The meat and potatoes of the NFL Scouting Combine begin on Saturday, so I’m taking a look at some pre-combine mock drafts. The consensus pick for the Cowboys is a defensive player; however, there is a split between defensive line and safety.
Safety has been a need for us since Darren Woodson retired and the group has always been a weakness. It’ll be interesting what the Cowboys do here, since they did draft Wilcox in the 3rd round last year. I think safety is intriguing this year, but I don’t see it with such glaring needs on the line and lack of depth. The Cowboys will flip a coin Wednesday to determine whether they are picking at 16 or 17. For now, let’s see what others are picking for our first round pick.
BleacherReport (2/18): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
KFFL (2/18): Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
Aaron Donald made his first-round debut in my mock draft last week, soaring all the way up to No. 16. Donald had a dominant Senior Bowl, but he’s undersized. If that makes you believe that this is too high for him, I have two words for you: Jerry Jones.I’ve made Donald the choice here for Dallas over Louis Nix because he’s a much better fit for the defense. The Cowboys will be sticking with the same Tampa-2 again, which means they’ll want someone like Donald over Nix.
The Cowboys need to generate a pass rush opposite Demarcus Ware in the Tampa-2. Mack can widen out and bring it. His versatility as a hand-in-the-dirt pass rusher or a standup outside linebacker helps his stock. He features an explosive and sudden first step when rushing the passer. For the past four years he has been a disruptive playmaker despite teams’ accounting for him on every play. He led the Bulls with 100 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 10 passes defended, and 5 forced fumbles.
Pryor was asked to play far off the ball at Louisville. I would not list him among the rangiest safety prospects in recent memory and would play him closer to the box. He misses tackles in space due to aggressive angles, but others have turned that negative around quickly in the NFL.
Dennard is one of my favorite prospects in a disappointing CB class. The Cowboys need a lot of help on that defense, and Dennard can come in and help solidify that DB group.
Dallas employed 20 different players on the defensive line during the 2013 season . . . let that sink in for a minute! Playing defense is reactionary and therefore takes more energy than playing offense, and the best teams can rotate defensive linemen to keep them fresh. Anthony Spencer was paid the franchise tag for a non-participatory season due to injury and DeMarcus Ware did not play up to his Pro Bowl standards. Spencer is an UFA and Ware counts $12.25 million against the 2014 cap. Will Tyrone Crawford come back from injury? George Selvie is a nice rotational piece, but the rest of the roster is filled with JAGs. Kony Ealy’s explosion was on total display in Missouri’s 2013 game against Florida.
In 2013, Jason Hatcher excelled at 3-technique DT totaling 11 sacks and 33 QB hurries but he’s a 32 year old free agent and Dallas could look to infuse youth into their interior D-line. Hageman has pass rushing ability that is a must for a 3-technique DT in the Kiffin/Marinelli defense. The 6-foot-6, 318-pounder is an explosive pass rusher with the strength to hold up in the run game. He followed up an impressive 2012 season (35 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks) by amassing 38 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, seven passes broken up and two sacks for the Gophers in his senior season.
Hageman could serve as a replacement for DT Jason Hatcher, who turns 32 before the start of the next season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent. The “Tampa Two” defense is predicated on the front four providing sufficient pressure on opposing quarterbacks, something Hageman should help with quite well.
The Cowboys have a need at safety and Pryor’s combination of range, ball skills and toughness would be tough to pass up.
The Cowboys changed defensive coordinators again. They need players to make Rod Marinelli’s schemes work.
Just plug in the highest rated player who fits in the Cowboys front seven in this slot. Ealy is still somewhat raw, but has the tools to develop into an elite pass-rusher. By playing opposite DeMarcus Ware, Ealy would have an opportunity to learn from one of the best, while also taking some off the attention off Ware.