Dallas Cowboys trade up for a unicorn in new mock draft

Dallas Cowboys war room (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys war room (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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Justin Hillard, Dallas Cowboys
Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Justin Hillard (47) (Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports) /

227. player. 123. . Linebacker - Ohio State. Dallas Cowboys. JUSTIN HILLIARD

At the end of the sixth round, NFL teams are often looking for prospects they can develop down the line but who can also be instant contributors on special teams. They find such a player here with Ohio State linebacker Justin Hillard.

Hillard’s injury history with the Buckeyes will scare off many teams. But he’s a former five-star recruit who certainly possesses the skill set to find success on the professional level. The undersized 6-foot-1, 231-pound linebacker prospect has a high-ceiling with some major durability concerns, which lands him here late on day three of the draft.

The young defender showed flashes of his potential as a sixth-year senior in 2020. In only six games, Hillard posted career-highs in tackles (33), tackles for loss (5.0), and fumble recoveries (3).

In Dallas, Hillard would be a developmental project with high upside that will need to make his bones as a special teamer and prove to the coaching staff he can stay healthy. He’ll also need to beat out other young linebackers like Luke Gifford and Francis Bernard for a spot on the roster. Playing on the practice squad as a rookie could be where he begins his NFL career.