NFL Draft 2014: Building A First Round Board For The Dallas Cowboys

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Time for some make believe, as I pretend I am Will McClay putting together the first-round board for the Cowboys.

The speculation about who the Dallas Cowboys are going to take in the NFL draft is, of course, the main fascination for the fanbase at this time of year. We can come up with all kinds of names to toy with, but the problem is that there are all these other teams out there that are going to be taking players too.

I thought that, just for jollies, I would take a run at coming up with a slate of first round players for the Dallas board. My goal here is to derive a set of names that would be worth pick 16. Since I am not the best at video review (as in, I really don't do that), I looked at a group of post-Combine boards and came up with a sort of consensus of players who qualify based purely on talent. This is just a starting point. The boards I used are CBSSports (Rob Rang), ESPN, Walter Football, and Drafttek.

These are the players that are, by and large, seen by most as first round picks.

Rank Player Position School Ht Wt 40 time
1 Jadeveon Clowney DE S. Carolina 6-5 266 4.53
2 Jake Matthews OT Texas A&M 6-5 308 5.07
3 Greg Robinson OT Auburn 6-5 332 4.92
4 Sammy Watkins WR Clemson 6-1 211 4.43
5 Khalil Mack OLB Buffalo 6-3 251 4.65
6 Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville 6-2 214 4.67
7 Anthony Barr OLB UCLA 6-5 255 4.66
8 C.J. Mosley LB Alabama 6-2 234 4.65
9 Blake Bortles QB UCF 6-5 232 4.93
10 Mike Evans WR Texas A&M 6-5 231 4.53
11 Justin Gilbert CB Ok. St. 6-0 202 4.37
12 Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M 6-0 207 4.68
13 Taylor Lewan OT Michigan 6-7 309 4.87
14 Louis Nix DT Notre Dame 6-2 331 5.42
15 Timmy Jernigan DT FSU 6-2 299 5.06
16 Marquise Lee WR S. California 6-0 192 4.52
17 Eric Ebron TE N. Carolina 6-4 250 4.60
18 Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan St. 5-11 199 4.52
19 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix FS Alabama 6-1 208 4.58
20 Kony Ealy DE Missouri 6-4 273 4.92
21 Calvin Pryor FS Louisvillie 5-11 207 4.58
22 Zack Martin OT Notre Dame 6-4 308 5.22
23 Stephon Tuitt DL Notre Dame 6-5 304 4.82
24 Aaron Donald DT Pittsburgh 6-1 285 4.68
25 Ra'Shede Hageman DT Minnesota 6-6 310 5.02

I was a bit surprised to find that, using just four boards, I already narrowed the field down to 25 players. Please note that this is not a projected draft order, just a ranking, from strongest to weakest, of players that are seen by almost all as players who will get their name called on the first day of the draft.

Not all of these are going to be on Dallas' board. I think the following players will not make the cut for the Cowboys:

Anthony Barr. Tremendous athlete, but a bit of a tweener in the 4-3. He would be worth it in the second round, but not in the first for Dallas.

Taylor Lewan. I think he is taken off the board for character issues.

Louis Nix. 3-4 nose tackle, does not fit the Marinelli/Kiffin scheme.

Eric Ebron. There just isn't room for another tight end, at least not at this price. And even the staff in Dallas have an idea of what would happen if they went with another TE in this first round.

Darqueze Dennard. This year the team just does not value cornerbacks in the first round as much as other teams. He is very good, but not good enough for Dallas to spend a first-round pick.

Kony Ealy. This is a bit speculative on my part, but based on OCC's evaluation of the defensive ends this draft, I'm going to use him as an example of a player the scouting staff does not see as a legitimate first-round value.

Stephon Tuitt. Another case of a misfit for the Dallas scheme.

Ra'Shede Hageman. Again. Just not what the Cowboys want in their defense.

That leaves seventeen players that I think the staff would see as worth that sixteenth pick. Now, I am going to do a little rearranging to make them fall more in line with what I think the Cowboys see as their value. This is my cut at the order the players would rank, based on talent and value to the team.

Rank Player Position School Ht Wt 40 time
1 Jadeveon Clowney DE S. Carolina 6-5 266 4.53
2 Greg Robinson OT Auburn 6-5 332 4.92
3 Jake Matthews OT Texas A&M 6-5 308 5.07
4 Sammy Watkins WR Clemson 6-1 211 4.43
5 Aaron Donald DT Pittsburgh 6-1 285 4.68
6 C.J. Mosley LB Alabama 6-2 234 4.65
7 Khalil Mack OLB Buffalo 6-3 251 4.65
8 Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville 6-2 214 4.67
9 Blake Bortles QB UCF 6-5 232 4.93
10 Mike Evans WR Texas A&M 6-5 231 4.53
11 Justin Gilbert CB Ok. St. 6-0 202 4.37
12 Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M 6-0 207 4.68
13 Timmy Jernigan DT FSU 6-2 299 5.06
14 Marquise Lee WR S. California 6-0 192 4.52
15 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix FS Alabama 6-1 208 4.58
16 Calvin Pryor FS Louisvillie 5-11 207 4.58
17 Zack Martin OT Notre Dame 6-4 308 5.22

Obviously, you can go in and make your own adjustments, but this is how I would stack them up. The big change is how high I moved Aaron Donald, which reflects my personal belief in how perfectly he fits the Dallas defensive scheme. Other things, such as moving Robinson ahead of Matthews, are more subtle. In that case, Robinson is seen as having a higher ceiling, which was my adjustment there. I also would probably flip Clinton-Dix and Pryor on alternate days, and both could be placed several spots higher by many (like Joey Ickes).

I am also not certain the Cowboys would have all of the quarterbacks on their board. Despite the recent loving comments made about Manziel by both Jerry and Stephen Jones, I am not sure they would even have any quarterbacks in the first this year. The Jones family does not like to draft quarterbacks, and they might be unwilling to spend a first-round pick on any of the available candidates.

While the first impression is that with seventeen names, the team should be a lock to find a good first round choice. I might add that the team also may find itself where it could entertain a small (five to ten spots) trade back and still know it is going to get someone it has a first round grade on. Some of the players that didn't make Dallas' board are almost certain to be taken ahead of their spot.

This is how I would build that first day board. Of course, all are welcome to offer suggestions, criticisms, or general snarks.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB
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