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2012 NFL Mock Draft: Version 1.0

Jonathan Bales

I did a mock draft for USA Today which is on stands now in their 2012 Draft Preview magazine, but my first “real” mock draft is published at the New York Times today.  Click the link to check it out, and feel free to leave comments regarding my somewhat surprising selection for Dallas.

A couple of notes:

  • Click on a player’s name to read my scouting report and watch his film.
  • The second name under each team refers to a different potential draft pick for that squad, based on who is left in this particular mock draft.

2012 N.F.L. Mock Draft

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

  • Is RGIII a possibility here?  I actually think he’s superior to Luck.

Other: None

2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

  • Could you imagine being a Redskins fan and becoming upset if Luck falls to this spot?

Other: None

3. Minnesota Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC

  • Kalil is the top tackle prospect I have watched in years.  He’s going to be an All-Pro in the N.F.L.

Other: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

4. Cleveland Browns: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

  • There is a good chance the Browns try to move out of this spot, but Claiborne, Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon and perhaps even Riley Reiff are all options if they stick around.

Other: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

5. Tampa Bay Bucs: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

  • This is a crucial pick for Richardson, because if he falls past No. 5, he could drop a bit.  Actually, I think there’s an outside chance Richardson doesn’t get selected in the first 12 picks.

Other: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

6. St. Louis Rams: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

  • I really debated putting offensive tackle Riley Reiff here, in which case Jacksonville might select Blackmon at No. 7.

Other: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

  • Could Jacksonville surprise everyone and select quarterback Ryan Tannehill?

Other: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

  • If Miami doesn’t select Tannehill, he will still probably be picked in this range by a team that moves up.

Other: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

9. Carolina Panthers: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

  • I don’t think Poe should go anywhere near this high, but some team will fall in love with his athleticism.

Other: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC

10. Buffalo Bills: Quinton Coples, DE, UNC

  • The Bills could pair Coples with Mario Williams for one of the league’s top pass rush duos of the next decade.

Other: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

11. Kansas City Chiefs: Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina

  • After thinking about team needs and Ingram’s skills, I think this is the lowest he could possibly fall.

Other: David DeCastro, G, Stanford

12. Seattle Seahawks: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

  • Kuechly’s surprising combine performance proved he’s the real deal.  Athleticism and incredible production.

Other: David DeCastro, G, Stanford

13. Arizona Cardinals: David DeCastro, G, Stanford

  • The Cardinals need help in a lot of places, the offensive line being perhaps the most pressing.

Other: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Click here to see the rest of my mock draft, including the Cowboys’ No. 14 overall selection.

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Your Ultimate 2011 Dallas Cowboys Draft Guide

Jonathan Bales

I figured a lot of you would want to do some last minute draft research or have a guide of the available prospects, so below I have pasted links to a few of my more popular draft articles.  I will be attending the draft tonight, but I will try to get an article up as soon as possible (and perhaps even during the draft if I can sneak my laptop into Radio City Music Hall) regarding the Cowboys’ first selection.

2011 Big Board (Top 100) and Position Rankings

Dallas Cowboys Draft News and Rumors

Final Dallas Cowboys-Only Mock Draft

Latest 32-Team Mock Draft

32-Team NFL Draft Notes

12 Sleeper Picks for Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys 2011 Draft Trade Scenarios

I also ended up completing scouting reports for 39 different potential Dallas Cowboys draft picks, and the links are below if you want to review anyone before the draft.  They contain full scouting reports and player highlights.

Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Cameron Jordan, DT/DE, Cal

Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC

Cameron Heyward, DT/DE, Ohio State

Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Tyron Smith, OT, USC

Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple

Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois

Martez Wilson, ILB/OLB, Illinois

Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon

Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois

Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Brandon Burton, CB, Utah

Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn

Jaiquawn Jarrett, FS, Temple

Ben Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova

Drake Nevis, DT/DE, LSU

Dontay Moch, DE/OLB, Nevada

Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona

Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State

Sam Acho, DE/OLB, Texas

JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin

William Rackley, OT, Lehigh

Allen Bailey, DE, Miami

Akeem Ayers, ILB/OLB, UCLA

Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville

Jeremy Kerley, WR, TCU

Chris Culliver, FS, South Carolina

Marcus Gilchrist, FS, Clemson

Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton

Orlando Franklin, G/T, Miami


Dallas Cowboys 2011 Mock Draft, Version 3.0: A Free Agent Right Tackle

Jonathan Bales

I personally believe my last Cowboys-only mock draft was my most realistic, with the team addressing the free safety spot via free agency and securing USC tackle Tyron Smith in the first round.

But what if the team address the offensive tackle spot in free agency (or has plans to do so, anyway), leaving a gaping hole at free safety?  I personally believe this is a poor strategy for two reasons.  First, there are plenty of quality free agent safeties, including Michael Huff, Eric Weddle and Dawan Landry.  Second, there are no first-round free safety talents available in this draft.

Perhaps Dallas sees it differently, however, and they believe they can secure a starting-caliber player in the second round (or later).  Plus, there are some quality offensive tackles that will be free agents, including Ryan Clady and Tyson Clabo.  By the way, you can see my entire Cowboys 2011 Free Agency/Draft Guide here.

If the Cowboys do plan on securing a veteran offensive tackle, their draft will look radically different from the one I predicted last week.  With Jerry Jones’ past hesitancy to select offensive linemen in the first round, though, the mock below may not be all that far-fetched.

Round 1- J.J. Watt, DT/DE, Wisconsin

Let me start by stating that, if the Cowboys do not plan on selecting an offensive tackle in the first round (or perhaps even if they do), I believe they will trade down from the ninth overall selection.  With the primary areas of concern being defensive end and safety, there is no reason for the ‘Boys to remain in their current draft slot.  The value simply isn’t there at those positions.  Plus, with Washington selecting 10th and in need of a quarterback and wide receiver, there could be a lot of potential trade partners.  I detailed those scenarios here.

