Dallas Cowboys Complete 7-Round 2014 NFL Mock Draft
With coach Jason Garrett entering the final year of his contract and Tony Romo turning 34 years old, the Cowboys need to draft players who can make an impact next season, especially with their early picks. This means that the team should not choose a quarterback in the first couple of rounds because it does not help them in the immediate future—sorry, Johnny Manziel fans.
For the Cowboys to get over the 8-8 hump, Jerry Jones, vice president Stephen Jones and assistant director of player personnel Will McClay need to be on their A-game.
The Cowboys' main needs heading into the draft are 1-technique defensive tackle, strong- and weak-side defensive end, free safety and guard.
Even though I expect the team to trade a couple of times during the draft, they are too hard to predict. Therefore, I will just mock the Cowboys with the selections they currently have.
First Round: Zack Martin
In an ideal scenario, Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald or UCLA's Anthony Barr would be available when the Cowboys are on the clock. At the moment, it seems like Barr has a much better chance of being available than Donald.
However, for this mock draft, I don't see either of them being available.
Therefore, with the 16th pick of the 2014 NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys select Notre Dame's Zack Martin.
Martin projects to take over for Mackenzy Bernadeau at right guard with the option to move to tackle in the future. Along with Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith, Martin gives the Cowboys a great young core on the offensive line.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller states in the above video that Martin compares well with Green Bay Packer Josh Sitton.
Martin has good size (6'4", 308 pounds) for a guard, to go along with great footwork and a habit for finishing his blocks with authority.
He would immediately improve the Cowboys' interior pass blocking and would make an instant impact in the run game as well. He has the athleticism to get to the second level of the defense and make key blocks. He also has good enough spatial awareness to be a force in the screen game.
Martin offers versatility because of his ability to play guard and tackle. The Cowboys would be able to carry one less offensive lineman on game day and use that spot elsewhere.
Even though drafting him neglects helping the defense, he has the best value and will make the biggest impact out of any other top prospects who would be available in this scenario.
Second Round: Scott Crichton
With the Cowboys picking Martin in the first round, they almost have to go defense in the second. Florida's Dominique Easley would be a good selection here, but his stock has been rising as of late.
With Easley gone, the Cowboys will select Oregon State's Scott Crichton with the 47th pick.
He would fit in nicely at the Cowboys' strong-side defensive end position to go along with Anthony Spencer, who is coming off microfracture knee surgery. Crichton is a strong and powerful defensive end who will make a good impression on the Cowboys with his skills in rushing the passer and stopping the run.
He not only has the ability to win early in the play with leverage or pass-rush techniques, but he can also win late due to his relentless effort. He would bring a great work ethic to the Cowboys, and under the tutelage of Rod Marinelli and Leon Lett, he would improve immensely every year.
Crichton has good snap anticipation to go along with the initial burst that you need in a defensive end. This fits in well with the Cowboys' ideology that they need defensive linemen who are "quick-twitch" types, per Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News.
Crichton can set the edge in the run game and also collapse the pocket against the pass. He can bull rush a tackle into the quarterback's lap or use his great spin move to blow by the tackle on his way to the quarterback.
His length allows him to keep offensive linemen off his body long enough for him to disengage and make a play.
He would be a great rotational player initially if Spencer is healthy. However, if Spencer is not back to his old form, Crichton can be a quality starter right away.
With him, the Cowboys fill one of their biggest needs and acquire a player with the potential to be great in the future who will make an instant impact on the defense.
Third Round: DaQuan Jones
In the third round, the Cowboys can go a number of ways. They can elect to fill a need or strengthen a position like wide receiver.
I believe that the Cowboys board will line up with a need, and Dallas should select Penn State's DaQuan Jones.
He fills one of the biggest needs at 1-technique defensive tackle. The starter at the 1-technique position, Nick Hayden, graded out as the second-worst defensive tackle in the NFL last year by Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Jones would be a huge upgrade over Hayden from the moment he walks into Valley Ranch.
