DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) -- About one month into draft preps, my 2014 Big Green NFL Draft Scouting Notebook is getting filled by the day. With all the top draft prospects headed to Indianapolis this week for the annual NFL Scouting Combine, what better time to unveil my Cowboys 7-Round Mock Draft 2.0.
Much will change after all the coaches and scouts get a chance to watch and time the prospects in The Underwear Olympics in Indianapolis starting later this week. And remember, this year's draft isn't until May 7. So we are still very early in the process. But let's see where things stand prior to the combine.
Much like last year, I propose a trade down in the first round in order to acquire another 3rd round pick. This team needs to do as much as it can to acquire as many top 100 picks as possible.
(Note: Round projections are based on those listed at www.nfldraftscout.com as of February 16.)
DOMINIQUE EASLEY - DT - FLORIDA (6-2, 285)
Love this player's dynamic personality, athleticism and ability to disrupt plays with a great get off, a lot of which doesn't show up on a stat sheet. This is a top of the first round talent whose draft stock is up in the air due to ACL injuries to both knees. The good news is those are the only two ACLs he has, and you rarely hear of a player tearing the same ACL twice. So, this pick is totally dependent on what the team doctors say after thoroughly checking out Easley's knees in Indy this weekend. However, I want to be on the record prior to the combine that based on what I see on video, Easley is the best choice late in the 1st round after a trade down from 16 or 17 (depending on a coin flip this week with the Ravens).
Easley is a charismatic team leader who plays with a great tenacity...a Michael Irvin-like confidence that spreads through the locker room...I bet his early season knee injury was a big reason Florida's 2013 season went down the tubes...he may be the Jesse Williams of this draft (the Alabama nose tackle who fell to the 5th round last year due to knee injuries)...and if Easley's knees don't pass the medical test, take Pitt DT AARON DONALD here and pick Easley, if available, around the 4th round.
Easley has been compared to Geno Atkins and Gerald McCoy.
The next two players are absolutely my favorite two draft prospects I've come across so far this year.
TELVIN SMITH - OLB - FLORIDA STATE (6-2, 218)
Love this player...PLAYmaker...it's possible he may slide to 3rd round because he's a 'tweener, but I don't risk losing him. I'm taking him in the 2nd round. At 218 pounds, he played MLB and was the emotional leader for the national champion Seminoles. He looks like he has the range and athleticism to play safety, but insiders say he probably fits best as an undersized WLB.
Senior Bowl Director Phil Savage calls Smith a "four down player". He will be a walk in starter as a nickel LB and will be a top special teams player from day one. As a senior, he led the Seminoles in tackles and had 3 interceptions, returning two for TDs...makes up for his lack of LB size with great quickness and instincts.
He is the "anti-Bruce Carter" in that he plays the game with such passion, enthusiasm, energy, and instincts that sometimes you think he's about to run himself right out of a play. However, he has an uncanny ability to break down and make a forceful tackle in the open field. Carter is often slow to read and react, thus losing a step and being the last one to the pile. In contrast, Telvin Smith is so darn instinctive and fast, he rarely gets beat to the ball carrier because he dissects the play so quickly, much like Sean Lee. Not to say he does that on every play. He is still an inexperienced player, but you can see the potential, and he has a great passion to learn the game. You can tell he LOVES football!
Former FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops says Smith was one of his favorite players to coach, saying he's "just a baller". When Carter's contract expires after this year, Telvin Smith becomes the starting WLB, if not before then. It will be tough to keep him off the field...another dynamic leader.
3rd Round: (pick acquired in trade down)
JOSH HUFF - WR - OREGON (5-11, 201)
Three years ago, I couldn't watch enough video of Kentucky's Randall Cobb, who has gone on to become a star with the Green Bay Packers. Josh Huff reminds me a lot of Randall Cobb.
Like Cobb, Huff is a versatile playmaker who would be used by the Cowboys initially as a slot receiver, enabling the team to part ways with Miles Austin's hefty contract. Like Cobb, I think he can also flourish as an outside receiver, a running back, and as a kick returner.
Cobb was the last pick of the 2nd round in 2011. Since this is a very deep WR draft, maybe Huff will still be available in the 3rd round, but I suspect he'll go mid-2nd round, so you may have to flip flop the Huff and Telvin Smith picks here. (NFLDraftScout.com projects Huff as a 3rd or 4th rounder and Smith as a 2nd rounder so that's why I picked them in this order.)
A Houston native, Huff has tremendous speed and as good run after catch ability as any player in this draft. He's a smart, confident, determined competitor who runs with power, quickness and long speed. Scott Linehan might even see some Reggie Bush in Huff...very versatile playmaker.
KAREEM MARTIN - DE - NORTH CAROLINA (6-6, 272)
1st team All-ACC player who had 78 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 14 QB pressures and 3 forced fumbles his senior season...UNC Head Coach Larry Fedora says Martin is "intelligent, has great length and can run...he has no ceiling."
