Cowboys First-Round Board: How I Would Build The Cowboys' Board

Of course he gets a 1st round grade from Dallas. - Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE

Move over, Jerry. I'm gonna take it from here.

How good is it to know the draft is just a few days away? One of the NFL prospects who has been waiting put it about as well as you can.

Think how different things are going to be. No more profiles of players that will never set foot in Valley Ranch. No more arguments about what chart to use when figuring out who wins and who loses in a trade. And most of all, no more mock drafts.

(WARNING: Last season someone put up a mock draft for this year within a day of the last selection of the 2013 draft. If he, or anyone else, starts in with 2015 mocks before Thanksgiving, make sure you never cross my path, because I will pooch punt your privates and then jump up and down on your head while you writhe in pain. I mean it.)

But that is still a couple of days off. So we still have time to make our projections about what the Dallas Cowboys may, could, might, or should never do in the 2014 NFL Draft.

One.Cool.Customer recently put up a post about trying to predict who the Cowboys would pick. I have been playing around with something a little different. At various times, I have seen remarks made by some of the Dallas writers that there are something like 18 to 22 players that  the Cowboys have given a first round grade. Using those numbers, I decided to try and work out who those players are, and more importantly, how they would be ranked on the board.

And since I am making some general manager/scout/coach type decisions here, I figure I would go ahead and use this to develop my draft strategy. These names are not in the order I think they are going to be taken in the draft. They are in the priority I would assign for them. In other words, when Dallas goes on the clock, this board should already have made the decision for you. You take the highest player remaining. Period. And I would also build in a point at which you look to trade back.

Admittedly, the only exposure to a real draft situation I have ever had is watching the life video feed from the Dallas war room, and even that may not be a really good guide to things with Will McClay now a part of the mix. But for the first round, there should be no more arguments or discussions. Your board should make your decision for you, and pretty much the same should hold true for the entire draft.

I am only going to try to figure out the first round, though. Here is how I would put the board together from my understanding of the team and the players involved. Remember, this looks at every player that the Cowboys would take, whether there is the slightest chance of the being there at 16 or not.

And I would go into the first round this year with trading up off the table. I will entertain an offer that seems really reasonable (in other words, someone wants to trade back and is willing to really get shafted by me), but I don't expect to see anything like that happen. Trading down is definitely in play, and I'll explain that below.

So, here is the first group of players on my version of the first round board:

Order Player Position Comment
1 Jadeveon Clowney DE Widely seen as best player in draft. Of course Dallas would take him.
2 Khalil Mack OLB Already, the boundary between "best player" and "need" gets a little blurry. When you are working with top 5 or top 10 caliber players, there is not always absolute clarity over who is best, unless you also look at how the players fit your team. Position wise, Mack is not perfect for Dallas. But he is a monster on defense. Somehow, I think Marinelli would find ways to use him to maximum effect.
3 Aaron Donald DT Yeah, this is definitely where fit matters. But I have seen boards with Donald in the top 10, so this is not really a reach in my mind.
4 Anthony Barr DE There are some who argue he should be a 3-4 OLB. Others say he is better than Donald. If he is there at 16, I think he's a Cowboy.
5 Greg Robinson OT With legitimate top 10 to 15 defensive front seven players now exhausted, it is time to look elsewhere. And the best OT on the board is a no-brainer.
6 Jake Matthews OT Some consider Matthews the safest pick on the board. His ceiling may be a little lower than Robinson's, but he might be the most NFL ready player in the draft.
7 Sammy Watkins WR A high impact receiver who would cause Dallas fans to ask "Miles who?"
8 Mike Evans WR Evans was a huge part of how Johnny Manziel won a Heisman Trophy. Incredible reach and ability to go up and over defenders for the ball.
9 Johnny Manziel QB Speaking of Mr. Football . . . If he should fall (and some are saying he will), then I don't see Dallas passing on him.  He is reported to be the highest ranked QB on the Cowboys' board.
10 Zack Martin OG/OT Projections are that he would kick inside to guard, although he may be able to play any position on the line. Personally I think he would challenge Doug Free at RT immediately.

That is the first ten, all of whom I believe Dallas takes at 16, and in that order of priority. One name is missing that some may have on their boards, Taylor Lewan. I believe the off-field incident involving Lewan's alleged harassment of a woman reported to have been molested by a teammate will keep him off Dallas' board.

If all ten of those player are gone, then it is time to try to trade back.

If the Cowboys do not find a trade partner that wants pick 16 after the first ten names are exhausted, then they should make their pick from among the following names:

Order Player Position Comment
11 C.J. Mosley OLB Another option to make sure the problems at the Will position are fixed this year (yes, I'm talking about you, Bruce Carter).
12 Calvin Pryor FS More what the Cowboys need than Ha Ha Clinton Dix.
13 Odell Beckham Jr. WR Third best wideout in a very deep draft for receivers.
14 Ryan Shazier OLB Might be higher on Dallas' real board than Mosley, due to the latter's injury history.
15 Darqueze Dennard CB See comments for Mosley, and substitute "corner" for "Will" and "Morris Claiborne" for "Bruce Carter".
16 Kony Ealy DE It should not come down to this, but he would be the last-ditch, can't trade back, have to take someone pick at 16.

One name that might have snuck into the previous table was Timmy Jernigan, but reports of a failed or diluted drug test at the NFL Combine will probably ensure he is not one of the Cowboys' first round options.

If the Cowboys should trade back, then there are a few more names that would be in play.

Order Player Position Comment
17 Dee Ford DE Another edge rusher, just a bit behind the others.
18 Brandin Cooks WR Very good receiver, and fits the Garrett RKG mold. Word is teams didn't bother with having him in for a visit because they didn't have any character questions.
19 Eric Ebron TE I know. But a legitimate first round talent. There comes a point you can't pass up a player, not matter who you already have on your team.
20 Dominique Easley DT This is for the gamblers. His knees are a question, but if you want to throw the dice, he could pay off big. Might even be in play at 16, but I can't put him there without being smarter than I am about his recovery.

And that is it. Those are my first-round options. All are players that fit Dallas. I would go into the first round with this plan, and feel confident I would come out with a good start to the draft.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB

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