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Dallas Cowboys 2011 Mock Draft, Version 2.0: Rounds 1-7

Jonathan Bales

You can see my first Cowboys-only mock draft here.  Both that mock and this one contain a built-in assumption that the Cowboys will sign a veteran 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 Cowboys may target UCLA’s Rahim Moore in the second round, but I don’t think the team should put all of their eggs in the rookie safety basket.  This class is awfully weak at safety, and filling that hole via free agency will allow the organization to concentrate on other needs, such as right tackle and defensive end.

It is becomingly increasingly obvious that USC tackle Tyron Smith is a legitimate option, and probably the favorite, for the Cowboys at No. 9 overall.  The team desperately needs an upgrade over right tackle Marc Colombo, and Smith played right tackle during his time at USC.

Smith is an extremely athletic player and the future of NFL linemen.  His selection would be a good indicator the Cowboys are moving in the right direction.

The ‘Boys may try to trade up for Patrick Peterson or Marcel Dareus if either player falls past the fifth pick, but that may be unlikely.  Smith was the pick in my last 32-team mock draft.

  • Round 2: Kenrick Ellis, NT, Hampton

I recently performed a March Madness-style “tournament” with 16 prospects who could get selected by Dallas in the second round.  I concluded that, if the ‘Boys do not plan on signing a veteran free safety, Rahim Moore is the most likely candidate to go No. 40 overall.  The other “Final Four” prospects were Miami CB Brandon Harris, Baylor guard Danny Watkins, and Ohio State defensive tackle Cameron Heyward.

But what if the Cowboys go “off the map” in the second round?  Who is someone we are all overlooking who could potentially land in Big D?  Enter Kenrick Ellis.

I understand new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said he will keep Jay Ratliff at nose tackle.  Guess what?  I don’t necessarily believe him.  If the Cowboys are on the clock and their highest-rated player is a nose tackle, they would be foolish to pass on him.

The concerns about Ellis are plentiful.  He was dismissed from South Carolina for academic reasons and marijuana use.  He was suspended this season due to assault.  There are concerns about his work ethic and weight (he is reportedly 346 pounds).  All of these issues could lead Dallas to take him off their board.

But you don’t often find true 3-4 nose tackles with Ellis’ athleticism.  He has big-school talent that he used to dominate his competition at Hampton.  He’s a mean player that, despite off-field work ethic concerns, works very hard in games.  Most importantly, he is the two-gap defensive lineman that Rob Ryan covets.  Mike Mayock recently stated Ellis will not get out of the second round.  He’s a “sleeper” to go to Dallas here, but don’t rule it out just yet.

I had Rackley going to Dallas in my last Cowboys-only mock as well.  That’s because I really like him and I know the Cowboys do too.  Actually, Rackley was just in town on April 5 for a visit and lengthy conversation with Jerry Jones (via Rackley’s Facebook. . .he requested me guys, cause we’re tight like that).  I recently interviewed Rackley and I think his versatility to play any position on the line would be huge for Dallas.

In that mock, I had him going in the fourth round, but I really think the ‘Boys will need to spend their third round selection on Rackley to secure him.  He is gaining some steam and a third round pick would by no means constitute an ‘overpayment’ for Rackley.

I see Rackley playing guard in Dallas (especially if the team drafts Smith, obviously).  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?  From my scouting report on Rackley:

I do think whoever drafts Rackley should at least give him a look at tackle.  He’s quite athletic for a 310-pounder, displaying great knee bend and quick hand movement.  His lateral movement and slide in pass protection are superb.

Rackley’s athleticism allows him to play with tremendous leverage.  He can easily get to the second level in the running game, which is something Dallas is missing right now at right tackle.  It sure would be nice to be able to run a toss or counter to the right side of the field, huh?

Rackley’s mobility is complemented well by his strength.  He has a very thick lower body, and his upper body strength is adequate (29 reps at the Combine).

  • Round 4:  Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville

Patrick is No. 66 on my revised Big Board (yet to be published).  I recently posted a scouting report on Patrick in which I wrote:

At 6’0”, Johnny Patrick has a long frame that allows him to effectively re-route receivers at the line-of-scrimmage.  He will become even more effective at that when he adds five or 10 more pounds (he’s only 190).  Despite being thin, Patrick is physical in all aspects of the game.  He’s generally a willing tackler.  He could benefit from using better technique at times, but a willing attitude is far and away the most important aspect of tackling.

Patrick has plenty of flaws, but he possesses the sort of upside you want in a mid-round draft pick.

  • Round 5:  Lawrence Guy, DT/DE, Arizona State

Once considered a potential second-rounder, Guy has dropped down boards.  He never tallied much production at Arizona State and his arms are shorter than you would like.  Nonetheless, Guy is a natural 3-4 defensive end with tremendous character and intelligence.

  • Round 6:  Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville

I personally have no interest in Powell.  Despite his production in 2010 (1405 yards rushing and 14 total touchdowns), I think Powell is a better fit for a zone-blocking scheme.  He is a downhill, one-cut runner who doesn’t possess great lateral quickness or burst.  I would much prefer Pitt’s Dion Lewis here, but the Cowboys have shown heavy interest in Powell.  I think Garrett views him as a potential replacement for Barber.  Little does he know, he already has that player on the roster in Tashard Choice.

