Every year, during the draft, I watch it unfold on the NFL Network--I much prefer Mike Mayock to Mel Kiper--and have a full array of draft books by my side. In addition, I keep two special printouts handy. One of these is Rick Gosselin's list of the top 100 players. Yesterday, O.C.C. authored a post about a similar list published by Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki. Both top 100 lists are derived from information given by NFL teams; as a result, they tend to be close approximations of where NFL teams-as opposed to Internet pundits-are inclined to slot players.
This leads me to the other printout that I traditionally keep handy at draft time: PFW's "draft value chart." This chart extends Nawrocki's 100 list to seven rounds; it also divvies up the players according to tiers. In a previous post, I discussed the importance of thinking about the draft in terms of tiers, particularly when considering draft trades. Its one thing to pick up another team's third rounder-but which players, and at what positions, might be available at that pick? When considering the efficacy of a trade, its crucial to consider which guys might become Cowboys in exchange for, say, a Tyron Smith.
Late last week, PFW released their 2011 draft value chart. The matrix they employ is fairly simple: they divide each round into three tiers, and slot players according to these subdivisions. So, the top ten players in the draft fall into tier "1A"; the next eleven comprise tier "1B," the next eleven are "1C," and so on. A look at their tiers is instructive, particularly as it pertains to the players that Dallas has expressed interest in thus far. Here's where the 30 or so players of interest (invitees to Valley Ranch last week; guys whose pro days the Cowboys attended, etc) rank according to the chart (I have eliminated tiers that don't contain one of the players in question):
Lets take a look at what we can learn from the tiers after the jump..
What can we learn from this? First, that Dallas is almost certain to select an offensive lineman in the first round. Interestingly, the majority of the guys whom they will choose are likely to be taken in the middle of the round--which lends further credence to the idea that they are likely to trade out of the ninth pick. I'd guess that, unless Von Miller or Patrick Peterson falls to them, they'll trade down, if possible, and get one of the O-linemen who are likely to go between 12-25.
Once they have accomplished this, given who they have invited to the Ranch, it appears they will target the following positions: CB, WR, RB and ILB. They have players they like at these positions distributed throughout the remainder of the draft. However, if we look at the tiers a bit more closely, a pattern begins to develop:
- They will look at CBs and ILBs in rounds 2-3
- They would like to draft a WR in rounds 3-4
- They would like to draft a RB in rounds 5-6.
- They have DL and interior OL types spread throughout the draft.
- Other than Rahim Moore, the safeties in whom they have shown interest are 6-7 round/ UDFA types
Given this, my mock drafts (no trades) will feature something along these lines:
Of course, the Cowboys aren't likely to have graded all these guys exactly where Nawrocki and company have-after all, judging from last year's charts, most of us figured Sean Lee as a third or fourth rounder last year. Nevertheless, charts and lists such as these offer terrific insight into what the LEAGUE thinks.
And regardless of where the Cowboys rank these guys, they'll have to contend with how and where the rest of the NFL grades them. And that's why Gosselin's and PFW's lists and charts will be by my side come April 28th.