Right at the snap, let me say that draft projections by media outlets may have absolutely nothing to do with how the Dallas Cowboys or any other team will rank players on their own draft board. I know that as well as you do. However, there clearly were some fairly significant changes in the perceptions of a lot of players at the NFL Combine. Some names that have been getting a lot of attention here as likely picks for the Cowboys in the first or second round may now be out of range one way or another, while others look to be much more likely.
CBS Sports has a new player ranking from NFLDraftScout.com up today that I am using. To narrow things down, I am going to focus on the positions that are most likely to be of interest for the Cowboys: DL, OLB (either as a SAM or to convert to 4-3 DE) OL, and S.
First, a little bad news. Several players that have been of interest might have improved their stock enough to be out of range.
|4||Eric Fisher||OT||Central Michigan|
If this is close to correct, I know several tears will be shed over Warmack being out of reach. I am sad to see a couple of defensive ends likely moving up too far. I think the Cowboys will really need to look for one in light of Jerry Jones' recent comments throwing some cold water on the idea of re-signing Anthony Spencer.
Now for the good news. Here are the players that look to be in range for the Cowboys at 18. I have gone up a bit, just to allow for possible error and the likelihood of other teams overvaluing someone ahead of Dallas.
|25||Damontre Moore||DE||Texas A&M|
|28||Johnathan Hankins||DT||Ohio State|
As I said, at least some of the players listed ahead of 18 are likely to be in play for Dallas, since players like QB Matt Barkley and WR Tavon Austin are listed in the early 20s. While they are not likely to be of interest to Dallas, they may be to some teams ahead of the Cowboys and could push some of the names down. I included the last three names because Dallas could have a higher grade on them.
If this is at all close to reality, this puts Dallas in a bit of a sweet spot at 18. From Lotulelei (if his physical comes out all right) through Datone Jones, those are all players that could make immediate contributions to the team. Vaccaro is really interesting, falling right at 18. A speculation has been floated that Gerald Sensabaugh may be a candidate to be cut at safety. If that were to happen, or if there is just a lack of faith in his ability to contribute going forward, Vaccaro might be a prime target for Dallas. Personally, although I would not be heartbroken if he wound up being the pick, I think the team needs to address the trenches.
My favorite in this list is Cooper. Draft him and put him at right guard. The center would likely be either Mackenzy Bernadeau or Phil Costa - I could see Bernadeau becoming a backup C/G if Costa is up to snuff. This might even help out Doug Free.
If the Cowboys aren't willing to break with past trends and draft an interior lineman that early, the other names that I would be pulling for are the DE candidates, Ansah, Datone Jones, Moore (if he can come up with a better showing at his pro day) and maybe Jarvis Jones or Mingo if they can convert to the DE position. With Spencer looking doubtful, the team needs a dynamic bookend for DeMarcus Ware. And even if the Cowboys manage to work something out to keep Spencer, it needs a player to step up for Ware in the future, as well as spell the starters.
Dallas is also picking at the 47 spot. While I was in the list, I wanted to pull up some likely names in the area of that (I could do this all the way through, but the deeper you go, the less reliable things are, so I'll stop my exercise after this group.)
|42||Jonathan Cyprien||SS||Florida Int'l|
|50||Terron Armstead||OT||Arkansas-Pine Bluff|
Frankly, here is where I hope the list is getting a lot less accurate, because the pickings are getting a little slim. Cyprien and Reid are certainly attractive. Armstead is s bit of an unknown, at least to me, plus he is a small school player. There are a few names that might be of interest a little further down the list, including SMU DE Margus Hunt at 64 and Kentucky OG Larry Warford at 72. And if you want to start thinking a little differently, this projection has FSU QB E.J. Manuel sitting at 62.
As the draft draws closer, I will revisit this topic if there is interest, including looking at some other draft boards for comparison.