2013 NFL Draft: Who Are The Cowboys' Top Three First-Round Targets?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

I asked my fellow BTB writers for their assessment: What are their top three picks, in order of preference, for the Cowboy at No. 18?

Over the last three months, we've reviewed or featured just about every mock draft, scouting review or player projection out there. Along the way, we've become very familiar with many of the draft prospects the Cowboys are likely considering for their first-round pick. Yet despite the effort we've all collectively and individually put in, one common theme has emerged again and again from all those mock drafts:

There is no consensus pick (yet) for the Cowboys this year. While there appears to be a solid rotation of OL, DT, DE, S prospects mocked the Cowboys' way, no single player has emerged as a top vote-getter among the draft analysts out there.

So today, I'm asking my fellow BTB writers for their assessment: What are their top three picks, in order of preference, for the Cowboy at No. 18?

Here are the top three picks for each BTB writer, followed by each writer's comments (and here's a link to a post from last year, in which we asked the same question):

rabblerousr
1. Jonathan Cooper, OG
2. Cordarelle Patterson, WR
3. Kenny Vaccaro, S

Rabblerousr: From their draft position, I imagine the Cowboys are hoping that somebody who is about 12th on their draft board will fall to them. And, because the talent in this draft is roughly even from about picks 6-25, there is a fair likelihood that this will indeed happen. So, who might those falling players be? There are three categories that might fall: 1) players at less important positions, like guard or safety; 2) injured players; 3) players with questionable character.

The problem is this: injured guys are rarely placed in the top fifteen on teams boards. And, we know the Cowboys won't touch guys in the third category. So that leaves players at less desirable positions. As a result, I'm going to strike the positions that are typically overdrafted from the list. So, no offensive or defensive tackles, defensive ends or cornerbacks. There is one desired position that, thanks to recent history, teams are more reluctant to pull the trigger on: wide receivers. So, I think a top WR might just be around when Dallas goes on the clock.

As a consequence, my draft targets match exactly those the team had in its sights in the 2010 selection meeting's first round. In that case, you'll recall, Dez Bryant fell far enough for them to move up a couple of picks and snatch him up. If they like Patterson (and they'll know a LOT about him, thanks to new receivers coach Derek Dooley), and he represents the biggest value, don't be surprised if they snatch him up.

Archie Barberio
1. Chance Warmack, OG
2. Jonathan Cooper, OG
3. Barkevious Mingo, DE

Archie: So many options but we're only allowed three. I still believe this team needs to get better up front on both sides of the football.

Guards aren't a sexy or popular pick in the first round, but Warmack and Cooper are game changers up front. In terms of style they are different from each other, but whether the Cowboys opt for Warmack's power or Cooper's ability to move and get out in space, either skill set would be a welcomed sight on the offensive line.

Aldon Smith and Bruce Irvin received the "situational" pass rusher label, but their success in the NFL demonstrates the necessity of having a strong pass rush. The Cowboys have to start generating more pressure and Mingo may fall to their range. With Jason Garrett attending the LSU pro day, it wouldn't be a surprise to find out Dallas is highly intrigued by Mingo's speed, athleticism and pass rushing ability.

The Cowboys can still get a good player at 18, but it's going to be an interesting draft because that's right around their borderline of first-round grades. They may attempt to move down and pick up more picks, but that would require another team willing to move up, and that may not be easy this year.

In last year's version of this post I threw in one wild card and that was Janoris Jenkins. This year wide receiver could be the best player available at 18, so a guy like Tavon Austin may not fill a need, but his playmaking ability could be hard to pass on.

Dave Halprin
1. Chance Warmack, OG
2. Kenny Vaccaro, S 3. Sheldon Richardson, DT

Dave: I think Warmack has a chance to become one of the better guards in the NFL for the next decade. The Cowboys offensive line is a project that needs to be completed, Warmack would help that process along. If not the offensive line, then defense is the next priority. The safety position is very thin and right now I'm not convinced they have the personnel they want to go into the season with, Vacarro would give them a great option on the back end. Finally, go with a defensive tackle. Jay Ratliff's age and recent injuries are a red flag that his decline could be imminent. Time to have a replacement in the fold.

