As a Cowboys fan, I was impressed. When the news (read this article by Sports Illustrated’s Dan Gartland) came out that Jerry Jones would be conducting the 1st Round from his private yacht, I was not expecting good. I thought he would make a mess, the same way he traded up (read this article by Bleacher Reporter’s Jesse Reed) for the 6th overall pick to take LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne in 2012 and almost took (read this article by SBNation’s James Brady) Johnny Manziel in 2014 before Stephen Jones persuaded him to take Notre Dame guard Zack Martin.
The new philosophy really kicked in after the CeeDee Lamb pick, and my confidence in the new front office rose. If the pick wasn’t Lamb, let’s just say… the inverse would have been true. Here’s my opinion on the first draft class of the Mike McCarthy era.
Disclaimer: All picks are from this NFL.com link. For a more comprehensive/professional outlook on each prospect in this mock, refer to this database called The Draft Network. From this link, you can search for and read more detailed reports about these players as prospects.
Round 1, Pick 17: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
I had Lamb to the New York Jets at the 11th overall pick in my mock draft because I assumed the Jets couldn’t pass on him, especially when they needed to surround Sam Darnold with weapons.
He fell to Dallas, who already had Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper on a contract (article by ESPN’s Todd Archer) worth $100M and emerging talent in Michael Gallup, who had 1,000 receiving yards (per Pro Football Reference) in 2019. However, this pick filled a need for the Cowboys, other than them just taking the best football player available on their big board.
After Randall Cobb’s 2019 season as the Cowboys’ starting slot receiver, where he finished with nearly 830 receiving yards (per Pro Football Reference), the Houston Texans (for some odd reason) signed (read this article by SB Nation’s John Morgan Francis) him to a 3-year, $27 million deal. Consequently, Dallas needed a 3rd wide receiver to complement Cooper and Gallup anyway. Now that they have Lamb, they can play their receivers however they want. It’s most likely Gallup will play outside because he’s bigger and playing outside allows him to do more against #2 corners. However, Dallas can run plays for CeeDee or Cooper from the slot because they are both versatile.
Lamb as an X or a Z-receiver (read this article by Cover 1’s Brad Kelly for more in-depth information) would allow Cooper to win against slot corners with his route-running. If a team depends on their outside corners to travel with a team’s top receiver, having Lamb creates a new threat, even if Cooper struggles against that corner.
Not to mention, Lamb has the skillset to be a solid route-runner from any position as well, and learning from Cooper allows him to develop that skill set. With a limited route tree (not his fault, basic playcalling), he was an All-American, so defenses will really have to pick their poison when it comes to stopping the Cowboys receiving trio.
I thought he was the best receiving prospect to enter the league since Amari Cooper (who’s also on the Cowboys, what a coincidence). I wouldn’t be surprised if Lamb ends up as the best receiver on the Cowboys after a few seasons, and if the team wants to save money, they can release Cooper because his contract adds no guaranteed money (per OverTheCap) after 2021. Either way, Lamb is still on his rookie contract.
Lamb is a great receiver after the catch. He can accelerate and decelerate very easily, cut laterally, and keep his balance either by putting his hand in the ground or by running through defenders. He’s also not a bad athlete, so taking a screen to the end zone isn’t much of a stretch. He’s a great fit for the Cowboys offense, which will primarily rely on Kellen Moore’s deep-ball offense (read this article by Blogging the Boys’ David Howman) with certain West Coast influences (read this article by For The Win’s Steven Ruiz) sprinkled in.
Because he’s played at Oklahoma the last 3 years, Lamb is very familiar with Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid (watch this great video explaining the Air Raid offense by The Film Room’s Brett Kollmann). His yards-after-catch ability translates well to the West Coast influences (another great video summarizing a strand of the West Coast offense by Brett Kollmann) within the 2020 Cowboys offense. Even though he’s not the greatest athlete, having solid route-running traits allows him to be the future at the position for the Cowboys.
Lamb isn’t afraid to block either (see my full scouting report here). He makes plays downfield for ball-carriers by pushing defenders out of running lanes, so Zeke Elliott also benefits heavily from Lamb’s selection. Similar to how the 49ers used Deebo Samuel’s physicality to lead-block for their run game last year (see 2nd Raheem Mostert TD in NFC Championship game), Lamb can do the same thing, especially with the Cowboys running a very similar offense.
