Dallas Cowboys: Full 2016 Draft Guide and Preview

John Owning@@johnowningCorrespondent IApril 26, 2016

Dallas Cowboys: Full 2016 Draft Guide and Preview

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Throughout the journey to the NFL draft, we have had to endure countless mock drafts (including a fantastic one in this piece), quotes from anonymous scouts and a variety of player rankings and comparisons, but we are almost there. 

    The Dallas Cowboys have nine picks in the 2016 NFL draft, including four in the sixth round, and they will use those picks to improve their football team in an attempt to get back to the playoffs. 

    Lately, the Cowboys have done an excellent job with their first-round picks, sans Morris Claiborne; they hope to replicate that success this year. Furthermore, this draft class appears to be littered with talented players who can immediately contribute throughout, which means it is important that the Cowboys hit on their mid-round picks. 

    Since the draft is right around the corner, here is a complete guide with everything you need to know about the draft for the Cowboys. 

Draft Picks

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    Draft Picks

    Round 1, pick No. 4 overall

    Round 2, pick No. 34 overall

    Round 3, pick No. 67 overall

    Round 4, pick No. 101 overall

    Round 4, pick No. 135 overall

    Round 6, pick No. 189 overall

    Round 6, pick No. 212 overall

    Round 6, pick No. 216 overall

    Round 6, pick No. 217 overall

     

    What To Know

    1. Don't rule out a trade in the first round for the Cowboys. Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has traded in the first round 18 times since 1990, per the Dallas Morning News' Kate Hairopoulos. Nevertheless, he hasn't made a trade involving a first-round pick since 2013. He may be due to wield some of his draft-day trade magic. 

    2. Since Cowboys senior director of college and pro player personnel Will McClay got promoted after the 2013 draft, the Cowboys have selected only three players who didn't play college in a Power Five conference. 

    3. Over the last 10 years, nine of their 10 top selections were official predraft visits, as SB Nation noted. The only one who wasn't an official predraft visitor was Claiborne in 2012.

Top Needs

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    Tim Sharp/Associated Press

    1. Defensive end

    With DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory facing four-game suspensions, the Cowboys desperately need to improve their depth on the defensive line. In fact, they needed defensive end help before these suspensions were announced, which means the suspensions have just exacerbated the issue. 

    The Cowboys don't have the depth or talent level to put together any semblance of a formidable pass rush as it stands right now, which means they need to use the draft to try to improve the depth and overall talent at defensive end. 

    2. Running back

    The Cowboys offensive line is the best in football, and it can make any running back look good; however, that doesn't mean the Cowboys shouldn't try to improve the position. With Darren McFadden last year, the Cowboys had an above-average running game, but if they want to get back to their 2014 success, they need a great running game. 

    Dallas did sign Alfred Morris, but they still lack that bell cow in the backfield who can tote the rock for 25 times a game and put up significant numbers. 

    3. Quarterback 

    Tony Romo isn't getting any younger, and it is about time the Cowboys start to groom a quarterback for when his playing days are over. Romo has proven that you can't trust him to remain healthy, which means the Cowboys need a viable backup since Kellen Moore has shown that he can't consistently win football games for Dallas. 

    The Cowboys brought in seven quarterbacks for official predraft visits, per SB Nation, which means they will likely look to draft a quarterback at some point in the 2016 NFL draft. 

    4. Safety

    The fact of the matter is that Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox just aren't cutting it in the secondary for the Cowboys. Neither one has the ability to hold up in coverage consistently, nor do they make enough splash plays in the run game to warrant a starting spot. 

    With Byron Jones likely moving to free safety full time, the Cowboys should look to improve their strong safety position in the draft. Solid safety play will cover up a lot of warts that the Cowboys have shown on defense over the last couple of years. 

    5. Cornerback

    The Cowboys have dedicated a ton of resources toward improving the cornerback position over the last few years. They signed Brandon Carr in 2012 and drafted Claiborne with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 draft; however, neither of those moves has gotten the Cowboys to where they want to be at cornerback. 