With Dallas eying both Watt and Cal’s Cameron Jordan (also an option here), they would almost certainly be able to acquire a defensive end they like at, say, St. Louis’ 14th overall pick.  For this particular mock, we will assume they acquired an extra third-round pick.

Watt is a player I like, but one with whom I am not in love.  In my scouting report on him, I wrote:

One of my initial concerns about Watt is that, contrary to other reports, he doesn’t seem that stout at the point-of-attack.  I still stand by that statement.  Watt obviously has great size and strength, but when asked to hold ground against the run, he’s an average player.  It’s a bit perplexing, as Watt generally plays with superb leverage.  I think his mindset changes when he’s not asked to get after the quarterback and he becomes more tentative.  That could make him a poor fit in Rob Ryan’s two-gap scheme.

At 290 pounds, though, Watt seems to be a natural fit as a five-technique end.  For his size, Watt is incredibly quick and agile.  He finished in the top four among all defensive linemen in the bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle at the Combine.  Quite impressive.

Watt uses that athleticism on the field in a diverse array of pass rush moves, including what I consider the best swim move in the class.  His rip move and bull rush are also solid, particularly because of his leverage.

I personally prefer Jordan by a hair, but I do consider Watt to be a relatively safe pick.  In the first round, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Round 2- Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA

If the Cowboys plan on addressing the free safety position via the draft (meaning attempting to find their starter), there are really only two players they will likely consider.  One is Texas cornerback Aaron Williams, who most view as a safety.  He is actually the top safety on my board, and I think he is a far better player than Moore.  In my opinion, he will be a first-round selection, but he is also certainly a possibility for Dallas here.

I see Moore as a second or third-round talent who is getting pushed up because he is the “consensus” top player at his position.  From my scouting report on Moore:

Moore’s range is quite good, but not extraordinary.  He diagnoses plays very quickly, however, and uses his intelligence to put himself in proper position.  He also has good speed which should help him become better in man-to-man coverage.  Sometimes he has trouble turning his hips and shadowing receivers.

I think Moore can be a good NFL player, but not a great one.  The Cowboys need to be sure they do not overvalue Moore simply because of the weakness of prospects at his position.

Note: Since the Cowboys must ensure they secure Moore (or whichever safety they covet), I have assumed they will use a mid-round pick (in this case, their fifth) to jump up a couple spots for him.

Round 3- Clint Boling, G, Georgia

The ‘Boys current interior linemen are quite long in the tooth.  Even though I think Kyle Kosier, Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis should all stay in Dallas this season, the Cowboys need to address the interior line before it becomes a massive concern.

Boling reminds me much of Kosier in that, while he isn’t a dominating run blocker, he is superb in pass protection.  He is extremely athletic and uses his short-area quickness and athleticism to gain leverage on larger defenders.

Round 3- William Rackley, OT/OG, Lehigh (this pick acquired from first-round trade)

Yes, I had Rackley in all three of my Cowboys mock drafts, but I know the ‘Boys really like him.  He has the versatility to play any position on the offensive line, which could be huge in Dallas.  I think Rackley should get a look at tackle, but will probably eventually play guard in the NFL.

I’ve been very high on Kosier the past two years, voting him the team’s most underrated player in 2009 and providing him with the seventh-highest grade in 2010.  The Cowboys need an infusion of youth along the entire offensive line, however, and who better than a prospect with legitimate potential to play every position on the line?

Round 4- Curtis Marsh, CB, Utah State

Despite a pedestrian 4.52 40-yard dash at the Combine, Marsh plays fast.   He is extremely athletic, having played running back his first two years in college.  He is a bit lean (6’1”, 197 pounds), but he is a physical player who is willing to come up in run support.  Overall, I think he is a good fit in Rob Ryan’s scheme.  The Cowboys will have to address cornerback earlier than this if they cut Terence Newman, of course.

Round 6- Colin McCarthy, ILB, Miami

Due to McCarthy’s “low” weight (238 pounds), some might see him as a poor fit for Dallas.  Inside linebackers in a 3-4 defense are generally massive (think Bradie James), and the Cowboys already have a smaller linebacker in Sean Lee.

However, Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defense calls for defensive linemen to play two gaps, meaning the inside linebackers can probably get away with being a bit smaller.  Plus, the game is changing anyway, and I will take a player who can defend the pass over a run-stuffer any day.

McCarthy needs to work on his technique in coverage, but he is a high-motor player with some explosiveness who would look good with a star on his helmet.

Round 7- Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia

I am pretty certain the Cowboys are going to come out of this draft with a running back.  I really, really hope it is a speedster (like Devine) who can catch some balls and become an insurance policy behind the fragile Felix Jones.  I think Jason Garrett might covet a bigger running back, but there will be far more value with the little guys in this particular draft.  Other options in the middle or late rounds include Taiwan Jones, Graig Cooper, Dion Lewis, Kendall Hunter, DeMarco Murray, Jacquizz Rodgers and Derrick Locke.  I like all of them.

Round 7- Byron Maxwell, CB, Clemson

At 6’0”, 201 pounds and running a 4.46 40-yard dash, Maxwell has a good size/speed combination.  I put much more stock in game film, but you want to garner upside in the late rounds.  Maxwell’s measurables indicate he has that.


Personally, I would not be very happy with this draft.  The only player in the group on whom I am high is Rackley.  I really think the Cowboys need to sign a free agent free safety and address the offensive tackle position in the first round.  The value of a Michael Huff/Tyron Smith combination, for example, far exceeds that of Tyson Clabo/J.J. Watt.

