In the week following the 2010 draft, a bunch of intrepid BTB readers captured screen shots from video taken inside the Cowboys war room and brilliantly constructed an almost complete version of the team's 2010 draft board. Three years later, we were once again able to reconstruct the team's draft board (2013), thanks to a similar set of images taken in the team's war room during day one of the 2013 draft.
And much to our surprise, yet another picture of the Cowboys possible draft board rankings surfaced this year, this time in what was probably an inadvertent Tweet:
UPDATE: The tweet/picture at the above account is now unavailable, below is the picture we worked from. Maybe this is confirmation that the board was in fact correct.
[Disclaimer] This is where we cover ourselves. We found this photo on the internet, tweeted out roughly two-and-a-half months after the draft was over. But, when you follow the logic of the rankings, as you'll see below, it makes sense that this could be the Cowboys rankings.
In the end, we can not definitively say this was the Cowboys draft board rankings, but if we had to bet money, we think it is. As you read on, you'll see how these rankings actually fit almost perfectly with what the Cowboys did, and tried to do, in the draft. [End Disclaimer]
In the photo, you can see the draft board on one of the sliding panels in the background. Player names are slotted according to round from rounds 1-7, with the handwritten notations showing each player's last name, initial, the team that drafted him, and the round and spot he was drafted at (e.g. "Elliott, E. DAL 1-4"). Some of the side panels contain the players slotted by position groups, though not all position groups are visible.
A few words on the war room process: The draft board usually starts out as a collection of neatly ordered player tags (some of which you can still see in rounds five, six, and seven). Once a player is drafted, the team moves that player's tag to another board (a part of which you can see on the far right) with all the teams on it, so they can track which team has drafted which positions thus far. Once they move the tag, they hand write the player name in the spot where the tag used to be. That's why there are still some tags on the board; those players either weren't drafted or hadn't yet been drafted (depending on when in the draft the photo was taken).
Because the names are written by hand, and because the picture is not of the highest quality, we were not able to decipher every single name on the draft board, but we did get over 100 of the 149 names on the board, including all but three of the 92 names slotted in rounds 1-4. The table below shows all players with a grade in the first four rounds.
|Round 1 (1-16)||Round 2 (17-40)||Round 3 (41-66)||Round 4 (67-92)|
|Ezekiel Elliott||RB||1-4||Josh Doctson||WR||1-22||Maliek Collins||DT||3-67||Cyrus Jones||CB||2-60|
|Jalen Ramsey||CB||1-5||Corey Coleman||WR||1-15||Keanu Neal||S||1-17||Kenyan Drake||RB||3-73|
|Laremy Tunsil||OT||1-13||Karl Joseph||S||1-14||Tyler Boyd||WR||2-55||Connor McGovern||OG||5-144|
|Joey Bosa||DE||1-3||Kenny Clark||DT||1-27||William Jackson III||CB||1-24||Pharoh Cooper||WR||4-117|
|Jaylon Smith||LB||2-34||Artie Burns||CB||1-25||Xavien Howard||CB||2-38||Anthony Brown||CB||6-189|
|Myles Jack||LB||2-36||Derrick Henry||RB||2-45||Jihad Ward||DE||2-44||Charles Tapper||DE||4-101|
|Carson Wentz||QB||1-2||Kendall Fuller||CB||3-84||illegible||Jonathan Bullard||DT||3-72|
|Leonard Floyd||OLB||1-9||Taylor Decker||OT||1-16||Joshua Garnett||OG||1-28||Kenneth Dixon||RB||4-134|
|Jared Goff||QB||1-1||Vernon Butler||DT||1-30||Deion Jones||OLB||2-52||C.J. Prosise||RB||3-90|
|Sheldon Rankins||DT||1-12||Kevin Dodd||DE||2-33||Darian Thompson||S||3-71||Jeff Driskel||QB||6-207|
|Shaq Lawson||DE||1-19||A'Shawn Robinson||DT||2-46||Quinton Jefferson||DT||5-147||Dak Prescott||QB||4-135|
|Paxton Lynch||QB||1-26||Jarran Reed||DT||2-49||Paul Perkins||RB||5-149||KeiVarae Russell||CB||3-74|
|Vernon Hargreaves||CB||1-11||Laquon Treadwell||WR||1-23||Adolphus Washington||DT||3-80||Joe Thuney||OG||3-78|
|Eli Apple||CN||1-10||Will Fuller||WR||1-21||Ronald Blair||DE||5-142||Kavon Frazier||S||6-212|
|DeForest Buckner||DE||1-7||Su'a Cravens
||LB||2-53||Shon Coleman||OT||3-76||Graham Glasgow||OC||3-95|
|Ronnie Stanley||OT||1-6||Darron Lee||LB||1-20||Cody Whitehair
|Germain Ifedi||OG||1-31||Vonn Bell||FS||2-61||Isaac Seumalo||OG||3-79|
|Jack Conklin||OT||1-8||Jordan Howard||RB||5-150||James Bradberry||CB||2-62|
|Emmanuel Ogbah||DE||2-32||Nick Martin||OG||2-50||Leonte Carroo||WR||3-86|
||OC||1-18||Nick Vannett||TE||3-94||Braxton Miller||WR||3-85|
|Connor Cook||QB||4-100||Devontae Booker||RB||4-136||Joe Schobert||LB||4-99|
|Hunter Henry||TE||2-35||Mackensie Alexander||CB||2-54||Nick Vigil||LB||3-87|
|Reggie Ragland||LB||2-41||Jason Spriggs||OT||2-48||illegible|
|Austin Johnson||DT||2-43||Jacoby Brissett||QB||3-91||Andrew Billings||DT
|Shilique Calhoun||DE||3-75||Max Tuerk||OC
This next table summarizes the players graded in rounds 5-7. We have a lot more gaps in this table, as many more names are illegible, and 14 slots still show the unreadable player cards .