    Dallas did re-sign Claiborne, and Orlando Scandrick is coming back from a knee injury that forced him to miss the entire 2015 season, but they could still use some picks to improve the depth and upgrade the talent at cornerback. 

Top Targets

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Here are the top two prospects at each of the Cowboys' top five areas of need.

    Defensive End

    1. Joey Bosa, Ohio State: He is probably the most technically sound defensive end that has come out in quite some time. He doesn't have elite athleticism, but he has more than enough athleticism to get by. Joey Bosa wins with his length and strength to go along with his impeccable hand usage. His best fit with the Cowboys would be as a left defensive end whose main job is to stop the run. 

    2. Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky: He is the best pure pass-rusher in this draft, and he is the only top-tier defensive end who can win with speed and bend on the edge. He needs to improve his ability versus the run, but his pass-rush prowess is better than anyone else in this draft class. He would be great in a rotation with Gregory at right defensive end. 

    Running Back

    1. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State: The consensus No. 1 running back in this draft class. Ezekiel Elliott has everything you want in a running back. He has the speed to break off big runs, the power to get the dirty yards, the vision to pick the right running lanes, the ability to pass protect and the ability to be a reliable receiver out of the backfield. Elliott would probably make a bigger immediate impact than any other potential Cowboys pick.

    2. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech: Many may put Alabama's Derrick Henry here, but Kenneth Dixon is a better fit with the Cowboys. Dixon is a well-rounded running back with the toughness to have a long and successful career. His feet are synced up with his eyes, and he consistently makes the right reads with the ball in his hands. 

    Quarterback

    1. Jared Goff, California: The most accurate quarterback in this draft, Goff would have been a perfect fit as the Cowboys' quarterback of the future, if the Los Angeles Rams didn't trade up to probably select him with the No. 1 overall pick. Goff has enough arm strength to make it in the NFL, and his pocket presence is as good as any of the quarterbacks drafted in recent memory. 

    2. Paxton Lynch, Memphis: Many evaluators would have North Dakota State's Carson Wentz here, but Memphis' Paxton Lynch has a higher ceiling. Lynch has the arm talent, mobility and intelligence to eventually become the best quarterback in this draft class. He needs to improve his footwork and show that he can make full-field progressions, but his potential is almost certainly enticing for the Cowboys. If the Cowboys trade back from the No. 4 overall pick, Lynch will likely be someone they target. 

    Safety

    1. Karl Joseph, West Virginia: If it weren't for a knee injury after his first four games, Karl Joseph would be talked about as a surefire first-round pick. He is a heat-seeking missile to the ball, and he has made some of the biggest hits in college football in the last couple of years. The best coverage safety in this draft, depending on what position you have Jalen Ramsey at, he has the ability to cover wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. Also, he has the versatility to play deep or in the box. 

    2. Von Bell, Ohio State: A well-rounded safety, Vonn Bell doesn't have any inherent weaknesses. He can play man or zone coverage, and he can play in the box or in the deep middle. He isn't the best athlete, but his football intelligence makes up for it. 

    Cornerback

    1. Jalen Ramsey, Florida State: The best defensive player in this draft, Ramsey can play cornerback or safety at a high level. He has elite athleticism and size for a cornerback. He can play press or off coverage, and he has the football intelligence to pattern match and read the stems of routes. His length and leaping ability allow him to make plays at the catch point that many others can't. 

    2. Vernon Hargreaves, Florida: The best cover cornerback from a technical perspective, Vernon Hargreaves has the ability to become a good cornerback in the NFL. He has elite quickness and the ability to turn and run with receivers. His size limits his ability to compete at the catch point with bigger receivers. He can play in the slot or outside in the Cowboys' scheme. 

