Before they went out of business, Pro Football Weekly (they are now back in business) used to produce a draft value chart using a fairly simple matrix chart: they divided each round into three tiers and slotted players accordingly.
The top ten players in the draft fell into tier "1A"; the next eleven comprised tier "1B," the next eleven were "1C," and so on. Such a tiering would be particularly instructive this year, as the Cowboys pick at the very top of the first and second round, and that second-round pick will likely come out of that "1C" tier.
There are no draft value tiers from PFW this year (yet), but Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a close approximation, at least for our purposes. Every year, McGinn publishes an annual rundown of anonymous scout comments on the Top 50 prospects in the draft. McGinn, a distinguished writer and columnist covering the Green Bay Packers, explains his approach:
Based on interviews with executives in personnel for five teams, it is possible to narrow down just a little bit the pool of players that might be considered by the Green Bay Packers regardless of position if they exercise their current 27th selection in the first round of the NFL draft April 28.
Prospects are conservatively divided into three categories: As Good As Gone – barring negative developments, these players have virtually no chance of reaching No. 27; Probably Gone — players who appear to have no better than a 50-50 chance of remaining on the board at No. 27; and The Next Level — players who figure to fall next.
McGinn offers a detailed take on each of the 50 players, which you can check out in the original article, but we're only interested in the names on his list for now.
Using the 'Little Board' format that rabblerousr has championed here on BTB, here are McGinn's top 50 players divided into three tiers:
||A'Shawn Robinson||Jarran Reed
||Myles Jack||Reggie Ragland||Jaylon Smith|
|WR||Laquon Treadwell||Corey Coleman
||Ezekiel Elliott||Derrick Henry|
The Cowboys use two boards in their war room during the draft. The Stack Board lists the 130 or so players the Cowboys usually have on their draft board in order from 1 to 130 and can be used if there is a tie between players based on their grades. The Position Board, as the name implies, ranks the players by position.
We may never know how exactly the 2016 players are stacked, but we do know that the Cowboys generally have around 20 players with a first-round grade on their board (Bryan Broaddus currently claims 18 on his board), and McGinn's Top 20 could well be an approximation of that.
Barring a trade down, the Cowboys will make their first pick from the 11 players listed in the "1-11" column above. Most names here are uber-familiar to Cowboys fans by now, but having Paxton Lynch and A'Shawn Robinson in the Top 11 may come as a bit of a surprise.
The next tier, "12-20", are players that are very likely going to be out of reach for the Cowboys with their second pick at No. 34. However, assuming these players do have a first-round grade on the Cowboys' board, they would very likely be the default pick at 34, if they slide that far.
The final tier, "21-50", has an abundance of players that could be a good fit for the Cowboys at 34. And if 30 players feels like a lot, you can reduce the number of names quite easily. If you're the Cowboys, forget the two QBs and the seven offensive linemen, drop the tight end while you're at it, and you probably don't want any of the three OLBs this high; now you're down to 17 players.
That still leaves quite a number of positions to choose from, but two stand out simply because of the number of prospects: Six 1-technique defensive tackles and four cornerbacks. Sure, there might be a Top 50 running back, two Top 50 defensive ends or a Top 50 inside linebacker available at 34, but odds are that the 34th pick is a much better spot at which to pick a corner or defensive tackle - unless that's what the Cowboys picked in the first round already.
Also, the names in the final column are names you'll want to watch as the third round of the draft kicks off. When the Cowboys are on the clock with their 67th pick, and if there are Top 50 prospects left at that point, the Cowboys might well pounce.
Technically, you could do this exercise with any type of draft board, be it CBS, Ourlads, Drafttek, Draftcountdown, or anybody else. But McGinn's rankings were built with NFL input, and while that may not necessarily for much, it at least counts for something.
Overall, there's still a lot of ground to be covered before the Draft, but a "Little Board" like this can be a good starting point that will allow you to whittle down the names after the Combine, after free agency, and after the pre-draft visits, to arrive at a more manageable shortlist.