IRVING, Texas – It's never too early in today's NFL to start making wild conjectures about the draft.
Mock drafts pop up every week after the Super Bowl ends from a variety of sources, providing different names and opinions regarding which players will end up with specific teams. It's only February, so these will get tinkered with throughout the offseason as draft experts learn more and more about each player.
Many of those mock drafts have the Cowboys landing a defensive lineman, which is understandable given their health at the spot and the pending free agency of Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer.
With the mock drafts in mind, DallasCowboys.com writers Rowan Kavner and David Helman compiled a top 10 list of the most common names of potential Cowboys first-round picks.
1) Aaron Donald, Pitt, DT – Probably the most popular choice for the Cowboys so far, Donald's quickness and ability to push the pocket and get up field quickly makes him a popular choice in the middle of the first round for Dallas. His lack of height may scare some teams away, but his dominant week at the Senior Bowl and ability to play in a 4-3 defense should attract Dallas.
2) Kony Ealy, Missouri, DE –His size at 6-5, 275 pounds means gives him the frame to be a dominant force off the edge. His ability to move inside and outside could also give him some versatility in this 4-3 scheme. If the Cowboys take Ealy, the consensus seems to be that he hasn't reached his potential and may need some time to develop and tap into that, but the ceiling is high here because of his athleticism.
3) Calvin Pryor, Louisville, S – If the Cowboys don't look to the line, Pryor could be the next best choice. He's got a ton of range and maintains his aggression with the ball in the air. He can cover, and he could be the perfect cover safety to pair with Barry Church, whose ability near the line of scrimmage could be tapped into more fully. But Pryor can still lay the wood.
4) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama, S –The Crimson Tide defensive back might be the best all-around safety in the class. He had two picks in 2014 and may not rack up interceptions like an Ed Reed type, but he can bring the boom as well as any safety in the class, as most Alabama safeties are known to do. The Cowboys' shouldn't have much of an issue with their safeties attacking the line of scrimmage if Clinton-Dix pans out.
5) Louis Nix, Notre Dame, DT – Nix may not fall into the typical mold the Cowboys use on the defensive line and may fit more as a nose tackle for a 3-4 team at 6-2, 345 pounds. He might have trouble keeping his weight down to where he can be a mobile defensive tackle that gets up the field the way Rod Marinelli likes. But the Cowboys could take the chance, in which case he'd fill in as the new 1-technique in Dallas.
6) Timmy Jernigan, FSU, DT – The lasting image of Timmy Jernigan is going to be him watching, out of breath, on the sideline during crunch time of this year's national championship game. It was a damning moment for what is otherwise considered one of this draft's brightest defensive linemen. Jernigan notched 63 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last year.
7) Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota, DT– Hageman certainly stands out from a physical aspect, as he tips the scale at 6-6, 311 pounds. The first-team All-Big Ten selection was one of the standout defensive tackles at this year's Senior Bowl, along with Donald. Conventional wisdom says Hageman could fit with the Cowboys as an oversized three technique tackle, similar to Jason Hatcher. [embedded_ad]
8) Dee Ford, DE, Auburn – Ford was another Senior Bowl standout, as he followed his 10.5-sack season at Auburn with a promising showing in Mobile, Ala. Ford is a bit undersized for a 4-3 defensive end, at 6-2, 240 pounds, but he makes up for it with speed. It raises the question of whether he'll be used in the NFL as a down lineman or a pass rushing linebacker. 9) Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame – A somewhat surprising target, considering the Cowboys just spent a high draft pick on Travis Frederick. Martin was fantastic at the Senior Bowl as an offensive tackle, though some think he projects as a guard at the next level. Depending on who else is available, the Cowboys could opt to shore up their offensive line for the foreseeable future with another high pick.
10) C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama – The latest in a long line of dominant Alabama linebackers, Mosley finished the 2013 season with 108 tackles and nine tackles for loss. He was the heart and soul of a dominant Crimson Tide defense, averaging eight tackles per game. One problem is that he plays middle linebacker, the same spot as Sean Lee, but the Cowboys could surely find a place to use him.
Hon. Mention: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno St – Probably the most polished of the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl last month, Carr is following in his brother David's footsteps to the NFL. Carr showed some experience and poise in working with other players and media at Senior Bowl practices that showcased his leadership potential. Most agree he isn't the top quarterback prospect in this draft, but he still figures to be selected early.