ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. published his first mock draft on Thursday, and has the Dallas Cowboys taking Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner with the fourth overall pick in April’s draft.
That makes sense, given that the Cowboys’ pass rush produced only three more sacks than in 2014 and Greg Hardy is becoming a free agent.
But Kiper acknowledged quarterback remains a pressing need for the Cowboys, and floated the idea of Dallas trading up for the top overall pick with Tennessee in order to land the top-ranked quarterback of this class -- Cal’s Jared Goff.
The Cleveland Browns have the second overall pick, and several mock drafts, including Kiper’s, expect the Browns to take Goff should he be available.
“It’s going to be very tempting [for the Cowboys] to go quarterback,” Kiper said on a conference call. “You’ve got a shot to get a player of the caliber of Jared Goff and be the heir apparent to Tony Romo? You’ve got to think [trading up] is something that’s at least a possibility.
“Because you’re not going to have that much of a chance – you’re not going to go from the 20s to the top spot to get a quarterback [in future drafts]. That doesn’t happen. To go from four-to-one can.”
It’s no secret that the Cowboys must improve their backup quarterback situation. They whiffed on it this past season, as three quarterbacks combined to go 1-11 in Romo’s absence.
And there are durability questions surrounding Romo, who turns 36 in April. He hasn’t played a full 16-game season 2012 and has had multiple back surgeries since then. He has also fractured his left collarbone three times since 2010, including twice this past season.
That’s why quarterback ranks as a top priority for the Cowboys this off-season. And, if the Cowboys believe Goff is a future franchise quarterback, it might be worth it to make the moves necessary in order to land him.
Kiper is a fan of Buckner and feels he could help the Cowboys defense immediately, however, this is a quarterback-hungry, borderline quarterback-starved, league.
“Buckner is a really good player. He’s consistent, he’s durable,” Kiper said. “But, hey, we’ve got a really good shot at getting Jared Goff here ahead of Cleveland? Then you do it. You make that move.
“And let’s face it – you saw what Dallas was without Romo. Tony’s had a lot of injuries, he’s not going to play forever, he’s getting up there in age now … get a couple more years out of Tony and you develop his heir apparent in Jared Goff.”
Goff, a junior this past season, had a 64.5 completion percentage and threw for 4,714 yards with 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He had a particularly memorable day at the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth last month, going 25-of-37 passing for 467 yards and six touchdowns in a 55-36 victory over Air Force.