|Round 5 (93-120)||Round 6 (121-136)||Round 7 (136-149)|
|Parker Ehinger||OG||4-105||illegible||Cole Toner||OT||5-170|
|Tyler Ervin||RB||4-119||illegible||C. Fejedelem||TE||7-245|
|illegible||Darius Jackson||RB||6-216||Cody Core||WR||6-199|
|illegible||Daniel Lasco||RB||7-237||Kyle Murphy||T||6-200|
|Caleb Benenoch||OG||5-148||illegible||T. Hemingway||TE||6-177|
|Jatavis Brown||OLB||5-175||Jayron Kearse||S||7-244|
|Kevin Byard||S||3-64||Cody Kessler||QB||3-93|
We've done our best to decipher the names above, and while we're confident that we got most of them right, we're not certain we got every name right. But to get more names, and more certainty, we would probably need some CIA-level software, which we don't have.
We know from the two previously leaked boards that the Cowboys executives are always frank about where they had players graded on their draft board, and they once again gave us a pretty good idea of where their players were slotted this year:
- Jerry Jones said that Ezekiel Elliott had the highest grade of any player on their draft board and that Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey was ranked No. 2 on their board. That fits with the board above.
- According to Stephen Jones, QB Paxton Lynch wasn't the highest-rated quarterback on the Cowboys' draft board. The draft board confirms this; both Goff and Wentz were ranked higher.
- Jerry Jones said the Cowboys still had first-round names left on their board heading into the second day of the draft. Jaylon Smith and Myles Jack appear to be the two players left on the second day with first-round grades, even if both had a medical tag attached to their name.
- Stephen Jones said they had Jaylon Smith at the top of their board with a medical tag, and Jerry later added that they ranked Smith in the top five on their draft board as a "cornerstone" type defensive prospect. The board shows Smith ranked fifth overall, confirming what Stephen and Jerry said.
- Bryan Broadus of Dallascowboys.com confirmed the Cowboys had Smith ranked one spot ahead of Myles Jack and followed their board when they picked him.
- Stephen Jones also said they had fourth-round grades on CB Anthony Brown and SS Kavon Frazier, both of whom they drafted the sixth round. The board does indeed show both players in the fourth, and the Cowboys must have been quite pleased to find them available in the sixth.
Judging by the order of the teams listed on the left side of the draft board, the board was created sometime after the Rams traded up into the first pick (April 14) but before the Eagles traded into the second overall spot (April 21). But given that the names listed all show the team that picked them and when they were picked, the board was completed during the draft or shortly thereafter.
A few attendant thoughts:
Number of players: The previous two boards we know of had fewer players listed (2010: 129, 2013: 132). This board has a little more at 149, but that may be a function of the Cowboys having had four picks in the sixth round and preparing the board accordingly.
Grading accuracy: How good the grades ultimately turn out to be is something we'll only know a few years down the road, but the Cowboys board shows a pretty good feel for where players would be taken, at least in the top three rounds. All players with first-round grades were picked in the first round except the two linebackers with the injury tag. Similarly, only two players with a second-round grade (CB Kyle Fuller, QB Connor Cook) slipped out of the second round. And only five of the players with a third-round grade were picked after the third round.
BPA: Like in previous drafts, the Cowboys didn't follow a pure "Best Player Available" strategy, though they came pretty close. Elliott and Smith were the highest-graded players when they were picked. Maliek Collins looks like he had the third-highest grade on the board when the Cowboys picked him. CB Kendall Fuller had a high second-round grade and was still available at the top of the third, but the Cowboys were not in a CB-picking mood. QB Connor Cook was ranked just four spots above Collins, they're actual grades may have been a push.
At first glance, Charles Tapper may have been the biggest need pick for the Cowboys. The Cowboys tried to trade up to get Connor Cook with that pick, but they failed and Cook was snagged one pick before the Cowboys were on the clock. Without Cook, that still left eight players with a higher grade on the board at the time the Cowboys picked Tapper. But three of them were RBs (Paul Perkins, Jordan Howard, Devontae Booker), and after picking Elliott, the Cowboys were comfortable spending their mid-round picks elsewhere. Similarly, after picking Collins, the two DLs left on the board (Quinton Jefferson and Ronald Blair, whom the Cowboys may have projected as a DT) may have lost their attractiveness. That left three more players (OG Connor McGovern, WR Pharoh Cooper, CB Anthony Brown) who were ranked immediately ahead of Tapper, but they may have had the same grade or at least close enough for the Cowboys to make a decision for Tapper.
Similarly, Dak Prescott was ranked one spot behind QB Jeff Driskell, but the Cowboys opted for Prescott over Driskell.
Anthony Brown and Kavon Frazier, both with fourth-round grades, were BPA when the Cowboys picked them in the sixth, and the Cowboys must have been pretty happy to find them still available.
Seven Top 100 picks: With Brown and Frazier ranked 73rd and 82nd respectively on the Cowboys' board, the Cowboys got seven players they had ranked in the top 100 on their board. High fives all around in the war room.
Missing players: The illegible names mean we can't fully account for all the players on the board. Prominent first- or second-round names that don't show up on the board or are some of the illegible names: DT Robert Nkemdiche (1-29), DT Chris Jones (2-37), DE Noah Spence (2-39), WR Sterling Shepard (2-40), DE Kamalei Correa (2-42), QB Christian Hackenberg (2-51), and DT Adam Gotsis (2-63).
Cowboys vs. other teams: There are 11 players legible on these boards that were picked at least two rounds above where the Cowboys had graded them. Somewhat surprisingly, seven of them are defensive backs.
|3||William Jackson III||CB||1||24||CIN|
Whether this means the Cowboys grade defensive backs too harshly, or whether defensive backs were overdrafted in this draft remains to be seen. As does everything else about the 2016 draft.
And one thing these draft boards make much easier to understand is why the Cowboys drafted the way they did. Instead of looking at somebody else's draft board and getting bent out of shape about why the Cowboys didn't draft this or that player, we can now look at this draft board and get a better feel for the thought processes in the Cowboys' war room.
Whether their evaluation turns out to be right or wrong is an entirely different matter of course, and one that we'll be debating for years to come.
To each side of the draft board, you can see side panels that contain the players slotted by position groups, though not all position groups are visible. The first table below features linebackers and defensive backs (who are on the left of the draft board). Here are the names we could identify in those position groups; players highlighted in yellow are legible on the position group board, but not on the draft board.
|1||Jalen Ramsey, 1-5||Myles Jack, 2-36||Jaylon Smith, 2-34||Leonard Floyd, 1-9|
|Vernon Hargreaves, 1-11||Shaq Lawson, 1-19|
|Eli Apple, 1-10|
|2||Artie Burns, 1-25||Karl Joseph, 1-14||Su'a Cravens, 2-53||Darron Lee, 1-20||Reggie Ragland, 2-41||Emmanuel Ogbah, 2-32|
|Kendall Fuller, 3-84|
|3||William Jackson III, 1-24||Vonn Bell, 2-61||Keanu Neal, 1-17||Deion Jones, 2-52||Shilique Calhoun, 3-75|
|Xavien Howard, 2-38||Darian Thompson, 3-71|
|Mackensie Alexander, 2-54|
|4||Cyrus Jones, 2-60||Kavon Frazie , 6-212||Joe Schobert, 4-99||illegible|
|Anthony Brown, 6-189||Nick Vigil, 3-87|
|KeiVarae Russell, 3-74|
|LeShaun Sims, 5-157|
|James Bradberry, 2-62|
|5||Brandon Williams, 3-92||illegible||T.J. Green, 2-57||Jatavis Brown, 5-175||illegible||illegible|
|Daryl Worley, 3-77||illegible||Deon Bush, 4-124||Devante Bond, 6-183||illegible|
|Juston Burris, 4-118||illegible||illegible|
|6||illegible||Jayron Kearse, 7-244||illegible||illegible|
|7||illegible||Clayton Fejedelem, 7-245||illegible|
|Joe Walker, 7-251|
The remaining position groups, from the right of the draft board (TE and OL) are summarized in the table below.
|1||Laremy Tunsil, 1-13|
|Ronnie Stanley, 1-6|
|2||Henry Hunter, 2-35||Taylor Decker, 1-16||Ryan Kelly, 1-18|
|Germain Ifedi, 1-31|
|Jack Conklin, 1-8|
|3||Nick Vannett, 2-35||Shon Coleman, 3-76||Joshua Garnett, 1-28||Nick Martin, 2-50|
|Jason Spriggs, 2-48||Cody Whitehair, 2-56|
|4||Connor McGovern, 5-144|
|Joe Thuney, 3-78|
|Graham Glasgow, 3-95|
|Isaac Seumalo, 3-79|
|Max Tuerk, 3-66|
|5||Austin Hooper, 3-81||Caleb Benenoch, 5-148||Parker Ehinger, 4-105|
|Jerell Adams, 6-184||illegible|
|Tyler Higbee, 4-110||illegible|
|6||Brandon Shell, 5-158|
|7||T. Hemingway, 6-177||Cole Toner, 6-170|
|Joe Haeg, 6-155|
|Kyle Murphy, 6-200|