When I embarked upon the series of posts in which I took a closer look at the players the Cowboys brought to Valley Ranch for interviews, I noted that, in recent years, Dallas has chosen multiple players who have shown up on these rosters. Indeed, our own O.C.C. has oft noted the strong correlation between the players the Cowboys have invited to the Ranch in recent years and who has ended up wearing the star; other than DeMarcus Ware and Mo Claiborne, every one of Dallas's top selections (even Jason Williams in 2009) since 2005 has been of their Valley Ranch invitees.
Think about it: by looking at the leaked draft boards from 2010 and 2013 as well as the info we get from "insider outsiders" like Bryan Broaddus, its clear the Cowboys historically whittle down the 450 or so eligible draftees to the 130 or so names that adorn their final draft board. If we assume that they are legitimately interested in the 35 to 40 players who have visited the Ranch, therefore, we know about 25% of the players on the Cowboys' board. That's some good information to work with. In addition, by looking at which positions receive the most invitations, we can get a better idea about which positions the Dallas braintrust is honing in on.
So, what do we make of the 2014 invitees? If you've noticed, I have concluded each of my draft profile pieces with an educated guesstimate of where we should slot each player. I realize I my guesstimate might be off (even far off) form what the team thinks of a particular player. Nevertheless, by gathering the invitees together on a pre-draft "little board," some very clear patterns begin to emerge. Here's the board, with the invitees in bold; "Dallas Days" players are in italics. Also, I've added guys who they interviewed at the Combine or Senior Bowl for good measure.
|QB||Johnny Manziel||Jimmy Garoppolo||Aaron Murray||David Fales||Garrett Gilbert Casey Pachall|
|RB||J.C. Copeland (FB)|
|WR||Mike Evans||Paul Richardson||
|OG||Zack Martin||Gabe Jackson||Trai Turner
|Cyril Richardson||Brandon Thomas||Kaycee Ike|
|Dee Ford Demarcus Lawrence
|Kareem Martin Jackson Jeffcoat||Will Clarke Taylor Hart||Josh Mauro||Larry Webster
|DT||Aaron Donald||Dominique Easley||Will Sutton||Kerry Hyder||Davon Coleman
|OLB||Ryan Shazier||Howard Jones||Xavius Boyd|
|CB||Walt Aikens||Brandon Dixon||Demetri Goodson|
|SS||Jimmie Ward Lamarcus Joyner|
The vast majority of their defensive line targets are in the first three rounds: Its pretty clear they want to upgrade the defensive line with players talented enough to come in and make a difference. I realize the draft might not break that way, but I believe the Cowboys want to leave round three with a fresh new defensive tackle and defensive end in their pocket.
They have a lot of good offensive guards on the list: Much like the defensive linemen, they have expressed interest in most of the top-tier offensive guards (or OTs who are likely to play guard at the pro level). In addition to two D-linemen, I think the dream scenario is for them to leave day two with a player who can upgrade the interior of their offensive line.
They will look to add a quarterback on day three: Sure, Manziel is on this list, but most of the quarterbacks in whom the Cowboys have expressed interest can be found in rounds 4-7. Historically, that's not where teams find starters; rather, that's the "developmental zone," where project quarterbacks are taken and stashed to get a couple of years of seasoning.
They want to add athletic defenders on day three: All the defensive names that populate rounds 4-7 on this list are size-speed combo types (see: Howard Jones and Brandon Dixon) or guys who have a trait - say, quickness for Davon Coleman and Kerry Hyder - that will allow them to succeed in the current defensive system. I think they'll look to add defensive athleticism and speed on Saturday.
They want to add speed to the offense as well, specifically in the form of a receiver: One of the watchwords this draft season has been: speed. The Cowboys need a legit 4.3 wideout capable of instilling fear in defensive coordinators, thus making them think twice about bringing a safety up into the box. I think they may look to add a burner on day three.
With that in mind, here are a couple of mock drafts, which depend on what happens in round one. The first, if Anthony Barr is selected in the opening frame:
1. Anthony Barr, DE
2. Dominique Easley, DT
3. Trai Turner, OG
4. C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE
5. Brandon DIxon, CB
7a. John Brown, WR
7b. J.C. Copeland, FB
7c. Xavius Boyd, LB
7d. Ken Bishop, DT
7e. Garrett Gilbert, QB
7f. IK Enemkpali, DE
The other unfolds differently. Let's say the top defensive targets are off the board , making Zack Martin he first round selection:
1. Zack Martin, OG
2. Scott Crichton, DE
3. Will Sutton, DT
4. Paul Richardson, WR
5. Howard Jones, LB
7a. Kerry Hyder, DT
7b. Larry Webster, DE
7c. Demetri Goodson, CB
7d. J.C. Copeland, FB
7e. Casey Pachall, QB
7f. Kaycee Ike, OG
And there it is, folks, two possible scenarios (without trades back!) for the way the Cowboys draft might unfold.
Enjoy, and go Cowboys!
SB Nation will be hosting a pre-draft show and a post-draft show tonight. BTB will be represented on the post-draft show, likely around 11:20 PM EST. Please join us!