He gives the Cowboys a stout, run-stuffing 1-technique defensive tackle from Day 1. He has a massive frame at 6'4" and 322 pounds to go along with incredible strength.
In Dallas' scheme, the 1-technique will get double-teamed on almost every play. Jones brings the ability to not only anchor against the double-teams but also to beat them.
Even though he isn't known for his pass-rush skills, he can get interior pressure by utilizing the bull rush, and he has the length to keep blockers at bay before disengaging to make the tackle.
While he may not be as flashy as some of the other players in the draft, he will do the dirty work that is necessary for the defense to be effective.
In Jones, the Cowboys get an immediate upgrade and instant starter in the third round, which is an incredible value.
Fourth Round: Aaron Murray
In the fourth round, the Cowboys have the opportunity to grab a quarterback who has the potential to develop into Romo's successor in two to four years.
Therefore, the Cowboys should select Georgia's Aaron Murray in the fourth round.
In March, the Cowboys signed former Cleveland Brown Brandon Weeden. This is a low-risk move that gives the Cowboys insurance just in case Kyle Orton does not return. With Kyle Orton no-showing on the first day of the offseason program, the Cowboys have to be worried about their backup quarterback situation.
Murray would give the Cowboys a good option as a backup in the immediate future with the potential to be a viable starter down the road.
They have shown significant interest in Murray during the predraft process. ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins reported that the quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson was present at Murray's pro day. At that point, Dallas hasn't met with any other top QB prospects, per Watkins.
Murray doesn't have the greatest size (6'1", 207 pounds) or the biggest hands (9.125"), but he was a productive player in college.
He has a quick release to go along with good footwork. A very underrated part of his skill set is his ability to carry out play fakes. He uses play action as well or better than any of the other quarterbacks in the class.
Murray has very good short-to-intermediate accuracy and has the ability to improve his deep accuracy. He doesn't have a big arm, but it is good enough to make all the throws necessary in the NFL.
He has good athleticism with the ability to move around in the pocket or scramble for a first down if need be.
One reason he may still be available this late in the draft is because he is coming off a torn ACL. However, all indications are that he will be ready to go as soon as he is selected.
Murray is a great value in the fourth round and gives the Cowboys a good option as the quarterback of the future.
Fifth Round: Mike Davis
Later in the draft, teams pick players more because of their traits and potential rather than how good they are at the moment.
Also, the Cowboys don't really have a speedy receiver with the ability to stretch the field. With that in mind, they should select Texas' Mike Davis with their fifth-round pick.
He gives the Cowboys a speedy receiver to go with Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams. Davis can stretch the field and help keep the opposing safeties honest.
He is not a big receiver at 6'0" and 197 pounds, but he is not small by any means. He gains separation with his speed and quickness in and out of his cuts and has the ability to take the top off a defense. He runs pretty good routes and gives great effort while blocking.
Davis needs to work on his concentration because he often drops easy passes, while other times he makes very difficult catches look easy.
He would give the Cowboys another weapon on offense and could make valuable contributions throughout the year. He has the speed and acceleration to excel on special teams as well; he could thrive as a gunner on the punt-coverage team.
Davis has all the physical traits to develop into a quality No. 2 receiver in the future. With his ability to make contributions immediately on special teams and in certain packages on offense, he represents good value in the fifth round.
Seventh Round: Multiple Picks
Pick No. 229: Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech, DT
With the selection of Texas Tech's Kerry Hyder, the Cowboys would get valuable depth at both the 1- and 3-technique defensive tackle position because he can play both of them.
He had a ridiculous three-cone drill time of 7.23 seconds at the NFL combine according to NFL.com, second only to Aaron Donald among defensive tackles, per NFL.com. This shows that Hyder has the quickness and "quick twitch" the Cowboys covet.