I do think Jerry Jones’ refusal to draft offensive linemen early does make a scenario similar to the one above possible, however.  As long as Marc Colombo and Alan Ball are not starting in 2011, though, the Cowboys will be a better team.

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2011 NFL Mock Draft, Version 1.0: Is Cam Newton the Favorite for No. 1 Overall?

Jonathan Bales

***Note:  Click on highlighted players to read full scouting reports and view game videos.

1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB, Auburn

The evidence seems to be piling up that the Panthers are interested in Newton.  The new coaching staff doesn’t seem fond of Jimmy Clausen, and head coach Ron Rivera personally attended Newton’s Pro Day.  The Panthers are also reportedly not sold on any of the defensive linemen prospects.  With little reason to bluff at the top of the draft, all signs point to Newton.

2. Denver Broncos: DaQuan Bowers, DE, Clemson

The Broncos could also select Patrick Peterson here, but new head coach John Fox always seems to covet top-tier defensive ends.  If Denver goes defensive tackle, I think Marcell Dareus will be the choice over Nick Fairley due to concerns about the latter prospect’s work ethic.

3. Buffalo Bills:  Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU

Peterson will probably be the top prospect on many teams’ draft boards.  He’s simply a stud and, if things don’t work out at cornerback for some reason, he could always move to safety.  Blaine Gabbert is an option here, but I think the Bills will select Cam Newton or a defensive player over the Missouri signal-caller.

4. Cincinnati Bengals:  Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri

Are Carson Palmer’s retirement threats real?  I actually think so.  The relationship between Palmer and the Bengals seems beyond repair, and Cincy might figure they should grab a potential franchise quarterback while they are in position to do so.

5. Arizona Cardinals: Von Miller, OLB, Texas A and M (My ‘ampersand’ key is currently under construction.)

Many experts might have Robert Quinn going ahead of Miller, but I think teams will have some concerns about Quinn’s health (he has a benign brain tumor).  Miller is an explosive athlete who will aid a Cardinals’ pass-rush in desperate need of an upgrade.

6. Cleveland Browns:  Julio Jones, WR, Alabama

A.J. Green or Julio Jones?  The Browns need to add speed to their receiving corps, and Jones’ 40-yard dash time could put him ahead of Green on some teams’ boards.  Will Jones’ fractured foot cause him to drop?  I don’t think so.

7. San Francisco 49ers:  Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, UNC

Like I said, some teams will be scared about Quinn’s health.  Others won’t, and the Niners will sure hope Quinn checks out medically.  If he’s on the board, I can’t see San Fran passing.

8. Tennessee Titans:  Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn

Many people will be surprised to see Fairley drop this far, but he might actually plummet farther.  There are major questions about Fairley’s attitude and work ethic.  There’s no doubting he’s capable of dominant play at times, however, so he might fit well in Tennessee.

9. Dallas Cowboys:  Marcell Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama

I personally think the Cowboys should select an offensive tackle in the first-round.  I’d prefer a trade down at this point, but if that doesn’t happen, my selection would be USC’s Tyron Smith.  Many claim he’s “too small” and won’t hold up on the right side, but I disagree.  The Cowboys have plenty of beef inside–athletic linemen are the future.  Plus, Smith has shown he’s capable of adding plenty of mass to his frame.

It isn’t as if I’d be irate over the selection of Dareus, however.  I actually have him rated No. 2 overall on my Big Board (to be published soon).  You might argue that the Cowboys should always take the best player available, but that’s not actually the case.  In reality, teams rarely take the highest player on their board.  They take the highest player at a position of need and the one who creates the largest potential overall draft value.

Dareus certainly plays a position of need for Dallas, but I think the Cowboys could acquire superior overall value by selecting an offensive tackle in the first round and a defensive end in the second.  As you’ll see by the end of this mock draft, I don’t think any top tackles are going to fall into the second-round.  A Tyron Smith/Muhammad Wilkerson combination looks a whole lot better than a Marcell Dareus/’anyone else in round two’ duo.

10. Washington Redskins:  A.J. Green, WR, Georgia

Either Green or Jones will almost certainly be on the board at this point, and I think the ‘Skins will jump all over whoever is left.  They might also look at defensive linemen, but I think Green’s value will intrigue them.

11. Houston Texans:  Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska

Amukamara helped himself at the Combine more than just about anyone, so he could be off of the board by this point.  Houston’s secondary is atrocious, however, so they’ll be looking for help.  They might even reach on Jimmy Smith if Amukamara is gone.

12. Minnesota Vikings:  Jake Locker, QB, Washington

This is my first major surprise of this particular mock.  There are reports that Minnesota is very interested in Locker, with local newspapers even claiming they would be shocked if the first-round ends with Locker landing in Minnesota.  It’s possible the Vikings will try to trade back into the latter portion of the first-round for Locker, but I think he’s a legitimate option here.

13. Detroit Lions:  Tyron Smith, OT, USC

This is a dream scenario for the Lions.  There are teams picking ahead of Detroit that need offensive tackles (Dallas included), but the abundance of top-tier prospects at other positions (along with the three quarterbacks already drafted) allows the Lions to select their top-rated offensive tackle.

14.  St. Louis Rams:  Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri

Smith is receiving very little hype, but I’m confident he’s going to be a top 20 selection.  The Rams have quite a few holes to fill, but none is more glaring than defensive end.  While some have projected Smith as a 3-4 outside linebacker, I see him purely as a 4-3 end.

15.  Miami Dolphins:  Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama

Is there anyone else to consider here?  If the ‘Phins let free agents Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams walk, they will obviously be desperately thin at running back.  I think running back is perhaps the most overrated position in football, but when your current starter is Lex Hilliard, you have issues.

16.  Jacksonville Jaguars:  Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue

I’m not personally a Kerrigan fan, but he just seems like a good fit in Jacksonville, doesn’t he?  The Jaguars could actually look quarterback here, so Locker and Ryan Mallett are also options.

