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This Thursday evening, it’s NFL Christmas! The league’s annual three-day selection superdrama kicks off in Detroit, and I’m practically vibrating with anticipation. With another Cowboys season inevitably ending in the manner to which we’re accustomed and with the Taylor Swift Bowl well in the rearview, the intoxication of relevant football content is enough to penetrate even the heady buzz of the Mavs and Stars beginning (hopefully) long playoff runs. Pigskin junkies like me will ride the high of this weekend all the way to training camp in August.

As diehard donners of the silver and blue, we need it. It’s been four long months since the most embarrassing playoff loss in Cowboys franchise history. Shortly thereafter, owner/GM/sire to litigious fun babies, Jerral Wayne Jones stood red-faced in front of reporters and declared unequivocally that he and his team would be “all-in” next season. The more gullible among the fanbase immediately began salving their freshly open wounds with visions of a virtually invincible 2024 roster bolstered by an army of incoming superstars. Would we sign the league’s rushing leader over the last half decade in Derrick Henry? Or trade for cornerback Trevon Diggs’ All-Pro wide receiver brother Stefon Diggs? Might we shore up our weak run defense with the likes of wrecking-ball tackles Chris Jones or Christian Wilkins?

Should have known better. There’s a higher probability that the State of Texas bans assault rifles and enacts a single-payer health-care system funded by taxing carbon emissions and legalized marijuana sales than there is the Cowboys ever tossing money at coveted NFL free agents.

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As we’ve come to learn, Jerruh had a completely different idea of “all-in” than the one that might immediately come to mind. As opposed to the flashy, open-collared high roller sitting behind a wall of chips buying a pot with an outsized bet, Dallas has approached the offseason more like the humble weekend warrior pushing in his last handful of meager reds, praying there’s a miracle coming at the river to make something of the 2 and 7 he’s holding, pleading with all divinity that he’s not about to be forced to leave Vegas, go home, and tell his wife that Junior’s college fund is now sitting in stacks in front of the pinky-ringed gamester across from him at the table. It’s one last hand to stay in the game.

The offseason moves, or lack thereof, seem to suggest that instead of loading up, Jerry is cutting bait. The front office seems committed to no one. The potential exodus from the team includes a lot of big-time contributors, including a first-ballot Hall of Fame left tackle, a former Defensive Player of the Year CB, a Pro Bowl linebacker, Pro Bowl running back, the starting center, a No. 2 wide receiver, and four players from the defensive line. The entire coaching staff and quarterback Dak Prescott are also lame ducks, sitting on expiring deals. Not to mention two pending free agent superstars — WR CeeDee Lamb and future highest-paid-defensive-player-in-the-NFL, pass rusher Micah Parsons — are also currently without extensions. Jones seems to be taking a long hard look at his team and thinking, “I’m done. It’s all happening this year with what we got, or ain’t none of ’em gonna be here the next!” A repeat of last season looks like it could lead to a complete blowup of the team, taking the damned thing down to the studs and rafters.

This roster has more holes than the plot of Seasons 7 and 8 of Game of Thrones, and the team doesn’t have near enough picks to fill them. As it stands, they don’t even have a selection in the Fourth Round. That pick was swapped for Trey Lance, apparently to sit on the sideline holding a clipboard for Prescott. (That is, of course, until the Cowboys’ stubborn brass let Dak go in free agency to win Super Bowls in Miami for $55M/year next season.) It’s going to take Jerry finetuning his good ol’ boy Arkansas wildcatter dealmaking to fill all these empty roster spots.

Fortunately for him and his kin, this intrepid reporter has the blueprint for the Joneses to follow. I’ve spent a shameful amount of time over the last few weeks avoiding family and responsibilities, applying red string to tacks, and poring over countless draft-weekend scenarios, and, employing the NFL Mock Draft Database, I have finally come up with the ultimate plan that ticks all the empty roster boxes. Bet on it.

