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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Dallas Cowboys seven-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft

Dallas Cowboys seven-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft

Dallas retools its defense through the draft

The first year of the Mike McCarthy era didn’t go as planned in Dallas. Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending injury early in the year, and the Cowboys missed out on a postseason bid despite the historically weak competition. The NFC East is still the NFL’s worst division. With Prescott returning, Dallas has no excuse for missing the playoffs in 2021.

Jerry Jones gave Jason Garrett nine and a half seasons before firing the former offensive coordinator. It’s hard to imagine McCarthy getting fewer than three seasons, but the clock is already ticking for the former Super Bowl champion. Jones wants to see another Cowboys Super Bowl during his lifetime. If that means giving coaches a shorter leash, so be it.

On paper, Dallas easily has the best offense in the NFC East. It’s the team’s defense that could cost them a playoff bid. Fortunately for the Cowboys, this year’s draft class features plenty of defensive starters in the second and third-round but not many blue-chip talents. Dallas may take the first defensive player of the draft at tenth overall.

Jones and McCarthy can push Dallas past the Washington Football Team with a strong draft.

I used The Draft Network’s mock draft machine and Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator to justify each of my selections. At least one website had the chosen players available at their listed picks over several simulations. I didn’t create any trades and included an “ideal pick” after every selection for optimistic fans.

Round 1 (No. 10): Patrick Surtain II, CB Alabama

Speed was the biggest knock on Surtain entering the pre-draft process. The junior Consensus All-American responded by running a 4.42 40-yard dash at Alabama’s pro day. That’s not elite speed, but it was an excellent time for Surtain. His explosive test scores backed up the 40-time. We’ve underestimated Surtain’s play speed, which is a terrifying thought for receivers.

Surtain’s play in press coverage was his calling card at Alabama. He’s an elite man-to-man coverage prospect that screams lockdown corner. He’s also physical and active in the running game. Few teams pushed Surtain during the peak days of his college career, and he’s the type of player that can wipe out half of the field on game day.

Surtain’s father was an All-Pro corner for the Miami Dolphins, but the young Alabama product is even more gifted than his predecessor. At Alabama’s pro day, the future top-ten pick measured in at 6-2, 208 lbs. with 32.5-inch arms and ten-inch hands. On tape, Surtain moves fluidly without any hitches in his stride or hips. Despite his aggressive playing style, Surtain never abandons his technique and mostly remains disciplined.

Ideal pick: Penei Sewell, OT Oregon

Round 2 (No. 44): Ronnie Perkins, EDGE Oklahoma

Perkins never had a breakout season at Oklahoma, but he posted consistent numbers over the past three years. In 32 games, he amassed 98 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, and 16.5 sacks. Perkins had his best season in 2020, but he only appeared in six games. The Cowboys hope he or a comparable edge rusher slides to 44 because they need someone other than Randy Gregory to pair with DeMarcus Lawrence.

Compared to other members of the 2021 edge class, Perkins doesn’t carry much weight. He’s a light edge rusher that will struggle against mauling offensive tackles. However, his agility and speed open opportunities in pursuit and allow for many of Perkins’ highlight-reel plays.

Perkins shoots gaps at almost every opportunity, which produces boom or bust plays. Sometimes he ends up out of position while he blows up action in the backfield other times. Perkins has strong hands, but his first step is inconsistent, and he hasn’t developed any reliable counter moves yet.

Overall, Perkins is a playmaker more than a consistent pass rusher.

Ideal pick: Eric Stokes, CB Georgia 

Round 3 (No. 75): Milton Williams, IDL Louisiana Tech

Williams flew under the radar for the first few months of pre-draft analysis, but he became a known commodity after Louisiana Tech’s pro day. While he only weighed in at 6-3, 284 lbs. with 31.5-inch arms, Williams finished in or above the 97th percentile in all of his drills except the bench press. He posted 34 reps on that, which ranked in the 91st percentile.

In other words, Williams is a freak athlete with a unique build that gives NFL teams mixed feelings. There’s no question that defensive coordinators can find a rotational role for Williams immediately, even if it’s on the edge instead of the interior. However, how come this freak athlete only totaled 19 tackles for loss and ten sacks in Conference USA over the past two seasons?

While that’s solid production, Williams had a clear athletic advantage against opponents in a non-Power Five conference. That lack of elite production and Williams’ short arms raise some concerns. However, the undersized defensive tackle’s bend, hand usage, leverage, and twitch make him an enticing Day 2 prospect that could rise into the second-round.

Ideal pick: Daviyon Nixon, DT Iowa

Round 3 (No. 99): Stone Forsythe, OT Florida

Forsythe is an under-the-radar prospect from Florida that excels in pass protection. At 6-8, 307 lbs., the giant tackle has over 34-inch arms and is surprisingly nimble. Despite weighing on the lighter side for an offensive tackle, Forsythe has a good anchor that holds up against power rushers. The larger concerns with Forsythe come when he battles speed rushers and needs to create significant movement in the running game.

Forsythe gives up natural leverage because of his size and often leans too far forward when run blocking. He’s patient and polished in pass protection, but I’d like to see more ferocity from his hands after the initial punch.

The Cowboys suffered last season when tackles La’el Collins and Tyron Smith both missed most of the year. It marked the second time in six years that Collins has missed most of a season, and Smith hasn’t appeared in at least 14 games since 2015. The NFL voted to expand the regular season to 17 games a few weeks ago, which puts a premium on developmental backups.

