Finding The Value Early In The 2014 NFL Draft

Al Bello

The theme for the 2014 draft among Dallas Cowboys fans has been virtually universal, and very simple. But does that belief line up with how the draft will fall?

Ask any Cowboys fan with a pulse who watched the 2013 season, what part of the team needs the most improvement and they will tell you the defense, and most likely, the defensive line/pass rush. Naturally, based on this observation, most fans believe that the Cowboys MUST draft defensive linemen, early and often, when the second weekend in May rolls around. You can see evidence of this by viewing the FPW Staff 7 Round Mocks, of which OCC was the only FPW to include three defensive line selections in the first three rounds. By no coincidence, I would suspect, he also received (at the time of writing this) 33% of the 1,120 reader votes for their favorite group of selections. Leading all other writers by 12% (over 125 votes).

This highlights the tremendous movement among Cowboys fans to stack early picks among the defensive line. However, I believe that fans, and dare I say, the one we refer to as "The Goog", are missing a very important component of this draft.

The relative depth of the defensive line in this draft is greater, maybe even MUCH greater than that of other positions like safety (particularly FS), or offensive line, which could also be considered positions on the Cowboys roster requiring upgrades worth considering in the early rounds.

As an illustration, we will look at the CBS Sports player rankings for this draft, and consider the number of players at five positions (DE, DT, FS, OT, OG) who fall in the top 100 of the draft according to the well respected guys at CBS.

Defensive
End
Defensive
Tackle
Free
Safety
Offensive
Tackle
Offensive
Guard
1-30 3 4 2 5 0
31-60 3 2 0 2 3
61-100 3 6 1 3 2
Total Top 100 9 12 3 10 5
Rest of Draft 12 10 7 9 10
Total 21 22 10 19 15

Looking at this table we are able to get a decent illustration of guys who are predicted to be selected in the first, second and third rounds respectively, as well as the rest of the draft as a whole. Based on this illustration, you can see that while there are 43 guys considered draftable players along the defensive line, with just about half of those guys falling in the top 100, we see that there are only 10 draftable free safeties, and among those guys, there are only three in the top 100. Among the offensive line, there are 34 players considered draftable, with 15 falling in the top 100.

Based on this information, your selection of high-quality free safety prospects in the draft is virtually gone after the first round, while a plethora of talented, explosive, and productive players remain available in the next two rounds, and even beyond, with guys like Caraun Reid, Kareem Martin and Will Clarke falling outside the top 100 but considered likely to be quality players in the league. Thus, if the Cowboys view free safety to be a position they want to upgrade in the draft, (which they should), the value is in the first round, while real value for Rod Marinelli's rush men can be found later in the draft.

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