First, let's consider ...
Round 1 in the draft should be viewed as a premium pick for a franchise. These are players that teams are resting their hopes on. Not all positions are created equal, however, some prospects are too good to pass on regardless of the position.
High Quality/Priority Picks
Rounds 2 and 3 are special. Teams would hope these players turn into significant contributors. These players may not immediately make the starting lineup, but could push starters for playing time. Teams that find rookie starters are able to keep their cap in check, as they can churn the roster with younger and cheaper talent. Since 2008, 3rd round players tend to crack the starting lineup at nearly the same rate as 2nd rounders. Teams cannot afford to miss on these picks. (See Dallas draft success https://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2015/3/16/8135197/2010-2014-nfl-drafts-team-by-team-draft-success-in-first-three-rounds)
Traits and Hopeful Diamond Picks
Rounds 4 through 7 comes down to the quality of your scouting department and a bit of luck. I tend to see this as the depth and development rounds. This is the time to take a chance on car thieves, medical concerns, or guys you believe are late bloomers. Often, you look for certain traits and measurables at this point in the draft. If you’re extremely fortunate, you’ll find a diamond in the rough. These guys make the roster on special teams or are used in certain packages where their skills can be utilized. The hope is that they’ll develop into significant contributors.
I could go into the numbers, but Pro Football Reference has all of that on their site. For a quick glance see this article by Forbes which uses PFR data from 2008-2014 https://www.forbes.com/sites/prishe/2015/05/22/tracking-nfl-draft-efficiency-how-contingent-is-success-to-draft-position/#3655bcfc7495
Why this matters to the fan?
We will spend lots of time on BtB in the months leading to the draft discussing what we believe the front office should do. Much of our talk will focus on the draft, which is my favorite topic in sports. We all have our rankings on positions of need for the ‘Boys, but I’d like to throw out a few of my haunches of what could (should) occur. Not all positions are created equal. Be wise with the value of each position and round.
There is a need along the offensive line going into the offseason. Health is a concern in football. You play long enough, you’re sure to get hurt. Three-fifths of the starting line is locked down. La’el has the talent. LG and backup swing Tackle are concerns. Cooper was serviceable and the hope is to retain him. My belief: Don’t use a premium pick for a backup tackle. Address it in free agency. If you want a guard, look at round 3 or later. Why? Allocation of resources, that’s why. Use the premium and quality picks for other needs. Sorry, but Quentin Nelson isn’t dropping. As for Guard, prospects to consider include Mason Cole (Mich), Braden Smith (Aub), and KC McDermott (Mia).
The young bucks look good and promising. Lewis is our rookie of the year, though Awuzie may have taken that title had stayed healthy all year. Though A. Brown regressed, he and Scandrick are more than serviceable moving forward. My belief: Cornerback is a premium position. If the value of a player available is too much to pass on, take him at any point in the 2018 draft. However, my hope is that a veteran free agent is brought in and we roll with the players we’ve invested in. A player of interest in the first round is Joshua Jackson. He has the type of physical play and ball skills needed.
I feel the same for defensive end as I do corner. As great as the DL did this season, you can never have enough pass rushers. Just realize they may take time to develop. Six sacks for a rookie DE is pretty darn good. Consider pressures and tackles for loss as well. Since it’s a premium position, it can be justified at any point in the draft. My belief: I don’t see a DE for Dallas in the teens. Retain DeMarcus Lawrence by signing him to an extension. Tagging him will eat into that precious cap space we finally get to enjoy (after climbing out of the mess since the uncapped year and past ballooned deals. Thanks, Mara). I see the team bottom feeding in FA.
Yep, this is definitely a need. You know, I know, everyone knows it. We all want a monster to man the middle. After all, the linebackers would benefit greatly from the big boys in the middle. My belief: Well, Dallas’ recent history tells me to steer clear of getting my hopes up for a DT in rounds 1 or 2. Bummer, especially when there are a number of big boys that’ll be top 75 overall talent (Wilkins, Vea, Payne, Jones, Hurst). Could any fall to the 3rd? Fingers crossed, as recent drafts have seen quality DTs still available into the 3rd. Check out Taven Bryan of FL. In the middle of the second, he’d be a nice option. In the early third, no brainer. Use some of those picks and move up. Derrick Nnadi and Reginald McKenzie may be rated higher on some boards, but give me Bryan.