Hyder has good size (6'2", 290 pounds) and length (33.5" arms). However, he does need to transform his body; he needs to lose some of the bad weight in his stomach area and become thicker in his lower half.
He has a great motor that allowed him to make a lot of hustle plays in college. He might get more playing time over players who are better than him because he outworks them.
Hyder has the size, length and traits to develop into a good defensive tackle in the future. At worst, he gives the Cowboys good depth along the defensive line.
Pick No. 231: Brandon Dixon, Northwest Missouri State, CB
Northwest Missouri State's Brandon Dixon gives the Cowboys more depth at cornerback and immediately competes with B.W. Webb for the fifth cornerback position.
Dixon has good size (5'11", 203 pounds) and great length (32.5" arms). He has solid speed and quickness for a cornerback as well.
He fits into the Cowboys' trend to draft small-school players who are athletic with high upside.
He would make an immediate impact through special teams. He can cover kicks and punts immediately and make plays.
Dixon also shows some traits of a good prospect even though it was against below-average competition. He is a physical cornerback who does not shy away from contact. He is good defending the run and is not afraid to throw his body to make a play.
If Dixon can improve his hips and joint flexibility, he can become a viable starter or nickel cornerback in two or three years.
Pick No. 238: Ethan Westbrooks, West Texas A&M, DE
West Texas A&M's Ethan Westbrooks is a very raw defensive end who has the physical tools to become a great player. He has the size (6'3", 267 pounds) and length (33.25" arms) to become a force in the NFL.
Because he is so raw, he can become either a weak- or strong-side defensive end, depending on how he develops. He has a great first step but often doesn't use good technique while rushing the passer. Regularly, he won with his athleticism.
Rod Marinelli is the perfect coach to get everything out of a player like Westbrooks. Initially, he would likely just play special teams while being a light rotational defensive end. He may benefit from being on the practice squad for a year before jumping up to the roster.
Westbrooks has the traits to be a good value in the seventh round.
Pick No. 248: Howard Jones, Shepherd, OLB
Shepherd's Howard Jones was a dominant player at times in Division II. He has elite athleticism and explosiveness to go along with his slight size (6'2", 235 pounds).
He has great length (34.125" arms) to keep blockers from getting into his body. He is a bit raw when rushing the quarterback, but he won with his strength and athleticism.
If he adds a little bit more bulk, he could develop into a great "Will" linebacker in the future. He gives great effort on every play and does not quit.
He can play sideline-to-sideline and has the smarts to take good angles on the ball-carrier, which is a must for an outside linebacker in the Cowboys scheme.
Jones' length and athleticism make him an enticing possibility in the seventh round.
Pick No. 251: Kirby Van Der Kamp, Iowa State, Punter
With Chris Jones having an average season, the Cowboys may decide to bring in some competition for him. Since the Cowboys have six seventh-round picks, they may use the later ones as a way to get players they would normally target in undrafted free agency.
Kirby Van Der Kamp would be a good option for the Cowboys.
He averaged 41.6 yards per punt as a senior at Iowa State. He also has good enough athleticism just in case the Cowboys want to use any fake punts. He was 7-of-7 on fourth-down conversions in college.
Van Der Kamp gives Chris Jones some competition at punter and could potentially upgrade the position.
Pick No. 254: Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma, CB
Oklahoma's Aaron Colvin was projected to be a top-100 pick going into the Senior Bowl. However, a torn ACL during his time in Mobile, Alabama has dropped his stock.
His torn ACL puts his ability to contribute this year in jeopardy. He would likely be a candidate for the PUP list and maybe injured reserve after that.
However, he does bring a good skill set whenever he can get back on the field. He is a good zone corner who plays well in space.
He has good speed and quickness to play the slot as well. He is a great blitzer who uses angles and quickness to get to the quarterback.
He is another player who brings special teams value in both punt and kick coverage.
With Colvin likely redshirting his rookie year, he can contribute a lot in his second year.