Mock Draft Friday: Exploring the Cowboys QB Conundrum

This week in Mock Draft Friday I explore the Dallas Cowboys and the quarterback position by looking at taking QBs, round by round.

This week on Mock Draft Friday I'm going to tackle the quarterback question. Earlier this week Jerry Jones reinforced his ability to confuse the mess out of us when it came to the quarterback conundrum.

“I would say that we are not pointing toward the quarterback position,” Jones told reporters at the NFL owners' meeting. “I wouldn't want to rule it out and sound like I’m hedging. But like I said early if we got an opportunity to really get the best player, it’s not that there is not a need for us for a young future quarterback. But what I did say is the future will be made with the idea in mind that Romo is going to be the quarterback for four or five years. That begs a lot of consideration in terms of what should you be doing with draft picks as opposed to a backup quarterback.”

One good way to deal with "Jerry Poppins,'' as Fish calls him, is to cuddle up with our terrific CowboysCast, which in this fresh edition addresses Jerry, Alfred Morris, and this QB Conundrum. Tune it for good stuff!

Meanwhile, anyone hoping that Jones would answer a direct question with a direct answer probably believes the moon landing was faked. But it does beg the question — if the Cowboys don't take a quarterback at No. 4, does it mean they won't take a quarterback at all? Of course not. So in this edition of Mock Draft Friday I explore what might happen if the Cowboys were to take a quarterback in each of the five rounds in which they have selections. First, I wanted to see the drop-off in talent from round to round. Second, I wanted to see how that impacted the rest of the Cowboys' draft. So, with the help of's draft simulator I explored the question. Aside from QB, I took the best available player, with the idea of trying to spread talent around different positions.

Remember — all mocks are for recreational purposes only. No wagering please. Next week I'll return to the First Round Mock 3.0.

Scenario 1: QB in First Round, Best Available Player after that

Round 1 (4): QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State

Round 2 (34): CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson

Round 3 (67): TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas

Round 4 (102): RB Alex Collins, Arkansas

Round 4 (137*): WR Kenny Lawler, California

Round 6 (190): DE Romeo Okwara, Notre Dame

Round 6 (213*): OLB Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland

Round 6 (217*): S Jordan Lucas, Penn State

Round 6 (218*): DT Nile Lawrence-Stample, Florida State

* — compensatory picks

Analysis: When I've take a quarterback in the first round in these mocks it's either been Wentz or Cal's Jared Goff, and with Goff already off the board at No. 2 taking Wentz was an easy selection. It should be noted that Wentz has overtaken Goff in both mock drafts for the No. 2 spot. Alexander was a great second-round pick, a perfect example of claiming first-round talent without paying first-round money, though I doubt Alexander falls that far. I would have liked more defense earlier in the draft, but one thing I've noticed in these mock drafts I've done is that once you get into the middle rounds there is a wealth of offensive options, if you're seeking the best available player. What that means to me is that there appears to be a sizeable gap between the higher-level defensive talent and the rank-and-file and that you might see a run on defensive players in the second and third rounds as a result. Maybe that's just the simulator talking, but in Rounds 3 and 4 there wasn't a defensive player within 15 selections of the top of the overall board.

For our extensive package of Goff info, click here. Oh, and to hear from a guy who ends up falling through my mock cracks -- but not the Cowboys', or Fish's -- click here. An exclusive Q-and-A with Paxton Lynch.

Harvey Levine/FOS

Scenario 2: QB in Second Round, Best Available Player otherwise

Round 1 (4): S Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

Round 2 (34): QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

Round 3 (67): RB Derrick Henry, Alabama

Round 4 (102): WR Rashard Higgins, Colorado State

Round 4 (137*): ILB Nick Vigil, Utah State

Round 6 (190): DE James Cowser, Southern Utah

Round 6 (213*): CB Deiondre' Hall, Northern Iowa

Round 6 (217*): G Joe Dahl, Washington State

Round 6 (218*): S Kavon Frazier, Central Michigan

* — compensatory picks

Analysis: So here's the dropoff at quarterback. I actually ran this simulation twice because the first one had Wentz dropping to the second round, and while that would be awesome for Dallas it's also totally unrealistic. By the time Dallas came on the clock in the second round Goff, Wentz, Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook were already off the board, all taken in the first round. Hackenberg, to me, isn't a second-round guy. He's more of a third-rounder because of his propensity for interceptions at the college level. But he was the top player on the board at the time. I was personally hoping that Cook would drop here, a scenario that I see as possible. Ramsey is a great selection, a consensus pick among Cowboys fans on Twitter. Grabbing Henry and Higgins is terrific for the future. Cowser was among the best pass rushers in FCS last season and worth a flier that late. The defensive haul is much better in this mock, to me, than in Scenario 1.

