas.
Round 7: Pick 228
The Pick: LB Jayon Brown, UCLA
The Cowboys will draft a linebacker at some point in the 2017 draft. They've done so in each of the past 12 drafts. Justin Durant is a free agent, and the Cowboys will need to find a replacement for him in the middle, even if it's only as a backup. The news on Jaylon Smith has been mixed to say the least, but it wouldn't hurt to add another player even if he's healthy enough to play in 2017.
UCLA's Jayon Brown is an undersized linebacker who excels on passing downs. His ability to fly to the football and anticipate throws could make him a steal on Day 3 as a nickel or dime linebacker. At 6'0", 231 pounds, he's built more like a secondary player rather than an off-the-ball linebacker.
Brown has experience playing special teams and that's likely where he would play in his first few years in the NFL. But with NFL defenses primarily using their nickel defense as their base personnel grouping, Brown could find a home as a coverage linebacker down the road.
Round 7: Pick 246
The Pick: TE Pharaoh Brown, Oregon
In the late rounds of the draft, the Cowboys are looking for high upside players they can stash on their practice squad, hoping to hit a home run. They know that they are one of the best in the league after the draft in signing undrafted free agents. That allows them to take a bunch of chances with their sixth- and seventh-round selections. One possibility is former Oregon Ducks tight end Pharaoh Brown.
Brown suffered a horrific leg injury in 2014 that nearly cost him his leg. But two years later, Brown was back on the field for the Ducks. He played in nine games in 2016, catching 33 passes for 426 yards and five touchdowns. When healthy, he's a mismatch problem in the middle of the field at 6'6", 255 pounds. He can win in the air and down the middle of the field with ease.
He's not the cleanest prospect on and off the field, which is another reason why he's likely to fall into the deep portions of day three if he's drafted at all. He was accused of three acts of violence while at Oregon. The Cowboys will need to sign off on his character before they would even consider drafting him.
If the Cowboys were to select Brown, they could redshirt him in 2017 like they did with Rico Gathers and allow him to continue rehabbing his injury and try to see if he can be 100 percent by 2018. The Cowboys may be able to stash him on non-football injury list for the season or on the practice squad as they wait. These are the type of risks you take in the seventh round hoping for a miracle.