The 80 days between the time we last saw the Cowboys in-game action, and the beginning of the free agency signing period felt like an eternity.
With the new league year comes a clean slate, restored hope for every fanbase, and at long last, real NFL news.
Just over a week into free agent player movement, additions to and departures from the Cowboys roster have started to give shape to the 2020 team. Knowing what we know to date, I wanted to offer up my first of two Cowboys full 7 round mock drafts.
Guidelines for this mock are simple. For the sake of simplicity, no trades will be included. Hypothetically you could maneuver all 7 picks around. The possibilities are endless, and it leaves the door open for a messy mock. Available players for each pick are determined by the cbssports.com Big Board. Players must be ranked at or below the value of the pick to be ‘available.’ The player selected at #17 overall must be ranked 17 or lower, and so on.
Let’s optimize our Cowboys.
1st Round // 17th Overall
CJ Henderson, CB, Florida (6’1″/204)
The Cowboys have painted themselves into a corner at the cornerback position. Pro Bowler Byron Jones was allowed to leave for Miami, and the Cowboys balked at the prospects of signing big-ticket free agents like Chris Harris or Desmond Trufant. Dallas added Jets CB Maurice Canaday to the room, but the intent is for him to be a spot duty/role player.
CJ Henderson is the near-consensus #2 cornerback in this class. Considering positional value, being able to nab the #2 corner at pick #17 is a major coup. Henderson has the size, speed, and fluidity to make a serious run at being CB1 for the Cowboys week 1.
2nd Round // 51st Overall
Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M (6’3″/293)
The Cowboys have done well to stabilize their interior defensive line with the additions of Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy. Defensive tackle is not the biggest need here for the ‘Boys, but the early rounds of the draft are about talent acquisition, and Justin Madubuike is a big blinking neon light at #51.
Madubuike is stout, twitchy and explosive. He played everything from the 0 to the 3 technique in A&M’s defense and looks as though he could even play some odd-front end. Gerald McCoy is 32 years old. Madubuike can initially work in a rotation with him (and alongside him at times), before eventually taking over. Trysten Hill, get your life together or get left behind. The Cowboys are building the nasty, strong and active defensive front that fans have been clamoring for.
3rd Round // 82nd Overall
Devin DuVernay, WR, Texas (5’11″/200)
This is maybe around early for DuVernay, but Randall Cobb’s departure blew a major hole in the Cowboys offensive roster. In the NFL in 2020, WR3 is a starter. With slot types becoming scarce on the board, it was better to pull the trigger on DuVernay around early.
What better way to replace Cobb than to draft the guy who looks like his clone on tape? Fast (4.39 forty), sturdy, and great after the catch. DuVernay is a bit unrefined, so coaching will be key, but this is still a guy who should be able to handle the majority of the slot workload right away and add some pop in the return game.
4th Round // 123rd Overall
Leki Fotu, DT, Utah, (6’5″/330)
We didn’t come to the store for 2 defensive tackles, but the value was too great not the throw them both in the cart. Fotu is an absolute stump on the interior. A mountain of a man, Fotu is hard to move and isn’t even a master-level technician yet. If Jim Tomsula can teach this guy to really just drop the trailer and stack things up, he’s going to be impossible to unearth for opposing offenses.
This is a greedy pick and I don’t care. As I’ve said many times, I’m a strong believer in turning a strength into a superpower. Taking Madubuike and Fotu gives you the 2nd generation McCoy and Poe. Along with Antwaun Woods, you have 5 guys who can mix and match all along the front of 3 man line, and on the interior in your 4 man front. Running all over the Cowboys is over with. No more. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch ought to be crispy clean behind that wall of flesh.
5th Round // 164th Overall
Saahdiq Charles, OT, LSU, (6’4″/321)
Offensive tackle is a sneaky need for the Cowboys. Gone is last year’s swing tackle, Cameron Fleming. In steps Brandon Knight as the primary backup to Tyron Smith and La’el Collins. Knight showed some promise in spot duty last season and looks as though he could hold up fine on the right side. He may not, however, be the type of athlete you want protecting Dak Prescott’s blind side for any significant amount of time.
Tyron Smith turns 30 before season’s end and has a designed escape hatch in his contract next offseason. Getting his heir apparent into place before it becomes a pressing need would be a savvy move for the Cowboys front office. This organization watched a great line of Flozell Adams, Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis, and Marc Columbo rapidly crumble with age as they did nothing about it. Hopefully, the 4-year rebuild that followed (Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Kevin Kowalski, etc.) is still fresh in the mind of the Cowboys’ brass.
Charles is a player with a great toolbox, who probably needs a year of fine-tuning. Size, length, athleticism, and on-field demeanor all check out. A little technical refinement and you could be looking at a 5th round Pro Bowl steal.
5th Round // 179th Overall
Quez Watkins, WR, Southern Miss., (6’0″/185)
With Cooper, Gallup, and DuVernay on board, your starters are set. However, Tavon Austin, Devin Smith, Cedrick Wilson, and Ventell Bryant combined for 538 WR snaps last season, and that’s without a major injury to any of the starters. The Cowboys would be wise to make an investment that would ensure that those snaps go to a more productive player in the future.
Quez Watkins would add some variety to the Cowboys’ WR room. He walks in as the fastest man on the unit (4.35 forty). Watkins is more than just a straight-line speed guy. He is an above-average route runner, crafty after the catch, and really shows some excellent skills going up for contested balls.
Watkins vs. Devin Smith vs. Cedrick Wilson for WR4 duties.
7th Round // 231st Overall
Levonta Taylor, DB, Florida State, (5’10″/190)
Just swinging the bat at some upside here, at a position of need.
Levonta Taylor was the top-ranked cornerback prospect in the country exiting high school. If college sophomores could declare for the draft, Taylor could have come out and been a top 50 selection. Things got weird in his junior season. His school changed head coaches, his play dipped. Didn’t leave for the league after a subpar junior season, senior year was no better. Bumped around between corner and safety, and before it was all over, ended his career in the ‘doghouse’ so to speak.
Bill Parcells was always interested in dusting off former 1st round selections, believing that if they were once so highly regarded, there must be something there. The same logic should apply here. Taylor is an off-the-charts athlete, who was topping everyone’s 2019 mock drafts before he played his junior season. We have seen him play at a really high level against top competition. A 7th round pick is a nominal fee to get this very talented guy into your program, figure out what went wrong and see if you can fix it.
We will revisit this mid-free agency mock, and put a final draft on record the morning of the draft, April 23rd.
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