NFL mediots and Cowboys fans alike look to Valley Ranch for draft signals in the same way Vatican watchers looked for white smoke to signal the selection of a new pope. And Jerry Jones is all too happy to provide his own smoke, even if its of an amorphous variety.
Yesterday, he told a crowd at an American Diabetes Association fundraiser that Dallas is getting lots of offers for their two first rounders and might trade down from picks 11 and 20. Jones suggested that a trade down from the top pick might be a small one, allowing the Cowboys to acquire another pick(s) and still be in range for one of their top targets.
Later, he told the same crowd that the Cowboys might also consider moving up with either the 11th or 20th picks. The more likely of these scenarios would have Dallas moving up a little from pick 20.
These hints suggest to me that Dallas has the draft strategy predicted by Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman in his mock. He has Dallas picking Demarcus Ware at 11, but then says,
The Cowboys' A-list of outside pass rushers includes Ware, Merriman and Marcus Spears. They want two of them. The problem is which one goes first -- how they can position themselves to have a shot at another one at pick No. 20?
I've wondered the same thing. I've been running mock scenarios on paper and find it hard to get one of that trio to pick 20. The last one always drops off the board somewhere around Cincinnati's 17th pick or Minnesota's 18th pick. Zimmerman apparently agrees. When he awards Spears to Dallas at pick 20, he writes,
Do I think he'll still be on the board? Frankly, no. But I do believe Dallas will wind up with him somehow, and I get a hit on the chart if they get him at some juncture.
I think Jones' mention that Dallas could trade up from 20 is his way of addressing that "somehow" about Spears that Zimmerman mentions.
What trade options are available at both 11 and 20 that could still satisfy the Cowboys need for a top level rusher?
At pick 11 you could see a slight drop down for teams like the Chiefs and Saints. Both of these organizations apparently love Georgia S Thomas Davis. I can only see this happening if a running back like Cedric Benson or a WR like Troy Williamson falls to pick 11. The Chargers and Texans pick immediately after Dallas and have exactly the same needs on defense, finding 3-4 ends and OLBs. Unless there are other options for them, Dallas could get too cute by trading down and leaving players they really like for the Chargers and Texans.
At pick 20 Dallas might find it necessary to move up two to three spaces to grab the last of the top-tier rushing prospects. The most likely trade target is Cincy at 17. The cost of moving up is 150 points, or a mid third rounder. The cost of moving to 18 is only 50 points, or a fifth rounder. But this move seems unlikely, since the Vikings and Cowboys would probably be targeting the same player.
In the meantime, try not to choke on the heavy smoke Jerry is floating and take some comfort in the fact that he sounds confident entering Saturday.