The consensus All-American (read this article by SoonersWire’s Derek Parker) shows a lot of awareness in his game. He can be a great safety valve, he’s good at making sideline catches, and he understands how to pave outside lanes for his running backs. Lamb can also jump (read this article by SportsNauts’ Jesse Reed) and make catches with his great hands, so he also has every trait Cobb didn’t have.
All in all, Dallas got a proven player who’s good after the catch, has great hands, and solid awareness. He also has decent footwork, and a great catch radius (watch the video linked to “jump”), so he’ll be an effective red-zone weapon. I have some concerns with his lack of competition and route-complexity as well as his inexperience against press coverage (he’s physical, so it shouldn’t be a problem), but he has everything it takes to be a #1 receiver, and he’s listed as “WR3” for the Cowboys.
If all goes right, this could be a bigger steal than the Seahawks drafting D.K. Metcalf 64th overall in 2019. Lamb was available 6 picks after where I had him projected, and that’s a receiver many considered the best in this class. I didn’t find very much missing in his game.
In Metcalf’s case, there were “concerns” (read this great article by John Gilbert at Field Gulls) with his lateral quickness and medical reasons in general, which is why he dropped to 64th overall. Would I have taken him before that? Yes, because the athletic traits (per this diagram by Mockdraftable’s Marcus Armstrong), and thus potential, can’t be passed on, but when comparing him as a prospect to CeeDee Lamb, give me Lamb, and Dallas’s offense just became more lethal.
Round 2, Pick 51: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
I did not like Trevon Diggs very much at all, so I was surprised when I saw CBS Sports reporter Patrik Walker select him at 17th overall in this CBS Sports mock draft. Thank God the Cowboys didn’t reach for him in the 1st Round over CeeDee Lamb, because that would’ve been awful. With the departure of Byron Jones (read this article by Travis Wingfield) and the team not finding a solid replacement in free agency, the team had to invest in a corner for the future, so they did.
My #1 issue with this pick was that LSU corner Kristian Fulton, who was a projected R1 pick, was still on the board; I mocked Fulton at 32 to the Chiefs because of his tendency to stick to receivers like glue. If they wanted a press corner, they could’ve been in a much better position by taking Fulton, but they took Diggs anyway.
Furthermore, if Nolan really wants to play multiple coverages, Mississippi State’s Cameron Dantzler, one of my favorite defenders in this class (read my thoughts about him here), would’ve been better. Versatility is key in the Cowboys’ defense, according to this article by SB Nation writer David Howman.
In terms of Diggs as a football player, he’s got as many positives as he does negatives. However, if he’s in position and the ball is coming his way, expect an incompletion or an interception unless that throw is perfect. His closing speed is impressive.
Diggs can jam decently at the line too. If he gets his hands on the receiver early enough, the play may be over because the wideout can’t get through him. He’s an unpolished corner who’s all right at the line and at the point of the catch (closing speed counts here) but needs work on everything else.
Because he’s only played cornerback for a few years (according to the Alabama website), he’s a very raw prospect and it shows. When I praised Diggs for jamming decently at the line of scrimmage, I left one thing out. He loses discipline in the middle of the route. At the professional level, Diggs may get called for holding many times, especially in Year 1. When he thinks he’s beat, despite having impressive closing speed, he tugs the inside of the jersey right above the shoulder pad.
He didn’t get flagged for this in the SEC, so he kept on doing it. Another issue in Diggs’ game is tracking the ball in the air, especially deep shots. Especially on deep balls, he falls victim to back-shoulder fades and doesn’t see the ball when it’s in the air because he doesn’t turn his head, so he gets beaten really easily that way.
All in all, Diggs has the frame, length, and feet to play boundary corner at the next level. However, because he needs time to develop, the Cowboys need to proceed with caution. Run a ton of flexible coverages with safety help.
He’s probably going to start in Year 1; the team spent a 2nd-round pick on him and he’s one of the most talented corners on the Cowboys after the departure of Byron Jones. I didn’t like Diggs very much, but he has potential. If Dallas’ defensive staff does a fine job developing him, he’ll be an elite corner in this league, but I don’t like their chances.
