Just like the NFL draft, it is never a good thing to be first when discussing penguins. When trying to decide whether the ocean waters are safe, penguins gather and push in the first penguin. If that unlucky leader gets killed, the other penguins wait. If the first penguin survives, the others follow into the sea.
When a team performs so miserably that it is awarded the first overall selection in the NFL draft, the coaches, players, and on occasion, the General Manager are fed to the sharks. The rest of the team is spared for the time being. If the team continues to underperform, however, another penguin is sacrificed to the murky depths.
This April, Dallas has the benefit of watching what happens to the 13 penguins that make a splash before the Cowboys take their turn to jump into the action. Should Dallas follow the precedents set forth by the other teams?
David DeCastro has been widely regarded as one of the top collegians coming out to play in the NFL. Many draft sites have him rated higher than the 14th best player on their respective board. Most draft analysts admit that DeCastro could be available at pick 14 because the position of offensive guard is significantly undervalued.
If David DeCastro is available at the 14th pick of the 2012 NFL draft, it will be in great part due to the undervaluation of the position of guard among the previous 13 teams. Considering that the highest a guard has ever been selected is 16th (Steve Hutchinson, now with Tennessee), historical evidence confirms the devaluation of the position of guard within NFL circles.
Should Dallas follow the other 13 penguins and select another player that plays a position of greater need / value?
Remember that the word out of Valley Ranch earlier in the season was that the Cowboys were more interested in addressing the center position than the guard position (as per Bryan Broaddus). In addition, Jerry Jones noted that Dallas will try to add another defensive pressure player. During this free agent period, the Cowboys have signed neither a center, nor a defensive pressure player.
The signings of Livings and Bernadeau last week should not deter the Cowboys from adding talent at the guard position. Neither player has distinguished themselves as upper echelon performers in the interior of the offensive line. Arkin and Nagy have not accomplished anything of note so far in this league either (albeit they were just rookies last season).
Some rumblings have the Cowboys interested in Fletcher Cox in the upcoming draft. Rumors surfaced before and after the 2011 NFL draft that the Cowboys were very interested in selecting defensive end extraordinaire, J.J. Watt. The new Dallas offensive line coach, Callahan, was recently spotted examining a pair of Wisconsin offensive linemen: center Peter Konz, and the guard, Kevin Zeitler (whom is projected to be a second round pick).
The drop off between the projected first round defensive linemen capable of playing a 5-technique (3-4 defensive end), and those projected to be drafted in the second round is much greater than the talent differential between David DeCastro and the projected second round guards: Kevin Zeitler, Amini Silatolu (Midwestern State), and Brandon Brooks (Miami of Ohio). Michael Brockers (LSU), Quinton Coples (North Carolina), and Fletcher Cox (Mississippi State) are widely considered top 15 targets in the 2012 NFL draft. Peter Konz is probably the only center expected to be selected in the first round this year.
Both of the afore mentioned positions (center and defensive end) are presently valued decidedly more than a guard by NFL teams. Should David DeCastro fall to Dallas, would it be a better overall draft strategy to select a more sought after position and draft Fletcher Cox, with the intent of selecting Kevin Zeitler with the 45th pick?
This flies directly in the face of the philosophy dictating that teams should select the best player available. Bypassing David DeCastro (ranked as the 3rd best prospect by Wes Bunting at http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/scouting_department.html) for a lesser player at a more prestigious position sounds short-sighted, but look at the historical data.
The NFL has been widely reported as a copy cat league. No team has won a Super Bowl that drafted a guard in the first round in the last decade. Therefore, it can be reasonably assumed that drafting an elite guard is not necessary to winning a championship.
Teams that have a ferocious front seven, however, have won several Super Bowls with first round picks. The most recent was New York last season with Jason Pierre-Paul (2010 NFL draft).
So should the Cowboys be the 14th penguin in the water and select a player such as Fletcher Cox even if DeCastro is available?
Would you prefer that the Cowboys go with the better player, David DeCastro, which is a low-risk, low-reward type of acquisition with the 14th overall pick in the NFL draft?
The latter sure does not sound like the type of move Jerry Jones would make. Of course, passing on a defensive end in favor of acquiring an offensive tackle does not smack of a Jerry Jones decision either.