Early Mocks Have Cowboys Focused On Defensive Line

The two extra weeks of waiting for the NFL draft this offseason don’t seem to have dampened anyone’s enthusiasm – not one bit, actually.

The 2014 edition of the draft, where the Cowboys will pick either 16th or 17th overall, depending on a coin flip with Baltimore, is still roughly three months away. The annual NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Ind., isn’t even until next week.

None of that has stopped the prognostications, though, as no less than 10 publications have made at least one – if not multiple – mock drafts predicting the first round.

It’s all bound to change as the big day draws nearer, but here’s what the experts are forecasting for the Cowboys, with seemingly everyone being in agreement that this team needs help on the defensive side of the ball.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, the consensus opinion seems to be that help is needed most along the defensive line. Of the 10 mock picks listed below, seven have the Cowboys selecting a defensive lineman. Of those seven, six suggest a defensive tackle as the most glaring need, with one expert advocating for a defensive end.

Which run-stuffer Dallas wants isn’t as clear-cut, as the seven pickers settled on five different defensive linemen.

Walter Football.com’s Walter Cherepinsky

Date of Mock: Feb. 12, 2014

Pick: Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald

Comment: “Aaron Donald made his first-round debut in my mock draft last week, soaring all the way up to No. 16. Donald had a dominant Senior Bowl, but he's undersized. If that makes you believe that this is too high for him, I have two words for you: Jerry Jones.

I've made Donald the choice here for Dallas over Louis Nix because he's a much better fit for the defense. The Cowboys will be sticking with the same Tampa-2 again, which means they'll want someone like Donald over Nix.”

CBSSports.com’s Rob Rang

Date of Mock: Feb. 11, 2014

Pick: FSU DT Timmy Jernigan

Comment: “Tony Romo's fourth-quarter struggles pale in comparison to the full game bludgeoning that occurs weekly to the Cowboys' defense. Expect there to be significant turnover in personnel over the offseason should Dallas elect to keep their 4-3 alignment. Though he only emerged as a full-time starter at Florida State in 2013, Jernigan's combination of burst, agility and power makes him one of the draft's most intriguing talents.”

CBSSports.com’s Dane Brugler

Date of Mock: Feb. 11, 2014

Pick: Missouri DE Kony Ealy

Comment: “The Cowboys almost have to go defensive line with this pick, addressing either end or tackle. Ealy isn't a ‘big name’ but he's a talented pass rusher who has the tools to garner first-round attention.”

CBSSports.com’s Pete Prisco

Date of Mock: Feb. 11, 2014

Pick: FSU DT Timmy Jernigan

Comment: “They could lose Jason Hatcher and they need help inside anyway. Did you see who they played there with some last season?”

DraftKing.com’s Lou Pickney

Date of Mock: Feb. 12, 2014

Pick: Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman

Comment: “Hageman 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 Hageman should help with quite well.”

SI.com’s Chris Burke

Date of Mock: Jan. 9, 2014

Pick: Notre Dame DT Louis Nix III

Comment: “With or without Monte Kiffin running the defense, the Cowboys would be wise to add someone like Nix. The massive 340-pound tackle simply plugs up the middle, be it from the 1-tech or directly over the center. Impending free agent Jason Hatcher may be on his way out, so finding Nix here could be even more of a boon.”

Bonus points are due to one of the seven mocks, though. In a bold twist, SBNation’s Matt Faiburn called for a trade, suggesting that Dallas trade back to the No. 25 pick, grabbing a third round pick from the Chargers in the process. Fairburn still predicted a defensive line pick with the new selection, though.

SBNation’s Matthew Fairburn

Date of Mock: Feb. 10, 2014

Pick: Minnesota DT Ra’Shede Hageman

The Cowboys would be wise to try to find a trade partner and move back. They need help along the defensive line, and the later portion of the first round is a sweet spot for value at that position. Ra'Shede Hageman would be an ideal target for Dallas and he's a bit less risky at this spot.

That leaves three advocates for secondary help, which is another popular opinion. All three mockers who advocate for a safety landed on the same guy.

NFL.com’s Charles Davis

Date of Mock: Feb. 10, 2014

Pick: Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Comment:  “The Cowboys changed defensive coordinators again. They need players to make Rod Marinelli's schemes work.”

ESPN.com’s Todd McShay

Date of Mock: Feb. 6, 2014

Pick: Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Comment: “The Cowboys' biggest need area is their pass rush (they ranked last in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt), but it might be reaching at this point to draft a D-lineman like Missouri's Kony Ealy or Pitt's Aaron Donald. But safety is also a clear position of weakness -- particularly in coverage -- and the best one in this class is Clinton-Dix. He doesn't have elite man-to-man coverage skills but has good range in zone and is an aggressive, efficient run supporter. Safety is becoming a more important position in the NFL with the increased usage of spread formations, bigger wide receivers and athletic ‘F’ tight ends.”

ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper

Date of Mock: Feb. 6, 2014

Pick: Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Comment: “Defensive line could also be a pick here, as the team has some age concerns up front, but safety is a major area of need. The Cowboys could use a free safety with range, good instincts and experience who can come in and play right away. Clinton-Dix provides the added bonus of being able to help out closer to the line of scrimmage. While he's great in single high, you can bring him up and he won't shy away from contact.”
Early Mocks Have Cowboys Focused On Defensive Line Early Mocks Have Cowboys Focused On Defensive Line Reviewed by Mr. DCStands4 on 3:41:00 PM Rating: 5

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