This is the greatest need in my humble opinion. Even if Dallas can manage to retain Anthony Hitchens and see Jaylon get closer to his college form, at some point adding another stud to the mix is wise. The position may be the most violent on the field. Which may cause pause on taking one in the first, similar to the belief of taking a running back early. Wait, we took a RB in the top 4 in ‘16? Ok, so we’d welcome Roquan Smith if he’s there? Sign me up.
My belief: Hitchens returns in a deal that’d account for a $3.5-4M hit a season. Smart money. Even if you drafted a LB high, depth is always needed in the LB core. This draft looks pretty solid at the position. If Smith isn’t there in the first, wait until R2 or R3. Notable ILBs in the second:
Micah Kizer R2- wish he were a bit quicker. Not a sideline to sideline guy like Smith, Evans, or Jefferson.
Azeem Victor - R3
Darius Leonard - developmental
My heart will always cause me to say stupid stuff with this position. Since Woodson, I’ve longed for the team to just spend the money on a proven veteran entering into his second contract. That means dropping some money and often the cap space didn’t allow for such a splurge. Weddle was almost a Cowboy, but he chose Baltimore. How they were going to squeeze him in with that cap situation still boggles the brain. My belief: Ride with the young guns once again in the defensive backfield. I’m intrigued with what will happen with Frazier, B. Jones, and Woods. Who will rise and take over the top 2 safety spots? Heath gets little love but he’s there. I keep hoping for Derwin James to somehow slip but I doubt it happens. No other S behind Minkah Fitzpatrick and James has the versatility and coverage skills to be worthy of a top 20 pick. I like Ronnie Harrison of Alabama, but we have a thumper already in Frazier. Wish Harrison had better cover ability.
Round 2 could see 4-5 safeties come off the board. Middle round guy - Kyzir White
Tight End and Wide Receiver
We need some juice added to the receiving core. I’m not retiring Witten. Is he worth 6.5M? Probably not. But my hope is that he’ll return and the others step up. At least remain healthy. I don’t see TE as a "major" need like others claim. As for WR, it may be the second greatest need.
WR has become a premium position in today’s NFL. It is worthy of a first round pick. However, have you seen what’s come of first round WRs lately? Should that even matter? My belief: WR will be hard to address in free agency. I could pray for a Taylor Gabriel or Sammy Watkins. But teams have paid #2 FA WRs handsomely. A player may be brought in, but look for Noah Brown and perhaps Ryan Switzer to receive more reps next season. I’m all for using a premium pick on a WR. I’d rather wait until Day 2. Late round developmental TE - Durham Smythe (bonus: my former student).
It’s a need. There needs to be a guy behind Elliott that can also be a home run threat. During his absence, guys were serviceable. Looking at yards per carry, once would say they were actually good. How we, where were the splash plays, touchdowns, or fear in defenses? My belief: Find a guy with traits in the draft. I’d be nice to see what a Bo Scarborough as a 4th round pick could do in Dallas. One late rounder name drop is Akrum Wadley of Iowa. If we’re looking for a FB that’s versatile, Dimitri Flowers.
Mock Draft Exercise:
What would you do if the draft fell like this:
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
4. Cleveland Browns (via HOU): Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
6. Denver Broncos: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
7. New York Jets: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
8. San Francisco 49ers: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
9. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
10. Cincinnati Bengals: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
11. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
12. Miami Dolphins: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
13. Arizona Cardinals: Josh Allen QB, Wyoming
14. Green Bay Packers: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
15. Washington: Derwin James, S, Florida State
16. Los Angeles Chargers: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
17. Buffalo Bills: Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
18. Detroit Lions: Arden Key, DE, LSU
19. Dallas Cowboys are on the clock. Who do you take GM?
Who are some Day 2 players you'd like to offer up to a brother?