2011 NFL Draft Results: A Look Back To Look Ahead (Best Players Still Available For Cowboys At #40)

Might Texas cornerback Aaron Williams fall to Dallas in round two?

Well, one round of the 2011 NFL draft is in the books and, although there were some surprising trades and two surprising picks, the round ultimately adhered more closely to most draftniks boards than any other in recent memory. Of the top 32 players on Rick Gosselin's top 100 list, 29 were selected on Thursday night, with two of the exceptions being talented defensive linemen with red flags attached to their scouting reports: Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers, who has been in free fall in the past week, and North Carolina DT Marvin Austin, who missed the 2010 season after being suspended by the NCAA.

As most NFL scribes had predicted, the first round's surprises mostly involved quarterbacks. When Tennessee came on the clock with the eighth pick and Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert still available, most draft pundits assumed Gabbert to the Titans was a done deal. They did pick a quarterback, but surprised everyone in attendance at Radio City Music Hall by choosing Washington's Jake Locker instead. Two picks later, Jacksonville traded up with Washington to select Gabbert. At the twelfth pick, the Vikings made yet another surprising quarterback selection, nabbing Florida State's Christian Ponder. At the end of the round, Seattle authored another big"reach," going for Alabama OT James Carpenter (a backstage shot of Alabama coach Nick Saban and running back Mark Ingram caught them with disbelieving looks on their faces).

Make the jump for a list of potential second-rounders for the Cowboys...

The Cowboys? When their turn to pick came up, they used almost the entire ten minutes to make their selection--but not because they were working through a torturous decision. Rather, Dallas' War Room Cam showed Jerry and Stephen Jones and head coach Jason Garret sitting around, seemingly waiting for another team to call and make an offer for their pick. Alas, no offer came--or at least not one they found sweet enough to warrant losing the player who they had clearly been enamored of for some time now: USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith. Their selection of Smith was one of the Thursday's most predictable moments--I must confess it elicited barely a glance up from my laptop.

In recent years, the Cowboys have done pretty well drafting in the first round--particularly in the first half of the round--and have acquitted themselves marvelously in the later rounds. Where they have struggled most have been in the critical second and third rounds. So, if they are to rebound from last year's 6-10 debacle, reversing this recent history with two strong picks on Friday will be imperative.

Before the draft, I noted that the key to Dallas' draft would be their second rounder, at pick # 40. My hope was that the run on quarterbacks would cause better players at the Cowboys' positions of need--ideally Danny Watkins or guys with first-round grades at CB or DL--to fall to the early second round. Because the board has unfolded with precious few surprises, as I mentioned above, the only remaining first round talent who fits both Dallas' needs and their schemes is Texas CB/ FS Aaron Williams.

I'm not loving their chances of getting him without trading up; assuming the Cowboys stay at # 40, seven players will have to come off the board in front of him. While this is possible, I don't think its likely--especially when we consider that, after Williams, there is a significant dropoff at corner, with only Virginia's Ras-I Dowling between the UT alum and the third round types--the Shareece Wrights and Johnny Patricks of the world.

If I'm in the Dallas warroom, I'd make some calls to see what it might cost to move up. After looking at the top players remaining on the board, I'd be a particularly motivated buyer, because there are precious few guys worthy of a high second rounder who fit either Dallas's needs or schemes. To get a clearer sense the Cowboys' conundrum, let's take a look at the top players left on the board (with their ranking on Gosselin's top 100 list in parentheses):

QB:

Andy Dalton (34)
Ryan Mallet (40)

RB:

Ryan Williams (36)
Daniel Thomas (42)
Mikel Leshoure (51)

WR:

Greg Little (43)
Torrey Smith (48)
Titus Young (52)
Randall Cobb (55)
Edmond Gates (57)

TE:

Kyle Rudolph (39)
Lance Kendricks (53)

OL:

Orlando Franklin (50)
Wil Rackley (56)

DL:

Da'Quan Bowers (22)
Marvin Austin (26)
Brooks Reed (44)
Kenrick Ellis (45)
Jarvis Jenkins (49)
Stephen Paea (54)
Allen Bailey (58)
Terrell McClain (59)

LB:

Akeem Ayers (38)
Martez Wilson (60)
Bruce Carter (65)

CB:

Aaron Williams (31)
Ras-I Dowling (46)
Shareece Wright (61)
Brandon Harris (64)

DS:

Rahim Moore (47)

Looking at this, its hard to find a many happy unions of need and talent; there are a lot of players at positions where the Cowboys are already loaded or probably aren't looking for a player this high: QB, RB, TE, OT. They will almost certainly draft a WR this year, but I doubt it will happen in the second round, especially now that Pitt's Jon Baldwin is of the board. They have expressed interest in Lehigh's WIll Rackley, but is he too much of a reach at # 40? Both Gosselin's list and Pro Football Weekly's "Draft Value Chart" suggest he is. Ayers, the one linebacker who grades out high enough to warrant a high second rounder is suited to a different scheme, as are most of the defensive linemen.

If I had to place a wager on three players, other than the aforementioned Williams, who would be on the Cowboys' short list at #40, I'd choose Kenrick Ellis, Ras-I Dowling or Rahim Moore, two of whom (Ellis, Moore) were invitees to the Ranch earlier in the month. If the Dallas brass can't swing a way to bring Williams into the fold, my choice would be Ellis (which will make KD happy, I know; Ellis has been his pet cat for some time now).

How about you, BTB nation? Given this list, who would you like to see the Cowboys select at # 40?

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