Ideal pick: Josh Myers, IOL Ohio St.

Round 4 (No. 115): Trill Williams, CB Syracuse

The Cowboys desperately need cornerback help. If the right prospect is available, I could see them taking two corners in the first three rounds. Dallas remains optimistic about Trevon Diggs’ future after the 2020 second-round pick had an up-and-down rookie season. However, Dan Quinn’s defense doesn’t have many developmental pieces beyond Diggs.

Anthony Brown, Maurice Canady, C.J. Goodwin, Jourdan Lewis, and Rashard Robinson are Quinn’s veteran options at cornerback. Ideally, only Brown and Lewis in that group see some starting time in 2021. That requires the Cowboys adding multiple reliable rookie corners. Williams isn’t a plug-and-play option, but he should break into the rotation by mid-season.

Williams measured in at 6-2, 198 lbs. at Syracuse’s pro day. He ran a 4.42 40-yard dash and posted average explosive numbers in the jumps. While Williams isn’t a twitchy player, he has long arms and a nose for the football.

At worst, Dallas moves Williams to safety, and he’s starting there by 2023.

Ideal pick: Hunter Long, TE Boston College

Round 4 (No. 138): Dylan Moses, LB Alabama

Moses always had the physical traits to become a high draft pick. According to 247Sports, he was the No. 13 recruit in the nation four years ago. However, injuries and inconsistent play dragged down the former five-star’s draft stock over time. Moses missed the entire 2019 season with a torn ACL and never put together a mind-blowing campaign.

Moses doesn’t have the build or strength to deconstruct blocks at an optimal rate. He also struggles in coverage and bites on eye candy too often. The Cowboys already have linebackers that struggle in coverage, which might remove Moses from their draft board. However, the team also needs some depth behind 4-3 outside linebackers Tarell Basham and Jaylon Smith.

While there are a fair number of negatives working against Moses, he has sideline-to-sideline speed and agility. He’s ultra-athletic and instinctive against the run, which helps him fly through gaps for quick tackles. I’d like to see him get more looks as a blitzer with the Cowboys than he did in college.

Ideal pick: David Moore, IOL Grambling

Round 5 (No. 179): Damar Hamlin, S Pittsburgh

This is probably the earliest that I’d use a pick on Hamlin. He’s not a twitchy or explosive athlete but produced five interceptions and 21 passes defensed over the past three years. Hamlin is an able and willing run defender with excellent ball skills. He challenges pass catchers for the ball but lacks the high-end speed to stay on top of vertical threats.

The Cowboys rebuilt their safety depth this offseason, reaching one-year deals with safeties Damontae Kazee, Jayron Kearse, and Keanu Neal. Dallas also has Donovan Wilson, a third-year Texas A&M product. Hamlin won’t earn starting time with that group ahead of him, but the Pittsburgh product could step into a prominent role in 2022.

Ideal pick: Joshuah Bledsoe, S Missouri

Round 6 (No. 192): Drake Jackson, IOL Kentucky

It’s hard to imagine Dallas going through the entire 2021 NFL Draft without addressing the center position. The team drafted Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz in the fourth-round last year, and he’s the projected starting center for 2021. While Biadasz graded out well in college, he struggled as a rookie and only earned four starts.

If Biadasz couldn’t beat out Joe Looney for the starting role last year, Dallas shouldn’t let him take over without facing some competition.

At 6-2, 293 lbs., Jackson is an undersized center that gives ground to dominant bull rushers. Despite lacking ideal length, Jackson started at Kentucky for three seasons and held his own against SEC competition. Jackson is well versed and polished, but his physical limitations size-wise could become a limiting factor in the NFL.

Ideal pick: Kary Vincent Jr., CB LSU

Round 6 (No. 227): Zach Davidson, TE Central Missouri

I hadn’t heard about Davidson until the past week, and I’m kicking myself for it. The 6-7, 245 lb. tight end dominated against DII competition. After a forgettable 2018 season, Davidson embarked on a breakout campaign. In 2019, he caught 40 passes for 894 yards and 15 touchdowns in 13 games. He also pinned 48 punts inside opponents’ 20-yard lines as UCM’s starting punter over his three-year career.

Dallas gets Blake Jarwin back from a torn ACL in 2021, and they also have Dalton Schultz and Jeremy Sprinkle on the roster. While Davidson has a quick release and larger catch radius, he’s a developmental prospect that needs to add muscle. He won’t see much time as a rookie but has the developmental traits to surpass Jarwin and Schultz quickly.

Wouldn’t it be fun if he makes the active roster as a punter?

Ideal pick: Cornell Powell, WR Clemson

Round 7 (No. 238): Warren Jackson, WR Colorado St.

Jones can’t go a year without taking at least one receiver. Jackson experienced a breakout season in 2019, catching 77 passes for 1,119 yards and eight touchdowns in ten games. Unlike some other wide receiver prospects, Jackson is as tall as he was listed in college. The 6-6, 219 lb. Mountain West Conference standout has tremendous physical tools but lacks any polish.

Jackson isn’t great at getting off the line of scrimmage, and press coverage only exacerbates the issue. He struggles to create separation and doesn’t have much short-area burst. Jackson must become more aggressive when dealing with smaller defenders if he wants to see playing time for the Cowboys.

Ideal pick: Ernest Jones, LB South Carolina

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