Cowboys reach to replace key free agent in Mel Kiper's first 2024 mock draft

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The Dallas Cowboys should be preparing for the NFC Championship Game, but their offseason is almost two weeks old after they crashed out of the playoffs in the wild card round. It's only January, but for eliminated teams it's officially draft season, even though the draft comes well after free agency.

When you think about the Cowboys' biggest needs, linebacker sticks out like a sore thumb. While there are some intriguing prospects Dallas could draft in April, they'd be better of signing an experienced free agent who can step in and start from day one.

In terms of other needs, offensive tackle, wide receiver, edge rusher and even defensive tackle could be in play in the first round. It all depends on who's available, but with stalwart left tackle Tyron Smith set to become a free agent, fans can expect myriad mock drafts to have the Cowboys taking a tackle in round one.

Look no further than Mel Kiper's initial 2024 mock draft (subscription required). Kiper has Dallas selecting Arizona tackle Jordan Morgan with the No. 24 pick. It's a safe pick, but given the sheer depth at OT this year, it could be considered a reach.

Cowboys select Tyron Smith's replacement in Mel Kiper's first 2024 mock draft

Kiper mentions the obvious in his analysis. Tyron Smith and Zack Martin are both 33, and Smith's eight-year contract is up. Tyler Smith could develop into a franchise LT, but he was a second-team All-Pro at left guard in his first full year at the position. We're led to believe the Cowboys will keep Smith at guard.

Kiper is very high on Morgan's upside in pass-protection.

"Morgan is one of my favorite pass protectors in this class. I love the way he moves his feet and handles twists and stunts. He started 35 games at left tackle in college, which would make him a perfect fit to replace Tyron Smith. "

Look, it'd be hard for Dallas to justify not taking a tackle in the first round. However, Kiper had them passing on Texas wideout Adonai Mitchell, who's blend of size (6-foot-4), ability to create separation and be a red zone threat is something the Cowboys lack in their receiving corps.

They also passed on Penn State edge rusher Chop Robinson, who's physical traits and athleticism have been compared to none other than Micah Parsons. With DeMarcus Lawrence entering his age-32 season and Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler entering free agency, Robinson's upside would be tough to bypass.

Beyond Mitchell and Robinson, Oregon receiver Troy Franklin, Texas defensive tackles Byron Murphy and D'Vondre Sweat, as well as Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell all could be in play for the Cowboys at No. 24 overall.

It's hard to argue against Dallas' track record of drafting offensive linemen in the first round. Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Tyler Smith and Travis Frederick were all first-rounders. The Cowboys drafting history suggests they'll take a tackle in round one, but this is one of the deepest OT classes in years.

If there was ever a year to wait on a tackle and address another position in round one, it's this one, especially if Morgan is the best OT available.

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