NFL Nation mock draft: Why I chose Eric Kendricks

NFL Nation mock draft: Cowboys select LB Eric Kendricks

Cowboys reporter Todd Archer breaks down his first-round selection.

NFL Nation offered up its mock draft on an ESPN "SportsCenter" special, and I took UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks with the Dallas Cowboys' first-round pick.

If you tuned into the show, you will see Shane Ray was still available when I made my selection. In a perfect world, I would have picked the Missouri defensive end, who would give the Cowboys a pass-rush threat. He would fill a need not only in the short term when Greg Hardy is suspended, but in the long term with Hardy, Jeremy Mincey and Jack Crawford set to be free agents after 2015.

I don’t believe Ray will be available when the teams do this mock draft for real, so I wanted to pick a player who would be there at No. 27. And that’s Kendricks.

Why Kendricks?

In the same way Ray would be an ideal fit for the short and long term, Kendricks is a short- and long-term solution. Linebacker might not look like the most pressing need, but Sean Lee has yet to play a full season. Rolando McClain is on a one-year deal and has several issues (health and league related) that could make him unavailable.

Kendricks can run. He can hit. He can tackle. He can make plays at every level of the defense. He can be a core special teams player.

Ideally, the Cowboys will find a cornerback, running back or pass-rusher at No. 27, depending on who falls. My reasoning on skipping Ray might seem foolish, and I understand that if you feel that way. I believe Randy Gregory could be the player to fall to the Cowboys that would have them in an interesting position.

In this mock draft, running backs Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley were gone before No. 27. Cornerbacks Kevin Johnson and Byron Jones were gone.

To me, Kendricks falls into the best-player-available argument. If there is a theory that almost always leads to draft success, it’s taking the best player available.