Round 3, Pick 82: Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma
I can’t commend this pick any more than I’m about to. According to this article written by CBS Sports reporter Patrik Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar on Twitter), the Dallas Cowboys, under Jason Garrett and Rod Marinelli, didn’t address defensive tackle or safety throughout their tenure, and Mike McCarthy really changed that approach.
The team signed a pair of former defensive tackles earlier in the offseason. Gerald McCoy, former All-Pro for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Dontari Poe, former Pro Bowler for the Kansas City Chiefs, were signed to 3-year and 2-year deals, respectively, with around $4-6 million AAS (annual average salary), according to OverTheCap and this article by Bleacher Report’s Tyler Conway (respective sources for Poe and McCoy). Both are perfect for what Mike Nolan wants (read this article by SB Nation’s David Howman) to do, especially with his disguised 3-4 and 4-3 defensive alignments. Poe and McCoy have experience in both alignments and can provide a strong veteran presence in the locker room and in the team meetings.
However, they are not the future of this team. Gerald McCoy is 32 and Dontari Poe is 29, per Spotrac, so they’re only good for a few more seasons. Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore and 2019 2nd-rounder Trysten Hill, who can both line up from 0-technique to 3-technique (read this article from Phin Insider’s Kevin Nogle for a more in-depth breakdown), can be great players for this team down the line.
These 2 young defensive tackles can develop together, and they have 2-3 years left to learn from veterans like McCoy, Poe, and Antwaun Woods. After letting Maliek Collins, Daniel Ross, and Kerry Hyder leave (read this article by Sports Illustrated’s Matthew Postins), the Cowboys now have 6 guys who can play on the interior defensive line (the 5 mentioned above and Tyrone Crawford, who’s returning from injury).
Speaking of Gallimore, however, he can be a good player. For a 300-pounder (according to this mockdraftable.com diagram by Mockdraftable’s Marcus Armstrong), he is a great athlete. The Oklahoma defensive tackle ran a 4.79 40-yard dash (according to this mockdraftable.com diagram by Mockdraftable’s Marcus Armstrong), great for a defensive tackle. Keep in mind, Quinnen Williams, who was a great defensive player in the class of 2019, ran a 4.83 40-yard dash (according to this mockdraftable.com diagram by Mockdraftable’s Marcus Armstrong). Gallimore, who weighed at a frame very similar to that of Williams, and could be just as athletic as the Jets defensive tackle on Sundays. If Gallimore has 80-90% of Quinnen’s athletic upside, that’s fine.
However, Gallimore is also very polished. He has very great hands, which is probably the reason why Dallas took him. They now have a bunch of good rotational players, but they took the Oklahoma defender because he has potential as a pass-rusher. I liked 2 of his moves when rushing the passer: the swipe move and the swim move.
With regards to the swipe move and the swim move, they are the primary hand techniques Gallimore uses to win against interior linemen. Both moves look effortless when he executes them on tape. He’s a very talented player who can fit into a role on this team. However, because he plays with such a high pad level, he can’t bullrush as effectively. One would think his athleticism would generate an effective bullrush, but that’s really not the case.
My favorite trait about Gallimore is how his alignment (0T-3T) allows him to run stunts and twists. He can line up anywhere because he’s so disciplined. He can play the role of the penetrator or loop around to make the play (this video by Alex Rollins explains these roles better).
There was 1 play against Texas where Gallimore was lined up as the 0-technique nose tackle. The second that ball was snapped, he penetrated the frontside A-gap and got double-teamed by both the center and the right guard, opening up the backside A-gap for WILL linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr, who was lined up at the 7-technique on the frontside C-gap (outside of the right tackle). Murray looped in and got through the running back in pass pro, resulting in a sack.
Dallas can run that exact same play or even variations of it, with Pro Bowl linebacker Jaylon Smith, who is a fantastic blitzer himself. If Gallimore attacks that A-gap and draws double teams, there aren’t many players who can block Jaylon Smith when he’s running at full speed. Stunts with Gallimore as the penetrator work well for other defensive guys, but he also presents value as the looper.
There was another play in the Big-12 Championship, where he was lined up at the 1-technique and defensive end Ronnie Perkins was lined up at the 3-technique. At the snap, Gallimore waited for Perkins to attack the interior linemen and then took a false step inside to freeze the offensive tackle in place. Because that false step said that Gallimore would rush from the backside B-gap, the tackle immediately overset too far inside and Gallimore looped to the backside C-gap. Because the tackle got fooled by the false step, the stunt allowed Gallimore to rush from an easy angle and then sack the quarterback.
