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Mock Roundup 3.0: All Eyes On Donald, Jernigan For Dallas


IRVING, Texas – Another milestone of the NFL offseason has passed, and with it comes another chance to examine how it changes the upcoming draft.

Free agency is far from over, but we've already seen how the open market can change the outlook for a season. The Cowboys said goodbye to a Pro Bowl defensive end in DeMarcus Ware, they've added some depth to their defensive line. On Thursday, they lost Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jason Hatcher to the Washington Redskins.

Both marquee names and rotational players have changed teams over the past three days, and there's still plenty of movement to come. But you're already seeing the impact free agency has made on prognostications for the draft.

If you've been following along with draft preparations, the projections for the Cowboys shouldn't surprise you at this point. The Cowboys cut their all-time sack leader, and they could lose their 2013 sack leader. With that in mind, the focus on defensive linemen with the No. 16 pick is undeniable.

Below are the first round projections from 11 draft analysts. Of those 11 picks, nine opted to take a defensive tackle, one chose a safety and one chose a linebacker. Nobody spent the 16th overall pick on an offensive player, which is hardly surprising.

It's a similar issue to our last mock roundup, two weeks ago. There are two defensive tackle prospects capturing the attention of draft experts when the Cowboys come up on the clock – Florida State's Timmy Jernigan and Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald. Check below to see who's getting the most love. 

Date of Mock:March 13

Pick:Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan

Comment:DeMarcus Ware is gone, but even if he stayed the defensive line would have to be a draft priority. The D-line in Dallas needs a youth movement. If you just go on performance, Jernigan is a steal at this point in the draft and Dallas doesn't need to overthink it. But while Jernigan has good tape to fall back on, he could still be better and become a force for whoever drafts him. He's a good athlete given his size and will continue to improve his technique playing on the inside.

Date of Mock:March 13


Comment:This makes too much sense, although the loss of DeMarcus Ware could force a pass rusher.

Date of Mock:March 13


Comment:Aaron Donald may have leapt in front of Timmy Jernigan as the top defensive tackle available, but Jernigan is still worth a top-16 selection. The Cowboys desperately need a defensive tackle, so they'll definitely consider Jernigan. Then again, Jerry Jones is calling the shots, so the Cowboys will probably take some fourth-round prospect. 

Date of Mock:March 13

Pick:Louisville S Calvin Pryor

Comment:Pryor gives Dallas much needed help at safety and will bring an enforcer's attitude.

Date of Mock: March 13

Pick: Donald


Date of Mock:March 10

Pick:Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald

Comment: The Cowboys almost have to go defensive line with this pick and Donald will be an attractive prospect to play the three-technique spot for Dallas' four-man front with his explosive, relentless play style.

Date of Mock: March 10


Comment:Tony Romo's fourth-quarter struggles pale in comparison to the full game bludgeoning experienced weekly by the Cowboys' defense. Expect there to be significant turnover in personnel over the offseason, an overhaul that could bring five or six new starters to the 4-3 alignment. More decorated than a wedding cake, Donald offers the buzz Jerry Jones always appreciates as well as the burst to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks from the middle.

Date of Mock:March 10

Pick:Alabama LB C.J. Mosley

Comment:While the Cowboys are often associated with safeties or defensive linemen in mock drafts, don't overlook linebacker. Bruce Carter hasn't had the career many expected and was even benched last season. Sean Lee has played in just 17 games the past two seasons. Mosley is capable of playing either position and starring at both.

Date of Mock:March 9

Pick:Donald [embedded_ad]

Comment: Donald could serve as a replacement for DT Jason Hatcher, who turns 32 before the start of the next season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent. The "Tampa Two" defense is predicated on the front four providing sufficient pressure on opposing quarterbacks, something Donald should help with quite well.

Date of Mock:March 6


Comment: Donald is a great fit here if he drops, but Jernigan brings a lot of value as a 3-technique defensive tackle in this system as well. He is very strong and quick versus the run, and I love his motor and awareness -- he just isn't as fast or smooth as Donald. The Cowboys need help all along their defensive line and in their secondary, and Jernigan could come in and make an impact.

Date of Mock:March 4

Pick:Donald R

Comment:Rod Marinelli will energize the Cowboys' defense with his forceful personality, but he needs a disruptive three-technique in place to make the Tampa 2 scheme work. Donald is a beast at the point of attack, with a non-stop motor and explosive first-step quickness.

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