With two and a half weeks still to go until the NFL Draft finally gets here, we are all looking for any clue whatsoever to what kinds of picks to expect out of the Dallas Cowboys. Thanks to the tireless data mining by OCC, we have a good idea of who the Cowboys have openly interviewed so far. Although we don't know if the team has pulled off some stealth interviews or just how much smokescreen may be involved in the entire process, it does seem likely that the players the team was interested in talking to have some correlation to what the Cowboys are planning to do.
The title of OCC's post tells one thing right off the bat: The Cowboys are going hard after the defensive secondary. It's not just the sheer number of the secondary players that the team has interviewed. On the chart that breaks down the players by position, there is a convenient column that gives the ranking for each player from the perspective of CBSsports. Dallas is not just looking at a lot of defensive backs; it is looking at a lot of good ones. They have five of the top 100 players on the list of cornerbacks, and two of the safeties also are from the top 100 in a class that is weak at that position. That is half of the secondary players that they looked at that are seen as worthy of a first, second or third round pick. I think it would be almost impossible for the team to not take a d-back in the first three rounds.
A look at some other implications after the jump.
After the secondary, the chart shows only one other place where the team is looking at both quantity and quality with anything like that intensity, and that is the interior of the offensive line. If anything, they are even more focused on quality here. Of the seven middle guys they talked to (an eighth, Jeff Olson out of TCU, is an OT), three are ranked in the top 50. And there is the gorilla that did not show up in the room, fan favorite David DeCastro, who would seem to be one player that the team could pull the trigger on without an interview. Perhaps they kept away from him to divert some attention. Whether he is likely to go before the fourteenth pick is not something that there is any consensus on because of the historic trend to not take guards that high. But I think it safe to assume that he can be thrown into the pool of C/G candidates the team would be willing to pluck in the first or second round. Obviously, the health of Tony Romo is still weighing heavily on the team's mind.
Next in line would seem to be OLB. Here, they did talk to Courtney Upshaw, but he would only seem a likely pick (going by the CBS rankings) in a trade down scenario. Barring that, it was interesting to me to note a comparatively tight grouping of Keenan Robinson, Emmanuel Acho and Tank Carder. This seems like a possible third- or fourth-round target.
The lack of defensive line names is a little distressing to many. It appears that the team feels like it is in better shape there than most of us might think. Fletcher Cox was the only name of significance to make the list. He might be a first round possibility, but he would have to fall a lot. However, if his rise is legitimate, he would almost be someone the team could not pass up if he was still there when their turn came around. That, however, is a long shot at best.
Running back is intriguing. Not many names, but certainly a couple of good ones in Doug Martin and Cyrus Gray. I have this fantasy of Gray falling into the fourth round, where he would certainly be a good selection with one of the two picks Dallas has there.
Wide receiver looks to be something Dallas is thinking about for the later rounds. With a vacancy at the third wideout spot, the team may want to use something in the fifth round or later to try and have another candidate to go with the young players already on the roster. However, it is worth noting that many are looking at WR Jeff Fuller as more of an NFL TE prospect, another place the team might be interested in looking even though no tight ends were invited this year.
The team also brought in three quarterbacks, all who are likely to be UDFA at this point. If they don't get grabbed by someone in the draft due to the historic overvaluing of the QB position, I would expect one of them to be signed by the team shortly after the draft finishes up.
So what can you do with that? Given the recent history of the Cowboys, it is clear the team has liked talking to players before they start selecting them. Here is a little chart that shows the way the team might draft based on the way the interviews have played out (so far), along with my idea for a draft based on these names. It would take a little luck in where players are available, of course, but I don't think any of these are outside the realm of possibility.
|1||DB||Dre Kirkpatrick||Stephon Gilmore, Mark Barron|
|3||OLB||Emmanuel Acho||Tank Carder|
|6||CB||Chris Greenwood||Lionel Smith|
|7||S||D. J. Campbell|
|UDFA||QB||G. J. Kinne||Nick Stephens|
It has one or two more offensive players picked, but it does address many issues that the team has. And all would be players that the team has "vetted". I did make the assumption that the team is not going OL in the first round, although if DeCastro is there at 14, it might change things. Of course, if I could just sneak a peek at Dallas' board, I would have a better idea.
And now, back to waiting for the draft to finally get here.