Sounds like the second coming of the Beautiful Harvey Martin? The Cowboys sure hope so. He's another player who could rise dramatically on draft boards if he excels during Combine testing.
ZACH METTENBERGER - QB - LSU (6-5, 235)
I'm surprised Mettenberger is being talked about as a 3rd or 4th round prospect. I'd be surprised if any QB in this draft has a bigger arm than Mettenberger. Now it sounds like there may be some reasons this player isn't more highly touted. Some say he has some maturity issues. But regardless, if this talented a QB is still available in the 4th round, I believe you have to jump on it. And if it doesn't work out, trade him for picks. His trade value won't go down if he's sitting on your bench.
His senior season at LSU, Mettenberger passed for 3082 yards, completing 65% of his passes, averaging a very strong 10.4 yards per attempt, evidence he threw the ball downfield and with accuracy. He had 22 TD passes and 8 picks.
AARON LYNCH - DE - SOUTH FLORIDA (6-6, 244)
Speaking of players who supposedly have maturity issues, let's take a flyer on a long armed beast of a pass rusher who either weighs as little as 244 pounds (what he was listed at in the South Florida media guide), or 270 pounds (what Notre Dame listed him his Freshman All America season in 2011 in South Bend).
Aaron Lynch was the 15th rated player in the nation coming out of a Cape Coral, Florida high school. In six starts at Notre Dame his freshman season, as a 6-6, 270 pound DT/DE, he registered 5 1/2 sacks and 14 QB hurries. But then, Lynch transferred to South Florida. He said the reason was to be closer to home.
After sitting out 2012 due to transfer rules, a svelte 244 pound Lynch had 6 sacks and 12 1/2 tackles for loss for South Florida this past season. He then decided to turn pro.
This is probably a boom or bust prospect. If his head's on straight, you might have a dynamic Jared Allen type edge rusher. If not, cut him. You've done a lot worse with 3rd day picks.
The rest of the draft is filled with high achieving, "right kind of guy" prospects from big schools who have very good college production to go along with tremendous leadership and intelligence traits. We're not throwing away late round draft picks on unproven small school suspects.
6th Round: (Compensatory Pick)
TREY MILLARD - FB - OKLAHOMA (6-2, 253)
Probably the best all around player on OU's team the past four years...his senior year was cut short by an ACL injury...as the Cowboys search for a fullback answer in their offense, here he is...a good and willing blocker as a fullback, but this guy can be used as an H-back, a 3rd tight end, or even as a running back...I wouldn't be surprised if he turns out to be a Peyton Hillis type RB...mature, smart, team captain...probably Bob Stoops' favorite player, though as a Sooner fan, I never understood why they didn't use him more, like they did in the 2012 Texas game (8 touches, 164 yards, TD in a 63-21 win)...good receiving and run after catch ability...despite being a full time starter, Millard was also a core special teams player all four years at OU...NFL teams are foolish if he's still available in 6th round, as projected. The only reason he's still here is the ACL.
ALDEN DARBY - S - ARIZONA STATE (5-11, 195)
A highly decorated inspirational leader of a Sun Devils team that played in the PAC 12 title game, Alden Darby is a high energy playmaker. He picked off 10 passes in three seasons, returning two for TDs.
Darby is a great story, having grown up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Long Beach, California. Nicknamed "The Juice Man", former ASU coach Dennis Erickson says Darby is a good leader, "He brings a fresh air to the program."
Darby seems to have a great passion for the sport, saying, "Football has always been my best friend."
He became the first Sun Devil to wear the Pat Tillman Practice Jersey, awarded to those who embody positive characteristics of team and school. He also won the Frank Kush Captain's Award, Tim Landers Ironman Award, a Senior CLASS Award finalist, and was the keynote speaker at the East Valley Pursuing Victory with Honor Leadership Summit.
CHRIS WHALEY - DT - TEXAS (6-3, 295)
Rod Marinelli can't help but think Henry Melton when he comes across Chris Whaley's bio. A Texas DT who began his career as a jumbo RB. Like the aforementioned Millard, probably the only reason Whaley is projected as a 7th round pick is because he suffered an ACL injury last fall.
Whaley flashed terrific athleticism when he picked off a Blake Bell errant pass and then bulldozed through "The Belldozer" into the end zone for a TD at the Cotton Bowl in October.
In 9 starts at DT his senior year, Whaley amassed 51 tackles, 11 for loss, with 3 sacks and 2 TDs. He's a captain, a college graduate, winner of UT's Leadership Award, Tenacity Award, and Strength and Conditioning Award.
At Madisonville High School, Whaley rushed for 6174 yards and 79 TDs, including two 400 yard rushing games.
So, there you have it: 2 defensive tackles, 2 defensive ends, a linebacker, a safety, a wide receiver, a fullback, a quarterback, and at least 4 torn ACL's.
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