Some Thoughts On Other People's Thoughts About What The Cowboys May Be Thinking

What do you think Jason Garrett is thinking about the draft?

We're almost at the high point of draft season, that wonderful time of the year when hope springs eternal and everybody suddenly becomes an expert in player evaluation and selection.

One of the joys of draft season is that everybody can have an opinion, and nowadays anyone can publish one. It's the time of year when any random internet dude knows more than our coaches and scouts. Combined.

You've pored over college rosters, you've scoured all available scouting reports and even occasionally dabbled in mock drafts in an attempt to figure out what the Cowboys draft strategy could look like, because you never know, that one mock draft you're reading may just be the one that has it all figured out. But at the end, they're all just opinions. After the break, my thoughts on other people's thoughts about what the Cowboys and other teams may be thinking.

Here are my totally random musings about the draft.

- Why on earth would the Cowboys start taking an offensive lineman in the first round? They haven't done it in the last 30 years, so why should they start now? Remember your mock drafts from last year? Remember how you had offensive line and safety as the top priorities? So much for that. The Cowboys ranked 7th in yards and points on offense last year - with a 38-year-old backup quarterback leading the charge! - but their defense ranked 23rd in yards and 31st in points allowed. I would be very, very surprised if the Cowboys take an offensive lineman with their first pick. Pleasantly surprised, perhaps, but surprised nonetheless.

- Hitching your horse to the next best cart. Ever since the last draft, I've had my eye on Robert Quinn, hoping and praying that he would end up a Cowboy, somehow. Especially after I heard repeated comparisons to DeMarcus Ware and I started watching tape of the guy. But that changed at the end of October, when I started to realize just how ineffective the Cowboys D-line had become in generating pressure. For a while my pet cat was Cameron Jordan (and for a brief period when it looked like we would end up drafting in the top five, I harbored uncouth thoughts about Marcell Dareus), but by the end of November, BTB member Lissyyyyy had alerted me to a dude called J.J. Watt. These are the first three recorded mentions of Watt on BTB, all by Lissyyyyy:

Oct. 28, 2011: "Another badger who I really really like is JJ Watt. He would make an excellent 3-4 end."
Nov. 28, 2011: "JJ Watt just had an awesome forced fumble. He is a tall guy 6-6, but plays close to the ground and has long arms. Prototypical 3-4 DE. Hope he comes out this year."
Nov. 28, 2011: "JJ Watt keeps on making plays."

I stayed on the Watt bandwagon for a long time, and watched him climb higher and higher on many draft boards. I briefly hitched my horse to the Von Miller cart, but that ended quickly when I realized Miller wasn't going to drop far enough. I had steadfastly refused the temptation of the Prince Amukamara bandwagon, and when the Tyron Smith train started gaining steam I made sure I kept a safe distance to that juggernaut. 

Over the last couple of weeks I've been oscillating between J.J. Watt, Cameron Jordan and my most recent pet cat, the late-rising Aldon Smith. I would also be very pleased with either Anthony Castonzo or Gabe Carimi. I found it very interesting to observe these changes in my preferences, which were not based on any detailed film study, analysis of college stats or scouting reports but instead were formed on anecdotal evidence like youtube snippets, a media mention here and a comment there that combined to create a totally subjective picture of a player in my mind.

Boy, do I hope the Cowboys do a better job of this than I do.

- Mel Kiper sounds off on Tyron Smith. In an ESPN film segment (watch it here) Mel Kiper was asked who, besides quarterbacks, he thought was the most overrated prospect that will still be taken in the first round. Here's what he said:

"I’m going to go with Tyron Smith, OT, USC, for this reason: I have him up there in the 10, 9 area, but if you’re picking 10 or 9 you ought to get somebody normally in your top five or six. If you look at Smith, he’s got a lot of potential. Is he a right tackle? A left tackle? You’d like to see him play that LT spot."

"Can he maintain his weight at 305/310 as well? He’s got enormous potential, but if you’re picking 9, get somebody in your top five or six. If you’re looking at Dallas: move back. Smith would be more of a pick that would make sense in the middle of the first round. Then if you’re picking, say, 14th and you get a guy at 9 or 10, you’ll feel really good about it."

