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Cowboys 2016 Draft : A "Little Board" And Three Pre-Draft Mocks

We contruct a "little board" made up entirely of draft prospects the Cowboys have worked out or have brought to Dallas for a visit - and then we create three mock drafts based on it.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It's a time-honored tradition here on Blogging The Boys to build a draft board populated with players the Cowboys have invited for official pre-draft visits or have otherwise interacted with. By necessity, the result is a "Little Board," as rabbelrousr used to call it, because the board should only contain names the Cowboys had more than a fleeting interest in.

When we review the list of players the Cowboys brought to Valley Ranch for interviews in recent years, we see a 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.

We know that the Cowboys traditionally whittle down the 450 or so draft-eligible players to 130 or so names that adorn their final draft board, and which the cameras have learned to studiously avoid in more recent years. If we assume that they are legitimately interested in the players who have visited the Ranch, or who have had a workout with the Cowboys, we could know about 30-40% 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.

Over the last few years, rabblerousr has done yeoman's work in putting the "Little Board" together year after year; with his recent departure, that duty falls to me. And like the Cowboys, I have whittled down the names of potential prospects. Only instead of 130 or so names, I have 59 names on my board, which you will find below. The official pre-draft invitees are shown in in green; "Dallas Days" players are in blue, the rest are marked in yellow and are players the Cowboys have met or worked out at some point so far.

The trickiest part of this exercise is correctly slotting the players, and my guesses may well be quite a bit off from where the team has a given player on its board. Nevertheless, by gathering the invitees together on a pre-draft "little board," some very clear patterns begin to emerge.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7/ PFA
QB Jared Goff Connor Cook Dak Prescott Christian Hackenberg Jacoby Brissett Brandon Allen Trevone Boykin
Carson Wentz Cardale Jones
Paxton Lynch
RB Ezekiel Elliott Derrick Henry C.J. Prosise Kenyan Drake Aaron Green
Paul Perkins Jonathan Williams
WR Laquon Treadwell Tyler Boyd Rashard Higgins Kenny Lawler Cody Core Alonzo Russell,
Marquez North
Corey Coleman Will Fuller Braxton Miller Darius Powe,
Robert Johnson
Sterling Shephard Jay Lee,
Demarcus Ayers
OT Germain Ifedi Caleb Benenoch
OC/G Connor McGovern Isaac Seumalo
LDE Joey Bosa Kevin Dodd
Ryan Brown
Deforest Buckner
RDE Shaq Lawson Yannick Ngakoue
Emmanuel Ogbah
3T Sheldon Rankins Robert Nkemdiche
1T A'Shawn Robinson Kenny Clark Rodney Coe
Deon King

Cory James
Terrance Smith
CB Jalen Ramsey Eli Apple Taveze Calhoun
Vernon Hargreaves Jalen Mills
S Keanu Neal Justin Simmons Derrick Kindred
Karl Joseph Sean Davis

Some thoughts:

Target positions on offense: For a team that has a lot of holes on defense, the Cowboys sure spent a lot of time looking at offensive players. The Cowboys appear to be targeting three positions heavily - QB, RB, and wide receiver. Overall, the Cowboys brought in 17 offensive players for an official pre-draft visit, but only 12 defensive prospects.

Top-heavy on defense. Look at the gaping hole in the chart above between rounds three and six on defense. The Cowboys have shown great interest in some of the top defensive talent in this draft, but hardly any interest in middle- to late-round defenders. This suggests the Cowboys are looking for defensive difference makers in the draft. These difference makers will be found in rounds one and two; after that, it's questionable whether other prospects would be an immediate upgrade over what the Cowboys already have on their roster. They have a few late-round or priority free agent names on their radar, which gives them some options with the third pick.

But if I were a betting man, I wager the Cowboys are looking to pick at least two, perhaps even three defensive players at the top of the draft, and then look for offensive depth (OB, RB, OL, WR) beyond that.

Horizontal vs. Vertical. This is a little repetitive from the two points above, but I couldn't help notice how QB, RB and WR are organized horizontally, as if the Cowboys are looking for options at those positions everywhere in the draft, while the entire defense is organized vertically: 14 prospects are in rounds 1-2, seven prospects are likely priority free agents. Only four players don't fit this vertical logic, and that may simply be because I didn't put them in the proper rounds

The high and mighty. Look at how similar the late-round wide receivers are in terms of their size

CBS Rank Name School Height Weight
199 Cody Core Ole Miss 6-3 205
282 Jay Lee Baylor 6-2 215
369 Alonzo Russell Toledo 6-4 206
385 Marquez North Tennessee 6-2 223
664 Darius Powe California 6-3 220
- - Robert Johnson Mississippi State 6-1 210

Notice what's not on the list? The small speedster that many Cowboys fans wish would come in to "stretch the field" with his speed. These are all tall, possession-type receivers, and perfectly fit the template of what the Cowboys are looking for in their wide receivers.


Taking all of these factors into consideration, here are three mock based entirely on players from the little board above..

Defense heavy: The first one starts with Jalen Ramsey and remains defense-heavy outside of the three offensive priority positions:

Round 1 (4): CB Jalen Ramsey
Round 2 (34): DT Robert Nkemdiche
Round 3 (67): QB Dak Prescott
Round 4 (101): S Justin Simmons
Round 4 (135): RB Jonathan Williams
Round 6 (189): WR Cody Core
Round 6 (212): LB Leon King
Round 6 (216): DT Rodney Coe
Round 6 (217): CB Taveze Calhoun

D-Line: If the Cowboys decide to go all in on their defensive line, we could see something like this unfold:

Round 1 (4): DE Joey Bosa
Round 2 (34): DT Kenny Clark
Round 3 (67): RB C.J. Prosise
Round 4 (101): QB Jacoby Brissett
Round 4 (135): OT Caleb Benenoch
Round 6 (189): WR Jay Lee
Round 6 (212): DE Ryan Brown
Round 6 (216): S Derrick Kindred
Round 6 (217): DT Rodney Coe

Outscore everybody! And if the Cowboys conclude that the best defense is a good offense, we could see a scenario like this:

Round 1 (4): RB Ezekiel Elliott
Round 2 (34): CB Eli Apple
Round 3 (67): S Sean Davis
Round 4 (101): OG/OC Isaac Seumalo
Round 4 (135): WR Kenny Lawler
Round 6 (189): QB Brandon Allen
Round 6 (212): WR Alonzo Russell
Round 6 (216): CB Taveze Calhoun
Round 6 (217): DE Ryan Brown

And there it is, folks, three possible scenarios (without trades!) for the way the Cowboys draft might unfold.

Happy NFL Christmas, everybody!


If you want to create your own draft board, create your mock draft, or simply want to argue where a prospect should be ranked, here are all the prospects listed above as well as where they rank on three different draft board: CBS (999 prospects), (489), Drafttek (400). The table is sortable so you can sort the table to your heart's content (just click on the blue column headers):

2016 Prospects with documented Cowboys interest
Player POS School CBS
NFL Drafttek Status
Jalen Ramsey CB Florida 2 5 2 Official Visit
Joey Bosa DE Ohio State 3 6 4 Official Visit
Deforest Buckner DE Oregon 6 3 7 Official Visit
Carson Wentz QB N.D. State 7 8 3 Official Visit
Jared Goff QB California 5 10 6 Official Visit
Ezekiel Elliott RB Ohio State 8 4 10 Official Visit
Vernon Hargreaves CB Florida 10 7 5 Official Visit
Sheldon Rankins DT Louisville 14 16 11 Official Visit
A'Shawn Robinson DT Alabama 17 14 14 Dallas Day
Shaq Lawson DE Clemson 12 21 12 Official Visit
Laquon Treadwell WR Ole Miss 13 19 15 Official Visit
Robert Nkemdiche DT Ole Miss 23 15 18 Priv. WO/Meet
Paxton Lynch QB Memphis 27 27 13 Official Visit
Corey Coleman WR Baylor 24 31 17 Priv. WO/Meet
Kevin Dodd DE Clemson 30 20 25 Official Visit
Eli Apple CB Ohio State 20 37 19 Priv. WO/Meet
Will Fuller WR Notre Dame 35 18 28 Official Visit
Derrick Henry RB Alabama 37 28 29 Official Visit
Emmanuel Ogbah DE Oklahoma State 38 34 27 Priv. WO/Meet
Kenny Clark DT UCLA 36 40 45 Official Visit
Connor Cook QB Michigan State 44 55 32 Official Visit
Tyler Boyd WR Pitt 47 48 54 Official Visit
Keanu Neal SS Florida 29 52 68 Priv. WO/Meet
Karl Joseph SS West Virginia 46 42 65 Official Visit
Sterling Shephard WR Oklahoma 59 45 56 Priv. WO/Meet
Germain Ifedi OT Texas A&M 42 54 81 Priv. WO/Meet
Braxton Miller WR Ohio State 74 80 57 Priv. WO/Meet
Christian Hackenberg QB Penn State 76 88 95 Official Visit
Paul Perkins RB UCLA 97 83 98 Official Visit
Sean Davis CB/S Maryland 60 92 137 Priv. WO/Meet
Connor McGovern OG Missouri 96 106 113 Official Visit
C.J. Prosise RB Notre Dame 67 95 155 Official Visit
Kenyan Drake RB Alabama 123 105 93 Official Visit
Rashard Higgins WR Colorado State 80 128 126 Dallas Day
Jalen Mills FS LSU 91 194 63 Dallas Day
Dak Prescott QB Mississippi State 143 133 102 Official Visit
Isaac Seumalo OG Oregon State 82 146 151 Official Visit
Cardale Jones QB Ohio State 115 145 121 Priv. WO/Meet
Justin Simmons FS Boston College 89 90 203 Priv. WO/Meet
Jonathan Williams RB Arkansas 111 121 164 Dallas Day
Yannick Ngakoue DE Maryland 103 166 133 Priv. WO/Meet
Kenny Lawler WR California 107 135 177 Priv. WO/Meet
Brandon Allen QB Arkansas 183 139 163 Priv. WO/Meet
Jacoby Brissett QB NC State 213 112 205 Official Visit
Caleb Benenoch OT UCLA 95 195 242 Priv. WO/Meet
Terrance Smith OLB Florida State 272 231 118 Priv. WO/Meet
Cody Core WR Ole Miss 199 228 248 Priv. WO/Meet
Aaron Green RB TCU 237 371 224 Dallas Day
Derrick Kindred S TCU 225 294 384 Dallas Day
Taveze Calhoun CB Mississippi State 335 367 289 Priv. WO/Meet
Demarcus Ayers WR Houston 411 335 296 Dallas Day
Marquez North WR Tennessee 385 443 257 Priv. WO/Meet
Trevone Boykin WR/QB TCU 483 389 281 Dallas Day
Jay Lee WR Baylor 282 176 - - Dallas Day
Alonzo Russel WR Toledo 369 285 - - Priv. WO/Meet
Cory James LB/S Colorado State 397 313 - - Official Visit
Rodney Coe DT Akron - - 278 - - Official Visit
Ryan Brown DE Mississippi State 561 488 - - Priv. WO/Meet
Deon King LB Norfolk State 516 - - - - Official Visit
Darius Powe WR California 664 - - - - Priv. WO/Meet
Robert Johnson WR Mississippi State - - - - - - Priv. WO/Meet

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