Scenario 3: QB taken in third round, Best Available Player otherwise

Round 1 (4): S Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

Round 2 (34): OLB Leonard Floyd, Georgia

Round 3 (67): QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

Round 4 (102): RB Alex Collins, Arkansas

Round 4 (137*): WR Kolby Listenbee, TCU

Round 6 (190): CB Donte Deayon, Boise State

Round 6 (213*): DE D.J. Pettway, Alabama

Round 6 (217*): OLB Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland

Round 6 (218*): ILB Nick Kwiatkowski, West Virginia

* — compensatory picks

Analysis: This is where you start to see the value of taking a quarterback later. Prescott is on Dallas' radar. He's had visits and private workouts with Dallas. (See our Prescott info here.) There are legitimate questions about whether he fits their scheme (I don't believe he does), but he's talented and athletic and falls into the "coachable" category. To me Hackenberg, in Scenario 2, is as much a project as Prescott here, and you can see the large drop in talent and readiness just from Wentz to Prescott, and both quarterbacks are considered Top 10 at the position. But you can see the true benefit of taking a quarterback later. Ramsey is once against the first-round pick. Floyd, considered a first-round value, falls to Round 2 and the Cowboys snatch him up. All four of the Cowboys' sixth-round picks represent good value on defense.


Scenario 4: QB in Fourth Round, Best Available Player otherwise

Round 1 (4): S Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

Round 2 (34): ILB Reggie Ragland, Alabama

Round 3 (67): RB Devontae Booker, Utah

Round 4 (102): QB Cardale Jones, Ohio State

Round 4 (137*): WR Jordan Payton, UCLA

Round 6 (190): DE James Cowser, Southern Utah

Round 6 (213*): S Tyvis Powell, Ohio State

Round 6 (217*): OT Avery Young, Auburn

Round 6 (218*): ILB Nick Kwiatkowski, West Virginia

* — compensatory picks

Analysis: To me, Jones represents the quarterback in this draft with the least amount of readiness for the NFL level. That makes him awfully hard to project, but he's falling into the fourth round of many mocks because of his live arm and his leadership during last year's College Football Playoff title run for Ohio State. You're betting your projections of Jones' future are right if you take him here, because he probably needs two solid years just to be ready to be a backup. That's the gap between him and players like Hackenberg and Prescott. Jones needs more time to be a backup while Hackenberg and Prescott have enough tools to be a starter by Year 2. This might be my favorite mock of the bunch. The first two defensive selections are high-end potential starters. Booker would be a fine addition to the run game. Cowser gets to the quarterback. Powell and Kwiatkowski add depth at positions that need it.

Scenario 5: QB in Sixth Round, Best Available Player otherwise

Round 1 (4): DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State

Round 2 (34): WR Josh Doctson, TCU

Round 3 (67): RB Derrick Henry, Alabama

Round 4 (102): OLB Kyler Fackrell, Utah State

Round 4 (137*): WR Rashard Higgins, Colorado State

Round 6 (190): QB Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky

Round 6 (213*): G Joe Dahl, Washington State

Round 6 (217*): ILB Nick Kwiatkowski, West Virginia

Round 6 (218*): DE Anthony Zettel, Penn State

* — compensatory picks

Analysis: When you get into the sixth round, the quarterbacks really fall into two categories — ones that have clear talent or development gaps but have been productive anyway or highly productive players who are undervalued because of where they went to school and a perceived "competition gap." Doughty falls in the latter category. I've seen him in person twice over the last two years and he can sling it. The question is about how he played the game at Western Kentucky — primarily out of the shotgun and throwing short-range passes in a spread formation — will translates to the NFL. But at least you get to control him for four years to find out. Otherwise, getting Bosa, Doctson, Henry, Fackrell and Higgins in the first four rounds is a great mix of talent. Dahl can be a valuable backup. Zettel could make a team as a fifth or sixth pass rusher, depending on the formation.

Conclusion: If you want high-end quarterback talent in this draft you have to roll the dice in Round 1 because it won't fall into Round 2. If you're comfortable with what you have and just want to develop someone you think has good skills, taking a quarterback later in the draft will work. But if the Cowboys explore the latter they need to be targeted about what they're looking for. A selection like Prescott seems less likely to me, despite the work the Cowboys are putting in to get to know him, than a quarterback that is a better scheme fit.

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