How Deep Is The 2014 NFL Draft?

USA TODAY Sports

Not all NFL drafts are created equal. Sometimes, you get a real dog of a class, which is the general evaluation of the group that came out of college five years ago (the dreaded 2009 class). But some are quite above average and 2014 may fit that description.

A well known saying maintains that a rising tide floats all boats. One corollary for the NFL is that a deep draft improves all rosters.

So is 2014 going to be a deep draft, one where organizations that know how to scout and match talent with their needs can get help deep into the process? NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock thinks so.

MIKE MAYOCK: From my perspective, this is the deepest and best draft class I've even in probably ten years. That's been reinforced by most of the general managers and scouts I've talked to throughout the league. I had one GM tell me the other day that having a top 20 pick this year is very similar to having a Top10 pick last year.

So I think there's more depth. I think there are certain positions that are stacked this year and you can get a quality player through three or four rounds.

Dave Halprin has already looked at what Mayock had to say about most of the top defensive line prospects. It is encouraging that there are so many names in Dave's article, because the more good candidates there are, the better chances the Dallas Cowboys have of finding players to bolster the defensive front.

But no matter how much you may like the idea of Dallas taking all DL all draft long, that is not a very realistic approach. There are some other areas of need, obviously, and this does look like a draft where there is some available help all over the roster. Dave has also taken a look at Mayock's view of the safety situation, so I will add some other position groups that Dallas may be interested in.

Wide Receiver: We all expect Miles Austin and his hammies to be cut at some point this year. Dallas will need to replace him just to make sure it can put enough receivers on the field.

With the coin toss having fallen our way, we know sit just ahead of the Baltimore Ravens, and Mayock got asked about possible wide receiver options for them.

MAYOCK: Really interesting because it's the best wide receiver draft I've seen in years and obviously depending what happens in front of them. Watkins will be long gone and then you start to get into what flavor do you like. Marqise Lee is a completely different receiver than Mike Evans or Kelvin Benjamin.

So I really believe when the Ravens get on the clock at 16, that probably at least one, if not two of those three, will be available and they bring different things to the table. Lee can play inside or outside. He's a dangerous kickoff return guy. Evans and Benjamin are kind of today's flavor in the NFL, those 65, 230pound wide receivers, the back shoulder throws, outside the numbers in the red zone.

Here is where the sword becomes double-edged for Dallas, but in a completely good way. If Dallas should decide for whatever reason that it would be worth getting a top-notch offensive weapon here, they can do so. But if they get here, and there is a belief the Ravens are looking for a wideout, then this may make the spot a nice bit of bait for a trade. This is one example of just how important winning that coin toss was. A perfect situation for Dallas would be to drop back a few positions in the first but wind up with an extra pick in the third round. This looks like a year when you want to maximize your chances. I.E., trade back, not up.

While considering what positions would be good fits for Dallas, I want to add this observation by Mayock. (If you want to read the whole interview, just click the link at the top of this article.)

I think the biggest issue is that it has become a passfirst league. If you look back at the draft 40 years ago, running backs were the most valuable commodity there was. And today, with all the spread offenses and teams throwing the football 60, 70, 80 percent of the time, there's been a completely different emphasis in how you draft offensively.

You know, it starts at quarterback, it goes to wide receiver. It goes to a left tackle and even lately it's gone to what kind of tight ends can you draft that can stress teams vertically on defense.

So I do think it's going to be valued. I do think the good news in this draft and in the last few is that if you can get in the second, third, fourth round, and find different flavors of running backs, you'll see some teams that will draft two or three running backs in one or two drafts, just so you can have a big back and a third down change of pace guy and I think that's where the league has gone and I think that's where it's going to continue to go.

Keep that in mind, especially if the Cowboys really surprise you with one of their picks. After all, Mayock continued to elaborate on the depth this year.

Q. You kind of addressed this in your opening comments but I'd like a little more detail. When you talk about depth, other than wide receiver, what stands out for you in this draft? What's that based on?

MAYOCK: Yeah, well I think it's a couple things. One is the playmakers at the top end of this draft, it's not just a couple guys. You know, there's three offensive tackles that could go in the Top10. There's three quarterbacks that could go in the Top10, and then you've got guys like I mentioned [Khalil] Mack, who is a difference maker, [Anthony] Barr from UCLA, [Sammy] Watkins from Clemson is a tremendous wide receiver.

So we're ten, 11, 12, players deep right there and we have not seen talked about the safety from Louisville [Calvin Pryor] or the tight end from North Carolina [Eric Ebron]. And I could go on and on. There's more quality at the top end of this draft than I've seen in a long time and from a position standpoint; you know, we talked about wide receiver. I think offensive tackle is particularly deep. You can go three rounds, four rounds deep this year, and get a starting offensive tackle.

So from those couple of positions and the quality up top, and I think there's some pretty good corners, by the way, three to four rounds deep. So I'm really excited about this draft.

These are all trends that look to be in the Cowboys' favor. You notice Mayock is primarily raving about offensive players, and yet, as Dave has shown, he also has some top flight defensive names. The chance of getting a legitimate first-round talent that fits the needs of the team look better and better for the Cowboys - and the thought that someone like Aaron Donald may be a second-round talent opens up all kinds of "dream scenario" possibilities.

Dawn's piece about offensive line options for Dallas is here, so I will leave that to her. Mayock already touched a bit on running back, although that is likely pretty low on Dallas' priority list. But there is one position that I need to get to here.

Quarterback: The Cowboys also might be in the market for a quarterback, because they can't go on indefinitely with Tony Romo and Kyle Orton as the only signal callers on the roster. Mayock points out that there are a lot of players who were once thought of as strong candidates, like Tajh Boyd, Derek Carr, Logan Thomas, A.J. McCarron, Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray, but who either had bad years on the field or who are coming off an injury. There may be a big selection of possible quarterbacks for Dallas to consider who can be obtained a bit lower in the draft and therefore can be brought along a little more slowly. There is also Brett Smith out of Wyoming, who Mayock was not happy to see left off the invite list.

But one favorite of some around here (KD, your ears might start burning right about now) may now be a bit too pricey for the Cowboys.

Wanted to ask you, you briefly mentioned Jimmy Garoppolo's name from Eastern Illinois, wanted to get an assessment of his skills and draft values and a team pulling a trigger on an FCS player or a small school player?

MAYOCK: I like Garoppolo a lot. I was curious to watch him play at the EastWest game because I had seen some tape. The first tape I watched he ripped apart I want to say San Diego State, I think it was. I thought, wow, quick release, good feet, big, strong, goodlooking kid.

When I got to the EastWest game, I was anxious to watch him. What I saw on tape I saw that week and the following week at the Senior Bowl.

So I thought he handled himself well and I thought he helped himself as much as any kid in the country did through the twoweek period of the EastWest Senior Bowl, went from a mid to late round question mark to a guy that could conceivably go in the second or third round. Teams are looking at potentially a starting quarterback.

Basically, the answer to any question about how deep is the draft seems to be: Pretty deep. This means that the Cowboys may be able to help themselves in a variety of positions, not just the most obvious ones, and that the help may come on all three days of the draft.

Follow @TomRyleBTB

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