Cowboys seven-round mock draft 2020: Dallas lands Xavier McKinney, fills key needs but also takes risks


It’s to be determined what happens with the 2020 NFL Draft as the league tries to figure out if there will be any changes made to its biggest offseason event as a means of being cautious during the coronavirus pandemic. In one way or another, the event is expected to occur, and the Dallas Cowboys are already hard at work attempting to make the first draft under new head coach Mike McCarthy a successful one. They’ll likely make changes to their pre-draft process as scouts voice concern over COVID-19 and agents advise prospects to not travel for visits, but that will only serve to put an emphasis back on grinding tape, and team exec Will McClay has already made it clear the team will “do things a bit different” to get McCarthy the talent he wants.

Granted, he was speaking more to the picks they’ll look to make and not how the logistics of assessing each prospect beforehand, but like the other 31 clubs and the league front office itself, the Cowboys have no choice but to adapt. When the 2020 NFL Draft does finally roll around, it’s no secret exactly what the top needs are in Dallas. Barring key acquisitions in free agency to resolve some of the more glaring issues, they’ll need to look into addressing the interior of their defensive line, upgrading at safety, and several other items that could help McCarthy steer the club around the corner and deep into the playoffs. 

The looming question is an obvious one, as in which position they’ll run toward with the 17th-overall pick, and how will they build the remainder of their draft thereafter. Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports pieced together a full mock of what the Cowboys might do, and it’s certainly intriguing to consider.

Let’s take a look.

Day 1

Round 1, Pick 17 – Xavier McKinney, S

There are a few examples of what would be viewed as the “right move” in the first round, and grabbing McKinney is definitely in that wheelhouse. The team entered the 2019 season with a dire need of upgrading at safety, but opted to pass on overpaying Earl Thomas and were too uneasy about the health of Eric Berry to sign him either. One year later, they now find themselves with a list of in-house free agents at the position and have no choice but to address it in 2020. 

Enter McKinney, a rangy 6-foot, 201-pound defensive back who garnered first-team All-SEC honors in 2019 with Alabama, and who’s also a former Orange Bowl Defensive MVP. Some argue McKinney has a higher NFL ceiling than that of LSU’s Grant Delpit and, in this mock, the Cowboys agreed. Both were available but Delpit got passed on — not so ironically landing with the rival New York Giants in the second round — and it’s McKinney (who had three interceptions last season and five combined over the previous two) bringing his ball-hawking talents to a defense that desperately needs it. 

McKinney plus Xavier Woods would make for a potent defensive backfield, and this is a pick I’d be all-in on, although I’d struggle with it if someone like defensive line stud Javon Kinlaw is on the board (in this mock, he was, by the way).

Day 2

Round 2, Pick 51 – Noah Igbinoghene, CB

If this is the pick, the hope is the Cowboys have addressed their interior defensive line in free agency. That could come by way of Damon “Snacks” Harrison — who made it clear to me recently he “already lives in Dallas” — or someone else, but filling that void allows the Cowboys to both upgrade at safety with a premium pick and use another on attempting to replace Byron Jones. Jones is set to hit the open market and could command as much as $18 million per year, and the Cowboys won’t pay that number, instead opting to look for his successor in the draft and play them in tandem with Chidobe Awuzie and an up-and-coming star in Jourdan Lewis. 

Some will view the 5-foot-10, 198-pound Igbinoghene as a reach to achieve that goal though, considering he’s a former wide receiver who recently converted to cornerback in 2018. That’s fair, and while his athleticism and ability to understand the mind of a WR will come in handy, he’s also still raw at the position and working to find his natural feel for it. This isn’t to say Igbinoghene won’t make an impact at the NFL level, but it is intended to lay plain the fact he may not do it in his first year. 

And considering A.J. Terrell of Clemson was available at this pick, I’m hard-pressed to consider a situation wherein I’d pass on him and his production for Igbinoghene. To add insult to injury, in Trapasso’s mock, Terrell landed with the rival Philadelphia Eagles two picks later.

Round 3, Pick 82 – Davon Hamilton, DL 

The way this mock is going, I have to assume the Cowboys did in fact land an impact stop-gap player at 1-tech/3-tech — otherwise waiting until late in Day 2 to address it could be a recipe for failure. That said, veteran Tyrone Crawford is expected back in 2020 after landing on injured reserve last season, and a source tells CBS Sports he’s amicable to a possible pay cut (if approached). The return of Crawford would be huge for the defensive line, and lessens the need for help, but definitely doesn’t eliminate it altogether. 