KD Drummond
1. Jonathan Cooper, OG
2. Sheldon Richardson, DT
3. Star Lotulelei, DT

KD: My original three was actually Jonathan Cooper, Anderson Cooper and Hanging With Mr. Cooper... but I didn't think Misternet would actually take it seriously and use it in his post. That's how badly I want the Cowboys to draft the player I have as the fifth best prospect in this year's draft; if Jonathan is gone, just take the nearest Cooper because I'll be extremely sad and depressed. I don't think there is a better fit for such a huge hole as a zone-blocking guard with increased strength that can also play center. Ummm, hello?

I only have 13 players rated as first round talents in this year's draft. Of which, the other two on my list are a part of. That sucks, because unless there is a run on QBs I worry about us having a shot at one without moving up (which I don't condone). I also don't condone moving back normally, so it's no man's land for me and probably going to be a Thursday of blah the way things are looking right now.

My big board is constructed a little differently, in that I didn't include a guy like Vacarro who I still think is the top safety available but because of depth at his position I don't want in the first round because of the value elsewhere. For me, if Coop or the DTs aren't there, I'd want them to try and pick up a 4th rounder or better, and if not possible to go ahead and take the Tank. I remember back in January when I mocked Coop in the first, Short in the 2nd, Tank in the 3rd and BW Webb in the 5th. Now look at them, I feel like a proud papa.

OCC
1. Bjoern Werner, DE
2. Sheldon Richardson, DT
3. Tank Carradine, DE

OCC: At last year's Combine, Jerry Jones announced to the world that the Cowboys' biggest defensive need is an improved pass rush. "For defense, I'm into the pressure for us right now, above the corner, even if we franchise Spencer," Jones said. I don't see how that situation has changed even one little bit this year, so I'm looking hard at ways to improve my pass rush beyond simply switching to a 4-3 defense.

I have a hard time believing Werner will make it out of the top ten, but he's slipped quite a lot in recent mocks; if he's there at 18, I'm ecstatic. Richardson is the gap-splitting defensive tackle the Cowboys need for the 4-3 defense, and adds both youth and premier talent to a line that's gotten long in the tooth, and is, quite frankly, injury prone. Prior to his knee injury, Carradine was widely seen as a high first-round prospect. As a skilled pass rusher and even better run stopper (2012: 80 tackles, 13 TFL, 11 sacks), he's everything the Cowboys could want in a strongside DE. With Spencer and Ware still on board for 2013, the Cowboys can risk having Carradine sit out for part of the season as he fully recovers from his injury.

Two DEs and one disruptive DT: You can get solid guards in the later rounds of the draft but you only get one chance at a premier pass rusher in a draft.

Tom Ryle
1. Chance Warmack, OG
2. Kenny Vaccaro, S
3. Star Lotulelei, DT

Tom: I am looking at a priority for players who could fall to the Cowboys. On our mock draft, we have not been jumping on quarterbacks or other highly valued positions, and I think our focus on Dallas colors our decision making.

Assuming the rest of the NFL is more traditional and some QBs, WRs, and/or CBs are pushed up on their boards, these are three players that I think the Cowboys should be targeting, in that order of priority, if they get to 18. I am also looking at the prejudice against going for guards early in the draft to possibly kick in and keep Warmack in play. Cooper would be fourth on the list for me. Any one of these would be a plus value for the Cowboys (based on the boards I'm looking at) and would be of immediate help to the team.

Coty Saxman
1. Star Lotulelei, DT
2. Cordarelle Patterson, WR
3. Alec Ogltree, LB

Coty: Star Lotulelei gets the top spot. Even though I'm not enamored with the tackle position, that mostly is because I've been watching the 3-4 almost exclusively. Health has been an issue for our defense, so it would not be hard to imagine Star, a highly ranked prospect in his own right, to see significant playing time in what would become a very threatening rotation up front.

Cordarrelle Patterson could be a stud. Add to that, like above, there are concerns with health in our receiving corps, and Patterson will create a very explosive, powerful threesome of outside receivers (and hopefully we'll have at least one of them available in every game). I can never stay away from a receiver with big measurables - be thankful I'm not our GM.

Alec Ogletree is an SEC defensive player at a position of need. That normally makes someone a safe pick. The concept of maintaining a streak of sorts (consecutive years with an Ogletree on the roster) is also somewhat appealing. A full threesome of dynamic threats at linebacker would also make me quite happy.

So there you have it folks. Not even the BTB staff have a consensus favorite. Seven writers offer up 11 different names with Jonathan Cooper, Star Lotulelei, Kenny Vaccaro, Chance Warmack and Sheldon Richardson managing to get three votes each. In the end, that may be a good thing because it probably means the Cowboys will have a lot of options once they are on the clock.

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