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Cowboys 2015 Draft: Which Players Have Received Dallas' First-Round Grades?

We know that the Cowboys have 18 players on their board with first-round grades. Here, using a "wisdom of the Crowd" approach, BTB's front page writers attempt to guess which eighteen collegians might have received those coveted marks.

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About this time every year word leaks out of Valley Ranch about the number of players on the Cowboys draft board that have first-round grades. This year, according to Bryan Broaddus, the number is 18:

Seeing this, naturally my mind began to wonder: who are the eighteen names? After mulling it over for a bit, I thought I'd see what my fellow front page writers thought. This was not only to pick their collective brains, but because its useful to have as many opinions as possible. Late last week, a fine fellow named Jason Lisk authored his second annual "Wisdom of the Crowd" mock draft. The impetus behind this, as Lisk relates, is that, when guessing the weight of an animal or the number of jellybeans in a jar, individual guesses vary widely but the group as a whole very often comes close to the actual number.

Last year, with this idea firmly in mind, Lisk found that the average of 27 different mock drafts proved to be closer to the real draft results than any of the individual mocks he used; indeed, 15 of the 32 first round picks in the actual draft landed within two spots of his "Wisdom of the Crowd" mock. Wondering if I might apply this approach to our search for the Cowboys' "excellent eighteen," I invited each FPW to proffer a top-18 list, ranking them in order. Five of them were kind enough to humor me and play along; here's what we came up with:

Rabble Tom Landon neithan20000 O.C.C. Gary
1 Leonard Williams Leonard Williams Jameis Winston Leonard Williams Leonard Williams Jameis Winston
2 Dante Fowler, Jr. Dante Fowler, Jr. Leonard Williams Dante Fowler, Jr. Jameis Winston Leonard Williams
3 Kevin White Amari Cooper Vic Beasley Vic Beasley Dante Fowler, Jr. Todd Gurley
4 Vic Beasley
Vic Beasley Marcus Mariota Danny Shelton Amari Cooper Randy Gregory
5 Amari Cooper Kevin White Todd Gurley Kevin White Vic Beasley Vic Beasley
6 Todd Gurley Brandon Scherff Dante Fowler, Jr Amari Cooper Kevin White Kevin White
7 Brandon Scherff Trae Waynes Bud Dupree Brandon Scherff Danny Shelton Marcus Mariota
8 Jameis Winston Danny Shelton Brandon Scherff Trae Waynes Marcus Mariota Dante Fowler, Jr.
9 Andrus Peat DeVante Parker Andrus Peat Bud Dupree Shane Ray Amari Cooper
10 Trae Waynes Bud Dupree Kevin White Malcolm Brown Trae Waynes Shane Ray
11 Marcus Mariota Todd Gurley Trae Waynes Ereck Flowers Brandon Scherff Bud Dupree
12 DeVante Parker Randy Gregory Byron Jones Todd Gurley DeVante Parker DeVante Parker
13 Kevin Johnson Melvin Gordon Kevin Johnson Kevin Johnson Todd Gurley Brandon Scherff
14 Melvin Gordon Kevin Johnson Amari Cooper Byron Jones Bud Dupree Danny Shelton
15 Malcolm Brown Byron Jones Landon Collins Marcus Peters Andrus Peat Marcus Peters
16 Dorial Green-Beckham Marcus Peters Malcolm Brown Eric Kendricks Randy Gregory Malcolm Brown
17 Eric Kendricks Eric Rowe Melvin Gordon Shane Ray Malcolm Brown Trae Waynes
18 Marcus Peters Eric Kendricks Marcus Peters Eric Rowe Melvin Gordon Shaq Thompson

In total, there are 27 names on this list, ranging from Leonard Williams, who is either first or second on every board, to Shaq Thompson, who appears just once, and at the 18th slot to boot. If we were to assign descending numerical rankings (first slot gets eighteen points; eighteenth slot receives a single point), Williams would boast 106 points, Thompson one. That's a pretty big difference; how might we sort through this to determine the top "group think" eighteen?

In his article, Lisk divides the prospects into tiers, which seems to be a smart approach. I think we should start there. Tier One would be the consensus guys, who appear (or, as you'll see, should appear!) on all six ballots. There are eight players who appear on all six boards; here they are, with their average ranking:

1. Williams (1.33)
2. Fowler, Jr. (3.83)
3. Beasley (4.0)
4. White (5.83)
5. Cooper (6.83)
6. Gurley (8.33)
7. Scherff (8.66)
8. Waynes (10.5)

In addition to these, I think we must add both quarterbacks, who were held off of a couple of lists because, the thinking went, the Cowboys wouldn't spend a first-rounder on a quarterback. While this is certainly true, it's important to remember, as O.C.C. pointed out in our email thread, "Last year, we know they had Manziel ranked high, with no intention of drafting him. In 2010, Sam Bradford was the No.1 on their board, and they had no plans to replace a then much younger Tony Romo." So, adding both signal callers and inserting them by their average ranking, we get this as our consensus top ten:

1. Williams (1.33)
2. Winston (2.75)
3. Fowler, Jr. (3.83)
4. Beasley (4.0)
5. White (5.83)
6. Cooper (6.83)
7. Mariota (7.25)
8. Gurley (8.33)
9. Scherff (8.66)
10. Waynes (10.5)

The next tier is trickier: do we value the players who appear on the most ballots or those who have the higher average ranking? Both groups will make our final eighteen, its just a matter of who receives precedence. Number eleven on our list is easy, as he fits both bills; he was on five ballots and received an overall ranking on those ballots higher than Waynes:

11. Bud Dupree (10.2)

To determine who should follow Dupree, I turned to Lisk, our "Wisdom of the Crowd" guru, who reminds us of the following:

In the NFL Draft, the likelihood that a player is drafted at a certain spot is not driven by the average or consensus view on a player. It is driven by those most optimistic about the player. Let’s give an example. Let’s say that of 30 people, 10 think that Jameis Winston is the best player available, and 10 others wouldn’t touch him before the 7th round. Does it matter what those bottom 10 people think in terms of his likely draft position? Not really. He will be drafted highly because there are enough who do think he is worth it.

Given this, I judged it better to go with the players receiving a higher average ranking on four ballots than players who appeared on five ballots. That gives me the next tier:

12. Shelton (8.25)
13. Gordon (10.33)
14. Parker (11.25)
15. K. Johnson (13.33)

And leaves the players who appeared on five ballots but were generally in the bottom handful on each:

16. M. Brown (14.8)
17. Peters (16.4)

This brings us to the final slot. Judging from our ballots, there are five men vying for the final first-round grade: Andrus Peat, Eric Kendricks, Randy Gregory, Shane Ray and Byron Jones. The top four are tightly clustered in terms of average grade - Gregory (10.6); Peat (11.0); Ray (12.0); Jones (13.6) - and the fifth, Kendricks, is a superb scheme fit for a Marinelli defense. A compelling case can be made for each - and an equally compelling case can be made to exclude each.

Interestingly, when he wrote to us about keeping the quarterbacks on the board, O.C.C. also noted, "That 18th spot was really difficult because I had a lot of guys to choose from, all of which I'm not sure have a first-round grade," concluding that "I think my list would have ended at 17." This exercise appears to bear out The Cool One's thesis: the final spot represents a drop-off to a cluster of similarly-graded players, all of whom might well be "top of the second round" types.

It's a conundrum, indeed...

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Who is your eighteenth and final first rounder, BTBers? Hit the poll below and go to the comments section. Let your voice be heard!