Yesterday, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock released an updated version of his top five players per position which he had published prior to the Combine. You can find the full rankings here, but we'll focus only on the key positions of need for the Cowboys and any changes to the rankings since Mayock's initial version from February.
Defensive Ends: It remains to be seen what the Cowboys want to do with Anthony Spencer, but chances are he'll be gone. That makes an improved pass rush an obvious position to focus on as a Cowboys fan.
Bjoern Werner remains atop Mayock's rankings, despite not overly impressing at the Combine. Ansah moves up a spot and looks like a top 10 pick, while Damontre Moore slips a little amid concerns over his speed (4.95 forty) and strength (12 reps). Tank Carradine makes an entry into Mayock's top five, despite doing nothing more than lift (28 reps) at the Combine as he is still recovering from an ACL injury.
|Rank||Previous Ranking (1/24)
||Updated Rank (2/14)
|1||Bjoern Werner, Florida State||Bjoern Werner, Florida State|
|2||Damontre Moore, Texas A&M||Ezekiel Ansah, BYU|
|3||Ezekiel Ansah, BYU||Damontre Moore, Texas A&M|
|4||Sam Montgomery, LSU||Sam Montgomery, LSU|
|5 (tie)||Datone Jones, UCLA||Tank Carradine|
|Margus Hunt, SMU|
What gets a little lost in the Combine hype is how important college production is for the status of these prospects. We've already looked at the Production Ratio of this year's pass rushing prospects, but a site called Second Round Stats takes the analysis of pass rushers to a whole new level. The site specializes in analyzing draft prospects through both statistics and film study, and they recently published an article in which they looked at the amount of time it took each player to get to the quarterback. Here are their findings, summarized in table form:
They distinguish sacks as "coverage" sacks (sack time > 5 seconds), "average" sacks (sack time between 3.5 and 5 seconds) and "speed" sacks (sack time < 3.5 seconds), and their results add an interesting perspective to the discussion of edge rushers in this year's draft class. Recommended reading.
The biggest surprise here is that Mayock completely drops Star Lotulelei from his top five defensive tackles, but has him as the number one 3-4 defensive end. As a result, everybody moves up a rank behind Sharrif Floyd, who retains his top spot.
|Rank||Previous Ranking (1/24)
||Updated Rank (2/1)
|1||Sharrif Floyd, Florida||Sharrif Floyd, Florida|
|2||Star Lotulelei, Utah||Sheldon Richardson, Missouri|
|3||Sheldon Richardson, Missouri||Sylvester Williams, North Carolina|
|4||Sylvester Williams, North Carolina||Kawann Short, Purdue|
||Kawann Short, Purdue||Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State|
|Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State|
In other developments, if you were harboring secret thoughts of drafting Kawann Short for the Cowboys in the second round, now is a good time to think about other second-round targets. Mayock doesn't explain how big the gaps between the individual players on these lists are, or which round Mayock projects them for. But the rankings do give us a better feeling for the overall positional rankings.
Offensive Tackles & Guards
This may or may not be a surprise, but Mayock doesn't change anything in his ranking of tackles and guards. There was a feeling that Luke Joeckel would drop a little after a lackluster Combine performance. And while he may not be a lock for the number one overall spot anymore, Mayock still likes him ahead of Fisher and Johnson, both of whom had stellar Combine performances.
|Rank||Tackles (2/15 & 3/1)
||Guards (2/15 & 3/1)|
|1||Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M||Chance Warmack, Alabama|
|2||Eric Fisher, Central Michigan||Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina|
|3||Lane Johnson, Oklahoma||Larry Warford, Kentucky|
|4||D.J. Fluker, Alabama||Kyle Long, Oregon|
||Menelik Watson, Florida State||Brian Winters, Kent State|
|Justin Pugh, Syracuse|
With the way the post-Combine rankings are lining up, the top three tackles may be gone by the time the Cowboys are on the clock. At guard, there seems to be a chance that Cooper will be still be available when the Cowboys pick.
Last year, Mayock published his post-Combine top five ranking on March 16, 2012, and he was surprisingly accurate with his rankings of tackles and guards, accurately predicting the top five - in sequence! - draft picks at tackle and guard. Here's an overview of Mayock's ranking from last year and where the players actually ended up getting drafted:
|1. Matt Kalil, USC
||4||David DeCastro, Stanford||24|
|2. Riley Reiff, Iowa
||23||Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin||27|
|3. Cordy Glenn, Georgia||41||Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State||40|
|4. Jonathan Martin, Stanford||42||Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State||60|
|5. Jeff Allen, Illinois||44||Brandon Brooks, Miami (OH)||76|
Obviously, a lot can happen between now and draft day, but if Mayock's rankings are as accurate as they were last year, the Cowboys will likely have the option of choosing between D.J. Fluker and Jonathan Cooper on the offensive line. The situation on the defensive line is much less clear, but assuming the top three guys are gone at each position by the time the Cowboys are on the clock, Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei would be the DTs left, while Sam Montgomery and Tank Carradine would be the DE's left.
If these were the options left on the board for the Cowboys on the first day of the draft, who'd be your pick? Choose your favorite option in the poll below and leave your thoughts in the comments section.