Rabblerousr has kept us entertained over the last few weeks with interviews and an ongoing series of mailbag Q&A's Drafttek's Long Ball, and I've used Drafttek's Online Draft Simulator (a free online tool that allows you to compile your own seven-round mock draft) to illustrate a number of different draft strategies.
As we collectively prepare for the draft, the notion of trading down is gaining more and more traction. A couple of weeks ago, rabblerousr methodically went through every draft scenario available for the Cowboys between picks 10 and 19. Three weeks ago, we fed all the all the uneven trade options (picks 13, 15, 17 and 19) into the ODS to see what the Drafttek supercomputer came up with. Today, we're feeding the even numbers (picks 14, 16, 18) into the machine.
The Online Draft Simulator (ODS) allows users to produce a computer generated model of the 2011 NFL Draft. The base elements the model works with are Drafttek's Big Board as well as team needs for each NFL team as compiled by the Drafttek staff. The data is regularly updated, and users can either stick with the preset values, or make changes along three key input variables: draft order, team needs and a grab or lockout feature that allows users to bypass the program logic. After making changes (if desired), the user can then generate a 7-round mock draft.
For the purposes of this post, I'm not going to bother you with positional priorities, grabs or lockout codes, we'll just run the trade down scenarios against the Drafttek big board and the team needs of 31 other teams competing for the same talent the Cowboys are.
Below are the three trade down scenarios we'll be looking at, up to date with all the compensatory picks. Note: Minnesota, who own the 12th pick, have no third rounder, which makes a swap significantly more difficult to engineer; Tampa Bay at 20 would have to give up their first, second, and third round picks to get to No. 9, which seems highly unlikely. That leaves us with:
First and a third:
St. Louis 14 + 78 + 112 (1370) for Dallas 9 + 176 (1372)
First and a second:
Jacksonville 16 + 49 + 182 (1429.6) for Dallas 9 + 110 +220 (1428.4)
San Diego 18 + 61 + 82 (1372) for Dallas 9 + 176 (1372)
Mock 1: Trade with St. Louis
1. (14th pick). Tyron Smith, OT, USC - Arguably the tackle with the most upside in the draft. Would be an immediate and significant upgrade on the right side, and may challenge for the LT spot soon. And while drafting Smith throws up a lot of questions about what to do with Doug Free, there's no need for the Cowboys to rush Smith to the left. Smith will be 24 when Free will be 30 in four years.
2. Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State - A potential top five pick on some very early mocks, Heyward has seen his stock slide significantly. When the Cowboys see him available with the 40th pick, there is no discussion whatsoever in the Cowboys' war room. Heyward could be just what the doctor ordered for the Cowboys defensive line. He'd likely be a day-one starter for the 'Boys, and would fit in very well as a 3-4 DE. Generally considered an early second round prospect, he's a regular in the twenties on many mock drafts.
3. Brandon Burton, CB, Utah - Burton left Utah after his junior season and has been described as a "lockdown corner" by his coaches and teammates. Burton ran a solid 4.5 40 at the Combine and his pro day and looked good in most of the other drills. The Cowboys are lucky to get Burton in the third, as most scouts project him as a second rounder. He probably won't be an immediate starter, but could be brought along nicely behind the current starters. The speedy corner would fit well in the Cowboys' man-coverage schemes and could provide solid depth at the corner position.
3. (78th pick). K.J. Wright, ILB, Mississippi State - Wright was voted team captain in 2010. Wright played 4-3 outside linebacker, and his coverage skills helped him lead the team in pass breakups. An athletic and durable linebacker whose coverage skills could see him move inside in a 3-4, but who also has the skills to be very disruptive in the backfield. Imagine that, a blitzing ILB in Dallas who actually get to the QB?
