In the span of one season, the Dallas Cowboys faced a near-complete coaching staff restructuring, a season-ending injury to their franchise quarterback in Week 5, and season-ending injuries to both of their Pro-Bowl level offensive tackles. The most significant loss might have been at defensive tackle. They signed the corpse of Dontari Poe and lost Gerald McCoy to injury before the season. Then, after a few games, they lost Trysten Hill, who was showing signs of life. So, let’s fix everything with this Cowboys 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
It won’t be easy. There are legitimate arguments for an offensive tackle, defensive tackle, linebacker, edge rusher, cornerback, and safety. What is going to happen to Mike Nolan? Will the Cowboys shift back away from quarters and go to a more traditional one-high cover-3 base? For now, at least, let us keep things nice and tidy. We can still dream of Nolan being gone if we’re into that kind of thing, but let’s keep the look similar.
Let us “fix” the Dallas Cowboys.
Pre-Senior Bowl 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft
- Round 1, Pick 10: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
- Round 2, Pick 44: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
- Round 3, Pick 75: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
- Round 4, Pick 105: Tedarrell Slaton, DT, Florida
- Round 6, Pick 167: Alaric Jackson, OT, Iowa
- Round 7, Pick 200: Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse
Cowboys 2021 NFL Mock Draft pick-by-pick analysis
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
This Cowboys defense deserves a lot of blame for the shortcomings of the 2020 season. This is especially true because the injuries sustained on that side of the ball came far less frequently. And yes, from a Dallas Cowboys perspective, this team was historically bad in their points allowed per game. They allowed the most points in franchise history. But they were not historically bad in the grand scheme of things.
Sure, they were in the bottom third in almost every metric imaginable, but even with all the points scored against, there were still four teams that allowed more points in 2020. What’s amazing is even though, from a play-by-play basis, the Cowboys’ defense was worse against the run than the pass, they still allowed more explosive passing plays than runs. We’ll address that in this Cowboys 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
Why Farley over Patrick Surtain II?
Alas, Caleb Farley. This young man is a monster. The Maiden, North Carolina native went to Virginia Tech as a quarterback prospect before making a position change to cornerback. That quarterback background is explicitly evident in his game. He’s no slouch in press man, but his real strength is his ability to play off spot and match zone coverages where he can see through receivers to the quarterback. He possesses the instincts necessary to be a ball hawk. And he acts on those instincts, violently.
His violence at the catch point and the accuracy with which he locates the ball is unique. He should run and test well at the NFL combine if he participates, and his two years of experience at the position makes one feel like the sky could genuinely be the limit for this young man as a CB1 in the league.
The only reason he might be available at 10 is because of his 2020 opt out. Not playing for an entire season, plus a non-contact ACL tear in 2017 and back spasms in 2019 could cause a bit of a tumble, despite his superior tape and testing. Drafting Farley here in this Cowboys 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft alleviates the big-play issue in the secondary.
Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
There is a chance that Phillips is the best pass rusher in the class. Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari and Michigan’s Kwity Paye both have outstanding arguments against that, but they will both go round one. Phillips is the former top-overall recruit in the nation, according to 247Sports.
This young man has everything in the world you could ask for as a pass rusher. He possesses outstanding burst off the line from both two and three-point stances and has good flexibility that allows him to duck underneath the hands of offensive tackles. Additionally, he possesses the outright athleticism to survive in space and drop into flat and hook coverage and carry backs in man coverage.
So how does a former top-overall recruit who put out great tape in 2020 end up in the second round as a versatile edge rusher? Well, he plays host to an extensive medical record. After multiple concussions at UCLA plus ankle and wrist injuries, Phillips contemplated retiring at UCLA’s medical staff’s suggestion but instead chose to transfer.
The year off might have done wonders for his health because he looked fresh and healthy in 2020. Oh, and the other reason he won’t go first round is that he amassed only 4.5 sacks in 10 games in his two years at UCLA. This blue star special is a perfect fit for the Cowboys and fits a need opposite.
Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
See that “CB” up there in Wade’s bio? Yeah, that is not sticking around here in Dallas. Wade will be moving to safety for the Dallas Cowboys. And I know what you’re thinking. “Why are we switching this young man’s position like that?” Well, because he’s been objectively bad playing on the outside this year for Ohio State. Not all Cowboys 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Drafts are built the same.
Wade played in the slot and in the back half prior to 2020, and he was universally viewed as a high-end prospect. He plays a physical brand of football for his size and has the straight-line range necessary to play the free safety role. He’s also much more comfortable playing at depth than toward the line of scrimmage in press man. He’s shown good awareness and communication in zone coverage and would complement Donovan Wilson well.
Tedarrell Slaton, DT, Florida
LARGE HUMAN ALERT! LARGE HUMAN ALERT! Unfortunately, there are no Vita Vea-style dancing bears in this draft class to take earlier, but Slaton fits a glaring need.
The 340-pound nose tackle is an absolute load on the interior. He’s tough to move and displays enough wiggle to be a legitimate problem as a run defender. His length is a big selling point in his game. He makes plays outside of his frame simply by sticking out a limb and catching ball carriers. And although he won’t wow with his burst, he can sneak by the shoulder of a center if they aren’t ready for a slashing.
It’s also important to point out that playing as a two-gapping nose is a more difficult transition than it’s made out to be. The margins for error are slim on the interior. The ability to immediately diagnose blocking schemes is of utmost importance. Slaton is still too raw from a processing standpoint, but merely holding his ground instead of ending up in the laps of linebackers is a plus.
Alaric Jackson, OT, Iowa
Jackson has four years of experience playing left tackle in the Big Ten. Before the 2019 season, many believed both he (and eventual top-3 right tackle in the NFL Tristan Wirfs) would be top-50 picks. Summer mock drafts had him in round two. This is another example of progression in prospects not being linear. There is not always an upward trajectory in performance from year-to-year, and Jackson is a prime example.
Jackson possesses a prototypical tackle build but lacks the adequate length to win the length battle consistently. However, he’s able to recover from these situations with a nice reestablishment of his anchor. Both Tyron Smith and La’el Collins’ future are in flux, so addressing offensive tackle in some way felt necessary in this Cowboys 7-round 2021 NFL Mock Draft.
But until we have definitive news on Smith and Collins’ situations, spending earlier draft resources seems like a poor allocation of capital.
Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB/S, Syracuse
Melifonwu is a low floor/high ceiling prospect. The Syracuse bio describes him as “an elite-level athlete with a nose for the football.” He possesses Madden create-a-player height/weight/speed, and his length is unbelievable. Sound familiar? It should because his brother Obi was a similar player. The Raiders drafted him in Round 2 back in 2017. He hasn’t played a snap in two years.
With Farley and Wade’s addition, taking a developmental player like Melifonwu can take the Chris Westry “what if” role. If Melifonwu can play special teams, there is potential for him to dress on Sundays. He possesses a keen eye and hands for the football, something the Cowboys’ new regime covets more than in the past.
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