NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock released his top five players per position late yesterday. This is Mayock's first go at a top five this year, and the rankings are bound to change after the Combine. But Mayock is one of the bigger names in the draft business, so his rankings carry some weight. You can find the full rankings here, and we'll only do a quick run-through of the offensive and defensive linemen on Mayock's list.
First up, the top defensive ends:
1. Bjoern Werner, Florida State
2. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
3. Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
4. Sam Montgomery, LSU
T-5. Datone Jones, UCLA
T-5. Margus Hunt, SMU
The first obvious surprise on this list are the names not on it: Dion Jordan and Barkevious Mingo show up on Mayock's OLB list, but not here; Alex Okafor doesn't show up on any list. Werner and Moore rank 1-2, as is widely expected. Mayock appears to be very high on Ezekiel Ansah and surprisingly has Margus Hunt ranked in his top five.
We recently looked at where the top picks at each position were taken in the past ten drafts. For defensive ends, the top prospect was drafted in the 9th spot on average, the second prospect went 13th and the third prospect went 19th. If this hold true in this year's draft, and if Mayock's ranking is anything to go by (lots of ifs, right?) Ansah, Montgomery and Jones would be available for the Cowboys at 18.
We also know that after QBs, defensive ends are the most expensive players on a roster (as measured by their franchise tag value) so if the Cowboys are in the market for an end, the draft may be a financially prudent place to find one.
1. Sharrif Floyd, Florida
2. Star Lotulelei, Utah
3. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
4. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
T-5. Kawann Short, Purdue
T-5. Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
Sharrif Floyd has seen his stock climb steadily over the last couple of weeks, and Mayock boldly puts him ahead of Star Lotulelei into the number one spot, a move that is bound to raise some eyebrows. But the ranking confirms something fellow NFL.com writer and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah observed a few days ago:
The next GM or personnel director that tells me Sharrif Floyd will fall past the 10th pick will be the 1st. He's going to get picked EARLY!— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) February 11, 2013
Floyd has been somewhat of a fan favorite among parts of Cowboys Nation, but it looks like he'll be long gone by the time the Cowboys are on the clock. Our own Archie Barberio put up his own defensive tackle rankings earlier today, and he's not as enamored with Floyd as Mayock is, so there's certainly some room for discussion about these rankings.
1. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
2. Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
3. Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
4. D.J. Fluker, Alabama
T-5. Menelik Watson, Florida State
T-5. Justin Pugh, Syracuse
There's a good chance the Cowboys will release Doug Free. In that scenario, I suspect that they'd address the RT position via free agency, and not risk coming up short in the draft. Having said that, Watson and Pugh are intriguing picks that are ranked surprisingly high in Mayock's ranking; many other observers have both players as mid-round picks.
1. Chance Warmack, Alabama
2. Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
3. Larry Warford, Kentucky
4. Kyle Long, Oregon
5. Brian Winters, Kent State
Guard is a popular position for the Cowboys' first pick among many Cowboys fans, with Warmack and Cooper the clear favorites. But if the Cowboys go in a different direction with their first pick, one of the other names on this list could come into play, possible as late as the third round.
As rabblerousr wrote in his Scouting The Scouts post, Mayock is one of the premier draft analysts in the game today, so these rankings carry some weight for us. Even so, it's very early in the process, and Mayock is far from infallible. Last year, Mayock published his first top five ranking on January 24, 2012. Here's an overview of those ranks, and where the players actually ended up getting drafted:
|Defensive Tackles||Defensive Ends|
|1. Devon Still, Penn State||53||1. Quinton Coples, North Carolina||16|
|2. Jerel Worthy, Michigan State||51||2. Melvin Ingram, South Carolina||18|
|3. Michael Brockers, LSU||14||3. Whitney Mercilus, Illinois||26|
|4. Brandon Thompson, Clemson||93||4. Nick Perry, USC||28|
|5. (tie) Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State||12||5. (tie) Chandler Jones, Syracuse||21|
|5. (tie) Dontari Poe, Memphis||11||5. (tie) Andre Branch, Clemson||38|
Last year's rankings for defensive tackles were all over the place, and while the rankings for the defensive ends look much more consistent, they didn't include Bruce Irvin who ended up being picked 15th overall. A lot can happen between now and draft day, and last year's rankings are a timely reminder of that.
Still, I don't think it's unrealistic to expect perhaps two of the names on this year's rankings to end up playing for the Cowboys. If you had you choice, which two would it be?