Will Cowboys leave 2021 draft with one of its unicorns?

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K.D. Drummond
·7 min read
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The scouting process that takes place leading up to the NFL draft is extremely intensive and extensive as teams decide what prospects are worth their valued draft picks and millions of dollars. Scouts and analysts have developed a common terminology for describing football players and their strengths or weaknesses, but for the most unique prospects a new term has been coined in recent years.

Unicorn. No, not the mythical horse-like creature, but supposedly similarly a stand out for the traits they possess. NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks details his definition of the complement, saying, “[Unicorn] refers to prospects with rare physical tools that will enable them to dazzle as pros in roles that accentuate their unique talents as hybrid playmakers.” Brooks ranks his top five ‘unicorn’ prospects in the upcoming 2021 NFL draft class.

The Dallas Cowboys have the No. 10 overall selection, so what are the chances the club acquires any of these unprecedented players?

#1: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Florida Gators tight end Kyle Pitts (84) Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

"To state the obvious: You just don't find guys with NBA power forward size and wide receiver playmaking ability. Pitts is a super-sized pass catcher with outstanding balance, body control and ball skills. Moreover, he is a mismatch creator with the capacity to blow past linebackers and defensive backs in space. As the NFL continues to evolve, with offensive hybrids featured prominently in game plans to exploit favorable matchups, Pitts becomes the chess piece that every play-caller covets." - Brooks

There isn't much to say about Pitts that hasn't already been said. With the size of a true tight end and the dynamic athleticism and receiving skills of an elite wide receiver, the former Florida tight end is considered a cant-miss prospect and one of the best players in this class according to just about anyone's rankings. The Cowboys strength lies in their offensive weaponry, and many believe the club would be foolish to draft anything other than defense in the first round. However, in the off chance that Pitts falls all the way to pick No. 10, the Cowboys should and will give Pitts serious consideration, as the addition of a playmaker of his caliber could make the Dallas offense the league's best.

#2: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

"After watching Lamar Jackson rack up wins and claim an MVP award as a "running" quarterback, more scouts are embracing the thought of an athletic QB1 running the show. Lance, who's still just 20 years old, could be the next quarterback to post a 1,000-yard season on the ground as a dual-threat playmaker with the size, strength and wiggle to terrorize opponents on a variety of designed quarterback runs and option plays in the backfield. Considering the 6-4, 224-pounder chalked up nearly 2,800-plus passing yards (with a 28:0 TD-to-INT ratio) and exactly 1,100 rushing yards (with 14 scores) during his one full season as the starter at North Dakota State, the ultra-athletic playmaker could terrorize opponents with his unique playing style." - Brooks

Lance is widely considered one of the top four quarterbacks in the draft. The order of the four (or five if including Mac Jones) varies depending on whose rankings, but there is one thing most experts can agree on. Lance possesses an unusually special blend of arm talent and athleticism. A one-year starter often knocked for his inexperience, the former Bison has all the physical traits coaches adore. The Cowboys, with their newly re-signed quarterback Dak Prescott, presumably have little interest in adding one of this drafts top signal callers. That being said, should Lance fall to No. 10 there would likely be a number of franchises looking to trade up into Dallas' spot to select Lance, and the Cowboys could net a haul that allows them to plug multiple holes on the roster.

#3: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons (11) AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

"The NFL scouting community has been buzzing about Parsons since his freshman season. The 6-3, 246-pound linebacker with 4.39 speed displays a freaky combination of athleticism, instincts and playmaking ability that enables him to wreak havoc on opponents as a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine. With Parsons also flashing A+ skills as a pass-rushing specialist from the second level, it is easy to see why the blue-chip linebacker earns high marks from scouts looking for a difference-maker at the position." - Brooks

Parsons, the first of these 'unicorn' prospects that plays a position some fans would consider a need, has the ideal size and athleticism to play linebacker at the next level. While he opted out of the 2020 season, Parsons has more than shown that he knows how to use his traits to excel in stuffing the run and rushing the passer. While Parsons has the tools to develop into an excellent coverage linebacker, the skill is not currently considered his strong suit. Parsons projects to be a potential defensive game-changer, but Dallas still seems confident in middle linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and strong-side linebacker Jaylon Smith (Parsons' two most ideal roles). With the Cowboys overall need for defenders and Parsons ridiculous measurables, the former Nittany Lion should be considered a realistic long-shot to be the Cowboys first-round pick.

#4: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB/S, Notre Dame

Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

"Every defensive coordinator in the NFL is searching for a defender with Swiss Army Knife capabilities on the second level. JOK's combination of blitzing, tackling and coverage skills could allow him to become the next young defender to play like Jamal Adams or Derwin James in the box. As an aggressive defender with a strong nose for the ball and a natural knack for slipping past blockers, particularly on blitz attempts, the Notre Dame standout has the potential to become a human highlight reel as a designated playmaker within a creative scheme." - Brooks

Owusu-Koramoah (or JOK for short), as Brooks mentions, fits the mold of the modern-multifaceted, defenders that NFL teams are looking for. The ACC defensive player of the year in 2020 was used all over the defensive scheme by Notre Dame, in a similar fashion to how Clemson used last year's eighth overall pick, Isaiah Simmons. The Cowboys signed former Falcon Keanu Neal to 1-year deal where projects to be used as a hybrid between a weakside linebacker and a safety, and Owusu-Koramoah is the perfect defensive prospect for a position like that. There's rarely, if ever, a mock draft that pairs Dallas with the versatile defender at No. 10. Selecting him feels like more of a possibility if Dallas trades down. Like Parsons, there is debate to be had whether the Cowboys have a first-round warranting need in the spot where JOK would slot into, but adding defenders like Owusu-Koramoah can only help the cause.

#5: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

Dec 19, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris (22). Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

"The 6-foot-1, 232-pound running back could follow in Le'Veon Bell's footsteps as a backfield standout with the capacity to thrive as an RB1/WR2 in a creative offense. Harris is a big back with the size, strength, balance and vision to carve up defenses as an inside runner while also displaying the agility and route-running skill to win on the perimeter as a pass catcher. The combination of skills makes Harris a unique find as a "banger" with playmaking potential in the passing game." - Brooks

Anyone who considers themselves a college football fan is well aware of the all-time Alabama Leading rusher. Harris has the size of a bruiser and the footwork/hands of a third-down back, and could soon find himself as the next workhorse back out of Tuscaloosa. The last of Brooks' 'unicorn' prospects Harris is also arguably the least likely to end up in Dallas, just because of the position he plays.

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