Cowboys 2012 Draft: PFW's Draft Value Chart Suggests Dallas' Strategy?

If the Cowboys don't select a first-round DE like Fletcher Cox, they probably won't pick one at all

As I confessed during last year's lead-up to the draft, I arm myself for the Annual Selection Meeting with a full array of draft books supplemented by by two special printouts. One of these is Rick Gosselin's list of the top 100 players, which is traditionally released the day before the draft. The other is Pro Football Weekly's "draft value chart." This chart rather handily divvies up the potential draftees according to tiers. In previous posts, I have sought to underscore the importance of thinking about the draft in terms of tiers, particularly when considering draft trades. Its one thing to pick up another team's third rounder - but which players, and at what positions, might be available at that pick?

Late last week, PFW released their 2012 draft value chart. The matrix they employ is fairly simple: they divide each round into three tiers, and slot players according to these subdivisions. So, the top ten players in the draft fall into tier "1A"; the next eleven comprise tier "1B," the next eleven are "1C," and so on. A look at their tiers is instructive, particularly as it pertains to the players that Dallas has expressed interest in thus far. Here's where Dallas' players of interest (invitees to Valley Ranch last week; guys whose pro days the Cowboys attended, etc) rank according to the chart (I have eliminated tiers that don't contain one of the players in question):

Lets take a look at what we can learn from the tiers after the jump..

1A
Fletcher Cox (3-4 DE)

1B
Cordy Glenn (OT-OG)
David DeCastro (OG)
Dontari Poe (3-4 DE-DT)
Michael Brockers (3-4 DE)
Courtney Upshaw (3-4 OLB)
Mark Barron (SS)
Stephon Gilmore (CB)

1C
Kevin Zeitler (OG)
Harrison Smith (SS)
Dre Kirkpatrick (CB-FS)

2A
Amini Silatolu (OG)
Peter Konz (OC-OG)
Whitney Mercilus (3-4 OLB)
Ronnell Lewis (3-4 OLB)

2B
Doug Martin (RB)

2C
Jeff Allen (OT-OG)

3A
Casey Hayward (CB)

3B
Bruce Irvin (3-4 OLB)
Jamell Fleming (CB)

3C
Ryan Broyles (WR)

4A
Cyrus Gray (RB)

4B
Keenan Robinson (3-4 OLB)

5A
Jeff Fuller (WR)

5C
Ronald Leary (OG)

6B
Ron Brooks (CB)

6C
Tank Carder (3-4 ILB)

7B
Josh LeRibeus (OG)
Lionel Smith (CB)
Emmanuel Acho (3-4 OLB)


Star_medium

What can we learn from this?

  • If the Cowboys are going to draft a defensive lineman, it will happen in the first round, or not at all. I assume that Jerry Jones wants his first-rounder to start immediately and, given the drop-off in talent after the "big three" first-rounders, doesn't feel that whomever they brought in would be a day-one starter.
  • The fullest tier here (as might be predicted) is "1B," the fat middle of the first round. However, given the lack of "1A" guys and the fact that there are a few "1C and 2A" names out there, I think the Cowboys are toying seriously with the idea of trading down a few picks in an effort to add another second day pick (a two or a three) to their draft allotment.
  • If they are going to bring in an interior offensive linemen, it will be one of two profiles: a late first- or second-rounder, who can be a "plug-n-play" type, or a developmental depth guy. Clearly, they don't see the point of bringing in players roughly equivalent to David Arkin, Phil Costa or Billy Nagy; they either want someone who is clearly better, or someone who could be better after a year or two of seasoning.
In the past, Dallas has strafe-bombed certain positions. In 2008, for example, they invited a slew of cornerbacks and running backs to the Ranch and, sure enough, they came away with two players at each position. Given who the 'Boys invited for visits last week, it appears that this year's target positions are OG, CB, 3-4 OLB. These are the only positions where they seem to have players they like and are well distributed across rounds (with the above proviso relating to the OG candidates). If we look at the tiers a bit more closely, a pattern begins to develop:

  • They will draft a DE in round one, if available
  • They will look at OGs in round 2
  • They will look at CBs in rounds 1-3
  • If they draft a safety, it will be in the first two rounds
  • If they draft a RB, it will be in rounds 2-3
  • They will look to add ILB depth in rounds 5-7
  • They have OLB candidates spread throughout the draft

Given this, I've come up with a couple of preliminary distinct draft schematics (without trades). The first assumes that the Cowboys land a first-round DE:

1. DE
2. OG
3. CB
4. RB
4. OLB
5. ILB
6. WR
7. S

The second assumes that the guy(s) they like from among Cox, Poe and Brockers are off the board by the fourteenth pick:

1. S
2. OLB
3. RB
4. CB # 1
4. WR
5. OG
6. ILB
7. CB # 2

Of course, there are myriad other permutations. And, it must be acknowledged, the Cowboys aren't likely to have graded all these guys exactly where the PFW guys have them slotted (recall that, using charts like this one, we all sorely misjudged their assessment of Sean Lee in 2010). Nevertheless, charts and lists such as these offer terrific insight into what the league thinks. And, regardless of where the Cowboys rank these guys, they'll have to contend with how and where other NFL teams grade them. And that's why PFW's chart will be by my side come April 26th.

What do you think, BTB Nation? Using the above tiers, give us your best mock draft permutations in the comments section!

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