NFL Draft 2014: Could The Cowboys Have Their Cake And Eat It Too?

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

A recent high profile mock draft brings an interesting scenario into play for Dallas Cowboys fans.

Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah, published a new first round Mock Draft at NFL.com Tuesday evening, which isn't necessarily noteworthy considering there are approximately 182,847 mock drafts circulating around the interwebs this time of year (including about 100,000 seven round mocks in the signatures of BTB users). However, a couple of outcomes of the first round could create very interesting draft days for the Cowboys and their fans.

The first thing I look for any time I open any mock draft is who does the author have the Cowboys taking? In this case I was delighted to see Dallas selected Calvin Pryor, the free safety from Louisville at number 17 in the first round. The idea of taking a safety in the first round (referred to in the latest BTB chat as the "Ickes Theory" although I can hardly take credit for the idea) has proven to be worthy of pretty hearty discussion here at BTB. However, this is not what I am taking the most note of from Jeremiah's take on the first round, and not what I feel most readers here will find interesting.

That fact is that another widely mentioned favorite for the Cowboys, Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald, is not selected by any team in the first round.

When I saw this the first thought that ran through my head was, "No way, that happens", but then I started thinking about how scheme specific Donald's fit is going to be, and which teams would have the right scheme to match his game, and that scheme is the 4-3 front with the attacking defensive line mentality of this Dallas defensive staff.

Only 14 teams in the NFL run a true 4-3 defense, and of those, two teams (Seattle, Jacksonville) play a varied version which asks defensive linemen to use a two-gap technique on most early downs.

Of the fourteen 4-3 teams, the closest matches to the Cowboys from a scheme perspective are Tampa Bay, Chicago, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Miami, and the New York Giants. As we look at the draft order for the first round, we see that eight 4-3 teams pick before the Cowboys in the first round, leaving only five (Miami, Cincinnati, Carolina, Denver, & Seattle) who will pick after Dallas selects in the first round. At this point the common line of thinking is that Donald is a guy best suited to be taken in the mid to late first round, making him decent value at 17, but not much higher. So that pushes the focus to the five teams between pick number 17 and the end of day one.

As we said before, I don't think Carolina would take Donald in round one considering their double dip on DT's in rounds one and two in 2013, and Cincinnati has an All-Pro level 3-technique on a significant contract (Geno Atkins). When you think about all the issues the Dolphins had on the offensive side of the ball, particularly losing 40% of their starting offensive line mid-season in one of the weirdest situations you'll ever see, you have to think they will be looking at an offensive player, (particularly O-Line) in the first round. That essentially eliminates those three teams, leaving the two Super Bowl teams as possible first round destinations for Donald. The Broncos could probably use help at defensive tackle, but we saw in the Super Bowl what a great pass rush can do to that offensive line, and they are likely to lose Eric Decker to free agency, which adds up to pretty significant needs on the offensive side of the ball as well. While he would likely be a situational player in Seattle, the champs have shown they are not afraid to spend a first-round pick on that type of guy (see Bruce Irvin in 2012) but I think there will likely be guys available here who will be offensive guys (TE maybe?) who will get a look.

So, now that we've convinced ourselves there's a chance that Donald will make it to day two of the draft, let's figure out a way that Cowboy fans could dance in elation. I don't think it can be considered likely that Donald makes it past Tampa, Chicago, Minnesota, and the Giants in the second round, so it will take a trade, likely to the 36th or 37th pick.

Looking at the two draft charts we reference here at BTB, the Jimmy Johnson Chart, and the Harvard Chart, let's figure out what it will take to get the Oakland Raiders, or Atlanta Falcons, to drop to the middle of the round. The 36th pick carries a value of 540 points on the Johnson Chart, and 169.5 points on the Harvard Chart. This represents a 110 point gap on the Johnson Chart, and an 18.2 point gap on the Harvard scale, which the Cowboys will have to make up in order to move up. According to the Johnson chart, that would require the Cowboys fourth-rounder #115, their fifth-rounder #146, and one of their plethora of seventh-round picks. According to the Harvard Chart, it would only require a seventh-rounder or two to make the deal happen. Last year the San Diego Chargers traded up from the 45th pick to the 38th pick and gave up only their fourth round pick (#110) to get the trade done, which closely matches the points needed on the Johnson Chart to make the deal happen.

So what say you BTB? Would you surrender two or three mid-to-late round picks to jump up the board at take Aaron Donald early in round two should he be there? How much would you be willing to give up to make that move?

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