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Mock Draft Roundup: Zeroing In On Pass Rushers; Surprising 1st Round Target

FRISCO, Texas– I've said this before, but it's something that bears repeating every spring:

Mock drafts are essentially worthless until the dust has settled in free agency.

How can one possibly identify a team's needs until all the transactions have been accounted for and teams have had a chance to reshuffle their rosters? This time last week, wide receiver looked like a pretty big concern for the Cowboys. All of a sudden, Terrance Williams and Brice Butler are back in the fold, and that's not quite the case.

Along the same line, the departures of Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox have to make you wonder about who will hold down the safety job next to Byron Jones in 2017. You can apply this logic to every team in the NFL, as losses and additions during free agency have completely altered everyone's needs.

That's why I waited until mid-March to start looking at mock drafts, as this gives analysts a chance to really hone in on each team's game plan.

With all of that in mind, it's pretty easy to guess where the Cowboys might go with their No. 28 overall draft pick – and you will see that play out below. This team needs pass rushers and defensive backs, and that's exactly what most analysts have them looking for. But survey the mock draft landscape, and you're also bound to find some surprises.

Here's the rundown of some of the most notable mock drafts out right now:

Date of Mock:March 15
Pick:Michigan DE Taco Charlton
Comment:"Charlton is just a solid all-around player – he can get after the QB and stop the run – and Dallas could use a few more of those along the defensive line. He has always had the raw ability, but this past season he showed more consistency and refined technique, finishing the season on a tear (10 sacks in his final 10 games).

Date of Mock:March 14
Pick:Wisconsin EDGE T.J. Watt
Comment:"I bet teams off all different schemes keep Watt high on their boards. His athleticism placed him in the 94th percentile."

Date of Mock:March 13
Pick:Ole Miss TE Evan Engram
Comment:"Engram would be a matchup nightmare in the Cowboys' offense and he'd help Dak Prescott continue to develop into a top-tier signal-caller."

Date of Mock:March 13
Pick:Missouri DE Charles Harris
Comment:"The Cowboys are in search of a right defensive end who can wrap the edge and put pressure on the pocket. Harris is the latest off the line in the Missouri pass rush factory."

Date of Mock:March 14
Pick:Michigan S Jabrill Peppers
Comment:"I know the Cowboys need a pass rusher, but doesn't Peppers sound like a splashy Jerry Jones pick? In the Dallas defense, he would be Barry Church's replacement, and frankly, an upgrade."

Date of Mock:March 7
Pick:Miami TE David Njoku
Comment:"The classic 'excellent veteran is aging, so let's find him a replacement' scenario surfaces yet again. Here, Jerry Jones finds a successor for Jason Witten. Njoku, one of the youngest players in this year's draft (he turns 21 in July) has a high ceiling, as he has only been playing tight end for two years. A core featuring Njoku, Dak Prescott (23-years-old) and Ezekiel Elliott (21)? That will keep Dallas front-running in the NFC East for years to come."

Date of Mock:March 13
Comment:"Jason Witten is a future Hall of Famer but his inability to stretch the field anymore limits Dallas' offense. Incorporating a seam threat like Njoku would make it risky for defenses to crowd the box to stop Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys' powerful running game and who better to model the work ethic necessary to be successful in the NFL for Njoku than Witten?"

Date of Mock:March 7
Comment: "They need to get pass-rush help. Harris could provide that for a team that was bad rushing the passer last season."

Date of Mock:March 9
Pick:Auburn DE Carl Lawson
Comment:"Dallas has had a tough time with its defensive end prospects, to the point of rolling the dice with a social pariah like Greg Hardy in 2015. Randy Gregory's trouble with the NFL substance abuse policy has been problematic, and as much as the NFL's ban on cannabis is antiquated and needs to go away, those are the rules as they are now."

Date of Mock:March 10
Comment:"Randy Gregory has yet to prove he can be counted on, plus you can't go wrong drafting a defensive lineman/pass-rusher from the Mizzou factory."

Date of Mock:March 8
Comment:"For as good as the Cowboys were a season ago -- mostly due to the emergence of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott -- the defensive was average and the defensive line was only slightly better. Lawson racked up nine sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss last season, and has an explosive first step. He's also strong as an ox, as evidenced by his combine-best 35 reps of 225 pounds."

Date of Mock:March 15
Pick:Connecticut S Obio Melifonwu

Date of Mock:March 7
Pick:USC CB Adoree' Jackson
Comment:"The Cowboys will lose one or two cornerbacks in free agency."

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