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The wait is almost over as the 2021 NFL draft is officially just three weeks away. As the grand event draws near, experts are fine tuning final grades and analysis of the latest batch of future NFL players.
Dane Brugler of The Athletic and one of the hosts of the Dallas Cowboys Draft Show, has become one of the most well-known and respected analysts in the scouting world. On Wednesday Brugler released his final rankings and analysis in his behemoth of a draft guide that NFL fans have come to anticipate annually.
Even though one must purchase a subscription to view the entire guide (available for a limited time at just $1 per month), the price is worth admission to fans itching for all the draft content they can handle. Brugler’s breakdown, titled, “The Beast,” feature’s information on over 600 prospects, including full scouting reports and positional rankings.
With the draft right around the corner and the majority of free agency out of the way, it is somewhat possible to narrow down what players a franchise will potentially have their eyes on, especially in the first night of the draft. With all that in mind, let’s take a look at Brugler’s latest rankings and analysis of some of the more likely first-round draft options for Dallas.
No. 5 overall prospect: Penei Sewell, OT1, Oregon
AP Photo/Ron Jenkins, File
"Sewell must develop his body angles, timing and finishing skills, but he has prestigious big man balance, mobility and football instincts. He projects as an immediate NFL starter at left tackle with Pro Bowl potential." - Brugler
The first prospect in this ranking is Oregon offensive tackle, Penei Sewell. Coming in at No. 5 overall, Sewell is one of the highest graded, realistic, targets the Cowboys could add in a few weeks. Defense is obviously a higher priority in Dallas, but many believe Sewell's an elite talent along the offensive line who could be too good to pass up. Depending on the health of Tyron Smith, the selection of Sewell could come in handy sooner than most expect. It's worth noting that Florida TE Kyle Pitts was Brugler's No. 2 overall prospect, but he was left out of this exercise because of the unlikelihood of Pitts falling to even pick No. 10. In his full scouting report of Sewell, Cowboys Wire's own Ben Glassmire ended Sewell's examination with the following analysis,
"If Sewell is on the board it would be hard for the front office to pass on a player of his talent level. It is not unrealistic to see multiple scenarios where he is still on the board at No. 10 overall. If there is a run on quarterbacks five of the first ten picks could be spoken for. Teams like the Dolphins and Bengals have also been linked to receivers in the first ten selections. If Sewell does end up available at No. 10 the Cowboys brass will at least need to seriously consider making him the selection."
No. 10 overall prospect: Patrick Surtain II, CB1, Alabama
"Surtain lacks elite play strength and twitch for the position, but he is smooth, instinctive and the game happens slower for him than most cornerbacks. He projects as an NFL starting-level press-man corner with Pro Bowl potential." - Brugler
If one had to say which prospect has been the most linked to Dallas and their top-10 selection up until this moment, the Alabama cornerback would be the choice. The son of a former NFL defensive back, Surtain has shown he has he has the technique, mind, and physical traits to excel at cornerback at a high level. Combine that with Dallas extreme need for a playmaker at the position alongside Surtain's former Crimson Tide teammate, Trevon Diggs, and it's easy to see why experts love predicting that Surtain winds up wearing a star on his helmet. At No. 10 overall, the Tuscaloosa product would be the highest defensive back drafted by Dallas since they traded up for Morris Claiborne in 2012, and many feel certain that Surtain would give Dallas the automatic improvement in the secondary they are seeking.
No. 11 overall prospect: Rashawn Slater, OT2, Northwestern
Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
"Slater will be graded as an offensive tackle on some draft boards and a guard/center on others, but regardless, he offers the smart, technically sound approach to be a plug-and-play NFL starter, and would best fit in a zone scheme." - Brugler
Another offensive line prospect who could intrigue Dallas is Northwestern's Slater. Slater may not have the ridiculous upside at tackle in the way Sewell does, but Slater offers positional flexibility that could appeal as he projects to have the ability to play, and play well, anywhere along the five-man offensive front. The former Wildcat is a student of the game who could slide in at guard for the short term, and eventfully take over protecting Dak Prescott's blindside.
No. 14 overall prospect: Jaycee Horn, CB2, South Carolina
Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
"Horn needs to refine his discipline and finishing skills, but he is a long, agile athlete with outstanding instincts, bloodlines and competitive mentality. He projects as an NFL starting press-man corner in the Aqib Talib mold. - Brugler
The second cornerback in this ranking, South Carolina's Horn has steadily risen up draft boards since the season ended. Horn, the son of ex-NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, has the ideal physical traits for a corner in Dan Quinn's scheme, and his effort and tenacity on defense are notable. While he may not have the recognition and the anticipation skills Surtain does, Horn's upside could be even higher with his top-end athleticism displayed at his pro day. Horn has seemingly leap-frogged Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley as the consensus second-best corner on most rankings following Farley's poorly-timed back surgery. Glassmire praised the former Gamecock in his scouting report, saying, "Horn can fit almost any scheme and showed he can thrive both on the inside and the outside. There are very few weaknesses in Horn’s game and should have an extremely long career in the NFL."
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
The following players are honorable mentions for different reasons. For example, Micah Parsons is a top 15 talent but most believe the Cowboys won't use the capital on the position. Meanwhile, Caleb Farley is in this segment because a recent back surgery has driven him down the board for almost every expert, but its unclear if franchises will have the same fears. These prospects should still be seen as potential targets on day one, especially if Dallas trades down in the first round. No. 12 overall prospect: Micah Parsons, LB1, Penn State No. 16 overall prospect: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE1, Georgia No. 17 overall prospect: Christian Darrisaw, OT3, South Carolina No. 18 overall prospect: Greg Newsome II, CB3, Northwestern No. 19 overall prospect: Kwity Paye, EDGE2, Michigan No. 20 overall prospect: Christian Barmore, DT1, Alabama No. 30 overall prospect: Caleb Farley, CB4, Virginia Tech