I am amazed how quickly people fill-in the blanks of any story to make sense of what is happening and to find a way to predict what will happen in the future. People that do it well and play the stock market have millions to show for it. Business owners stay ahead of the competition and succeed when they prognosticate correctly.
Football fans spend all off-season doing it. Dallas fans just do it better (insert cheerleader picture here).
When Dallas released Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin, every story I read already anointed Doug Free and Alan Ball / Mike Hamlin the respective successors. As a noted college football analyst likes to say, “Not so fast, my friend…”
I see six scenarios playing out in the draft that will help Dallas fans understand what the team is thinking.
The Cowboys are indeed confident in Doug Free and Alan Ball (or Mike Hamlin) and the draft shows it. Dallas addresses other areas of need with the players available in the draft. A right tackle, a guard (or two), a center, or a defensive lineman could be the Cowboys’ first pick. All of those areas could use an upgrade or an infusion of youth.
The Cowboys really do not have confidence in Doug Free and/or Alan Ball (or Mike Hamlin). Dallas drafts a left tackle or a free safety with its first selection in the 2010 NFL draft. In this scenario, the Cowboys could even move up a few spots and target a player that has fallen further than expected; players such as Earl Thomas or Anthony Davis could fall to within a few choices from where Dallas selects.
Doug Free and/or Alan Ball (or Mike Hamlin) are really not the players the Cowboys are thinking will fill the voids left by Adams or Hamlin. While Leonard Davis could fill the left tackle position, I would expect Doug Free to be the player the Cowboys will give every opportunity to seize the left tackle spot. At free safety, however, I would not be surprised to see Orlando Scandrick considered for the position. Last season, the Cowboys toyed with the idea of moving Scandrick to safety, but never pulled the trigger. Phillips has often embraced the idea of having his best players on the field: a secondary with Newman, Jenkins, and Scandrick at free safety would satisfy Wade’s urge. In this case, taking a cornerback in the first round is not that far-fetched.
The Cowboys have a weakness that is voiced internally, but has been successfully kept out of the media. Dallas could realize that Gurode (this is just an example, and not necessarily based on fact) for instance, is not playing up to his contract and that his play has deteriorated beyond acceptable standards. In this case, Dallas could trade up and ensure getting a player like Pouncey that could immediately positively impact the team.
The Cowboys are just not sure that Doug Free and/or Alan Ball (or Mike Hamlin) are the answers at left tackle and free safety respectively. In this case, I would expect to see Dallas take players that could serve as insurance in case either or both young players fail to perform up to a desired level. Drafting Bruce Campbell after trading down into the top of the second round could leave Dallas with an option if Free proves to be better suited to play on the right side of the line. Taking a free safety like Morgan Burnett in the second or third round could provide the Cowboys with other options at the safety position.
Dallas trades out of the first round for a first round pick in 2011. I could see Jones do this if:
1. Another team offers him a deal that is too good to pass up.
2. The Cowboys see little value in the draft choices available.
3. Dallas feels that they are set at most of the positions (I believe this is doubtful).
Of all of the scenarios listed, I believe scenario 2 is the most likely, followed by scenario 5, scenario 3, scenario 4, scenario 1, and finally, scenario 6.