Mock Draft Roundup: Cowboys favoring CB, OL prospects

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Todd Brock
·8 min read
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The sudden appearance of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford into the pool of acquirable talent may have shaken up the big boards of many teams around the league and caused some to rethink their draft strategy. But seemingly not the Cowboys. Despite the uncertain long-term employment prospects of Dak Prescott in Dallas, No. 4 isn’t going anywhere in 2021. And that means the front office’s objective with the tenth overall pick is unlikely to change.

Could Jerry and Stephen Jones trade out of that spot to a club eager to pay out, reach up, and snatch a top-ten-talent youngster? Of course, but the Cowboys’ needs are too glaring across the board to not view that early selection as a prime opportunity to bring an elite superstar-in-the-making into the fold.

While some of this week’s mock drafts forecast movement among teams based on a Stafford trade, none of the scenarios here had the Cowboys moving out of the tenth pick. Two names came up repeatedly- one on offense and one on defense- that would beef up areas of obvious weakness. Another mock entertained the familiar notion of a name Cowboys fans have had repeatedly this offseason. And one hypothetical draft went outside the box to add a playmaker to a positional group that is already top-tier in the league.

Mel Kiper, ESPN: OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

Oct 28, 2017; Evanston, IL, USA; Northwestern Wildcats offensive lineman Rashawn Slater (70) in action during a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

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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.

Josh Edwards, CBS Sports: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

Dec 29, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (2) celebrates after catching a touchdown pass in front of Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Patrick Surtain II (2) during the fourth quarter of the 2018 Orange Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

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Dallas adds a top cornerback prospect to a secondary that desperately needs help. Patrick Surtain II is the best player available at a critical position of need.

Jon Machota, The Athletic: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech

Oct 5, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes wide receiver K.J. Osborn (2) is unable to make a catch as Virginia Tech Hokies defensive back Caleb Farley (3) defends the play during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

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The first nine picks were Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, BYU QB Zach Wilson, LSU WR Ja'Marr Chase, Michigan DE Kwity Paye, Oregon OT Penei Sewell, Alabama WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle, Ohio State QB Justin Fields and Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II. The best available when the Cowboys went on the clock, according to [The Athletic's Dane] Brugler’s board, were Farley, Florida TE Kyle Pitts, Northwestern OT Rashawn Slater, Virginia Tech OT Christian Darrisaw and Penn State LB Micah Parsons. Considering all of the help the Cowboys need on defense, Farley made too much sense. He'd likely start immediately opposite of Trevon Diggs, giving Dallas an impressive cornerback tandem that could be excellent for a while. Farley (6-2, 205) opted out last season because of COVID-19 concerns, but he had four interceptions and 12 passes defended in 10 games as a sophomore in 2019. With Blake Jarwin returning from his knee injury and Dalton Schultz emerging last season, tight end isn't a major need. Offensive tackle would make some sense, especially considering that Tyron Smith has struggled to stay healthy for the last five seasons. Linebacker could also be in play here, especially if new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is concerned about the position. Brugler: "Farley checks boxes with his size, speed and reaction skills while also developing his comfort level on defense, which has allowed him to anticipate the action and play ultracompetitive. With only two years of experience at corner, he needs continued work with his route recognition and fundamental muscle memory, but the majority of his flaws are due to inexperience and not inability."

John Owning, Dallas Morning News: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

Sep 26, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) catches a pass for a touchdown against Missouri Tigers defensive back Ennis Rakestraw Jr. (2) during the first half at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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With cornerbacks Patrick Surtain II and Caleb Farley off the board in this scenario, I opted for the best player available (BPA) in Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. This selection would likely mean Michael Gallup’s days in Dallas are numbered, but Waddle is worth it because of what he can add to the offense.

Listed at 5-10, 182 pounds, Waddle is a little light for the NFL, but he more than makes up for it with game-breaking speed. We see fast receivers every year in the NFL, but Waddle's ability to accelerate and run away from coverage is the closest thing to Tyreek Hill that I've seen in recent years.

And Waddle isn't just a pure burner. He showcases impressive route running, efficient route breaks and reliable hands. Waddle is a monster in yards after the catch (YAC) and a threat to score from anywhere on the field, which also ties into his impressive return ability.

The Cowboys would need to decide whether to move Waddle or CeeDee Lamb to the outside, allowing the other to mainly line up in the slot. Waddle's presence would make defenses respect Dallas' vertical passing game even more than they already do, which could have benefits for the rest of the Cowboys' weapons.

While receiver isn't a need and fans are zeroed in on defense in the first round, Waddle is too good to pass up here with the top corners off the board. Passing on Waddle to reach for a defender with a lesser grade is a recipe for disaster, so I’m playing it safe and sticking with BPA.

Walter Cherepinsky, walterfootball.com: OT/G/C Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

Sep 30, 2017; Madison, WI, USA; Northwestern Wildcats offensive lineman Rashawn Slater (70) during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

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The Cowboys can't trust Tyron Smith anymore. He's been injured far too often over the past few years. The defense must be addressed, but protecting Dak Prescott is most important. Rashawn Slater can play every position on the offensive line. He some great tape against Chase Young.

Ric Serritella, SI.com: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

Alabama defensive back Patrick Surtain, II, (2) during first half action in the Alabama A-Day spring football scrimmage game at Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday April 13, 2019.
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Pairing Surtain Jr. with his former college teammate Trevon Diggs would provide some much needed stability in the secondary. Dallas was amongst the worst in the league in allowing big plays (11 plays of 40-plus yards) and touchdowns (34) via the air.

Jordan Reid, The Draft Network: OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

Dec 1, 2018; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end Chase Young (2) rushes the line (2) in the first half against Northwestern Wildcats lineman Rashawn Slater (70) in the Big Ten conference championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

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The Cowboys defense was among the league's worst units last season and there’s plenty of help needed there. With the value arguably not there with this pick, Slater gives the team extra help up front. I'm fully expecting QB Dak Prescott to be back on another franchise tag and with both Tyron Smith and La'el Collins returning from injury, Slater provides insurance at tackle, but can also kick inside to guard as well.

Steve Palazzolo, Pro Football Focus: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama

Oct 31, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama defensive back Patrick Surtain II (2) returns an interception for a touchdown at Bryant-Denny Stadium during the second half of Alabama's 41-0 win over Mississippi State. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports

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The Dallas secondary needs talent everywhere, and Surtain is a good fit because he has the size and technique to start immediately. Surtain had three productive years at Alabama, peaking last year with an 89.9 overall grade, and he is rarely out of position in both press and off-coverage.