That being the case, they could do much worse than to give Hamilton the nod. The 6-foot-4, 320-pound defensive tackle is a behemoth of a man, and he knows how to use his mass to bully offensive guards and centers. Hamilton is coming off a six-sack season (ahem, as an interior lineman) at Ohio State, making for a dangerous tandem with Chase Young. 

Hamilton needs more experience, yes, but having DeMarcus Lawrence and possibly Robert Quinn to his left and right will free him up to do real damage in both run and pass defense.

Day 3

Round 4, Pick 123 – Chase Claypool, WR

The expectation remains Amari Cooper will get a long-term deal done with the Cowboys, and his presence combines with the explosiveness of Michael Gallup and the likely retention of Randall Cobb to make wide receiver a position of little interest for the Cowboys in 2020. There’s also the option of adding Dez Bryant, but the team still needs to identify a speedy deep threat, and Claypool fits that bill to the letter. The lengthy 6-foot-4, 238-pound former Fighting Irish star shouldn’t be able to move as fast as he does, but his 4.42-second 40-yard dash begs to differ. 

Claypool routinely tortures smaller defensive backs who either can’t outmuscle him, can’t outrun him, or both, as evidenced in his career-best 1,037-yard, 13-touchdown season in 2019 — capping off a collegiate career that’s seen him take massive steps forward every single year. Adding this kind of potency to an already stout receiver group and on Day 3, no less, would be quite the coup.

My only issue here is the very obvious need at tight end, but the good news is that presumably gets handled next.

Round 5, Pick 167 – Dalton Keene, TE

Spoiler: I knew it would get handled next, because mock. 

In my opinion, and due to the likely parting of ways with future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten, the position needs a revamp that requires a higher value being placed on it in the draft than a fifth-rounder. For the sake of considering all variables, however, let’s assume a valuable veteran, athletic tight end was brought in to complement Blake Jarwin — who is currently in negotiation on a long-term deal with the club — freeing the Cowboys up to grab a prospect at the position in the middle of Day 3. 

Keene would help ensure athleticism deeper into the depth chart, and his 4.71 speed is slightly faster than Jarwin’s (4.73) entering the NFL — the two also being eerily similar in frame and build. Absent a veteran tight end being added, the 6-foot-4, 253-bound Keene might find himself getting a TE2 nod in Dallas, and has the potential to impress in the process. 

Round 5, Pick 179 – James Smith-Williams, EDGE

Assuming all goes well and the Cowboys re-sign Quinn, they might also find themselves in position to regain Randy Gregory as well, if the new collective bargaining agreement lands and wildly reworks the league’s policy on marijuana use. They also have others on the roster defensive coordinator Mike Nolan might be able to coach up, including Dorance Armstrong, but there’s no such thing as too much depth on the defensive line. 

Smith-Williams battled injury in 2019 and saw his production dip mightily because of it, but the former NC State standout has a relentless motor and is only one year removed from a career-best six-sack season that included nine tackles for a loss. He’d become the Cowboys compensatory pick if he gets the nod at 179th overall, making this possibly the steal of the draft, but only if he can remain healthy — having had three season-ending injuries with the Wolfpack. 

Round 7, Pick 231 – Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB

The Cowboys don’t have a sixth-round pick after trading it away in 2019 to land Quinn, making their flyer pick a bit more important than it’d normally be, all things considered. You shouldn’t put too much stock in expecting a seventh-rounder to be anything more than a rotational or practice squad player, but there’s always the chance they prove you wrong. That said, I wouldn’t have gone with a running back here, and that’s not because of anything Vaughn is or isn’t doing correctly.

It’s because Ezekiel Elliott is under a massive contract and has proven himself ultra-durable, plus there’s the potential of Tony Pollard as he enters his second season and the (questionable) decision to exercise the 2020 option on Jamize Olawale. Depth is needed though, because you never know (this is the NFL, after all), and the former Vandy star racked up a chunky 2,712 yards from scrimmage with 24 touchdowns his last two seasons alone. If I were backup halfback Jordan Chunn, I’d be a tad bit worried. 





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