  • Round 7: Kristofer O’Dowd, C, USC

O’Dowd is a talented player who may not last this long, but centers tend to drop.  O’Dowd has also been horrible since the season ended, getting blown backwards all week in Senior Bowl practices and running just a 5.16 40-yard dash at the Combine.  He has the potential to play any position along the interior line, however.

  • Round 7:  Alex Wujciak, ILB, Maryland

The National Football Posts’ Wes Bunting characterized Wujciak as “tough, instinctive, and hard-nosed.”  He’s not going to ‘wow’ you with athleticism, but he is a good football player.  He’s a hard-worker that, with Sean Lee taking over Keith Brooking’s role, could eventually be the Cowboys’ “new” Bradie James.

Overall Thoughts

You can see this mock draft is heavy on both the offensive and defensive lines.  If the Cowboys came out of the 2011 Draft with high-upside prospects at tackle (Smith), guard (Rackley), and center (O’Dowd), I would be thrilled.

Plus, the Ellis/Guy combination would do a lot to strengthen the defensive front.  With Ellis and Josh Brent manning the nose, Ratliff would upgrade the defensive end spot.  He would join forces with (perhaps) Stephen Bowen and/or Jason Hatcher (Bowen is more likely to stay, in my opinion).  With Guy as a prospect for the future, the line is suddenly looking okay.  Throw in improved play from Anthony Spencer and the continued emergence of Victor Butler, and the Cowboys’ potential pass-rush looks a whole lot more formidable.

Personally, I would pass on Powell.  I do think the ‘Boys should address the running back position late in the draft, but there are an abundance of talented second and third round talents who will drop.  Taiwan Jones (Eastern Washington), Graig Cooper (Miami), Dion Lewis (Pitt), Shane Vereen (Cal), Kendall Hunter (Oklahoma State), DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), and Jacquizz Rodgers (Oregon State) are all players I really like and have rated anywhere from No. 34 to No. 63 on my Big Board.  A few of those backs will go later than they should, and Dallas can and should benefit from that.

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Interview with Lehigh OT Will Rackley

Jonathan Bales

Yesterday, I published my scouting report on Lehigh offensive tackle William Rackley, a player the Cowboys seem to be targeting and one who would fit quite well in Dallas.  Last night, I was able to get in contact with Rackley and ask him a few questions about the upcoming draft. . .

Q:  How is your draft prep going?  What have you been doing?

A: Since my Pro Day, I have been doing a lot of private workouts.  Once those are over, I have some visits.  I have also been working out like a maniac to keep in shape.

Q:  Dallas showed interest in you at the Combine.  have you had any farther contact with them?

A: Yes, I actually have a visit scheduled with them on April 5.

Q:  How was that interview with Dallas at the Combine?  Did they (or any other teams) ask you any off-the-wall questions?

A: Luckily, I don’t have anything bad in my background that might make them put me on the spot.  I was happy to not really get any crazy questions like that.

All of the teams had me watch film, draw up plays and stuff like that.  All football-related.  Some of them teach you their plays and then test you on them.  They want to see how much you can remember.

Q:  Were you content with your overall Combine performance?

A: I thought my position drills went really well, but I didn’t run as well as I wanted.  I wasn’t really nervous or anything, but I just didn’t do my best in some of the tests.  I was really looking forward to the position drills though and I think teams were impressed with my work there.

Q:  You’re originally from Georgia.  What made you decide to attend Lehigh?

A: Well, I wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school.  I was mainly recruited by Patriot League schools like Lehigh.  Going pro was always a dream of mine, but when I came out of high school, I was really just focused on becoming the best college player possible.

Q:  Well you obviously made a good decision.  Those hills at Lehigh will kill you though.

A: (Laughs) Yeah, those hills get old really fast.

Q:  Have teams talked to you about moving to guard?  Would you prefer to stay at offensive tackle?

A: Some teams have brought it up.  Some want me to move to guard, some to center, and some think I can stay at tackle.  I don’t care where I play.

Q:  Do you have any experience at guard or center?

A: Yeah, I played guard my freshman year at Lehigh, and I also played center in practice.

Q:  How difficult is it to not constantly check mock drafts or watch television to see where analysts think you’ll get drafted?

A: I try not to worry too much about that stuff.  It can be hard, but I honestly don’t really pay much attention to it.  I know those things can change so frequently, so no sense worrying about it.

Q:  Know where you’ll watch the draft?

A: Just from home.  I just want to get selected as early as possible.

Q:  Last question.  Do you pattern your game after any current or former players?

A: No, I don’t really try to emulate anyone else’s game.  I do watch other players to see their technique and how they succeed.  I watch Jake Long a lot, for example.  But I don’t think I really try to pattern my game after anyone else.  I just do my own thing.  I didn’t really have any specific favorite players growing up or anything like that.