17.  New England Patriots (from Oakland):  Cameron Jordan, DT/DE, Cal

This is a long way for Jordan to fall, but there aren’t many 3-4 teams in between Dallas and this pick.  If Dareus doesn’t drop to No. 9, don’t be surprised to see Jordan go to the Cowboys.  Either way, you know the Pats will have interest in such a diverse player.

18.  San Diego Chargers:  J.J. Watt, DT/DE, Wisconsin

The Chargers reportedly have a ton of interest in a few of this year’s second-tier 3-4 defensive ends: Jordan, Watt, and Cameron Heyward.  I think Heyward is a reach here and with Jordan off of the board, Watt seems like a surefire pick.

19.  New York Giants:  Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

I hope Castonzo doesn’t go to New York because I like him a lot, but the Giants are in a great spot to choose from a variety of quality tackles.  They’ll take their favorite, whether it is Castonzo, Carimi, Sherrod, Solder, or even Ijalana.

20.  Tampa Bay Bucs:  Justin Houston, DE, Georgia

Houston is a bit of a polarizing player, as will be evidenced when I publish my Big Board.  He’s undersized to play defensive end, but that could work out just fine in Tampa.  He’ll be a terror off of the edge for awhile.

21.  Kansas City Chiefs:  Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor

If Taylor goes to Kansas City, he’ll give the Chiefs one of the most devastating 3-4 lines in the league.  Taylor, Glenn Dorsey, and Tyson Jackson (and even Tamba Hali at times)?  Yikes.

22.  Indianapolis Colts:  Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

I don’t think Sherrod is the top offensive tackle left, but he fits well in Indy.  The Colts reportedly met with Sherrod at the Combine, so there’s some interest.

23.  Philadelphia Eagles:  Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

If the Eagles trade Kevin Kolb before the draft, they could end up with another pick in the first-round.  If so, this selection of Jimmy Smith becomes a whole lot more likely.  Then, Philly will be less hesitant to pull the trigger on a player with character concerns.

Together, Smith and Asante Samuel will make up the worst tackling cornerback duo in the history of the Milky Way Galaxy (I’m assuming there is life on other planets, even within our own galaxy, and they play “American” football).   Actually, I think one of them got into our league. . .


***Note:  The last time I “bashed” Pat McQuistan, I literally got an e-mail from one of his family members calling me an *sshole (that’s actually true).  How she sent it 3,000 light-years almost instantaneously I’ll never know. . .

24.  New Orleans Saints: Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois

The more I watch Liuget, the more I see him as a three-technique player.  He’d be a heck of a run defender as a five-technique in Dallas, but not much else.  He’s a slightly worse Marcus Spears, in my opinion, which won’t please Cowboys fans one bit.  The good news is he’s too Liuget to quit.

25.  Seattle Seahawks: Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

I know Harris’ poor Combine showing has most dropping him out of the first-round, but I’m not so sure.  Teams seem to value game tape more and more in recent years (as evidenced by Bruce Campbell’s historic fall last season).  Watch Harris’ game tape (below) and tell me you don’t see first-round talent (unless you really don’t see it, in which case I actually don’t want to hear from you).

26. Baltimore Ravens:  Ben Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova

Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome values versatility, which is exactly what Ijalana brings to the table.  He’s not being mentioned much as a first-round pick (and I really hope he falls to Dallas in the second), but he should be.  Mark my words: he could be the best offensive lineman out of this class when it’s all said and done.

27. Atlanta Falcons:  Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA

I’m not that high on Ayers, but the Falcons really need to bolster their defense.  They over-performed last season.  Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn could also be on the radar here.

28. New England Patriots:  Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida

With the 17th, 28th, and 33rd overall selections, the Pats have a lot of freedom.  That means Pitt’s Jonathan Baldwin may be on their radar, even in the first-round.

I think they’ll love Pouncey’s toughness and versatility, though.  Like Casey Matthews, Pouncey is getting pub for having a talented brother in the NFL.  Unlike Casey Matthews, Mike Pouncey can play well.

29. Chicago Bears:  Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Because teams view Carimi as “only” a right tackle, he will probably drop a bit come draft day.  I think that’s unwarranted.  Carimi is probably the most NFL-ready of all the offensive tackles, and while he may not possess the incredible upside of someone like Tyron Smith, selecting a “sure thing” in the first-round is never a bad idea.

30. New York Jets:  Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Clayborn is probably a top 15 talent, but one of his arms is shorter than the other.  That’s scary to a lot of NFL teams.  I don’t notice the difference on film, although Clayborn generally plays just one side of the field.  That could cause Rex Ryan to pass, but Ryan might also value Clayborn’s pass-rush ability as a five-technique enough to overlook his shortcomings.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers:  Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

This seems like a no-brainer for Pittsburgh.  They need an offensive tackle of the future to protect Big Ben, and Solder is the last of the “top-tier” tackles left on the board.  Note: I personally think Solder is a third-round talent. . .I’m just assuming not every NFL team will feel the same.

32. Green Bay Packers: Cameron Heyward, DT/DE, Ohio State

Predicting the Packers’ selection is very difficult.  They don’t have many holes, but they do have a couple of free agents at defensive end.  If they allow them to walk, Heyward is a real possibility.  I would take Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson ahead of him, but I think most NFL squads will rate Heyward higher.


Dallas Cowboys 2011 Mock Draft: Version 1.0

Jonathan Bales

Up until this point, I’ve refrained from creating a mock draft because I wanted time to analyze as many prospects as possible before guessing who Dallas might select (the potential prospects I’ve analyzed thus far are here).

The anticipation is becoming too much for me, which is sad considering it is the middle of February.  Hence, I will put forth my first attempt at a Cowboys-only mock draft for 2011.

