We have almost made it. After the end of the regular season, the NFL Combine, free agency, visits, workouts, and so very many mocks (most of which have nothing to do with reality as we know it), we are just one day away from the the 2016 NFL Draft. By tomorrow night, we will no longer be speculating and arguing about who the Dallas Cowboys should take in the first round. Instead, we will be arguing about how good or bad the choice is.
There are a lot of fans who want to see the Cowboys take FSU DB Jalen Ramsey at four. Based on his comments during the pre-draft press conference, head coach Jason Garrett may be with you on that.
Jason Garrett on Ramsey: "He's an impact player at the highest level. He's been a guy that has played both safety and corner, and seems to be he plays them equally well.
"He shows up on the tape. He leaps off the tape. He's a great football player. No question about that.''
Running back has not gotten a lot of respecK in recent years, and there are still many who argue that the fourth overall pick is too rich to take one. But given a scarcity of other elite players this year and the almost perfect fit he is for Dallas, Ezekiel Elliott has emerged as a popular second choice for the team, especially if Ramsey gets snatched at three.
Elliott probably makes the biggest Day 1 impact of any player in this draft, other than possibly Laremy Tunsil, who would start right away at right tackle. But if the Cowboys were to take him at No. 4 overall, or even a few spots later in a potential trade-back, it screams he is ready to take over as the starter immediately, leapfrogging both Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris.
It is not a new argument, but the reason why Elliott may be a much wiser choice than some defenders is summed up nicely here.
If Elliott arrives and runs behind this line as he would seem capable of doing -- think DeMarco Murray in 2014 -- how high a level does this offense reach with the return of Tony Romo and Dez Bryant?
And, ultimately, that's how you go about fixing this defense. You construct an offense that scores 30 points a game and dare opponents to keep up.
One way to finesse the "don't take a running back in the top five" arguments would be a trade back, but as this article points out, there is a huge risk of losing him to someone else.
There are still a lot of mock drafts putting Joey Bosa down as the pick for the Cowboys. The brain trust did not sound all that positive about him during the press conference, but if Dallas should entertain the idea of a trade back, it may be because they see Bosa as a good value a little further back.
Drafts come down to traits and productivity. Bosa has the productivity and he did it against the highest competition in college football. For the Cowboys, Bosa might be more of a left defensive end than a right defensive end. He is more of an 8-10 sack per year player than a 12-14 sack per year player.
The ceiling might be lower than you would want for a fourth pick overall, but sometimes you are at the will of what is available each year
One of the arguments in favor of drafting Bosa is the Cowboys' need to get to the passer off the edge. But is that the only solution? In this nicely structured discussion, Sid Vijay shows that it is possible to get the needed pressure up the middle - but it is not a certain path to success.
The 2013 Buccaneers, 2015 Panthers and 2015 Rams all had contributions over 25% of total sacks from their star defensive tackle and were all above average in weighted defense. Other teams, the 2013 Titans, 2013 Cowboys and 2011 Titans did not see similar success.
Based on the comments Monday, the team is not looking to get the heir to Tony Romo this year, but may well try to upgrade the QB2 position. Here's Jerry Jones' typically convoluted comment.
"The bottom line is yes, we could certainly in the right situation there on the board -- what is there and what's not there -- we could pick a quarterback down from those first two that are logically thought to be picked early," Jones said.
Although the Cowboys are out of the first round QB race, if Christian Hackenberg does make it to the second round, he might be a player they are interested in. The question is whether they are seduced as many are by that strong arm, and think the other issues can be fixed.
His timing on interior throws and ball placement across the field, especially vertically, showed plenty of room for improvement to start his career, but the excitement about his arm talent kept interest from NFL teams. However, his struggles on easier throws and when attacking the perimeter, most recently during his junior campaign, have been well-documented and shouldn't be ignored simply because he wasn't in an ideal offense. Regardless of his lack of comfort, Hackenberg missed throws that no NFL quarterback prospect should.
One thing that is irritating about so many mock drafts is that they seem to be based solely on perceived needs. That is not really how things work for the Cowboys.
Head coach Jason Garrett acknowledged that "need creeps in'' when discussing who to take, but argued the club has made its best draft decisions when going with talent over positional need. A strong case for that argument was made two years ago when the Cowboys took offensive lineman Zack Martin in the first round.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones is a big believer that if your research deems a player special, you take him over any need that may exist.
So how well do they Cowboys draft? They are not among the best teams, but according to this long piece, with lots of analysis, they are above average.
Whether or not you agree with the Dallas Cowboys taking three offensive linemen in the first round over a four-year stretch, you can't argue with the level of play that Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick have provided as they've tallied eight first and second team All-Pro honors collectively. The Cowboys also received four productive seasons out of third-rounder DeMarco Murray before allowing him to walk away, but out of their 14 picks over the first three rounds since 2011, they've selected only Murray, Terrance Williams and Gavin Escobar at the offensive skill spots while taking Randy Gregory, Demarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford on the defensive front.
This is very interesting when you look at the BPA side of things.
These are the elite prospects in this class -- they should rank among the top five players at their respective positions in two to three years.
1) Laremy Tunsil, OT, Mississippi
2) Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State
3) Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
4) Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
5) Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
6) Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
7) Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State
8) Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame (obviously, if health permits)
Of interest to us, Bosa is in the second tier of players. Just sayin'.