As we're counting down the final hours until the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft kicks off tonight, speculation ramps up and rumors start popping up left and right. At this stage, it's impossible to ascertain whether these rumors originate from somewhere close to the team, from general managers (who are lying), from agents (who are lying even more), or from other sources (who may just be making stuff up). Keep that in mind as you read through the rest of this post.
We heard yesterday from Ben Rogers of 105.3 The Fan that the Cowboys could be looking to trade back into the first round.
Was told Cowboys aggressively looking into having TWO 1st round picks tomorrow night.— Ben Rogers (@BenRogers) April 27, 2016
We are hearing today from different sources that the target in such a trade-up scenario could be DE Shaq Lawson. Lawson is one of the top edge rushers in the draft, as Joey Ickes wrote a few days ago:
Lawson is one of the players in contention for the top defensive end, or edge rusher in this draft. He could play left or right end for the Cowboys and would project as a very solid player long term. There is not as much difference between Lawson and a guy like Joey Bosa as many analysts would make you believe, but he is projected to go five to ten picks later. Lawson is one of the visitors who is likely a target should Dallas receive an offer for a trade back to the early teens.
At first glance, trading up for Lawson doesn't look like a very realistic proposition. Lawson's most popular landing spot in mock drafts are Tampa Bay (No. 9) and Chicago (No. 11), and while there are a few mocks that have him falling farther, none have him falling past out of the teens.
If the Cowboys were to package their second- and third-rounders to move up, they could conceivably move up to No. 21 (34+67 = 21; 815 points = 800 points), which is probably not high enough for Lawson. But the Cowboys could sweeten the deal with Ronald Leary and probably move even higher:
Cowboys' G Ronald Leary signed his RFA second-round tender in hopes to facilitate trade this weekend, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 28, 2016
But what if, as Joey indicates above, going after Lawson is part of a trade-down strategy?
We are also hearing from multiple sources that the Cowboys are looking for options to trade down if Ramsey gets picked by the Chargers. And even if Ramsey is still available, they are amenable to moving down, though that would require a very sweet deal
Mike Bacsik, also of 105.3 The Fan, seems to have the right general idea:
My Cowboys dream tomorrow is to trade down to #7 and pick up an extra 3rd rounder. Take Zeke. Trade #34 and 3rd and get Shaq Lawson.— Mike Bacsik (@MikeBacsik) April 28, 2016
In any case, moving down a few spots will give the Cowboys more ammunition to trade back into the first round again, and perhaps get them to within reach of of Shaq Lawson - unless Paxton Lynch drops, too. I'm told that a dropping Lynch trumps a dropping Lawson, much to my dismay.
Again keep in mind that what we're hearing at this point may just be baseless speculation; then again, it might just as well have at least a kernel of truth.
Even these moves for Lawson and Lynch don't materialize, we know that the Cowboys usually have around 20 players with a first-round grade on their board. If one of those 20 were to fall far enough tonight, perhaps that could be the tipping point at which the Cowboys decide to pull the trigger and move up, as Ben Rogers suggested above.
Finally, in case the Cowboys don't get a shot at Lynch, we're hearing that they're ready to take Dak Prescott with their third-round pick - assuming he's still available at that point. I saw a mock draft today (from Ourlads.com) that had Prescott going to the Broncos with the 31st pick.
Paxton Lynch is a common plug in here for the Broncos. He is our 3rd rated QB so we should slot him here too. We have Dak at the top of the 2nd round. We will use Ron Wolfe's one round theory and take Dak a round early because we want him.
In any case, if you where thinking of calling it a night after the No. 4 pick, you may have to rethink that strategy and stick around to the end of the first round. Rumor or not, you never know the draft will play out, and the Cowboys could end up surprising a lot of people.