There is one major issue I want to discuss before diving into the picks.  I created this mock draft assuming the Cowboys will sign a free safety in free agency.  Michael Huff (Raiders) and Eric Weddle (Chargers) are two guys I love, but pretty much anyone can beat Alan Ball and his 67.7 percent overall grade for the 2010 season.  You can see all of my safety grades here.

The reason I think the Cowboys will target a free safety before the draft is because of the weakness of this year’s prospects. UCLA’s Rahim Moore could be the best of the bunch, but I provided him with just a second-round grade.  It sure would be nice to head into the draft with at least one of the major positional concerns patched up, and free safety seems like the best bet to me.

Also note that, for this mock draft, I am assuming no trades for the ‘Boys.  Thus, they’re “stuck” in the No. 9 hole.  Now on to the picks. . .

  • Round 1:  Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama

For the ‘Boys, scooping up Dareus in the first round might be a dream.  Actually, I think the Cowboys would need a sensational trade offer to move back if Dareus is still on the board at No. 9.

His versatility is something the Cowboys generally covet.  He’s big and strong enough to play the nose in a 3-4 defense (some say he’s too small, but he’s bigger than Jay Ratliff and more of an “anchor” than the Cowboys’ current starter inside).  If the Cowboys envision Dareus as a potential nose tackle, he might create an upgrade at two positions, as Ratliff could then move to defensive end.

Like Ratliff, Dareus could also excel outside as a five-technique defensive end.  With none of the current defensive ends on the roster possessing a certain future in Dallas, it’s clear the team needs an upgrade at the position.  A look at my 2010 Defensive Line Grades suggests that as well.  Let’s also not forget that a more stout defensive line generally equates to a better secondary.

In nickel situations, Dareus would kick inside to tackle.  How does a four-man nickel defensive line of DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff, and Marcell Dareus look to you?

Right tackle is undoubtedly the Cowboys’ largest weakness.  I gave starter Marc Colombo the lowest grade of any player, ever (a 63 percent), including an ‘F’ in pass protection (see all 2010 Offensive Line Grades here).  He allowed 40 quarterback pressures.  What the hell?

I personally think the Cowboys should look into trading back in the first-round and then (if need be) trading back up from the second-round to be certain they acquire one of the better offensive tackles in this year’s class.  To me, Carimi is one of the best tackles in this draft and, surprisingly, has a shot to fall to Dallas’ second-round selection.

The reason Carimi could drop is that most teams will probably view him as a right tackle only.  That’s a major concern for a lot of organizations, but not me.  Left tackle is certainly the most important position on the offensive line, but I don’t see it as that much more vital than right tackle.  Plus, what does it matter if a guy is a left tackle if he is overrated?  I’m looking at you, Nate Solder.

In my scouting report on Carimi, I said the following:

Like Nate Solder, Gabe Carimi is another mammoth offensive lineman (6’7″, 315 pounds).  Unlike Solder, however, Carimi seems to be a natural bender.  He isn’t tight in the hips, but that isn’t to say Carimi is incredibly light on his feet either.  Although Carimi plays with what I consider to be outstanding leverage and balance, his lack of elite athleticism probably makes him a better fit for the right side than the left (which could fit Dallas well). . .Overall, however, I like Carimi’s game.  Although he gets flack for not being an elite pass protector, I think he’ll be just fine at the next level.  His technique is above average and his skill set seems to coincide with that which one needs to play right tackle.  See ya Colombo.

  • Round 3:  Brandon Burton, CB, Utah

Despite the need for a new starting free safety, I don’t think the safety position is as poor as everyone makes it out to be.  Yes, Ball is garbage, but I am way higher on strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh than most (I gave him an 87 percent and rated him as the team’s fifth-best player in 2010. . .yes, fifth).  You can check out my entire 2010 Dallas Cowboys Player Rankings here.

Since we’re going into this mock draft with the idea of Dallas having already acquired a starting free safety, the position isn’t that big of a need at this point.  The starters are set, and there is some potential sitting behind them (I still really like Akwasi Owusu-Ansah).

The future of the cornerback position, on the other hand, looks cloudy at best.  Terence Newman is getting old in a hurry and Mike Jenkins regressed considerably in 2010.  I was really high on Orlando Scandrick, but I don’t think his skill set would fit well on the outside.  He’s a nickel cornerback, and that’s probably it.

The Cowboys love speed in their cornerbacks (who doesn’t?), and Utah’s Brandon Burton is a burner.  He’s tall (6’1”) and has the potential to add some quality size (he’s only 185 pounds now).  Despite the lack of elite weight, Burton is a physical player.  He tackles with good form and, more importantly, he’s willing to stick his nose in there.

Burton is very athletic, displaying fluid hips and excellent ball skills.  The Cowboys need a playmaker in the secondary, and Burton is just that (the lack of interceptions are the result of few opportunities. . .a good thing).

  • Round 4:  Will Rackley, G, Lehigh

Current starting guards Kyle Kosier and Leonard Davis both could be out of Dallas in 2011.  I don’t envision that happening, but it’s still a possibility.  I’ve been very high on Kosier the past two years, voting him the team’s most underrated player in 2009 and providing him with the seventh-highest grade in 2010.

The Cowboys need an infusion of youth along the entire offensive line, however.  I have had the chance to watch Lehigh offensive tackle Will Rackley a few times, and I think he could fit well in Dallas.  Rackley projects as a guard in the NFL, and his size (6’4”, 310 pounds) would make him the prototypical Cowboys lineman.

Rackley is tremendous in pass protection.  He’d probably already be an upgrade over Davis in that department.  Although Rackley attended a Division 1-AA school, it wasn’t due to a lack of talent.  He reportedly had plenty of big-school offers but decided to go to Lehigh for the academics.  Thus, character concerns are probably non-existent.

