I just spoke to a source about Dallas' draft plans, and learned the following:
-- 23 reasons to pick in the 1st. This year's board assigns 23 first rounds grades. That means Dallas would have at least three players with first round grades on the board had it kept the 20th pick. But at what position?
Last year, the team picked 22nd and 28th, when 21 players carried first round grades. Dallas considered themselves fortunate when Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins, two players with top-20 grades, fell to them.
-- Pick four: This year, Dallas starts at 51. I understand they feel confident they'll have "three or four quality players available to them when they pick." There are players they prefer, players we've discussed on here for weeks, but my interpretation of the info I'm hearing is Dallas will sit tight, unless a player with a very high grade begins to fall. Case in point -- Martellus Bennett had a top-30 grade last year and there was some desire to trade up higher into the 2nd round and snag him once he started to drift past the early 40s. Dallas waited and got their guy at 61.
If a player with a grade that high slips this year, I doubt the Cowboys will sit on their hands. That said, they appear to have a plan to maximize the value of those 2nd, 3rd and 4th round picks. Go over the lists of visits and over the rumored players of interest and you'll see multiple names, all at positions of need, which fit every pick -- 51st, 69th, 101st, 117th.
This means you should not force feed a position or positions in your mental mocks. Look at safety. They have names for 51, 69 and down the line. Same with receiver. Same with linebackers. Same with offensive linemen, and so on.
I'll repeat what I wrote a couple of weeks ago. The key is to hit on at least four players. Where they play is out of Dallas' control, but as long as the Cowboys get four football players, they'll move in the right direction, even if some positions of need go unfilled. And let me repeat, some will go unfilled. That's just the way drafts work.
-- Football players first. I've been collecting draft books for 20 years. Going back over the bumper Jimmy Johnson drafts of the early '90s, I saw one constant -- many of the players J.J. brought in fell into the "overachiever" category.
The weaker Jerry 1.0 drafts of the late '90s and early '00s had their own constant. Many of the draftees fell into the "boom or bust" category. Jerry was not afraid to take gambles, but too many times he rolled snake eyes.
The names I'm seeing this year fall all rate highly as football players. The Delmas, McBaths, Robiskes, Massaquois, Brinkleys, Sidburys, McGees, are all tough guys who love to play the game. They're all football players.
I don't know which set of them will be picked, but I'm happy to not see character risks or projects. Drafting is hard enough as it is.