Cowboys Mock Draft Roundup: First Round Offensive Linemen

There is a big and growing school of thought arguing that the Cowboys should draft an offensive lineman with their first pick in the 2011 draft.

On Monday, we looked at the players that will likely be available for the Cowboys at the #9 spot. The vast majority of mock drafts project either a CB in Prince Amukamara, a DE or the occasional OLB to be available. There are arguments to be made for and against all of these positions, but what seems to be clear is that the Cowboys are unlikely to address their biggest position of need, the offensive line, with the number nine pick.

Gary Horton of Scouts, Inc., weighs in on why offensive tackle is the top need for the Cowboys.

There is a lot of age with not enough talent at this position, and the biggest need is probably at RT. Marc Colombo struggles to protect the edge, and Leonard Davis is in the same boat. LT Doug Free is better as a run-blocker than in pass protection, but a starter is needed.

Today we look at a bunch of mocks to understand where the offensive linemen are slotted prior to the Combine and see just how far the Cowboys could safely trade down and still get a quality addition for the offensive line.

As in the previous post, the basis for this list are the BTB grades that rabblerousr gave each scout in his recent post "Scouting The Scouts".

There are six offensive linemen, five tackles and one guard, who are slotted to go in the first round in most of the mocks we looked at.

BTB Grade Source Date Tyron Smith, OT
Anthony Castonzo, OT
Nate Solder, OT
Gabe Carimi, OT
Derrek Sherrod, OT
Mike Pouncey, OG
1st
Nolan Nawrocki (PFW) 2/8/11
20 13 22 21 31 19
1st
Wes Bunting (NFP) 2/10/11
10 19 25
29
22 23
2nd
Russ Lande (Sporting News) 2/15/11
22
13
21
- -
26
- -
3rd-4th
Dan Shonka (Ourlads) 2/16/11
9
22
9
23
21
25
5th-6th
Scott Wright (Draft Countdown) 2/15/11
13
21
22
29
- -
31
5th-6th
Mel Kiper (ESPN) 2/16/11
18
22
19
23
- -
25
5th-6th
Todd McShay (ESPN) 2/10/11
19
22
13
23
- -
27
7th
Walter Football 2/23/11
13 22
17
23
31
29
7th
Draft Season 2/21/11
22
19
13
- -
29
31
7th
Great Blue North Draft Report 2/14/11
22
21
23
- -
- -
28
UDFA Mocking The Draft 2/5/11 12
22
- -
19
32
- -
UDFA Draft Ace 2/20/11 17
- -
- - 19
22
27
UDFA Drafttek 2/23/11 27
19
32
- -
21
- -
Average Position 18.0 19.6 19.6 23.2 26.1 26.5

Out of these 13 mocks, only Dan Shonka from Ourlads has the Cowboys taking (and arguably reaching) for an offensive lineman with the ninth pick. Tyron Smith has emerged as the consensus top tackle in the draft, and is the only one of the six linemen to appear on every single mock in our roundup above. Based on these mocks, Anthony Castanzo barely edges out Nate Solder as the number two tackle prospect in the draft. But this just highlights a key issue of this year's OT selection: which guy do you pick?

Peter Schrager from foxsports.com summarizes the situation nicely:

There’s five to six prospects worthy of first-round selections. Want to sort them out? Good luck.

Talk with one scout, and he’ll point you to Nate Solder, a 6-8 converted tight end who’s reportedly capable of running a 4.8 in the 40. Talk with another, and he’ll point you to Anthony Castonzo, a 53-game starter out of Boston College who once upon a time protected Matt Ryan up at Chestnut Hill. Then there’s the tackle with the biggest potential, USC’s Tyron Smith and the kid with the most versatility, Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod. Somewhere in the first 32 picks, you can slate Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi, too.

With a solid combine, TCU's Marcus Cannon could slip into the top 32, as well. There’s no consensus on which one of these guys is the top tackle in the draft. There should be at least some clarity after the combine.

Other linemen making an occasional appearance in the top 32 in these mocks are Danny Watkins (4 times), Benjamin Ijalana (3), Stefen Wisniewski (3) and Clint Boling (1).

Using the same 13 mocks above, I've reordered the data to better understand which teams the mockers think are in the race for an offensive lineman. For the table below, I've listed all teams by draft position who have picked an offensive lineman in at least four of the 13 mocks above:

Pick No. Team # mocks with OL pick
13 Lions 6
19 Giants 9
21 Chiefs 6
22 Colts 12
23 Eagles 7
27 Falcons 4
28 Patriots 4
29 Bears 6
31 Steelers 7

I'll readily admit that I know very little about the specific needs of most NFL teams heading into the draft, so I'll happily defer to the mockers in our roundup who spend a considerable part of their time on the draft. The 'mocker consensus' in the table above should therefore be a pretty good indication of which teams are likely to be in the hunt for an offensive lineman in April.

The Lions appear to be the earliest team with serious interest in an OL, and if these mocks are anything to go by, the run on offensive tackles will start in earnest with the Giants in the 19th spot, and the last of the top five tackles could conceivably be gone as early as the Eagles' 23rd pick.

The Cowboys could easily trade with Miami (15th), New England (17th) and San Diego (18th) - provided these teams are willing to trade up for a QB (MIA), WR (NE) or OLB (SD) - and still end up with their tackle of choice, depending on which one it is they have their eyes on.

However, the Giants and Colts appear to be serious contenders for line talent, and they themselves might be looking to trade up. Here's how far they could conceivably trade up by adding their respective 3rd round picks:

Giants: 19th + 83rd (1,050 pts) = Miami 15th (1,050 pts)
Colts: 22nd & 87th (935 pts) = San Diego 18th (900 pts) or New England 17th (950 pts)

Interestingly, the teams the Cowboys could look to be trading down with also look like the ideal teams for the Giants and Colts to trade up with, which could make for a highly interesting and tumultuous draft day.

What should the Cowboys do, stay put and go BPA? Trade down into the high teens and grab whichever OL is still available, or trade into the low teens, avoid getting too cute, and pick the best OL in the draft?

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