  • Round 5:  Jeron Johnson, SS, Boise State

Due to the current labor situation, I think current strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh will still be in Dallas in 2011.  He’s technically a free agent, but the ‘Boys can still retain him if a new deal isn’t hashed out by March, or they could franchise him (if they don’t use the tag on Doug Free).

If the latter option is invoked, the Cowboys would basically be telling Sensabaugh to “prove it” again.  Even though I provided him with a good grade in 2010, I still think he over-performed.  If his play drops in 2011, the position could become a concern.  The Cowboys know this (and they also know Barry Church and Danny McCray haven’t shown much in the way of coverage ability), so Jeron Johnson might become an option.

Johnson is a player who has simply produced in college.  He led Boise State in tackles last season, despite weighing only 195 pounds.  His lack of elite straight-line speed is why he’ll drop, however.  Nonetheless, I think he plays faster than he will time.

  • Round 6:  Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson

At 6’4”, 310 pounds, Jenkins could be the pure nose tackle the Cowboys might seek.  Despite the prior selection of Marcell Dareus, Dallas could look to select a developmental defensive lineman late in the draft.  Remember, Dareus has the potential to play nose tackle, but he’s not a sure thing.  He might be best-suited at defensive end.

Jenkins has been labeled a “one-dimensional” player who only stops the run, but that might be all the Cowboys need from their nose tackle of the future.  With Ratliff/Dareus/Bowen kicking inside in nickel situations, Jenkins would be off of the field anyway.

  • Round 7:  Mario Harvey, ILB, Marshall

With Keith Brooking likely out of Dallas in 2011 and Bradie James’ play declining, the Cowboys could address the inside linebacker spot in the middle to late rounds of the draft.  I really like the improvement I saw from rookie Sean Lee (I graded him as the Cowboys’ most efficient inside linebacker with an 82.4 percent), but he’ll need help in the future.

Harvey is a beast inside (250 pounds) and could add some physicality to a somewhat “soft” defense.  Although Harvey would probably come off of the field in passing situations, he’d certainly improve the blitz packages from the inside linebacker spot.

Other Potential Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011

Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara

Cal DT/DE Cameron Jordan

UNC DE/OLB Robert Quinn

Ohio State DT/DE Cameron Heyward

Colorado OT Nate Solder

Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi

Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn

USC OT Tyron Smith

Miami CB Brandon Harris

LSU CB Patrick Peterson

UCLA FS Rahim Moore

Baylor NT Phil Taylor

Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple


Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft Challenge

To spice up the draft a bit, I will be conducting a Cowboys’ draft pick prediction contest between myself and a longtime member of the Cowboys Zone Forum (which I highly recommend), “Hostile.”

We have each selected four players who we believe the Cowboys could draft at each of their six picks.  To gain a point, one of those players must be chosen by the team within 10 selections of their original pick.  Thus, if the Cowboys trade up to the 20th pick to select Idaho guard Mike Iupati, we would both still receive a point.  Here are our selections:

Round 1

Hostile: Mike Iupati, G, Idaho, Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida, Nate Allen, S, USF, Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers

Jonathan: Mike Iupati, G, Idaho, Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida, Nate Allen, S, USF, Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland

Round 2

Hostile:  California DT/DE Tyson Alualu, Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, Ole Miss, Vladimir Ducasse, G/T, UMass, Morgan Burnett, S, Georgia Tech

Jonathan: Morgan Burnett, S, Georgia Tech, Eric Norwood, LB, South Carolina, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, CB, Indiana of Pennsylvania , Chris Cook FS/CB, Virginia

Round 3

Hostile:  Penn State LB Sean Lee, Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida, Pitt TE Dorin Dickerson, Hillsdale OT Jared Veldheer

Jonathan: Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida, Jordan Shipley, WR, Texas, Major Wright, FS, Florida, Lamarr Houston, DT, Texas

Round 4

Hostile: Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida, Jason Fox, OT, Miami, Mitch Petrus, G, Arkansas, Marshall Newhouse, G, TCU

Jonathan:  Tony Washington, OT, Abilene Christian, Marshall Newhouse, G, TCU, D’Anthony Smith, DT/DE, Louisiana Tech, Javier Arenas, CB, Alabama

Round 6

Hostile:  John Conner, FB, Kentucky, Rafael Priest, CB, TCU, Eric Olsen, C, Notre Dame, Kevin Thomas, CB, USC

Jonathan:  Ciron Black, G, LSU, Mike Neal, DT/DE, Purdue, Micah Johnson, ILB, Kentucky, John Conner, FB, Kentucky

Round 7

Hostile:  Darryl Sharpton, ILB, Miami, Rashawn Jackson, FB, Virginia, Manase Tonga, FB, BYU, Brandon Brinkley, CB, Houston

Jonathan:  Bryan McCann, CB, SMU, Chris Maragos, FS, Wisconsin, Brandon Carter, G, Texas Tech, Jow Pawelek, ILB, Baylor

I will post the results after the draft.


Dallas Cowboys-Only Mock Draft, Version 5.0: The Final Picks

Note: This is a two-page entry.

We have previously completed four other Cowboys-only mock drafts, listed here: Version 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0.  Some of those predictions were based on various scenarios, such as a stud player at a position of “non-need” dropping to the Cowboys.

This mock draft, our final version, will include our best guess for each Cowboys draft selection.  How many will we predict correctly?  I’m going to say either zero, all six, or somewhere in between.  You can take that to the bank.

Round 1

Nate Allen, S, USF

Cowboys CB Mike Jenkins claimed Allen is the best safety in this class.  We know the Cowboys don’t have him rated as such, but we simply do not see a top safety (or offensive tackle) falling to the Cowboys’ 27th selection.  We previously liked Florida G/C Maurkice Pouncey here, but the chances of him being available are dwindling.

Despite Jerry Jones’ proclamations to the contrary, we see Dallas moving out of the 27th slot.  They will either package a few picks to move up so they can acquire a true play-maker or slide back into the early second round to grab either Allen or Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett.  The cost of moving up is significant, so we will go with the latter scenario.

This prediction is also based on a hunch that the “interest” in USC safety Taylor Mays is a smokescreen.  The Cowboys know they need a ball-hawk at safety, i.e. not Taylor Mays.  Hopefully another team selects the workout-warrior before Dallas even has an opportunity to contemplate his addition.

Round 2

Eric Norwood, LB, South Carolina

No offensive tackle in the first two rounds?  If the Cowboys don’t select one in the first round, it is unlikely they will address the position until round three at the earliest.  We don’t see the value at tackle in the second round.  The team could probably grab similar prospects whether they select an offensive tackle in round two or three.

Further, we see the outside linebacker position as similar to offensive tackle.  The coaches seem to be satisfied with the starters at both spots (OLB is a no-brainer), meaning a rookie at either position will become a backup.  The depth at both OLB and OT is also weak, with second-year players Brandon Williams, Victor Butler, and Robert Brewster at outside linebacker and offensive tackle, respectively.

Norwood is a player we love and think would fit well into the Cowboys’ 3-4 scheme.  He needs to improve in coverage, but his pass-rushing skills are first round-caliber.

Round 3

Jordan Shipley, WR, Texas

The Cowboys are reportedly “in love” with Shipley, and so are we.  Not only is he an NFL-caliber slot receiver, but his return ability alone justifies his selection in the third round.  The question is whether Dallas will wait this long to select him–they are rumored to be contemplating grabbing him in the second round.

Ultimately, we believe the ‘Boys will hold off on Shipley until the third.  Moving up in the round is a possibility, but there is a decent shot that Shipley’s small size and lack of elite speed will allow him to be available for the Cowboys in the back of the third.

Shipley’s arrival will likely spell the end of Patrick Crayton’s tenure in Dallas.  Crayton is a solid player, but he lacks the game-breaking ability that the Cowboys covet right now.  Could a draft day trade be in the works?

Want more? Check out our top 90 overall prospects.


Dallas Cowboys 2010 Mock Draft: The Ultimate Offensive Line

Before we hear all of the complaints about the unrealistic nature of this mock draft, we must start by saying it is just for fun.  We simply want to take a look at what it would it be like if the Cowboys decided to assemble their offensive line of the future in only one draft.

This mock will take us through the first four Dallas selections.  While the likelihood of this entire mock draft playing out is effectively nil, each individual selection has a tremendous shot of coming to fruition.

First Round

Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida

Pouncey is a guy we love and one who we actually have rated slightly higher than Idaho guard Mike Iupati.  We see Pouncey as more versatile and the eventual replacement for either Kyle Kosier or Andre Gurode.

UMass guard/tackle Vladimir Ducasse.

Second Round

Vladimir Ducasse, G/T, UMass

Some scouts label Ducasse as “a man without a defined position,” but we see this as a blessing in disguise.  Ducasse could theoretically play every offensive line spot and even lined up on defense at the Senior Bowl.  More positions equals more opportunities for success.

Third Round

Tony Washington, OT, Abilene Christian

Washington will drop due to character concerns, but those issues seem to be behind him.  Like Ducasse, he is a bit raw, so Dallas may go another direction if they are seeking an immediate starter.  In the third round, though, they may be satisfied with Washington’s upside.

Fourth Round

Zane Beadles, G/T, Utah

Beadles is another guy with the sort of versatility coaches crave.  Combining him and Ducasse would give the Cowboys two chances to hit on a tackle and two opportunities to hit on a guard (that’s four total for those counting at home) between just two players.

And now, introducing your 2014 Dallas Cowboys starting offensive line:

LT:  Doug Free

LG:  Maurkice Pouncey

C:  Andre Gurode

RG:  Vladimir Ducasse

RT:  Robert Brewster

Swing Tackle:  Tony Washington

Backup Guard: Zane Beadles

How does that look to you Cowboys fans?


32-Team 2010 NFL Mock Draft, Version 3.0: Part II

In Part I of this mock draft, we detailed the first half of round one.  Now for the final 16 selections:

With the top offensive tackles and safeties gone by the 27th pick, don't be shocked to see Dallas draft Brandon Graham if he is still available.

17.  San Francisco 49ers: Charles Brown, OT, USC

Some might think this is a bit early for Brown, but his athleticism and pro-ready pass protection make him a perfect fit in San Francisco’s newly-developed spread offense.

18.  Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Iupati, G, Idaho

Iupati is a player Dallas has interest in, but he is 50/50 at best to drop to the 27th selection.  Iupati’s skills and mindset make him a perfect fit in Pittsburgh.

19.  Atlanta Falcons: Brandon Graham, DE/OLB, Michigan

We think Graham has the versatility to play either defensive end in a 4-3 or outside linebacker in a 3-4.  He should have a bigger immediate impact in a 4-3 defense like Atlanta’s because that is what he played in at Michigan.

20.  Houston Texans:  Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State

Earl Thomas or Ryan Mathews?  The Texans won’t have much of a choice.  This is the most confident we are about any draft pick in the second-half of the first round.

21.  Cincinnati Bengals:  Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech

The Bengals could go a variety of directions here, but with a solid secondary and good young linebackers, a revamped pass rush could do wonders for their defense.

22.  New England Patriots: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State

The Patriots aren’t afraid of players with perceived character issues.  Moss will probably not be back in 2011, and Bryant should start in his rookie season with Wes Welker likely to begin the season on PUP.

23.  Green Bay Packers:  Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas

Can Kindle transition to a 3-4 scheme?  We might find out.  Green Bay lost Aaron Kampman and needs edge rushers in Dom Capers’ two-year-old 3-4 scheme.