Neville Gallimore’s aces are athleticism and discipline. This was a good pick for the Cowboys, and if defensive line coach Jim Tomsula gets the best out of him and Trysten Hill, expect a scary 1-2 punch from that interior defensive line. If Gallimore can reach his true potential and offer similar production to that of the Saints’ David Onyemata, then he was worth this 3rd-round pick.
Round 4, Pick 123: Reggie Robinson II, CB, Tulsa
If George Edwards didn’t have a large say in drafting Reggie Robinson II, I would be surprised. Robinson resembles Diggs’ profile because he’s a good athlete with length (31.5″ arms according to this mockdraftable.com diagram by Mockdraftable’s Marcus Armstrong), and he’s an aggressive corner who plays physical at the line.
With regards to the athleticism, Robinson has it. According to SB Nation blogger Billy M of CatScratchReader (Carolina Panthers’ subsection), the Tulsa corner is a “92nd-percentile athlete per SPARQ” (tweet here). Per Mockdraftable.com (this diagram by Mockdraftable’s Marcus Armstrong), Robinson ran a 4.44 40-yard dash (73rd percentile), broad-jumped 132 inches (95th percentile), and benched 22 reps (95th percentile).
For reference, Neville Gallimore benched 23 reps (according to mockdraftable.com, this diagram by Mockdraftable’s Marcus Armstrong), and he’s a defensive tackle. The lesson here to learn is that Robinson’s athleticism matches his playstyle. At 6″1, 205, per Mockdraftable.com (this diagram by Mockdraftable’s Marcus Armstrong), one can argue Robinson is a little heavy, but he makes up for that with above-average strength for a press corner.
However, the most divisive measurable for corners, especially press corners, is their arm length, because defensive backs with longer arms have a larger radius with which they can make plays on the ball. When press corners are contesting back-shoulder throws, deep throws, or inside-breaking routes, teams need corners who have longer arms so they can disrupt passes in the tightest of windows with their length. Robinson has 31 and 1/2″ arms, per Mockdraftable.com (this diagram by Mockdraftable’s Marcus Armstrong). Once again, the frame, length, and athleticism fit the playstyle of a press corner.
Robinson’s best move is to jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage and then squeeze them as close to the sideline as possible. He essentially suffocates receivers by preventing them from re-entering the field. Even when he’s in zone coverage, he presses, reads the quarterback’s eyes, pedals backward, and then uses his arm length to take away the passing lanes.
He is almost always in phase. He can flip and turn well, which makes him a great deep ball defender. Robinson’s initial punch at the line of scrimmage stops receivers in their tracks. He doesn’t let them get inside of him, so he can play the ball in the air. Robinson’s man often has little to no separation when he’s in press-man coverage.
In fact, he’s “beat” when the quarterback makes a perfect throw and the receiver adjusts (see game vs SMU’s James Proche). Otherwise, he’s either never targeted or he deflects and sometimes intercepts the ball. Robinson’s also extremely intelligent and can bait quarterbacks well. He can definitely pedal in zone and bait the throw, just to jump it from behind.
The length compliments the intelligence because he knew he had the frame and the athleticism to make a play. Nolan can play a guy like this in a variety of ways. Once again, this just ties in well to the reformation of disguise within the Cowboys’ defense.
Robinson can also tackle. He’s not afraid to aggressively take on blockers against the pass and the run. If there’s a bubble screen thrown his way, he’s going to beat his blocker to make the play. He also presents special teams value. In a 5-year career at Tulsa, Robinson has blocked 4 field goals, according to this article by Last Word on Sports editor Alexander Haynes. However, he is by no means a perfect prospect. Robinson has potential, but like Diggs, has his issues.
For some reason, he always grabs arms and shoulders when he doesn’t need to. Unlike Diggs, he gets called when he does this. This is primarily because he doesn’t always turn his head. He is a press corner who tackles but also plays undisciplined.
To put it simply, Robinson can develop into a good player for this team. He has the length and athleticism to be competitive at the point of the catch. He’s smart, physical, and aggressive. He may not be as talented as Jaire Alexander, but maybe he can get there with help from the coaches.
