One of the strange things about mock drafting when you don't know how to evaluate film yourself is that, in the end, you are relying on the opinions of other people. The 2014 draft, more than any of the past several, shows a real split of opinion among people who are pretty knowledgeable about the skills of these players and their potential for success in the NFL.
I've seen cogent arguments for 10, 15, maybe even 20 players who might be the Cowboys' best pick at 16. Even given the possibility that a few of these names will already be taken, that's a pretty powerful argument for a trade down. Someone that might well have been our pick at 16 anyway, can still be our pick at 20 or 25 or 30. That's a deal I can't pass up.
But even besides the trade down possibilities, I'm intrigued by the notion of "greedy drafting"--passing on a player or position that is really important to us, because that player or position will still be available later.
DT is probably my favorite example. Yes, the draft is hard to predict, and there may be a run on quick-twitch DTs. But somehow, I doubt it. Donald is a hot, impact player who may go too early for Dallas to nab him. But after Donald, a lot of teams will decide to go a different direction. Some will go for the skill positions, seeking a TE, WR, or QB to make a difference on offense, or a CB to flash on D. Some will decide that they really need that outside rusher, taking Barr, Ealy, Ford, or Crichton a little earlier than we think. Some will decide that you can't teach bulk, and will take a gamble on Nix or Hageman.
If you really like several different DTs (Donald, Jernigan, Easley), a greedy drafter waits to see which of these names will fall. In a recent Fanspeak draft, for example, I saw that my top 3 targets (Anthony Barr, Zach Martin, and Aaron Donald) were gone by 16. I bit my lip and passed on Jernigan in order to grab the first safety off the board. Guess what? Jernigan was there for my second-round pick. I picked up Stephon Tuitt in round 3, and Daquan Jones in round 4. Quite a haul!
Of course, those specific names may not be the ones to drop. In other drafts I've gotten Crichton in the second, or Dee Ford, or Ryan Shazier. None of these is a Clowney, but they are all intriguing possibilities for a defensive difference-maker.
In short, in this draft I think we're looking at a large second tier of intriguing but flawed players, players who may never beat out Bass/ Melton/ Crawford/ Selvie, but may (on the other hand) provide years of solid pass rush. Because there are a lot of people in this tier, some of them will be available if we trade down. Some will be available in the second round--or even the third.
That sort of greed--waiting for, and then snatching, the guy who falls--may not work for every position. I expect the O-line to be slim pickings unless we go there early. I'm not sure we want to draft another safety, but if we do, it had better be early. Round 3 is the latest I'd count on getting a DE worth drafting, and I'm afraid that any late-round LBs or CBs won't even make the team. But at the deeper positions--DT and WR especially--I pass on someone, even someone I like a lot, because I know I can get someone else later.
There's danger in the greedy-drafter strategy. If you really have confidence that you've found someone who will pan out, not just someone who may, I think you take him before somebody else does. But if you're uncertain--and drafts are pretty uncertain--it's probably best not to fall in love with a player, and settle for plan B. Plan B might not pan out--but plan A might not have panned out, either.