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2021 NFL Mock Draft: Dallas Cowboys add to their offensive line

With the 10th overall pick in the 2021 Bleeding Green Nation community mock draft, Dallas Cowboys GM Kephas selects ...

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

“With the 10th Pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select Rashawn Slater, Tackle, Northwestern.”

Let’s break this down in 3 parts: the Team, the Pick, and the Player.

The Team

The Dallas Cowboys had a (dare I say) elite offensive line from about 2014-2016 (or 2017, depending on who you read), following the drafting of LT Tyron Smith in 2011, C Travis Frederick in 2013, and RG Zack Martin in 2014. That unit was coached by Bill Callahan from 2012-2014, setting the foundation (and a run of surprisingly great health) for the period in which the Dallas offensive line would earn the “Best O-Line in the NFL” moniker.

However, nothing lasts forever in the NFL and by 2018, while still a good offensive line, their reputation had begun outperforming their play on the field. In 2020, a number of factors caught up with this once-vaunted o-line, and, as they say, the wheels fell off:

  • All-Pro Center Travis Frederick retired before the season after his battle with Guillain-Barré syndrome 2018-2019 (he missed the entire 2018 season before returning in 2019)
  • RT La’el Collins would miss the entire season with a hip injury
  • LT Tyron Smith would play 5 games before ending the season on IR and having neck surgery
  • RG Zack Martin was limited to just 10 games, also playing at RT given the other injuries on the line

So when it comes to thinking about the Cowboys’ needs, the offensive line is square in the picture. Then again, having earned the 10th pick in the draft, so are a lot of positions. Per TheDraftNetwork, those top needs include CB, IDL, OT and EDGE. Three of those four needs are on defense - which is fair, given their historically bad defensive campaign under since-fired DC Mike Nolan.

However - the Dallas Cowboys’ bread and butter right now is a high-powered offense; the defense need only not be historically bad. After 5 games last year Prescott was on pace for 6,000 yards passing along with 29 TDs. He had help, of course, with weapons Amari Cooper, Ceedee Lamb, Michael Gallup & Ezekiel Elliott forming one of the strongest set of offensive skill pieces in the NFL. Those 5 players also represent roughly 1/3 of the Cowboys entire salary cap in 2021 (per overthecap).

This is all to say: the Cowboys are designed to out-shoot you, they’re paid to win now, and if switching from Mike Nolan’s install-a-complex-defense-in-2020 to Dan Quinn’s Cover 3 scheme (plus some FA signings like Keanu Neal) can simply bring the defense up to the middle of the pack, perhaps the team’s underrated Achilles Heel is “the best offensive line in the NFL”.

Which leads me to...

The Pick

As I’ve done in previous years, I pooled together multiple Top 50 big boards to get a feel from various scouting resources:

I briefly mentioned the Cowboys’ needs above - so who was I considering?

  • Cornerbacks - 2020 2nd round pick Trevon Diggs is settled in at one corner, but the other starting CB listed on the Cowboys’ depth chart (depending on where you look) is either Anthony Brown or CJ Goodwin. Thus, Patrick Surtain II, Caleb Farley, and Jaycee Horn were all considered with pick #10 (that is, until Surtain was taken at #9 by the Broncos). Caleb Farley’s recent disclosure of back surgery makes him a tricky player to evaluate - and likely one that many teams will no longer risk with a high 1st round pick. I felt the same way, leaving me with Jaycee Horn as the primary CB option on the table.
  • Edge Rusher - Candidly, I feel like the Cowboys in this draft scenario would consider trading back; the edge rushers in this draft seem to be consistently pegged in the teens, and there wasn’t one here I felt great about drafting at #10 overall.
  • Interior Defensive Line - If you wanted a Defensive Tackle at #10, you should’ve done that in last year’s draft.
  • Offensive Tackle - As expected, Penei Sewell went earlier, leaving Rashawn Slater as largely the consensus next-best offensive tackle prospect on the board (and largely worthy of a top 10 pick).
  • Other - I also considered Micah Parsons here, and while the Cowboys have never shied away from perceived character concerns, LB didn’t appear to as high of a need with both Jaylen Smith & Leighton Vander Esch set as starters. Also, Dallas is set at WR and not going to take Jaylen Waddle.

