Mel Kiper’s Mock Draft 1.0: Cowboys work on solidifying offense in 1st round

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K.D. Drummond
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The Dallas Cowboys have a myriad of needs, and while the defense was one of the worst in the NFL in 2020, it’s no guarantee they use their first-round pick to shore up those holes. There is a line of thinking that making a strength a super strength is the better strategy. Not everyone agrees of course, but ESPN’s Mel Kiper does.

In his inaugural mock draft for 2021, Kiper bypasses the several defensive prospects who have been commonly linked to Dallas and instead chooses to go offense. However, he didn’t go for the skill position player many have linked to the the Cowboys in recent weeks. With Kyle Pitts, the tight end out of Florida still on the board, and both of the top cornerbacks, Kiper has Dallas going offensive line with 1.10.

10. Dallas Cowboys

Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern

Heading into the 2020 season, the Cowboys’ offensive line looked solid on paper, and that was after center Travis Frederick retired in March. But then injuries hit: Right tackle La’el Collins missed every game, left tackle Tyron Smith played just two and guard Zack Martin missed six. And what you saw was a poor Cowboys offense, even before quarterback Dak Prescott was lost for the season due to his ankle injury. That’s why I think Slater fits in Dallas, where he could play either tackle spot or move inside to guard. Todd McShay thinks Slater could excel at center, too. He was another prospect who opted out, but he didn’t allow a single sack playing left tackle in 2019. This is a spot to watch for Surtain as well because Chidobe Awuzie could leave in free agency.

Pitts went the next selection, No. 11 to the New York Giants. The next selection was Patrick Surtain II, the Alabama corner going to San Francisco at No. 12. Virginia Tech corner Caleb Farley went No. 16.

Slater’s versatility along the line is important, but the idea that the Cowboys would slide him up and down as injuries popped up is a pipe dream of the worst kind. Dallas would identify one spot to play him and stick him there to let him learn.

If the draft would play out, the Slater selection would forever be linked to these players. It may not be a bad thing, but it would certainly raise eyebrows. Many draftniks wonder if Slater is the best offensive line prospect in the draft, competing with Oregon’s Penei Sewell.

The draft will be pure chaos, as so many players opted out of the 2020 season due to coronavirus risk (like Slater), and now that the scouting combine and in-person interviews are ruled out, there’s likely going to be a huge gap between fan expectations, draftniks and what teams actually do come April.

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