With the NFL scouting combine later this month, speculation about the Dallas Cowboys upcoming free agency and draft moves are at an all-time high. And one of the cornerstones of the pre-NFL draft analysis is ESPN’s draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s mock drafts.
On Wednesday, Kiper released only his second mock draft of the offseason. And in it, he has the Cowboys shoring up their defensive line with a recent standout player from the 2015 Senior Bowl.
With the 27th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select…
Nov 1, 2014; Iowa City, IA, USA; Northwestern Wildcats wide receiver Miles Shuler (5) runs against Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Carl Davis (71) during the game at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Carl Davis, Defensive Tackle, Iowa
Here’s Kiper’s explanation of his selection:
"“I’m not sure there was a player who did more to gain appeal as a potential first-round pick at the Senior Bowl. Davis brings a coveted ability to be disruptive as a pass-rusher from the inside, as he won’t just push the pocket with strength, but also can win with quickness and get into the backfield. The Cowboys have done a great job in building their offensive line and have made it possible to be one of the few truly balanced offenses, but any setback on offense could expose a defense that was better on paper than it was in terms of personnel in 2014. They could add talent at all three levels, but Davis would make a lot of sense if the board breaks this way. I can also see Jordan Phillips as an option here.”"
Davis is a new name that we haven’t really seen associated with Dallas’ first round pick before. That’s probably because he recorded only 36 total tackles (9.0 TFL) and two sacks in 13 games for the Hawkeyes in 2014. And has recorded just 3.5 career total sacks while in college.
But now it appears Davis’ recent Senior Bowl performance has been enough to get him projected into the first round. And Kiper isn’t alone in this assessment. NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock had a similar take on the 6-4, 321 pound senior out of Detroit, Michigan.
"“On tape at Iowa, he flashed, here he did way more than that. He played every snap, he showed athleticism, an ability to push the pocket and get to the quarterback,” Mayock said following the Senior Bowl via NFL.com. “He may have elevated himself right into the first round and that’s what this game is all about.”"
Although Davis barely made a blip on the Senior Bowl stat sheet (1 assist tackle, 0.5 TFL), he was voted the Most Outstanding Practice Player of the Week by a panel of NFL scouts. And the Cowboys could certainly use the help on the interior of their defensive line.
The shining star of the Cowboys’ defensive line last season was end-turned-tackle Tyrone Crawford. But Crawford does of a history of injury, missing the entire 2013 season due to a torn Achilles. And this season is the final year of his rookie contract.
The other starting defensive tackle, journeyman Nick Hayden, is currently a free agent.
The Cowboys will also soon make a decision about the future of defensive tackle Henry Melton in Dallas. The former Pro Bowler signed a team-friendly contract with Dallas last year, which was essentially a low risk one-year deal with a team option for three more at the hefty price of $24 million ($9 million guaranteed in 2015).
But Melton underperformed last season recording just 15 total tackles and 5.0 sacks in 16 games. It is believed the Cowboys will choose to release and possibly re-sign the veteran at a discount over opting in for the additional three years.
But there is a real possibility the Cowboys could be without a starting defensive tackle once free agency begins in March. If so, Davis makes perfect sense for Dallas in the back end of the first round.