"I think these offensive tackles are being pushed up a little bit because they have to go. Everybody’s looking for a left tackle in the NFL, but in a normal year these would have been mid-first rounders, they’re almost like being pushed up a little bit, Smith, even Anthony Castonzo from Boston College, because you’ve got to have these guys in the pass happy NFL."

Mel Kiper is no Rick Gosselin, but to quote one veteran NFL scout who preferred to stay anonymous:

"People in the league respect Kiper.  He is not a true scout but he does work at it.  A lot of his info he gets from connections in the league, and over the years he has made quite a few."

Gosselin's first mock has Smith going to the Cowboys and I'm more inclined to trust Gosselin. But I'm still scratching my head on Tyron Smith. The funny thing is, there doesn't seem to be any middle ground with this guy. He's either the best tackle in the draft or the most overrated. The highest potential or the least experience. You're either Pro-Smith or Anti-Smith, but there's very little in between. When in doubt, trust your board.

- Welcome visitors. Brent Sobleski from draftinsider.net tweeted yesterday that LSU's Patrick Peterson is visiting with the Cowboys later this week. And according to the National Football Post, Robert Quinn also has a visit scheduled with the Cowboys.

I thought we had a pretty good handle on who had been to Valley Ranch in our Cowboys Pre-Draft Visit Tracker, but it appears that either the Cowboys have found a way around the 30-player limit or I'll have to painstakingly rework that list because somebody has been feeding me false information. I already have my suspicions who the media guy with the sloppy research habits could be ...

- Beware the Redskins. If players like Robert Quinn, Nick Fairley or Julio Jones slip out of the top eight, there's a reasonable chance a couple of teams could be interested in moving up to grab one of those players. The Cowboys have let it be known that they are open to trading down. If I'm the Redskins - who have no 3rd or 4th round pick - I'm calling every team and telling them I'll offer a much better deal for my No. 10 pick than the other team will get for the Cowboys' No. 9 pick.

"What? That snake-oil salesman Jerry Jones wants a 2nd rounder for his No. 9 pick? Here, I'll give you my No. 10 pick for just your 3rd and 4th rounders."

- Trade down and then trade up again. The reason I like the trade-down option is not because it gives us an extra pick per se, but because the Cowboys could use that pick to trade back up into the first. There are many scenarios that could work, but here's one: The Cowboys trade their 9th (1350) for the Rams 14th and 78th (1300). With the 14th, they take their pick of whoever is atop their draft board, Watt, Jordan, Aldon Smith, Castonzo, perhaps even Tyron Smith if he's still around.

I hear that the the Seahawks are desperate to trade down and the Cowboys could package their own 40th and the Rams 78th (700) to move into Seattle's 25th spot (720) where Aaron Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, Cameron Heyward, Danny Watkins, Stefen Wisniewski and perhaps even Gabe Carimi could still be waiting.

Any combination of these names would be a great haul.

Or imagine this trade: San Diego 18 + 61 + 82 (1372) for Dallas 9 + 176 (1372). The Cowboys pick their player at 18, package their two 2nd rounders 40 + 61 (792) in a trade up for the Colts’ 22nd pick (780) and snap up either Gabe Carimi or Jimmy Smith from right under the Eagles’ nose.

I shudder in delightful anticipation.

- Gabbert? I'll freely admit that I'm not very knowledgeable about college football, but how come I didn't see a single game last year featuring a QB who some believe will be the number one pick this year? I saw Andrew Luck games, I saw Cam Newton games, I saw Ryan Mallett games, I saw Andy Dalton once and I think I saw one Christian Ponder game, though I'm not sure anymore. But I didn't see a single Missouri game. In fact, I don't think I'd ever heard Gabbert's name until he declared at the beginning of January and started creeping up mock draft boards.

I understand that Gabbert was a junior who hadn't declared yet, but so were Andrew Luck and Janoris Jenkins, neither of whom had declared either, and both already were regulars in the top ten of early mock drafts from which Gabbert was conspicuously absent. Three months later - and not a single Missouri game played since then - Gabbert is a consensus top five pick. How weird is that?

There you go folks, those are my random, off-the-wall musings as I try to make sense of all the he-said-she-said all around me.

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