With both the Senior Bowl and Combine in the books, we’ve reached a perfect time for an updated mock draft. As usual, we’ll go pick by pick to make sure we discuss each pick thoroughly enough, and as usual, we’re assuming I’m the GM, so I’m not making picks based off who I actually think will go where, but rather who I’d take with the slot. And no, no trade scenarios because they’re infinite.
Here’s a quick rundown of our draft so far: no. 1 Houston Texans (Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina), no. 2 St. Louis Rams (Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M), no. 3 Jacksonville Jaguars (Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville), no. 4 Cleveland Browns (Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M), no. 5 Oakland Raiders (Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn), no. 6 Atlanta Falcons (Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan), no. 7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson), no. 8 Minnesota Vikings (Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State), no. 9 Buffalo Bills (Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo), no. 10 Detroit Lions (Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M), no. 11 Tennessee Titans (Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA), no. 12 New York Giants (C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama), no. 13 St. Louis Rams (Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama), no. 14 Chicago Bears (Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri) and no. 15 Pittsburgh Steelers (Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State). With the 16th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, who do the Dallas Cowboys select?
This one was too easy. Both the top corners I was potentially eyeing for this pick are off the board, as is the best cover safety. Yes, many have drunk the kool-aid for Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville), but as I’ve emphasized before, he’s primarily an in-the-box, hard-hitting safety; something that’s not exactly a rarity in this league, so I won’t be using a top-16 pick on one.
Instead I’m going to take the logical route, and do something we’ve rarely done in recent memory: take the best player available who also happens to fill a huge need. With that said, I’m going with Aaron Donald (DT, Pitt).
Donald fills an absolutely gaping hole in our front four, particularly with Jason Hatcher heading to my divisional rival, the Washington Redskins. DC Monte Kiffin had an awful time last year trying to adapt a defense built for an odd front into playing an effective Tampa-2, and was met with disastrous results. A 30th ranked pass defense and 27th ranked rush-D are clearly not going to cut it. If we’re going to move forward with the cover-2, we need the right pieces in place to run it effectively.
Donald has absolutely erupted the past calendar year. Following a superb, award-winning senior season, he was practically unblockable at the Senior Bowl and had an outstanding Combine (4.68 40-yard dash, 35 reps on bench, 7.11 3-cone drill).
He’s the classic penetrating 3-tech that could thrive in this scheme, much the way Warren Sapp did for Kiffin from ’96 to ’03. He’s got great burst, good strength, elite production and a never-ending motor. The primary role of a 3-tech in a cover-2 is to get up field and there’s no one better at this (for his position) in the entire draft.
Who else was considered here? Zack Martin (OT, Notre Dame). This is a good range for Martin, and we can always use help up front. Martin has the potential to play either inside or out at high level. Eric Ebron (TE, UNC) also has to be considered here, for the value if nothing else, and Jason Witten isn’t getting any younger (or cheaper).