Round 4, Pick 146: Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
Biadasz is the future. Outside of Joe Looney, they have 2019 3rd-rounder Connor McGovern, 2018 2nd-rounder Connor Williams, free-agent acquisition Cameron Erving, and now Tyler Biadasz. 3 of those 5 spots belong to All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith, All-Pro right guard Zack Martin, and emerging right tackle La’el Collins.
The Wisconsin center made the All-Big 10 team in all 3 of his seasons (back-to-back 1st-team appearances as a sophomore and as a junior, 3nd-team appearance as a freshman) and won the Rimington Award (best center in the nation) as well as Unanimous All-American honors as a junior, according to the Wisconsin Badgers website.
Biadasz was recognized very well for his play in college. The first thing to note with Biadasz’s skill set is that he feels like a gap-scheme center. He has power, but he’s better in space, so getting him to pull and then move people on runs, such as counter, would be good.
He’s much better at generating movement when he is pulling. When he and Jonathan Taylor were working together on gap-scheme runs, it looked just like watching Ezekiel Elliott and Zack Martin do the same, in that Biadasz would send the defender one way, letting Taylor run through the opposite hole backside. Wisconsin had success when Biadasz was allowed to pull frontside and take out the edge defender, either letting Taylor cut back inside or go outside the tackle box. When it comes to pass-blocking, however, Biadasz is still decent. With 3 years left on Biadasz’s deal after 2020, he has an opportunity to develop into a starter. The Cowboys may have added another potential replacement for Travis Frederick.
Round 5, Pick 179: Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah
Steal. Anae should’ve gone earlier. He very well may beat out Aldon Smith, Joe Jackson, and Tyrone Crawford for a spot on the 2nd unit. In just one offseason, Dallas gets Randy Gregory (maybe) and Aldon Smith back from suspension, Tyrone Crawford back from injury, Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe in free agency, and Bradlee Anae and Neville Gallimore from the draft. Talk about a makeover.
For an edge rusher, Anae is not a great athlete by any means. According to this mockdraftable.com diagram by Mockdraftable’s Marcus Armstrong, he athletically tested far below the 50th-percentile on almost all of his drills. 7.44 seconds on the 3-cone drill (48th-percentile) and 31 inches on the vertical jump (47th-percentile) are good examples of Anae’s lack of acceleration and quickness (according to this mockdraftable.com diagram by Mockdraftable’s Marcus Armstrong).
It’s not like the Utah pass-rusher is very fast, either; Anae clocked in at 4.93 seconds on his 40-yard dash, setting him at the 53rd-percentile overall (according to this mockdraftable.com diagram by Mockdraftable’s Marcus Armstrong).
Anae has a lot of technical development. He was very good rushing the passer against all competition. He can play JACK in a 3-4 or as a base end in a 4-3. He’s heading to a team that has a pass-rusher whose signature move is a cross chop. If DeMarcus Lawrence takes Anae under his wing, the latter could be a very good pass rusher.
The Utah pass-rusher will have his moments. His signature chop-club-swim or chop-club-rip move (watch this video by Cowboys Nation TV for a breakdown) won’t be easy to defend at all. All in all, Dallas finds another edge rusher to add to their defensive line makeover, one who specializes in technique.
Round 7, Pick 231: Ben DiNucci, QB, James Madison
I’ll be honest; I didn’t watch a lot of Ben DiNucci. In fact, I’d never heard of his name until I saw it on the draft tracker on Day 3. I really wanted a nickel corner to shore up the position because Jourdan Lewis is on a contract year. However, considering the Cowboys’ backups were Cooper Rush and Clayton Thorson, I can see why this pick was made.
Now that Andy Dalton has been signed (article by DallasCowboys.com staff writer Rob Phillips) as the backup quarterback for 2020, DiNucci can compete with Thorson for that QB3 job. From the little tape I watched of DiNucci, I did notice he had a similar playstyle to Prescott. They’re both mobile quarterbacks who aren’t afraid to take hits but also have decent arms. Either way, good pick.
Final Grade: A
Strong first draft for Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys. They stuck to their “best player available” mantra and came out with a great class. It’s clear the front office is tired of incompetence from the old regime under Jason Garrett, and they’re doing everything they can to exceed expectations in 2020.