Back on the last day of March, 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 Mo Claiborne, every one of Dallas' top selections (even Jason Williams in 2009) since 2005 has been one 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, it's 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 25-30% 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 2015 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) from 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||Brett Hundley||Bryce Petty||Sean Mannion||Chris Bonner
|Garrett Grayson||Hutson Mason|
|RB||Todd Gurley||Jay Ayaji||T.J. Yeldon||Javorius Allen|
|Melvin Gordon||Tevin Coleman|
|WR||Dorial Green-Beckham||Devin Smith||Chris Conley||Ty Montgomery||George Farmer|
|OT||Daryl Williams||Tyrus Thompson||Laurence Gibson||Jeremiah Poutasi||Ian Silberman|
|LDE||Bud Dupree||Owamagbe Odighizuwa||Frank Clark|
|Mario Edwards, Jr.|
|3T||Carl Davis||Chucky Hunter|
|OLB||Shaq Thompson||Mark Nzeocha|
|ILB||Eric Kendricks||Bernardrick McKinney (DE?)
|CB||Kevin Johnson||Jalen Collins||Josh Shaw||Kevin White||JaCorey Shepherd||Tray Walker|
|Byron Jones||Quinten Rollins|
|Marcus Peters||Ronald Darby|
|FS||Damarious Randall||Chris Hackett|
Target positions: As we have noted on numerous occasions since the list of pre-draft visits began to emerge, the Cowboys appear to be targeting three positions heavily - RB, DE and CB - and certainly would like to add athletic players at a fourth, LB. As such, they have invited almost every conceivable runner, 4-3 defensive end and long, early-round corner. But they also seem to want to add an offensive tackle and a wide receiver.
Hit 'em early: It appears that they would like to add early-round talent at two positions in particular: defensive end and cornerback. There are several later-round running backs and a couple of seventh-round/ UDFA type linebackers on the list, but the DE and CB lists are almost exclusively comprised of players from the first two rounds. I would be surprised if they didn't emerge from the first two rounds with at least one player from these positions, and perhaps two.
Wait for it: On the other hand, it looks like they will almost certainly wait until day three to bolster the offensive line. Given the current OL roster, the Cowboys don't need 2015 starters. What they could use, however, is an athletic developmental tackle capable of being a game-day swing for the next couple of seasons and then taking over for Doug Free in 2017. Indeed, that's precisely the profile of guys like Laurence Gibson and Chaz Green; look for Dallas to add one of them on Saturday.
Run and hit: Another position that the Cowboys are more likely to fortify on day three is linebacker. Yes, there are a couple of early-round candidates on their list, but if they select other players in rounds one and two (and there are so many possibilities at the other positions from which to choose that this seems probable), it's unlikely they will draft a linebacker in the middle rounds, since their player profile - fast, quick, undersized run and hit types - can be found in abundance on day three.
Speed racers: Although many fans don't see WR as a need, it appears that the Cowboys coaches do, and want to draft another wideout who possesses one (or two) of the following traits: legitimate take-the-top-off-a-defense deep speed and dynamic return ability. Ideally, they will find a player who has both of these attributes.
Signal callers: The Cowboys aren't going to spend a first- or second-round pick on a quarterback. But beginning in round three, they may well start looking for one. Sure, this may be the beginning of the search for Tony Romo's replacement. But it may also signal that the front office is sufficiently comfortable with the roster to begin to play the QB reno game: drafting, grooming, and flipping quarterbacks.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, here are three mock drafts. Each begins with the Cowboys selecting one of their target positions in round one, and then proceeds from there. If they pick a defensive end in the first round, we could see something like this:
Round 1 (27): Bud Dupree
Round 2 (60): Quinten Rollins
Round 3 (91): T.J. Yeldon
Round 4 (127): Chaz Green
Round 5 (163): Ty Montgomery
Round 7 (236): Chris Bonner
Round 7 (243): Gabe Martin
If they stick with defense in round one, but opt for a cornerback, we might see something like this unfold:
Round 1 (27): Marcus Peters
Round 2 (60): Xavier Cooper
Round 3 (91): Frank Clark
Round 4 (127): Javorius Allen
Round 5 (163): Laurence Gibson
Round 7 (236): George Farmer
Round 7 (243): Mark Nzeocha
And if one of the top two running backs falls to them at 27, we cold see such a scenario as this:
Round 1 (27): Melvin Gordon
Round 2 (60): Danielle Hunter
Round 3 (91): Josh Shaw
Round 4 (127): Chris Conley
Round 5 (163): Sean Mannion
Round 7 (236): Darius Allen
Round 7 (243): Ian Silberman
And there it is, folks, three possible scenarios (without trades!) for the way the Cowboys draft might unfold.
Happy NFL Christmas, everybody!