24.  Philadelphia Eagles:  Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri

Weatherspoon seems like a perfect fit in Philly.  The team just traded LB Chris Gocong and outside of Stewart Bradley (who was injured all of last season) the Eagles are very thin at linebacker.

25.  Baltimore Ravens: Jared Odrick, DT/DE, Penn State

We mentioned in Part I of this mock draft that the Cleveland Browns may be interested in drafting Odrick all the way up at the seventh overall pick.  Is that a smokescreen?  Who knows, but Odrick’s high motor has a lot of teams drooling over him.

26.  Arizona Cardinals: Taylor Mays, S, USC

Perhaps this is more wishful thinking than anything else–we just want Mays off the board by the Cowboys’ selection.  Unfortunately, we don’t see a ton of suitors for Mays in the first round.

27.  Dallas Cowboys: Maurkice Pouncey, C/G, Florida

We had Pouncey as Dallas’ selection in Version 3.0 of our Cowboys-only mock drafts.  He is a versatile player who could become the primary backup to all three interior linemen in 2010, then possibly take over for Kosier in 2011.

We really don’t see any top-tier offensive tackles or safeties left on the board at this point, which is why we have been advocating that Dallas move up.  If they don’t, Pouncey seems like the most logical selection at this point.

28.  San Diego Chargers:  Roger Saffold, OT, Indiana

So we just finish saying there are no top-tier tackles left on the board and then have a tackle being drafted one pick later?  Well, we don’t see Saffold as a top-tier guy.  The Chargers are known to “reach” for players they covet (Eric Weddle, anyone?) and they could lose tackle Marcus McNeil shortly.

29.  New York Jets: DeMaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech

Opinions on Thomas are split.  Some love his size, speed, and upside enough to give him a first round grade (us), while others fear he is so raw that he might not make an impact for a few years.

Will the Cowboys pass on USF safety Nate Allen?

30.  Minnesota Vikings: Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers

The Vikings are in need of a play-making cornerback with Cedric Griffen being one of the worst starters in the league.  Antonie Winfield is great in run support, but he’s not a shutdown guy either.  McCourty has that potential.

31.  Indianapolis Colts: Brian Price, DT, UCLA

Some teams seem to think Price can play the five-technique, but he is probably better suited playing the three-technique for a 4-3 defense such as Indy’s.

32.  New Orleans Saints: Nate Allen, S, USF

Allen has been moving up boards lately and he is a legitimate option for Dallas in the first round.  With Ken Hamlin gone, fans might like him more than Pouncey, but the Cowboys should stick to their board.  For New Orleans, Allen is the play-making type of free safety that Sean Payton loves.


2010 Cowboys-Only Mock Draft: Version 4.0, Post-Adams and Hamlin

In our analysis of the ramifications of releasing Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin, we noted that Hamlin’s departure indirectly affects the Cowboys’ cornerback depth.  FS/CB Alan Ball will likely move to free safety full-time, leaving Dallas with just three viable options at cornerback.

Would Kyle Wilson's value in the late first round be too good to pass up?

So what happens if one of the Cowboys’ top-rated cornerbacks slides to their selection?  Would they have the bravado to pick him despite recently losing two starters at key positions?

In this Mock Draft Version 4.0, we will take a look at the path Dallas may take should they pull the trigger on a sliding cornerback.

Round 1

Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State

Wilson would represent great value with the 27th pick, but he doesn’t fit an immediate need for Dallas.  Yes, the cornerback position is extremely thin, but the top three guys (particularly Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman) are exceptional.

Wilson could compete for nickel duties in 2010 and aid the Cowboys significantly in the return game.  Will that be enough to justify his selection?

Round 2

Vladimir Ducasse, OG/OT, UMass

We have a slight man-crush on Ducasse.  Big, athletic, and versatile, Ducasse has enormous upside–even more so than a lot of first-rounders.

The problem with Ducasse is that he is so raw that it may take some time for him to develop.  Could he have an impact in 2010?  Probably not as large of one as you might expect from a second-rounder.

Round 3

Darrell Stuckey, S, Kansas

The main issue with selecting Wilson in the first round surfaces itself here.  Stuckey is a project and not someone who can be counted on for immediate help in the secondary.  By drafting a lineman in the second round, the Cowboys would ultimately be forced to start either ball or (Michael) Hamlin at FS.

Round 4

Sam Young, OT, Notre Dame

We really believe Dallas could select a multitude of linemen this year.  With Ducasse able to play either tackle or guard (we think he is a tackle), the Cowboys are free to select an offensive lineman who plays basically any position in the later rounds.  Young or Miami’s Jason Fox could be options here.

Don't sleep on the Cowboys drafting a fullback.

Round 6

Clifton Geathers, DT/DE, South Carolina

We have been pushing the need for a versatile DT/DE of late, even projecting the Cowboys to select Penn State’s Jared Odrick in recent mock drafts.  However, selecting Wilson in the first round pigeon-holes Dallas into drafting an offensive lineman and safety in rounds two and three, so the DT/DE hybrid spot cannot be addressed until the later rounds.

Round 7

John Conner, FB, Kentucky

Conner may not last this long, but he is perhaps the top fullback prospect in this class.  With Deon Anderson’s future up in the air and John Phillips unable to convert to fullback full-time, Conner makes a lot of sense for Dallas.


Overall, this mock draft seems a bit weaker than our previous ones.  Sure, the Cowboys obtain a player of great value in Boise State CB Kyle Wilson, but at what cost?  Can this team really afford to go into the 2010 season with Alan Ball, Michael Hamlin, and Darrell Stuckey as the choices at free safety?

Ultimately, if Dallas does not make a move for a free safety or left tackle prior to the Draft, we fear their options could become quite narrow.