 

Round 1

Consensus is that offensive line is the top need for Dallas, and there’s a glut of top-end O-line talent that should stretch to the end of the round. This affords the Cowboys the ability to trade back in hopes of filling some of the broad gap in selections they currently have between Pick 87 in the Third Round and Pick 174 in the late fifth. Luckily, Kansas City, through their representative, Taylor Swift, calls and offers Pick 95 in the third for Dallas to drop down to 32. KC throws in 159 in the fifth to make it almost dead even, according to the trade chart. There’s a gamble as some great offensive linemen, like Georgia tackle Amarius Mims and Oregon center Jackson Powers-Johnson, are still on the board, but the trade haul is too much to pass up. We pull the parachute, drop to 32, and end up selecting Kingsley Suamataia. Coming in at a massive 6’6”/324 lbs., the BYU Cougar is one of the most athletic tackles in the class. While center is probably the bigger need, Suamataia ensures Tyler Smith can stay at left guard, the position for which he seems most naturally suited, and the left side of the O-line will be secure for the next 10 years. Rumor has it that Suamataia is potentially our pick even if we stay at 24.

 

Pick 1/32: Kingsley Suamataia, tackle, BYU

 

Round 2

I’m not sure I’ve seen a more unanimous selection among the draft hive mind than Texas running back Jonathon Brooks to Dallas at Pick 56. The star rusher is coming off an ACL tear, but the Cowboys’ surgeon, Dr. Dan Cooper, performed the repair and has the best insight into his recovery. The pick fills a top need for the ’Boys and continues the high risk/high reward approach the team historically takes in the Second Round. Jerry loves a first-round talent sitting in the Second Round because of injury or off-field issues. Brooks has the potential to be the team’s next Ezekiel Elliott.

 

Pick 2/56: Jonathon Brooks, running back, Texas

 

Round 3

Now, with two selections in the third, we’ve got a crack at four players in the Top 100. Just as Brooks is meant to aid the running game on the offensive side of the ball, the defense needs help stopping the opposing running game. This draft class is decidedly thin at run-stuffing 1-techniques, so a tackling-machine linebacker is the next best thing. Kentucky’s Trevin Wallace can step into an LB rotation, with free agent Eric Kendricks and last year’s redshirt rookie DeMarvion Overshown there to help shore up the middle of the field.

 

Pick 3/87: Trevin Wallace, linebacker, Kentucky

 

Before our selection at 95, the New England Patriots ring us up and offer their picks near the top of the fourth and fifth rounds to drop back again. Pick 137 in the fifth is a great compensation for dropping just eight spots to 103 at the top of the fourth.

 

Round 4

At the beginning of Day 3, we look to replace the departed Michael Gallup. One of the deeper positions in the draft, wide receiver stretches into this range with Day 2 talent. Washington’s Jalen McMillan is a suitable option to take Gallup’s old spot in both size and skill set. He should be an upgrade over the little we’ve seen from Jalen Tolbert so far.

 

Pick 4/103: Jalen McMillan, wide receiver, Washington

 

While we snagged O-line help in the first, the middle of the line is still a hole, and there’s a blinking light at the position still on the board. Arkansas’ Beaux Limmer is big, athletic, and super-smart, just the last piece needed to turn the line from a liability to the team’s best strength. And we all know Jerry will have a hard time letting a Razorback slip past him. We package two of our stockpiled fifths (137 and 174) to Houston and move back into the fourth at 127, picking up a middle sixth (189) in the process, to draft Dallas’ center of the future.

 

Pick 4/127: Beaux Limmer, center, Arkansas

 

Round 5

Another deep position in this class is cornerback. With the departure of Stephon Gilmore and slot corner Jourdan Lewis on just a one-year deal, defensive back is a sneaky need for the Cowboys. Hailing from Cornerback U, a.k.a. Florida State, Jarrian Jones has speed (4.38 forty!) and sticky coverage ability. New DC Mike Zimmer will be salivating over this player this late in the draft, especially because the other side of the ball has had so much attention.

 

Pick 5/159: Jarrian Jones, cornerback, Florida State

 

Round 6

With most of our biggest needs filled and two picks in this round, it’s time to go hunting for traits. Long and athletic, Troy University edge rusher Javon Solomon has high upside and is a steal at 189, and we add some beef up the middle of the defensive line with LSU tackle Jordan Jefferson at 216.

 

Pick 6/189: Javon Solomon, edge, Troy

 

Pick 6/216: Jordan Jefferson, defensive tackle, LSU

 

Round 7

Not to feel left out, Bones Fassel gets an item on his shopping list as we spend Pick 233 on a special teamer who doubles as linebacker help with Mississippi State’s Nathaniel Watson. Zim also nabs another player to mix in at safety with Ohio State’s Josh Proctor to close out the Cowboys’ draft at 244.

 

Pick 7/233: Nathaniel Watson, linebacker Mississippi State

 

Pick 7/244: Josh Proctor, safety, Ohio State

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