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Cowboys 2011 Draft: Playing The Scenario Game

At some juncture during the draft season, teams must gather in their war-rooms to play the scenario game. Every team must be prepared for each possible scenario that might unfold: "If, by our pick, these three players are on the board, we will select player A; if these two players remain, we will pick player B; If these five players remain, we will trade down x spots and still get a guy we like." Given the unpredictability of the draft, its very difficult, if not downright impossible, to target specific players in, say, the sixth round. At that juncture of the draft, teams are looking to pick up players with some kind of upside, almost regardless of position.

Its far easier to play the scenario game in the first couple of rounds. Lets look at the last two Cowboys drafts for examples. The 2009 safety class was strong, so Dallas, without a first round pick, felt that they could find a god one in the middle of the second round. It was also a strong draft for offensive tackles, so the Cowboys braintrust correctly assumed that some of the elite interior linemen would fall far enough should none of their favored safeties still be on the board. As we remember all too well, safeties Louis Delmas, Patrick Chung and Jairus Byrd all went in the first ten picks of round two; interior linemen Alex Mack of Cal and Louisville's Eric Wood went in the first third of round one. Oregon's Max Unger continued to fall, however, until he was snapped up two picks before Dallas was on the board. The Cowboys promptly traded down.

Last year, Dallas targeted three players who had mid-first round grades and resolved to trade up to get them should they begin to fall a bit. Two of them, Texan FS Earl Thomas and OG Mike Iupati of Idaho, were gobbled up at picks 14 and 17, respectively. But Dez Bryant continued to fall until he was within striking distance. Jerry Jones struck, Bryant became a Cowboy and the rest is history.

Both of these scenarios--one a trade down, the other a trade up--were planned in advance by Jones, son Stephen and Dallas Director of College and Pro Scouting Tom Ciskowski. If Bryant had been snapped up last year, Dallas had a plan; If both Iupati and Bryant had been available at #24, they had a plan for that as well. On TV, the draft sometimes appears to be chaotic (all those trades!). But its a very well-rehearsed chaos; teams must play out ALL the possible scenarios that might unfold and have a viable set of contingencies for each. Within each potential pool of draftees, they know which player they will select or, if the pool is big enough, when they might trade down and still nab their guy. In advance of the draft, they will have called numerous teams to inquire about their interest in making a trade at given points in the draft, so that they have a good sense of where and when they can move up or down the draft ladder.

With that in mind, I'd like to do the same several times between now and the draft, looking at various potential draft permutations, offering solutions to scenarios, etc. I'd like to begin the "GM for a day" game by looking at what might be considered the best and worst possible scenarios. As these will attest, when you pick at #9, its hard not to like whatever might happen.

Lets begin by throwing out what I think would be the best possible scenario. As KD showed us in his recap of the BTB Mock Draft's picks 9-12, the Cowboy's needs are legion: ROT, FS, OG, SS, CB, SILB, WILB, 3-4 DE, 3-4 OLB. Essentially, the Cowboys need help everywhere save the offensive skill positions. As I imagine what might happen at picks 1-8, therefore, my optimal scenario has both of the elite WRs, Georgia's A.J. Green and Julio Jones of Alabama, going off the board. Moreover, there are three teams in the top eight--Cincinnati, Arizona, and Tennessee, who have a gaping hole at quarterback. It would be helpful if at least two of those teams decide to fill that hole in the first round. If both of these transpire, we could see something like this:

Draft Pick Team 2010 Record Selection
1 Carolina (2-14) DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
2 Denver (4-12) DT Marcel Darius, Alabama
3 Buffalo (4-12) QB Cam Newton, Auburn
4 Cincinatti (4-12) WR A.J. Green, Georgia
5 Arizona (5-11) QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
6 Cleveland (5-11) WR Julio Jones, Alabama
7 San Francisco (6-10) OLB Von Miller, Texan A & M
8 Tennesee (6-10) DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
9 Dallas (6-10) CB Patrick Peterson


Obviously, in a draft with trades this is less likely to happen. But you never know; depending on the CBA negotiations, and whether or not a rookie wage scale is put into place, we could again see a fairly immobile top ten. If that's the case, a scenario like this could quite conceivably unfold. And if it does, Dallas would get the player that "sources" say is #1 on their board.

But what happens if NONE of the offensive skill position players go off the board by the time Dallas picks? This indeed might be the worst possible scenario:

Draft Pick Team 2010 Record Selection
1 Carolina (2-14) DT Nick Fairley, Auburn
2 Denver (4-12) DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
3 Buffalo (4-12) CB Patrick Peterson, LSU
4 Cincinatti (4-12) DT Marcel Dareus, Alabama
5 Arizona (5-11) OLB Von Miller, Texas A & M
6 Cleveland (5-11) DE Cameron Jordan, Cal
7 San Francisco (6-10) OLB Robert Quinn, North Carolina
8 Tennesee (6-10) CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska
9 Dallas (6-10) ???


In this scenario, Dallas has a difficult choice to make--but they'd choose from amongst an almost embarrassing array of riches. If you are Jerry Jones and the board plays out this way, what do you do? Go with the best player available--one of the receivers, Green or Jones--even though WR is clearly not a position of need? Take the best available offensive tackle (Dallas will surely have their pick of the top OTs; there is no team in the top eight other than Buffalo that needs one, and I can't imagine they'd take one that high)? Go for a top 3-4 DE like guy like J.J. Watt or Ryan Kerrigan, both of who have off-the-charts production ratios? Take a chance on the second coming of Emmitt Smith?

Assuming you can't make a trade, what would you do fellow BTBers?

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