Less than a week from the 2020 NFL Draft, the excitement and stress levels rise simultaneously as the future success of each NFL franchise are depending on the haul of upcoming prospects. Not to mention, the wild scenarios of this year's draft being conducted entirely virtual also adds to the pressure mounted on front offices.
This week, the Dallascowboys.com Draft Show did their best to play the role of front office and work with the board they were given in a seven-round Cowboys mock draft. In this simulation, David Helman simulated all the other 31 organization's selections and set up scenarios in which the Cowboys could realistically be put in come next April 23-25.
Not only did the crew of Helman, Jeff Cavanaugh, Kevin Turner, and I sift through a full draft, but we also added an extra three-round mock that included trades. A trade was worked with the New England Patriots who were in search for a new quarterback (either Jordan Love or Justin Herbert) and were willing to move up a couple spots. In the deal, the Cowboys received the 23rd overall pick in the first round and the 87th overall selection in the third round for their 17th slot.
Here is a quick synopsis on how the first seven picks went:
(1) 17. K'Lavon Chaisson – EDGE, LSU
Far from a sure thing, Chaisson was the player selected at 17 due to the way the board fell for the Cowboys. With the top three wide receivers, DT Javon Kinlaw, CB C.J. Henderson, and even CB Kristian Fulton all off the board, Dallas was left with only a few viable options. The most surprising prospect still on the board was Louisville OT Mekhi Becton who is one of the highly touted offensive linemen that are expected to go in the top-15 selections. However, as tantalizing as Becton was, the show elected to address the needs at edge rusher first with a boom-or-bust Chaisson pick. Jeff Cavanaugh made his presence felt by suggesting either of the linebacker combination of Oklahoma's Kenneth Murray and LSU's Patrick Queen, but ultimately sided with the rest of the hosts.
(2) 51. Justin Madubuike – DT, Texas A&M
The beginning of the second round did not go well for the Cowboys as they saw a majority of their favorite secondary prospects and even early wide receiver options fly off the board. Players like Mississippi State corner Cameron Dantzler, Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn, and Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger were all available if the needs in the secondary were to be mended. While I pushed for Dantzler in this spot, the more valuable pick was also the safer one with a high-ceiling defensive lineman in round two.
(3) 82. Terrell Burgess – S, Utah
With two rounds down, and nothing to show for the secondary, the decision was pretty easy and unanimous to take a talented safety who doesn't have to make an impact immediately. Dallas set themselves up this offseason to not have to reach on safety early with the addition of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, if the board were to fall the way that it did. Burgess is arguably a top-60 player in the draft and was one of the highest-rated secondary players in the nation this past season. Expect him to see a bundle of playing time in 2020 and easily turn into a key-contributor a few years down the line.
(4) 123. Reggie Robinson II, CB, Tulsa
At no point during this simulation (or any simulation) would you want Dallas to wait until the fourth round to take a corner. But with the lack of impact players at the position, that's exactly how the board fell. Regardless, this is a pick to be excited about in the fourth. Kevin Turner believes fully that Robinson II is a top-100 player and is one of his favorite day three potentials for the Cowboys. So much so, that he even mentioned drafting him in the third round because of how high he is on him. The Tulsa product wouldn't necessarily start in 2020, but it gives you a developmental piece behind Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis who both are entering contract years.
(5) 164. James Proche, WR, SMU
Helman has been extremely vocal about selecting a receiver in this loaded class. Well he finally got his wish in the fifth round after failing to find a worthy pass-catcher on the board in the first four. Proche is a true slot receiver that actually could start for the Cowboys in 2020 thanks to the deep class at the position and depending on what other additions they make in the slot. One thing that is underrated about Proche is that even if he's not a full-time option on the offense, he could easily make an impact on special teams after returning for the Mustangs.
(5) 179. Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue
Oddly enough linebacker may have been the one position that had been discussed in each of the first five rounds. Bailey not only fills an underlying need for Dallas with the unsure health of Leighton Vander Esch and aging uncertainty of Sean Lee, but he was the best value on the board by far. The other options were either positions where there is no real immediate need or were stretches on positions that were already selected by the group.
(7) 231. Brandon Mann, P, Texas A&M
With most of the glaring needs already taken care of, the group wanted to go one of three ways in the final round. Either take a backup quarterback if there's one there that would be of note, take a flyer on a player with high upside but a bit of injury issues or off the field incidents, or upgrade your special teams. Punter is a spot-on special teams that could use some improvement and with no other options that intrigued the hosts, we decided to take a top-notch punter that could help flip the field position on a regular basis.
Additionally, here is how the draft unfolded when the Cowboys moved down from pick 17 to pick 23 along with the addition of pick 87 from New England:
(1) 23. (From NE) Trevon Diggs – CB, Alabama
Despite dropping down six spots from 17 to 23, the board actually looked very similar to the one that lined up in the first mock draft. Instead of making the same selection with K'Lavon Chaisson, the group elected to switch up the draft strategy and take secondary early. Both of the highly regarded safeties were off the board with Grant Delpit and Xavier McKinney both taken in the top-20. So the decision ultimately came down to which corner was the best available between Diggs and TCU's Jeff Gladney. The hosts also tossed around the potential of finding a linebacker at this slot, but decided instead that Diggs' upside was worth the risk and that they could look for a linebacker later in the draft.
(2) 51. Ross Blacklock – DT, TCU
Realistic or not, this was an easy selection for the show when Blacklock fell to 51. Much like the first mock draft, there was a sweet spot in the second round for second-tier defensive tackles and the TCU product was the favorite of the bunch. Again, Dantzler and Madubuike were in the conversation but the lateral ability and speed of Blacklock shined through.
(3) 82. Terrell Lewis – EDGE, Alabama
With picks so close together in the third round, the host agreed that it was time to roll the dice and make a high-risk, high-reward selection. Injury issues plagued Lewis' time at Alabama but he was still able to put up a decent junior season after missing all of 2018. With a newly upgraded defensive line and the corner position being addressed with Diggs earlier in the draft, the door was open for Lewis to be selected without jeopardizing the rest of the defense if he doesn't work out.
(3) 87. (From NE) Malik Harrison – LB, Ohio State
After making a bit of a risky pick five picks prior, the group was faced with a similar situation as some fun wide receivers were still available. Instead of looking at what could have been an exciting slot receiver in Van Jefferson or Bryan Edwards, the hosts went the safe route with some solid linebacker options. Harrison won the battle with Wyoming's Logan Wilson for who would be the smarter pick with a higher chance to contribute in 2020.
Listen to the entire thought process and discussion over each selection with the full Draft Show here: