Are you tired of mock drafts yet? They are a bit like pictures of yourself or your kids you post on Facebook or Twitter: You are usually a lot more interested in your own than you are in anyone else's. The main problem with them is that the people who do them either know a lot about one team and very little about most of the rest, or they are a national expert, which apparently is a synonym for not knowing a lot about any team at all. For the Dallas Cowboys, there seems to be a growing consensus that they will take Joey Bosa - which seems a bit premature, since the team is still in the information gathering stage of things, and will not start actually assembling their board until April 11th, according to DallasCowboys.com writer Bryan Broaddus.
Trying to predict what the Cowboys will do in the draft, which is what mock drafts are really about to most of us, is fun, but also largely an exercise in futility. There are far too many variables involved in the draft. Most of our assumptions and even guesses are really just a projection of our own thinking and likely have no correlation to what the Dallas staff thinks. And they have a ton more information than we, or the most plugged in of insiders, know. Scouts, at least for thorough teams, are as concerned with finding out about the behavior of the players off the field as they are in watching video or workouts. The odds are that the team will do something really unexpected, especially after the first round or two, but surprises can come at any time. You have to go back no further than 2013, when the team infamously traded back with their highest-rated player, Sharrif Floyd, available to wind up taking Travis Frederick. No one saw that coming (or how well it would work out).
Fortunately, there is no one path to success in the draft. The first pick affects the second, and so on. What other teams do determines the pool of available players remaining when the Cowboys get on the clock. This year, you would think that holding the fourth-overall pick would simplify things, but there are several reasons this is probably not so.
First is the nature of the draft class this year. There simply are not a lot of truly elite players that are definitely elite talents, and at this point, there are only two that have generated something of a consensus as being at the top of the draft, Laremy Tunsil and Jalen Ramsey. That kinda sucks if you are part of Team Ramsey this year, since it means you have to hope the three teams ahead of Dallas all decide to go a different direction than the best defensive back available, and cornerback, Ramsey's position coming out, is one of the "money" positions that teams are usually willing to spend a top three pick to get. With an offensive tackle likely off the board for the Cowboys (although the team has acquired a first-round line talent in the past three years if you count the theft of La'el Collins from the rest of the league in addition to the earlier drafting of Tyron Smith), that could well leave Dallas with a difficult decision. The previously mentioned belief by many that they will take Bosa is being driven at least in part by the expectation of so many mockers that Ramsey will indeed go earlier.
The quarterback situation is another complicating factor. There are two aspects. First is the fact that Tony Romo is the expected starter and taking a QB at four would mean that the team would have to sit him as long as Romo is healthy. But that may actually make taking one of the top passers this year more likely. All of the top three, Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch, and Carson Wentz, are seen as not really being ready to step in on day one. A couple of years of seasoning in practice and meetings could actually make them more valuable to Dallas than they would be to a team that has to throw them into the fire right away. And if the not-so-unthinkable should happen and the team elects to go with a rookie to step in instead of Kellen Moore this year, the quality of the Cowboys' offensive line would make his chances better than with some of the teams who cannot protect what they have now.
The second issue is that there is absolutely no consensus on who is the best of the three. All have very vocal supporters who come to entirely different conclusions when they look at the video and the data. If you want to start a really fierce discussion in social media, defend one or question someone else's choice of another. Then duck. Although the conclusions of the media and fans are not guaranteed to have any correlation to what teams think, it is something of an indication that teams may also have widely varying takes on these three, and the way they fit into scheme and offensive philosophy probably plays a big part. What the real thinking inside Valley Ranch is will be closely guarded, although we will scour every source looking for any and all hints.
Then there is the Ezekiel Elliott question. Is he good enough to justify taking at four? Dallas would certainly seem to be a team that could get maximum value from him with their offensive line, perhaps more so than any other team given that a healthy Romo and Dez Bryant would also ensure that teams cannot just focus on stopping the run.
Should Ramsey be gone and the Cowboys also conclude that there is not a quarterback available at four they are prepared to take, then what? Would they go with another player, such as a potent receiver to pair with Bryant like Laquon Treadwell? Is DeForest Buckner talented and flexible enough to upgrade the pass rush at that draft cost? Will Myles Jack get a clean bill of health on his recheck, and will the team see linebacker as valuable enough at four, even though it is the running back of the defense as far as drafting? Or does the team trade back to increase its picks in the second and/or third rounds? This year's draft class is seen as strong in those rounds, and Dallas certainly has plenty of places it could use more talent.
If your head is starting to spin a bit, you understand the problem. There are so many moving parts, but there are also many paths to success in this year's draft. Expect to be surprised and try to keep an open mind. This should be fun, and is the most exciting part of the NFL year outside of the actual season. Just hope that whatever the Cowboys do works out for both this season and the longer term, because the alternative is no fun at all.