We are deep in lying season, when you take everything that comes out of NFL franchises about their intentions in the coming NFL draft with a very large chunk of sodium chloride. That is true about the Dallas Cowboys as well. Despite the well-publicized pronouncement from Jerry Jones that the team is not interested in taking a quarterback with the fourth overall pick of the draft, there is a lot of evidence that the idea is not truly a dead issue. With the possibility of a trade back also in play, the possibility of coming out of the first round of the draft with the heir apparent to Tony Romo is quite real.
But who would that player be? The only consensus about the crop of quarterbacks this season is that there is a group of three at the top, Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch, and Carson Wentz. All have their loyal supporters. All have many detractors. None are seen as a sure thing by most, but that may make any one more valuable for Dallas than for a team that needs an immediate starter. The plan, knock forcefully on wood, is for Romo to play for at least a couple of more years while a new quarterback is brought along. With the also repeated avowals by Jones that Romo may have four or five years, getting a quarterback in the first round also makes sense. The team has the option of locking a first-round pick up for a fifth year, which would give them some insurance from getting into a bidding war for the services of a talent they have groomed if Romo should approach the high end of his career expectancy.
Confusion sets in if you try to sort out which quarterback is the best of the trio. Despite having the same game video to analyze, professional writers, internet draftniks, and fans alike keep coming up with different conclusions. And all that will not play into the team's decision, which will start to crystallize when the staff actually begins to build their draft board on Monday. (Any reports you may see about who is at the top of the Cowboys' board is just rumor based on what various reporters are either hearing or just their own feelings being presented as more than it is.)
Still, there are hints out there, and experience shows us that it is possible to get something of a feel for what the Dallas staff is thinking. Since Will McClay took over as the supervisor of the scouting and board building processes, there have been no major surprises for the Cowboys in the first round similar to the trade back in 2013 that netted Travis Frederick and Terrance Williams. In 2014, Zack Martin could be seen as an emerging possibility, and when Dallas went on the clock with the 16th pick, he looked like the last player they likely had a first round grade on. Subsequent reporting revealed that was basically true, and he became the choice when Ryan Shazier, who the team was going to take, was snatched at 15 by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2015, Byron Jones was seen as a rising player in the days before the draft. His extreme athleticism and superlative SPARQ numbers fit well with what the Cowboys have shown they value, and for many, his selection was no surprise at all.
All three of the top quarterbacks were visitors to Dallas this past week, along with Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg, and Jacoby Brissett, but the latter three seem to be more fallback options if the Cowboys don't get a passer in the first round. So who is really the quarterback that the Cowboys may target either at four or in a trade back a few positions?
National writers such as Tony Pauline have their opinions, but frankly the track record for guys who follow the entire league is not that good concerning Dallas. There are, however, some writers much closer to the Cowboys who have shown a good understanding of what the trends are for the team. And they have been trying for a while to tell us that we need to keep an eye on Lynch.
One of them is Mike Fisher.
At this early stage, the football people I've talked to think Lynch is the bluer-chip. https://t.co/kNm4nIy7B7— mike fisher ✭ (@fishsports) December 3, 2015
He has remained consistent with that viewpoint through the intervening time. He does not base his opinion on his own video analysis, but on people in both the Dallas organization and outside it. Those he trusts most maintain that Lynch is the best fit for the pro game of the top three, with the most room for growth as well. He discounts the hype at this stage, because teams are not exactly eager to reveal what they really think, and often are quite happy to have inaccurate information floating around.
Another solid Cowboys writer who does do extensive video work is Bryan Broaddus. He may take a different path than Fisher, but he comes to the same destination.
Well Brandon I have been on record since January that my QB is Lynch so I guess I better stick with that thought. https://t.co/JxmVSwR9A8— Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus) April 7, 2016
Broaddus does not just use his past career as an NFL scout in arriving at his conclusions. He also talks to people in the building (sometimes getting a real earful, as when he recently reported he was actually cursed for asking about the idea of trading up to the first overall spot in the draft). He doesn't just try to give his personal view. He attempts to inject what he thinks the team is thinking - although he freely admits they are not much more forthcoming with him than with anyone else when they are keeping things close to the vest.
A newer voice in the Cowboys media scrum is Patrik Walker, who has been making a lot of sense with what he says about the team. And he seems to be hearing the same things, believing that the pick at four may actually be coming down to a choice between Jalen Ramsey and Lynch, if either make it that far in the draft.
Cage match between Ramsey and Lynch, from what the whispers behind the curtain are. Time will tell, though. https://t.co/tz5CDgGTyF— Patrik Walker (@VoiceOfTheStar) April 9, 2016
It's not exactly scientific, but there are some serious indications that Lynch may be the early leader at QB for Dallas. That is going to dismay many, especially if they use that fourth pick for him rather than trying to trade back if Ramsey is out of the picture. However, if they really believe he is the solution for the inevitable post-Romo era, then they may need to use that pick to make sure they get what could conceivably be the most important draft pick of the decade.
It is perhaps just a feeling, but the possibility of the Cowboys drafting Lynch does seem to have some of the same momentum that led to the Martin and Jones picks. It all may change completely once the full staff starts hashing out who goes on the board and in what order, but you might prepare yourself. The signs are there.