Cowboys 2012 Draft: A "Little Board" and a Pre-Draft Mock

Is Michael Brockers signaling in which round he will be drafted by the Cowboys?

Yesterday, we completed a series of posts each of which took a closer look at a player the Cowboys brought to Valley Ranch for interviews. When beginning this series, I noted the strong correlation between the players the Cowboys have invited to the Ranch in recent years and who has ended up wearing the star; other than DeMarcus Ware, for example, every one of Dallas's top selections (i.e., Jason Williams in 2009) since 2005 has been one of their Valley Ranch invitees. In addition, one or two mid-to-late round selections each year have dotted the list of visitors.

Here's something to chew on. As we witnessed with 2010's leaked draft board (and have heard from sources like Bryan Broaddus that this is standard procedure), the Cowboys tend to whittle down the 450 or so eligible draftees to 120 or so names that adorn their final draft board. If we assume that they are legitimately interested in the 35 to 40 draftable players who have visited the Ranch (each year, the great majority of the local, "Dallas Day" invitees are UDFA types), we know about 25% of the players on the Cowboys' board. That's some good information to work with.

In addition, by looking at which positions receive the most invitations, we can get a better idea about which positions the Dallas braintrust is honing in on. As our own O.C.C. has shown, in 2008, a total of eight corners and five running backs came to visit - and the Cowboys came away with two of each. In 2009, it was linebackers - Jason Williams was an at-large invitee and Stephen Hodge came for "Dallas Day." 2010: Wide receivers and offensive linemen, and they came away with Dez Bryant (all the O-linemen were snapped up very early). In 2011, they again invited a passel of "big uglies," as well as corners and inside linebackers. The result? Tyron Smith and Bruce Carter. The pattern is obvious...

How can this knowledge help us get a handle on what to expect from the 2012 draft? A neat little chart, some wild speculation and a mock after the jump...

So, what do we make of the 2012 list? If you've noticed, I have concluded each of my draft profile pieces with a semi-educated guesstimate of where we should slot each player. After assuming that Sean Lee was a fourth-rounder a few years back (d'oh!), I realize that my speculations almost certainly fail to cohere with where the Cowboys have graded them. Nevertheless, by gathering the invitees together on a pre-draft "little board," some very clear patterns begin to emerge. Here's the board (with links to all of the profile posts that have been published thus far, should you wish to revisit them):

Offense
Round 1 (pick # 14) Round 1 (trade down) Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5 Round 6 Round 7/ UDFA
QB Nathan Dick
G.J. Kinne
Nick Stephens
RB Doug Martin Cyrus Gray Lance Dunbar
Joe Banyard
WR Ryan Broyles T.Y. Hilton Jeff Fuller Antoine Hicks David Douglas McKay Jacobsen Cole Beasley
David Little
TE Logan Brock
OG David DeCastro Cordy Glenn Amini Silatolu Kevin Zeitler Jeff Allen Ronald Leary Josh LeRibeus Jeff Olson
OC Peter Konz Grant Garner
Defense
DL Michael Brockers Fletcher Cox Dontari Poe Chase Baker
OLB Courtney Upshaw Ronnell Lewis Keenan Robinson Braylon Broughton Korey Toomer Adrian Hamilton Curnelius Arnick Richetti Jones
ILB Emmanuel Acho
Tank Carder
CB Stephon Gilmore Dre Kirkpatrick Casey Hayward Jamell Fleming Josh Norman Ron Brooks Chris Greenwood Lionel Smith
Greg McCoy
Isaac Madison
SS Mark Barron D.J. Campbell Christian Scott Kenji Jackson Ter’Ran Benton
FS Harrison Smith Tekkerein Cuba

Taking a look at this, a few things leap out:

  • The Cowboys aren't done fixing the offensive line - or at least the interior offensive line. They didn't invite a single tackle, but took a look at every interior O-lineman who was ranked in the top 50, as well as a few others. Look at where the OG invitees are clustered; unless somebody with a clear-cut first round grade drops to them at #45, they'll grab an OC or OG in round two.
  • Nor are they done upgrading the running back position. RB is perceived by fans as a position of strength; apparently the Cowboys braintrust doesn't agree. Sure, they only invited two prospects to the Ranch - but the fact that they invited anyone at all (hey, there aren't any OTs or TEs on the list) suggests that they'd like to secure an upgrade.
  • If Dallas takes a defensive lineman, it will be in round one. Look at the invitees: three candidates bunched around pick 14, then a vast, empty wasteland.
  • It looks like most of the "first round" guys they have targeted (not the ones likely to be chosen in a trade-back scenario) have risen up draft boards to the point where they may not be available when the Cowboys come on the clock. Fletcher Cox, Stephon Gilmore, Mark Barron, and David DeCastro have all been the subject of heated rumors in the past few days as guys likely to go in the 7-12 range. Although Michael Brockers could join them, he's more of a question mark, and might be the lone prospect standing, so to speak.
  • There are several corners on the list, and in a variety of rounds. Looking at the Dallas depth chart, its clear that they need to draft more than one CB, and I think they will: at least one in rounds 1-3 and another on the third day (4-7). Also, look at the profiles of the guys they have invited: all boast good size (most are 6'0" or taller).
  • If they don't pull the trigger on Mark Barron, they probably won't take a safety. This makes sense, as this year's class is very weak, and next year's looks to be very strong. No sense stocking up on middling players when a potential bonanza awaits in 2013.
  • The Dallas brass is looking for a late-round wide receiver and, as with CBs, the majority of wideouts they invited are big, physical guys. As I've oft remarked, Jason Garrett wants to take a page from Norv Turner's playbook, and develop a stable of big receivers who provide matchup problems for opposing secondaries.

Given all that information, here's my first attempt at a mock draft, with no trades. Later, I'll try one with trades. What that means for now is that all the players under the "Round 1 (trade back)" heading are off the table. My drafting protocol is simple: I'm picking the guys who I fell in love with as I was compiling their profiles. So, don't expect this to bear any resemblance to the Cowboys actual draft (but Ol' Rabble would certainly be pleased with himself if it did!):

#14: Michael Brockers, DE
#45: Amini Silatolu,OG
#81: Casey Hayward, CB
#113: Ryan Broyles, WR
#135: Cyrus Gray, RB
#152: Tank Carder, ILB
#186: Chris Greenwood, CB
#222: G. J. Kinne, QB

The key here is round two: as I noted above, the chart carries a veritable cornucopia of interior linemen with second round grades. However, they may well end up with a guy who falls out of round one, which is probably a sound strategy given how many players there are with similar late first-early second round ratings, and the likelihood that one of Dallas' first rounders will still be on the board when pick # 45 rolls around - much like Bruce Carter was last year.

That said, I thought it would be unfair to just pick a first round guy I liked (say, Shea McClellin or Dre Kirkpatrick) in the second slot, even though that's what I hope will happen. Because I can't predict who that might be, I chose Silatolu (hardly a bad consolation prize), all the while intrigued by the possibility of something along the lines of a McClellin/ Jeff Allen combo in rounds 2 and 3.

What do you think, BTB Nation? Taking the names and grading slots from the chart above, what would your ideal *no-trade* mock look like?

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