So, basically, it came down to Jaycee Horn & Rashawn Slater. I opted for the latter primarily because:

  • Per the big board, Rashawn Slater was truly the BPA over Jaycee Horn.
  • Slater can slot in and play LG immediately - he’d be an upgrade over current LG Connor Williams, who is on the final year of his rookie deal - before potentially taking over eventually for Tyron Smith, ensuring a smooth LT transition with a top-regarded prospect.
  • While Jaycee Horn fits the type of CB new DC Dan Quinn might be looking for (and I know there are many mocks with the Cowboys taking a CB), I’m betting Jerry Jones will first and foremost protect his investment in his offense, and specifically, newly-paid (and recovering from surgery) QB Dak Prescott.

Specifically, Jones needs to protect his investment against Washington Football Team’s DE Chase Young, which leads me to...

The Player

Height: 6’ 4”

Weight: 304 lbs

NFL Comp: Jonah Williams

Interesting Fact: His father, Reginald (Reggie) Dwayne Slater, played 8 years in the NBA

If you’ve read any scouting reports on Rashawn Slater, you’ve probably come across one of two things:

  1. Given his size (specifically, arm length), some think he might move to guard (or, at least be a good fit there too)
  2. When he faced Chase Young in 2019, he held up as well as any other tackle Young faced. (Or, for some additional hyperbole, Benjamin Solak in a February article simply states, “The 2019 Ohio State film for Slater is legendary”).

This is getting long, so I’ll just end this part of the write-up with a quick game of Good & Bad.

GOOD (Slater is #70 at LT vs DE Chase Young):

BAD:

(Sure, that’s a backup LT, but did you know that Tyron Smith hasn’t played in more than 13 games in a season since 2015?)

In all seriousness, if you’d like to see more film breakdown, the Solak article I referenced above will do it more justice than I can here.

At the end of the day, Slater is the un-sexy kind of pick that’s going to help Jerry Jones sleep well knowing that he’s got another (and, in this case, young, cheap & versatile) top talent manning at least one spot on his O-Line, giving his top-dollar skill players the opportunity to do their thing.

Poll

Do you approve of this pick?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    Yes
    (814 votes)
  • 22%
    No
    (236 votes)
1050 votes total Vote Now

2021 BGN Mock Draft Order

1) Jaguars (Phoenix X Minimus): QB Trevor Lawrence
2) Jets (eagles.north.of.the.border): QB Zach Wilson
3) 49ers (I Need a Username): QB Trey Lance
4) Falcons (chewy wellington): OT Penei Sewell
5) Bengals (Dr_Horrible): WR Ja’Marr Chase
6) Dolphins (20Safety_Hazard): TE Kyle Pitts
7) Lions (drc242): WR DeVonta Smith
8) Panthers (wildcatlh): QB Justin Fields
9) Broncos (ItownBallers22): CB Patrick Surtain II
10) Cowboys (Kephas): OT Rashawn Slater
11) Giants (Billmington):
12) Eagles (ablesser88):
13) Chargers (Georgia_eagle):
14) Vikings (Philliesandthebees):
15) Patriots (SakPrescott):
16) Cardinals (Carson Wentzs ACL):
17) Raiders (dshelton5):
18) Dolphins (J. Wil):
19) Football Team (Negadelphia Norm):
20) Bears (Happy24):
21) Colts (CSsdV):
22) Titans (Friendly Neighborhood Philly Fan):
23) Jets (Asap Stocky):
24) Steelers (Gregnado):
25) Jaguars (“Snax”):
26) Browns (gerouxman1956):
27) Ravens (Brendanekstrom):
28) Saints (grantspectations):
29) Packers (Philly_Philly):
30) Bills (doublefry):
31) Chiefs (Leo Bedio):
32) Buccaneers (phuckdallas):


Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think should be selected in the 2021 BGN Community Consensus Mock Draft.

Poll

Who should the Dallas Cowboys draft at No. 10?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    OT Alijah Vera-Tucker
    (74 votes)
  • 68%
    CB Patrick Surtain II
    (544 votes)
  • 17%
    CB Jaycee Horn
    (141 votes)
  • 4%
    CB Caleb Farley
    (32 votes)
791 votes total Vote Now

1) Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence
2) Jets: QB Zach Wilson:
3) 49ers: QB Justin Fields
4) Falcons: OT Penei Sewell
5) Bengals: WR Ja’Marr Chase
6) Dolphins: TE Kyle Pitts
7) Lions: WR DeVonta Smith
8) Panthers: OT Rashawn Slater
9) Broncos: QB Trey Lance
10) Cowboys: