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Averaging The Big Boards: Likely First Round Targets For The Dallas Cowboys

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Alabama defensive back Mark Barron is moving up the boards. Would he make a good pick at 14, or are there better options?
Alabama defensive back Mark Barron is moving up the boards. Would he make a good pick at 14, or are there better options?

It was reported by BTB member Suck My Dirk (his choice of name, not mine) that Bryan Broaddus said on the Ben and Skin show this week that the Dallas Cowboys have four players they are targeting at the fourteenth pick in the NFL Draft: Mark Barron, David DeCastro, Fletcher Cox and Courtney Upshaw.

This may be some indication of who the Cowboys have on their draft board around that fourteenth slot. The key thing in all this is how well that Dallas board matches up with the previous thirteen picks. If they are about right, they will have a pretty good shot at getting a player they want. If things go very differently, however, they may find an unexpected name there, which would give them the choice of either taking someone else, or trading down with the knowledge that one of their targets would be available.

You pretty much know all that, of course. With my penchant for trying to combine various sources, I wondered if I could do a pure "Big Board" average to see what kind of a prediction I might be able to do.

I went and found four boards from some well-known sources. One is the CBSSports big board, which is the one several of us on the front page tend to use a lot. I also got Rob Rang's board from the same site, which has some variations from the other one, because he does both boards and mocks, and I was interested in the take of someone who comes at it from both directions. I added Walter Football's board, because they do some pretty good work in my experience, and I used Gil Brandt's Hot 100 from, because, well, he is Gil freakin' Brandt, who was instrumental in building the original Cowboys dynasty. And then Archie put up his big board, and I thought it would be good to add the opinion of a fan and fellow BTB writer who puts in a lot of study and work, and whose opinion I value highly.

Related: Cowboys Draft 2012: The Big Board 5.0

The idea was to simulate something like an NFL team would do - getting the input of scouts, coaches and management, and trying to combine them to come up with the best possible read on the incoming talent. Most importantly, I was looking at what names looked to be in range for the Cowboys' fourteenth pick.

My first 32 names after the jump, and what I think this tells us.

I worked with the first 50 names (which was the minimum on any of the boards), and then cut it off after I had a full first round filled out. I have the entire worksheet here for you to look at, because I wanted to point out some of the differences in how each board has them, and how that might relate to the real NFL world.

Rank Player CBS Archie NFL/Brandt Walter CBS/Rang Total Avg
1 Andrew Luck QB Stanford 1 1 1 1 1 5 1
2 Robert Griffin III QB Baylor 2 2 2 2 2 10 2
3 Matt Kalil OT USC 3 4 3 3 3 16 3.2
4 Morris Claiborne CB LSU 5 3 7 5 5 25 5
5 Trent Richardson RB Alabama 4 7 5 6 4 26 5.2
6 Justin Blackmon WR Ok. St. 6 5 13 4 7 35 7
7 Luke Kuechly ILB Boston C. 12 9 9 7 8 45 9
8 Quentin Couples DE NC 11 10 4 11 9 45 9
9 Melvin Ingram OLB SC 9 8 8 8 17 50 10
10 David Decastro G Stanford 15 6 15 9 6 51 10.2
11 Michael Floyd WR ND 10 20 12 12 12 66 13.2
12 Fletcher Cox DT Miss. St. 7 17 20 14 10 68 13.6
13 Riley Reiff T Iowa 13 19 10 10 19 71 14.2
14 Michael Brockers DT LSU 14 16 14 18 11 73 14.6
15 Dre Kirkpatrick CB Alabama 17 14 11 13 20 75 15
16 Dontari Poe DT Memphis 16 15 17 15 14 77 15.4
17 Mark Barron FS Alabama 26 12 19 27 13 97 19.4
18 Courtney Upshaw OLB Ala. 21 24 16 22 16 99 19.8
19 Cordy Glenn G Georgia 20 18 21 23 18 100 20
20 Nick Perry DE USC 22 13 23 21 28 107 21.4
21 Kendall Wright WR Baylor 18 30 32 17 15 112 22.4
22 Johnathan Martin T Stanford 23 21 22 20 27 113 22.6
23 Ryan Tannehill QB Texas A&M 8 28 6 49 22 113 22.6
24 Whitney Mercilus DE/OLB Ill. 24 25 24 19 24 116 23.2
25 Stephon Gilmore CB SC 19 23 26 30 23 121 24.2
26 Janoris Jenkins CB N. Ala. 40 11 18 16 40 125 25
27 Devon Still DT PSU 29 27 28 25 34 143 28.6
28 Coby Fleener TE Stanford 25 26 33 44 21 149 29.8
29 Dont'a Hightower ILB Alabama 41 22 29 26 42 160 32
30 Andre Branch DE Clemson 30 39 38 31 30 168 33.6
31 Jerel Worthy DT MSU 27 48 25 51 26 177 35.4
32 Kevin Zeitler OG Wis 37 43 27 40 37 184 36.8

Before I forget, a tip of the hat to Fan in Thick and Thin, who gave me this idea with his own work on this subject from 2011.

The difference between boards like these and mock drafts is that the boards are supposed to be looking strictly at the relative talent and likelihood of future success for the players, not where teams will actually pick them. There is, of course, some correlation between the two approaches, as evidenced by the fact that just about everyone in the world has Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III as one and two, no matter how they look at it.

Looking down towards the range Dallas will be in, there is again a bit of a grouping right around 14. Unfortunately for you DeCastro fans, he seems to be just ahead of the bunching in evaluation that would appear to be Dallas' most likely range. And Barron and Upshaw look to be a bit of a reach, falling just a little too low and seeming to be out of the picture unless Dallas engages in trading down a few spots, although if Broaddus is right, they may see them as good value at 14. Cox is right in the sweet spot.

But this is a talent only ranking, or put another way, a pure BPA scenario. And this is not necessarily the way all teams look at the draft. The textbook example here is Ryan Tannehill. On this board, he only ranks as number 23, largely due to a great variation in how he is viewed (Archie is particularly unconvinced about him, perhaps having something to do with the most recent Cowboys out of A&M, Martellus Bennett and Stephen McGee). And yet there is talk about the interwebs that some team may be willing to trade up to the third slot to snatch him before Cleveland has a chance to draft him. The majority of mock drafts have him taken no later than the Miami Dolphins' eighth pick.

That is one player that is almost certain to push some of the players on this composite board down towards Dallas. The big question is whether there will be others. It is certainly not unheard of for a coach or a staff to rate someone higher than most others and take a player you would not expect (not that I'm thinking of Wade Phillips or anything). This almost always happens with quarterbacks, as I saw when I looked at FiTaT's evaluation of the 2011 boards, but I think the QB position is pretty much spoken for (although if some team made a huge reach for Brandon Weeden out of Oklahoma State, I would be more than a little gleeful). There are some other positions that might jump up the draft, however. One is offensive tackle, and Johnathan Martin, DeCasto's teammate at Stanford, is lurking there at my 22. Defensive end was very popular last year, and Nick Perry, Whitney Mercillus and Andre Branch might tempt someone. Finally, there are a couple of cornerbacks that may catch someone's eye. Stephon Gilmore is moving up the boards nicely, and Janoris Jenkins is my vote for "Most Likely To Be Reached For". Archie has him at 11, and Walter has him at 16. The considerably lower ratings he gets on two of the other boards are likely tied to the character questions about him, and there is no telling how much weight that has with other organizations.

You might also note that most of the players ahead of fourteen are pretty solid. There is not much disagreement on any of them. The wider ranges seem to start coming into play right around that highlighted range Dallas is in. The Cowboys just find themselves in a slightly awkward position.

Again, looking at last year, there is a very good chance for an additional two to four players to be taken ahead of Dallas that are not on the Cowboys' list of targets (counting Tannehill as a given already). It is starting to appear very likely that Dallas will have at least one of its preferred picks there - and more likely, they will have more than one to choose from. Then I guess we will find out who is the highest rated on their board.