4. Clint Boling, OG, Georgia - A four-year starter at Georgia, Boling is an OT who projects as an OG at the NFL level. Boling could probably start at guard right away, especially in Dallas. Wes Bunting on Boling: "Has experience at both guard and tackle, but looks more like a guard to me. Works really hard inside in the run game and has the type of athleticism to mirror in pass protection. Improved his overall bend and leverage out of his stance as a senior and looks like a guy who could mature into a potential starter with some time inside."
4. (112th pick), Deunta Williams, North Carolina - A broken leg saw Williams' draft stock drop significantly. He's a physically gifted free safety, whose experience and production over a four year college career should make him worth a fourth round gamble even if medical concerns persist. At the very least, he'll provide reliable backup at safety (when was the last time you read a sentence like that about dallas?) but has the potential to be a starter in the league.
5. Henry Hynoski, FB, Pittsburgh - Hynoski is ranked the second best fullback by Rick Gosselin in a draft that features an almost unprecedented depth at fullback. Hynoski is probably he best pure blocker of fullbacks in this year's draft, and I would very, very happy if the Cowboys came away with any of the top fullbacks in the 2011 draft.
7. Terry Griffin, DT, Elizabeth City State - Not quite sure how this prospect ended up on the Drafttek big board, but the 6-1 / 340 DII prospect could be a steal in the seventh or as an UDFA if the defensive tackle tuns out to be an option to clog up the middle of the line
7. D'Aundre Reed, OLB, Arizona - From Russ Lande at The Sporting News: "As NFL teams have broken down his film, they wonder why D’Aundre Reed (6-4, 261)—who has good height, quickness, explosiveness, athleticism and strength—didn’t have a better college career. He has flashed the ability to make impact plays as a pass rusher and against the run, but he didn’t do it consistently. Reed seems to lack instincts and looks mechanical at times, but look for him to be drafted. Some team will be willing to gamble that it can develop him into a better player than he was in college."
Mock 2: Trade with Jacksonville
1 (16th pick). J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin - The Cowboys grab J.J. Watt with this pick. Watt had an amazing production ratio in college and further solidified his standing with an outstanding performance at the combine. He placed fifth in the bench press with 34 reps, had the second highest vertical at 37" , third in the broad jump at 10’0", had the third fastest 3-cone drill, and 2nd fastest 20-yard shuffle. Watt is now always mentioned within the top 15 of this draft class and as a five-technique end would fit the Cowboys' need perfectly. Perhaps the biggest impact Watt would have on the Cowboys defense would be the amount of energy he would bring to the defense with his insane motor and mean streak.
2. Marcus Gilbert, OT, Florida - From LongBall at Drafttek.com: "Florida’s Marcus Gilbert is another prospect that has played both sides of the OL. Size is not a deficiency for the young man, as he measures 6’6" and 330 lbs. He is a solid pass protector with a quick set, fluid lateral movement and willingness to go out and punch his man off the snap instead of waiting for the rush to come to him. [...] Quick off the snap for his size, strong punch and arm extension to lockout defender, and a fairly quick kick-slide but utilizes his length more in this area. Good character, hustles every play, reliable and durable . . . solid OL prospect with the Long Ball Seal of Approval!"
2. (49th pick), Kelvin Sheppard, ILB, LSU - From Josh Ellis at the mothership: "There's no doubt the Cowboys need inside linebacker help now that both Bradie James and Keith Brooking are in their 30s and heading into the last year of their contracts. The team has last year's second-round pick Sean Lee on board, but needs more depth. Sheppard would provide them a prototypical 3-4 inside 'backer who could be ready to step in and start as early as 2012, if the team needed it."
3. Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA - Rick Gosselin rates Moore as the top safety in the draft. That may not mean much this year but if Moore is still there in the third round, the Cowboy will be all over him faster than you can say "Darren Woodson".
5. Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville - Powell was invited to a pre-draft visit at Valley ranch, and our own rabblerousr has an extensive profile about Powell. An excerpt: "Judging from his aggressive, one-cut, downhill running style, it appears that the Cowboys see Powell as a potential replacement for Marion Barber. Indeed, his game resembles Barber’s off the field: Powell is almost painfully media shy, won't talk on camera and declines interviews that focus on himself."