The Latest Rumors

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    BRADLEY LEEB/Associated Press

    One of the biggest discussions in this draft is what position to play Ramsey. Some evaluators think he should play safety like he did in 2014, and others think cornerback is his best position. Bryan Broaddus of the Cowboys' official website seems to believe that the Cowboys would play him at cornerback if they picked him. 

    Ramsey's size, length and athleticism are a mouth-watering combination for an outside cornerback. Furthermore, Ramsey's size and leaping ability allow him to match up with bigger receivers in the NFL. Ramsey projects as the starter opposite of Scandrick, but he can also be the No. 3 cornerback if Dallas opts to bring him along slowly. 

    Bleacher Report's Jason Cole reported that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wants to pick Elliott with the No. 4 overall pick. Elliott would be a great fit for the Cowboys, and he would take a ton of pressure off Romo. It is a lot to ask a 36-year-old quarterback to carry an offense on his back, and Elliott would help mitigate that problem. 

    The Cowboys had a ton of success in 2014 when they had a dominant run game that controlled the clock and allowed the defense to stay fresh. Elliott has the ability to be just as productive as DeMarco Murray was in 2014 without the fumbling issues.  

    CowboysHQ.com's Mike Fisher believes that it is between Ramsey and Elliott at the No. 4 pick for the Cowboys. Ramsey is a catalytic presence who can play at safety or cornerback, while Elliott is an elite talent at running back. 

    Elliott would make the biggest immediate impact for the Cowboys, but the fact that the running back position has been devalued could push the Cowboys to Ramsey. Both players are elite talents. and the Cowboys would not be wrong with selecting either player at No. 4. 

7-Round Mock Draft

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    Ray Thompson/Associated Press

    Here is how the draft may go for America's Team.

    Round 1: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State: The Cowboys front office, outside of the owner, likely prefer Ramsey here. But in this scenario, the San Diego Chargers have selected him, which leaves Elliott right in their laps. The Cowboys get the player who can make a huge impact and help them return to their 2014 success. 

    Round 2: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia: The West Virginia safety was an official predraft visitor for the Cowboys, which means he will likely be one of their targets in the second round. Joseph would be an amazing compliment to Jones at safety. He is a playmaker in every sense of the word. 

    Round 3: Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State: The Cowboys depart from their tendency to pick players from Power Five conferences as they grab a good receiver from Colorado StateRashard Higgins isn't a great, or even good athlete, but he excels in the nuances of wide receiver play. He could step in as a great No. 2 or 3 wide receiver, as he has the ability to consistently get open against man and zone coverage. 

    Round 4: Jacoby Brissett, QB, N.C. State: Jacoby Brissett has the talent to develop into a great backup quarterback or a solid starter for the Cowboys. He needs to improve upon his fundamentals, but he can be a great option to sit and develop behind Romo. 

    Round 4: Matt Judon, DE, Grand Valley State: Matt Judon led all of college football in sacks as he punished inferior competition in college. The question is whether he can make the step up to the NFL and still be productive. In the fourth round, the small-school defensive end is worth the gamble.  

    Round 6: David Perkins, DE, Illinois State: The Cowboys double-dip at defensive end here as they select a twitched-up pass-rusher from Illinois State. David Perkins might be the best athlete off the edge in this entire draft class, and the Cowboys need to improve their speed off the edge.  

    Round 6: Cory James, DE/LB, Colorado State: Another official predraft visitor, Cory James has the ability to play as a "Sam" linebacker in the base defense and slide down to defensive end in the nickel. He is raw, but his athleticism will allow him to make a big impact on special teams from the get-go.

    Round 6: Rodney Coe, DT, Akron: The Cowboys love to grab predraft visitors in the late rounds, and Rodney Coe is another one. The former running back has the athleticism to mold into a quality defensive lineman down the road. 

    Round 6: Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU: He has a ton of baggage, but Rashard Robinson has a ton of potential too. If he can bulk up and clean up his footwork, Robinson could be a real steal late in the draft.