In what was another disappointing season in Dallas, Jerry Jones’ beloved ‘Boys have once again found themselves owners of a division title, without a playoff win. There is once again hope for this fall with a roster budding with headlining talent on both sides of the ball. But Dallas has simply failed to get over the postseason hump, leaving questions once again of exactly what direction the Cowboys will head.
A franchise with overwhelming expectations each and every year, for now, all the Cowboys can do is look ahead. They have a chance to build upon a roster that, at times, looked to be one of the more dominant in all of football. From the additions of quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, linebacker Micah Parsons, offensive lineman Zack Martin and defensive tackle Tyron Smith over the last decade, the NFL Draft has consistently proved fruitful for Jones as he looks to annually add pop to his roster. While 2022 preseason predictions will likely see Dallas on top of the NFC East and sit among the league’s top Super Bowl contenders, we like to stick to reality here.
The fact remains that there are many holes to fill if the Cowboys ever hope to rid themselves of their playoff demons and return to the top of the NFL totem pole. Using our Mock Draft Machine, I looked at which prospects Dallas could, and should, target when the draft rolls around in just a week's time. Here is my seven-round mock, including scheme fit, on each prospect:
Round 1 (No. 24 overall): Jaquan Brisker, SAF, Penn State
After selecting Parsons to kick off his draft haul last year, the do-it-all team executive in Jones goes back to his State College well with Brisker, who is an extremely athletic, uber-versatile safety. A former JUCO transfer, Brisker is a fluid defender who makes his presence felt working downhill with pop that can be felt in his film. He has room to grow as a ball-hawking ceiling defender, but with the correct allotment of snaps, the sky is the limit for him. Brisker is one of the best pure athletes in the entire class and would be able to fly around the apex of the Cowboys’ secondary.
Round 2 (No. 56 overall): Arnold Ebiketie, EDGE, Penn State
Just call it Happy Valley south at this point, right? Look, after losing Randy Gregory, who knows how often Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn is going to deploy Parsons at 5-tech, but Ebiketie, a player I wouldn’t be surprised comes off the board on night one is still available at 56th overall, Jones should actively power walk his way up to the podium.
Round 3 (No. 88 overall): Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
Dallas has found themselves in a bit of a time capsule at the linebacker spot after drafting Parsons and releasing Jaylon Smith, only to move Parsons to the edge leaving a hole at the second level adjacent to Leighton Vander-Esch. With Andersen, he fits the Keanu Neal hybrid role and then some, and would have an immediate impact at each level of the Dallas defense. A small school product who may also earn some snaps on offense down the road, Andersen is an electric football player that could progress into the steal of the draft. Jabril Cox remains in the building, and I expect him to challenge for snaps at both safety and linebacker, but Andersen provides a sure thing in the core of your defense if you're Quinn. Andersen was a no-brainer here for me in the third round.
Round 4 (No. 129 overall): Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia
Jerry Jones loves splash and who better to groom and potentially take over tight end Dalton Schultz’s role than one of the most transcendent prospects during the pre-draft cycle? Woods is a massive man at 6-foot-7 and is a glider in space with Pro Bowl potential. He has a ways to go in playing through contact and creating after the catch, but all the tools are there for Woods to become a premier target in an NFL offense, and in this case, a favorite for signal-caller Dak Prescott.
Round 5 (No. 155 overall): Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
With Amari Cooper gone, Dallas opted to re-sign Michael Gallup and add James Washington to fill out their receivers room headlined by CeeDee Lamb. Ross, a unique athlete on the outside whose game should thrive working with Prescott, remains one of the more intriguing stories in the class. If he hits, he has top wide receiver traits. If not, he could bounce around the league the next handful of seasons – there’s really no in-between. In Dallas, Prescott needs more weapons and while the team drafted Simi Fehoko last spring in the same round, Ross is a player with a skillset to bet on within an offense littered with play-action shot plays and spread concepts.
Round 5 (No. 167 overall): Luke Fortner, IOL, Kentucky
This isn’t the same group you’re used to up front for Dallas and depth is needed on the interior immediately. I wouldn’t be shocked if they used a higher selection to address the core of their front five, however, I like how the board fell here with four fifth-round picks. The Cowboys grab a space-eating lineman with ideal developmental traits to become the answer at center down the road.
Round 5 (No. 176 overall): Pierre Strong Jr., RB, South Dakota State
The contract is an issue in and of itself, but running back Ezekiel Elliott is just not getting the job done anymore, folks. While he’s currently on the books until 2027 (!), Jones has to address the position here with Tony Pollard representing the only back who’s shown the ability to produce when given the opportunity and you could say the former Memphis product’s move atop the depth chart has been long overdue. I can’t envision a scenario with Elliott entering Week 1 next September with a 20+ carry per game workload as the lead back. So, give me Strong Jr., one of the biggest sleepers in the class with similar between the tackles juice that Elliott showed out of Ohio State, and the Cowboys could manifest a three-headed backfield with some success. Strong is a difficult athlete to bring down in space who was one of the more dominant talents at the FCS level and has all the tools to compete for a substantial role in the Cowboys’ ground game.
Round 5 (No. 178 overall): Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State
Someone who I expect to come off the board higher than expected, who knows what lies ahead surrounding Kelvin Joseph, but you can never have enough talent at the corner spot. Lucas is an inside-out defender with ideal mirroring skills and footwork to earn snaps in sub in his first season.
Round 6 (No. 193 overall): Thomas Booker, IDL, Stanford
As versatile as they come along the defensive front, Booker is a scheme-versatile prospect who touts the necessary strength and athleticism to push the pocket from the outside, only to then jump to the inside as a 3-tech defensive tackle and anchor against a double team. While he has a ways to go and is by no means a refined talent, he touts the ideal measurables and makeup that Dallas pins along their front four. While Dorance Armstrong (44% of snaps) and Carlos Watkins (38.1%) are both back, Booker should enjoy a nice rotational role in year one, working into a hefty amount of snaps down the line with the necessary skill development.