If you've been following Kiper, the War Room, Scouts Inc., etc. you know that they're only going about 30 to 32 deep with their depth charts. And if you've put them side by side, you know there are about 40 to 45 names that get first round consideration at this point, a month or so before the Combine.
So who would be a good second round option? Or a third rounder?
Here's a list from my new favorite draft maven Scott Wright that goes 100 deep or three rounds, given the annual supplemental picks. Based on this list, I'd say Dallas could do worse than pick these three, assuming they don't trade up or down:
1st -- Bobby Carpenter, OLB, Ohio St.;
2nd -- Charles Spencer, OL, Pitt;
3rd -- Roman Harper, FS, Alabama;
I've had these three in mind for a couple of weeks and it's reassuring to see that Wright's ratings show I'm not crazy.
When assessing possible options, I use an expanding zone, meaning that I go several picks up and down to assess which players might be available when Dallas picks. I've found that no matter how good your draft books or sheets may be, that their accuracy diminishes with each passing round.
Therefore, I go three-up/three-down in round one, six-up/six-down in round two and eight-up/eight-down in round three. This means I go to spot 18 and take in the names three ahead and three behind, or the range of names from 15 to 21. This is the pool Dallas will likely select from. You need flexibility because some positions, like QB and DE are overvalued, and players there tend to be drafted earlier than their ranks. On the other hand, players a positions like guard, safety and running back tend to drop.
This year, I think I'm going to try a system of "short-lists" that screens ratings with need. For instance, in round one there are only two names in the 15 to 21 range that would realistically interest Dallas -- USC OT Winston Justice and Carpenter. QB Jay Cutler is almost certain to be off the board before pick 15. CBs Jimmy Williams and Antonio Cromartie play at a position of strength for Dallas. Mathias Kiwanuka also plays at a position of strength. What's more, Dallas drafted three DEs last year in Marcus Spears, Chris Canty and Jay Ratliff. They won't spend a first rounder on another one.
That leaves DeMeco Ryans as another possibility. However, Ryans playing weight is light compared to other linebackers and he doesn't fit the profile of the king-sized 250 lb.-plus LBs that Bill Parcells prefers.
Similarly, in round two, Dallas picks 49th overall. Going six up and six down produces a deeper and intriguing pool of players. In this case, I see nine players who could interest Dallas. Three of them are tight ends, with USC's Dominique Byrd heading a group that includes Notre Dame's Anthony Fassano and Colorado's Joel Klopfenstein. I also include two guards, Georgia's Max Jean-Gilles and Spencer, OT Daryn Colledge of Boise State, WR Derek Hagan of Arizona State and safeties Jason Allen of Tennesee and Daniel Bullocks of Nebraska. Bryd was a standout at the Senior Bowl. Bullocks also impressed and earned a long interview with Cowboys' scouts.
I put Spencer on my list because he shows an upside, practiced well in Mobile and has the versatility to play guard and tackle. The Cowboys have no options behind RG Marco Rivera after Ben Noll was released. Rivera's offseason surgery list has grown at an alarming rate the past few offseasons and you have to wonder if years of wear have taken an irreversible toll on him?
Round three's pool has more safety prospects, including Syracuse's Anthony Smith and Ohio State's Donte Whitner. I chose Harper because he fits a Parcells' profile: he's a coaches son and gets high marks for his leadership and intangibles. He lacks outstanding athletic skills but you keep reading that he's a good football player, the type who will have a long and productive career.
That seems to be the strongest position where Dallas picks, though safety seems to be one of the stronger positions in general this year. I don't expect him to be around at pick 80, but if Brodie Croyle is still around the Cowboys would have to think long and hard about passing on him.
Those are my opinions, tempered by the knowledge that this list will be meaningless in a month's time. What's your short list?