Cowboys 2014 Draft: Looking At The First Round Alternatives

Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

Most Cowboys fans would be thrilled if Aaron Donald gets picked by Dallas in the draft. But he may not be available at 16, or within reach of an affordable trade up. So how would you feel about . . .

For some time, there has been a substantial and vocal Aaron Donald fan club here at Blogging The Boys. Shortly after the season, his name started to pop up here as a nearly perfect fit for Rod Marinelli's defensive scheme, and his Senior Bowl and Combine performances just solidified that viewpoint. I assume that most of the readers here would be very happy if Donald winds up getting a call from Jerry Jones when the Dallas Cowboys make their first pick in the NFL Draft.

Unfortunately, we are not the only ones to notice that Donald was absolutely mauling people in college and the Senior Bowl. The rest of the NFL, particularly other 4-3 teams, have also seen this. Galling as the thought is, the odds now seem to be that he will be gone by the time Dallas goes on the clock.

We can hope that the multitude of draft mockers who see it that way are wrong, but I remember all the hopes we had for landing one of the top guard prospects in 2013. After all, three guards had never been taken that early in the history of the draft. At least, that is what we kept telling ourselves. Right up until they were all gone.

So the question for today is, how would you feel about the other possibilities for the Cowboys? The unpleasant truth is that the team has so many legitimate needs that there are several other ways the team can go. With three weeks until we get to the actual event, I thought I would take a look at some of the other possibilities. First, I want to see if I can elicit some good discussion about how the readers feel about these players. Second, I want to get you ready for as many possible outcomes on day one as possible.

I don't want to just throw out a list of names. I want to take one name at a time (although I reserve the right to change my mind) and look at why he might be the choice as well as some of the pro and con arguments for each one.

Today's candidate: Zack Martin OT/OG Notre Dame

CBS Sports Draft Prospects overall ranking: 15

Position ranking (listed as OG by CBS): 1

How would they get to him: I am figuring on what I consider the "elite 5" to all be gone. They are Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Robinson, Khalil Mack, Sammy Watkins, and Jake Matthews. I have not seen any mocks or serious discussions that any of those five players would not be gone long before Dallas comes on the clock.

I also am figuring that the nominal top three quarterbacks are gone, along with Anthony Barr and Mike Evans. Based on the CBS Sports rankings, that takes care of the top 10 players. Assume that the next five taken (in no particular order) are Donald, Justin Gilbert, Eric Ebron, Taylor Lewan, and Darqueze Dennard. Assume Timmy Jernigan and Louis Nix are seen as not good fits as primarily 1-techniques, C.J. Mosley, Dee Ford and Ryan Shazier are seen as reaches at 16, and the only top 25 players left are safeties and wide receivers, and the Cowboys don't have any left with first-round grades (those are my assumptions on what the team would have to think to get to this point).

This leaves Martin as the best player left on the board.

Why he should be picked: Martin played as a tackle at Notre Dame, but he is now considered flexible enough to be a guard for the NFL. Position flexibility is a plus, and Dallas can use him in either position. The team can decide what position to play him after they see him in practice, and he will then take one starter's job away, either Ronald Leary, Mackenzy Bernadeau, or Doug Free. However, that is going to give the team better depth on the line. The best case scenario is probably if Martin can make it as a tackle, either immediately or in a year or so, since that would give the team the replacement for Free. He is likely to be gone in 2015 anyway.

This would set Dallas' offensive line up for years to come. It would help protect Tony Romo and would make the run game a viable option (if Linehan will just use it). And he is one of the safer choices in the middle of the first round, with very little chance of not playing up to his draft spot. Add that he is the number one guard on this board, and there is no doubt he is worth the sixteenth pick.

There are other options in other rounds, so taking OL in the first is hardly abandoning the defense.

Why he should not be picked: He is not defense.

You can go on about BPA all you want, but the Dallas defense in general and the defensive line in particular sucked last season. Dallas has already invested two first-round picks for the offensive line in the past three years. That is more than enough investment in that area, and if proponents of Martin can argue there are other defensive options later in the draft, the same thing can be said about OL candidates. If Mosley or Ford seem like reaches, then find a partner to trade back. The sixteenth pick in the draft is too valuable to get what is essentially depth for an offensive line that already has five starters, some of which are very good, and none of which are inadequate.

Those are the arguments. Where do you stand? If the Cowboys send a card with Zack Martin up on the first day of the NFL draft, do you praise them or demand the GM's head?

Follow me @TomRyleBTB
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