6. Justin Boren, OG, Ohio State - Boren is reported to be nasty guy who plays with a mean streak and intensity. His strength and competitive attitude might be worth a late round flyer. Russ Lande sees him as a player who "has the ability to serve as the primary interior backup for a team in his first year before competing for a starting job in his second season."
6. (182nd pick), Via draftinsiders.com: "Justin Rogers completed an outstanding postseason with another strong performance at the Richmond pro day. He ran the 40 yard sprint in the mid 4.35 times that impressed scouts once again. [...] He had a 33" VL and 9’6" BJ with very good drills of a 4.20 short shuttle and 7.21 three cone for a good overall performance. His fine return skills enhance his status and he could warrant an early 3rd day selection. His high level of development will allow him to compete for playing time as both a nickel corner and return specialist.", CB, Richmond -
7. Adam Weber, QB, Minnesota - Per Chad Reuter of cbssports.com: "Though lacking prototypical size (6-1, 209), Weber's arm strength and athleticism (39-inch vertical) impressed scouts at his pro day. Combined with the flashes of talent he showed during his four years as a starter for the Gophers, teams will strongly consider selecting him sometime on draft Saturday." Perhaps. But likely will be nothing more than a camp body.
Mock 3: Trade with San Diego
1 (18th pick). Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin - I'll let Gabe Carimi himself tell you why he would be an instant upgrade on the right side of the line for the Cowboys: "Four potential first-round players I've gone against this year. I have a better resume of going against better talent than anyone else. I know I'm the best tackle out there, so I'm just going to play like it and act like it. I have a better knowledge of the game than any other tackle out there. I'm a draft-ready tackle that will be able to start in the NFL this year."
2. Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State - See short profile above.
2. (61st pick) Curtis Brown, CB, Texas - Brown is easily a top 5 corner, but his stock was not helped by the Longhorns' 2010 campaign. Brown is a recent riser on many draft boards after posting very good Combine numbers. He'll see a lot of action on special teams and in nickel/dime packages, and may be Newman's successor as early as 2012.
3. Danny Watkins, OG, Baylor - Most big boards have the former fire fighter, hockey and rugby player from Canada ranked in the top 50, and Rick Gosselin even has him as the top-rated OG in the draft, but in this scenario Watkins is still available in the 3rd round - perhaps his age (26) did keep some other teams from taking him higher after all. The 6-foot-4, 310 pound guard from Baylor, described as a smart player who plays with a mean streak, would provide an immediate upgrade for the interior offensive line and while he projects as a guard in the NFL, he may have enough versatility to also play tackle in a pinch.
3. (82nd pick). K.J. Wright, ILB, Mississippi State - See short profile above.
4. Deunta Williams, North Carolina - See short profile above.
5. Cliff Matthews, OLB, South Carolina - Matthews has remarkable athleticism, possessing a nice blend of size, power, speed, and agility, but he never seemed to quite reach his potential in college. His stats (15.5 sacks, 26 TFL in 51 games) seem to indicate that he wont be the guy at the next level, but some team may fall in love with his athleticism and think that with the right coaching, Matthews could become an NFL-level OLB.
7. Cameron Graham, TE, Louisville - The Cowboys can never have enough tight ends. Graham is well balanced tight end who could be a good value in the later rounds. Graham is a good all-around pass catcher who caught 40 passes for a team high 470 yards and five touchdowns in his senior season. He may need some work as a blocker.
7. Damien Berry, RB, Miami (Fl.) - Berry could be an immediate replacement for Marion Barber. The 5'11, 217 pound back is a tough runner who fights for extra yards and does not shy away from contact. Importantly, has not had any major injury issues, and could have an immediate impact in the Cowboys RB rotation.