The author of "America's Team: The Official History of the Dallas Cowboys," Jeff also writes a new column each week in Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine and co-hosts the "On Air with Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine" podcast. For subscription information, please click here.
Was really thinking last year would be my final mock draft, but after outperforming Mel Kiper Jr., well, have to try for a repeat performance. Yes, indeed, was correct on 27-of-32 first-round picks, 12 of them with the correct team, and also nailed eight of the first nine picks, with seven of them with the correct team. Each of the those numbers matched or bettered the long-standing draft guru.
Admittedly, he still has the better hair.
Honestly, not a huge fan of mock drafts, and it's almost impossible to predict the movement amongst the teams, especially in a year like this. Could see double-digit clubs making moves during the first round Thursday night, including the Cowboys. Would actually be surprised if Dallas picks at No. 18. Also think there's a better chance they move up rather than down.
Now, certainly not talking about a repeat of last season, moving up 10 spots and losing their second-round pick. More like, say, Alabama guard Chance Warmack somehow (not happening) falls to No. 14 and Carolina is willing to take a fourth this year and a third in 2014. Think the Cowboys would do something like that. Again, only if their guy is there, not just to move up for giggles.
Moving down is certainly possible, too, especially if their guys are gone. No reason to reach, especially with the depth available at the need positions, both lines and safety.
Don't believe the rumors about taking a tight end and/or wide receiver in the first or second. Just don't. Also think if they don't grab a guard and tackle in the first three rounds, my head could implode.
Here's my theory at this point: Fix the offensive line, trust Monte Kiffin and the defense, certainly take a safety in the middle rounds, maybe a defensive lineman along the way, but the focus has to be the offensive line. Been saying this since January. The wideouts are fine, could use a tight end, but not worried about it. Running back? Yeah, could use one behind DeMarco Murray, but it's not a dire need. All these issues will kind of fix themselves with an elite offensive line.
Of the final eight teams in last year's playoffs, seven featured top-10 offensive lines. That wasn't a coincidence. Just invested a whole bunch of money in Tony Romo and it's time to protect him, give him the chance to succeed. Cannot just patch it up again, hope a seventh-round rookie center can start and sign a few guys off the street. Just can't. For the Cowboys to be successful in 2013 and beyond, the offensive line is the key element. No one can argue this.
OK, here we go with the 2013 Mock Draft, with a blurb on each selection. Not going to try and predict any trades, just too difficult and confusing with the guesswork.
1) Kansas City Chiefs: OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan – Going to be an offensive tackle, just not sure which one. Will be just the third since Ron Yary in 1968. The others are Orlando Pace (1997) and Jake Long (2008).
2) Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, BYU – Amazing story, incredible athlete, still learning the game. Biggest upside in the draft.
3) Oakland Raiders: DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida– Need a replacement for future Hall of Famer Richard Seymour. Actually, Oakland needs a lot more, but it's a start.
4) Philadelphia Eagles: OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M– Most think the Eagles trade down here, which is certainly possible. Chip Kelly needs a stud tackle, though.
5) Detroit Lions: DE/OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon– Thinking best defensive player on the board here.
6) Cleveland Browns: OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma– Bunch of teams could trade up for this pick.
7) Arizona Cardinals: G Chance Warmack, Alabama– Cannot think of a way he falls out of the top-10. Wish that wasn't the case. This kid will play in at least six Pro Bowls the next 10 years.
8) Buffalo Bills: G Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina– Yes, this is going to be a somewhat boring draft; that's four offensive linemen in eight picks. Some are saying QB Ryan Nassib here, who played for new Bills head coach Doug Marrone at Syracuse. Can't see that happening, not to mention Nassib should be there in the second.
9) New York Jets: CB Dee Milliner, Alabama– They really don't have a choice, do they?
10) Tennessee Titans: DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri– Could go in many directions, although highly likely it's on defense.
11) San Diego Chargers: DT Star Lotulelei, Utah– Most expect them to deal up for an offensive linemen, but not like they couldn't use help on defense, too.
12) Miami Dolphins: TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame– Finally, a skills position pick. Really like this kid, too. He can catch and block.
13) New York Jets (from Tampa Bay): DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU– Rex Ryan wants a pass rusher. The Jets taking Mingo with one of their two first-round picks is maybe the lock of the draft.
14) Carolina Panthers: WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia– At some point, Steve Smith has to age, right?
15) New Orleans Saints: S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas– Could be Georgia OLB Jarvis Jones just as easily, or possibly an offensive lineman.
16) St. Louis Rams: RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama– Many are saying no running backs will be taken in the first round, which would be for the first time since 1963, but Jeff Fisher took Eddie George in 1996 and that worked out.
17) Pittsburgh Steelers: OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia– James Harrison's out, defense is aging, desperate for a pass rusher.
18) Dallas Cowboys: OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama – Even if Vaccaro's on the board, am already on record guaranteeing that he won't be the pick. Certainly, North Carolina's Sylvester Williams is a possibility, but I don't see him having an immediate impact. This team needs help now. This pick needs to start from the first minicamp. And for me, that has to be an offensive lineman.
Again, don't see them staying here, but that doesn't take away from the basic principal of this first round, that being the Cowboys absolutely, positively have to find a way to take an elite, NFL-ready offensive lineman. Anything less would be a crushing disappointment.
19) New York Giants: CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State– They need serious help in the secondary.
20) Chicago Bears: LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame– The heir replacement to Brian Urlacher.
21) Cincinnati Bengals: Cincinnati Bengals: LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia– Seems to be a lot of interest.
22) St. Louis Rams (from Washington): S Matt Elam, Florida– Could be Vaccaro if he slips.
23) Minnesota Vikings: CB D.J. Hayden, Houston– Need a corner, could also trade this pick for a team looking for a quarterback, say Buffalo, Philly, Arizona.
24) Indianapolis Colts: WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee – Time to stockpile some options for Andrew Luck.
25) Minnesota Vikings: DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina– There's no way the Vikings take a quarterback in the first round for the second time in three years, especially after signing Kevin Kolb.
26) Green Bay Packers: G Kyle Long, Oregon– They really need to revamp the offensive front this offseason and Howie's son looks legit.
27) Houston Texans: CB Desmond Trufant, Washington– Another corner for Wade Phillips' defense.
28) Denver Broncos: DE Tank Carradine, Florida State– Can never go wrong with a football player named Tank, right?
29) New England Patriots: S Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International– Helps with an immediate need.
30) Atlanta Falcons: OT Justin Pugh, Syracuse – Could really be eight offensive linemen taken in the first.
31) San Francisco 49ers: TE Zach Ertz, Stanford– Makes sense considering Jim Harbaugh recruited him for the Cardinal.
32) Baltimore Ravens: DE Margus Hunt, SMU– The Super Bowl champs have to start replacing an aging defensive unit.
Remaining Cowboys Selections
47) DT Kawann Short, Purdue – Have to believe the first two picks will be on each of the lines. Hard to fathom otherwise.
80) RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin– Don't think they can go the redshirt route with Marcus Lattimore. They need help now.
114) C Brian Schwenke, California – Could also play guard, offers versatility.
151) S Earl Wolff, N.C. State – Know the team really likes the depth at safety in the middle rounds; could take one in the fourth very easily.
185) WR Kenny Stills, Oklahoma – Why not?
Follow Jeff Sullivan on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.