BTB: Welcome, gentlemen, and thanks for joining us. Okay, let's start by talking about the draft globally. What are the positions of strength in 2013? And: where are they strong-i.e., excellence at the top? Strong in the middle rounds? Deep in the late rounds?
Scott Wright: The defensive line is definitely the strongest group in the Class of '13, which includes ends, tackle and hybrids. In fact, it may be the best I have seen in fifteen years. With that said they are going to come off the board early and often, especially in the Top 100. I also think there will be good value at quarterback, wide receiver and cornerback in the second and third rounds, tight end and outside linebacker in the middle rounds and running back in the late rounds.
Tony Pauline: Well, Left tackle is obvious. There's terrific quality at the top but the position quickly thins after the top three. Ditto for the guard crop, though it's two strong at the top then some solid second day candidates. Both cornerback and wide receiver are sparse at the top but there is tremendous depth on the second day. The safety class is very good from start to finish...and the defensive tackles are strong at the top, with several intriguing boom/ bust prospects from picks 25-40
BTB: One of the aspects of the pre-draft process that fascinates me is the notion of "clustering," wherein a team will look at, say, all the available running backs to determine where there is a distribution bulge. Clustering can help make decisions about what positions to pursue when. Let's say there are a lot of backs with mid third-round grades; a team could be confident that they could pick up value at RB in the mid-to-late third.
So, where can we find clusters of guys with similar grades at each position?
TP: I'll address the draft's deepest positions: cornerback, wide receiver and safety. Starting from pick #23 all the way through the end of round three, you can find good quality at those positions.
BTB: I agree. The Cowboys are in the market for two of those positions: wideout and safety. And the depth in this year's draft at those positions is why I hope they'll wait at least until the second day to address either or both of them. How about you, Scott? Any clustering trends to share?
SW: I'll lay out the hot spots for each position:
QB: early round two
RB: mid-to-late rounds
WR: rounds two-three
TE: middle rounds
OT: top 25
OG: rounds one-five
C: rounds two-four
DE: top 50
DT: late round one-round two
OLB: rounds three-five
ILB: late round one
CB: rounds two-four
S: rounds three-five
BTB: Sitting here, in mid April, what would you say are Dallas' biggest needs?
TP: I see three: offensive line, specifically guard, one-gap defensive tackle, and strong side linebacker.
SW: I'd agree with those. The Cowboys need interior playmakers with the shift in defensive philosophy. And, on the offensive line, there are still issues inside and certainly no difference-makers. But I'd also add safety. The cupboard is relatively bare after the release of Gerald Sensabaugh.
BTB: I don't think you'll get any argument from our readers on these. Now I'll invite you to throw out a couple of mock drafts using the above and focusing on players that you think fit Dallas' player profiles or about whom you have heard the Cowboys express interest.
TP: Given the team needs I just mentioned, I could see it playing out something like this:
Round 1: Jon Cooper/ G/ UNC or Sheldon Richardson/ DT. Missouri
Round 2: Dallas Thomas/ OG/ Tennessee or Bennie Logan/ DT/ Missouri
Round 3: Kiko Alonso/ OLB/ Oregon
SW: Using your clustering exercise, for the Cowboys:
Round 1: DT: Sheldon Richardson of Missouri or Sylvester Williams of North Carolina
Round 2: S: Eric Reid of L.S.U.; Matt Elam of Florida; or Johnathan Cyprien of F.I.U.
Round 3: OG: Larry Warford, Kentucky
Round 4: WR: Ace Sanders, South Carolina
Round 5: RB: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Round 6: OLB: Jayson DiManche, Southern Illinois
Round 7: C: Lamar Mady, Youngstown St.
BTB: I like this, and think we might see something very similar happen. Given the players the team invited to Valley Ranch for pre-draft visits, these are precisely the positions the Cowboys appear to be targeting. So, we might see them drafted in a different order (and, of course, see different players) But I think the positions that are drafted will be very close to those you have here.
As we wrap up for today, I wonder: have either of you heard any interesting scuttlebutt on the Cowboys draft plans, players in whom they have expressed interest, etc?
SW: There is a lot of smoke around Texas S Kenny Vaccaro, who seems like a logical option in the middle of round one.
TP: What I've heard is that the Cowboys are "all out" for Jon Cooper in round one and are looking at Stanford's Stepfan Taylor in round three.
BTB: Niiiice. That Cooper tidbit will make our readers very happy.
TP: Yes, but the general consensus says if Dallas wants to acquire the services of Cooper they’ll have to move up from the 18th spot as it's unlikely the talented guard drops out of the top 12.
BTB: Not so nice! I love the player, but don't think the Cowboys can possibly afford to trade up.
Many thanks to both of you. Tomorrow, we'll resume our conversation by looking at potential offensive targets for the Cowboys.