My colleague, Tom Ryle, wrote an article the other day making a few draft day predictions. It was very well written and if you know Tom, he doesn’t like to deal in rumor and innuendo like the rest of us. He keeps a pure and open mind when it comes to the draft because he knows as well as anyone that these things are pretty hard to predict. His column inspired this one because, with less than two weeks from the start of my favorite weekend in football, we’re still not anywhere close to a consensus on where the Cowboys will be going. The only thing we do know is that they have or will have met with every defensive prospect they can up until that day. The draft is one of those unpredictable but highly anticipated types of events, which is why we probably fawn over it every single offseason.
Most of us around here try and digest as much as we can leading up to the draft and we always see a huge amount of traffic in this community during draft season. It’s a wonderful time to be around BTB as we argue the pros and cons of every prospect. Think about how much information we try to retain during this time. From the many mainstream draft enthusiasts like Mike Mayock, Todd McShay, Mel Kiper, and Daniel Jeremiah to the local heroes like the cast of the Draft Show.
Just about anything you want to know, you can find a little by listening to all these guys and forming your own opinions. Heck, a lot of us go watch tape and become sort of amateur scouts during this time period. We all learn a lot from each other and I certainly get a lot out of reading or community’s responses to our mocks and various scouting profiles. It’s pretty humbling to be a part of such a knowledgeable forum. With that said, we all know that the draft is going to have a monkey wrench or two just as it does every year.
No matter how many scouting reports, draft grades, Combine results, or SPARQ scores we read, there is bound to be many surprises. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and no two teams evaluate talent the same way. Every year, we watch as a team makes a pick that has us scratching our heads without considering how they came to the conclusion. Just think about last year’s draft when Oakland drafted Karl Joseph or Atlanta taking Keanu Neal in the first round. Both of those guys were players this forum really liked but not heavily considered first-round talents. Neal didn’t have a ton of interceptions but he did have over 100 tackles and helped his team reach a Super Bowl. As for Joseph, he didn’t have near the tackles as Neal but 60 tackles and one interception is pretty good for a rookie.
When the Cowboys selected Jaylon Smith in the second round, it was met with quite a bit of shock. Though he redshirted the 2016 season, there are high hopes for him this year. Besides, with all the production the Cowboys got out of their rookie class, Smith could be the cherry on top of a historically good haul.
As we near closer to the day, we have to keep in mind that we may all be in for some surprises. We have an idea that the Cowboys are in a defensive state of mind but they have to wait and see how the draft unfolds. They most assuredly have a very different draft board than the ones that float around the internet. Dallas has their own thresholds and has shown to be very particular in the type of players they’re looking for. Rod Marinelli seems like a very meticulous evaluator of edge rushers and that sometimes brings upon the belief that he’s a bit indecisive. Maybe that’s not the case and perhaps he just hasn’t been wowed by any of the so-called "top” edge rushers of the past two seasons. Nobody foresaw the Cowboys waiting until the fourth round to select a defensive end last year but Charles Tapper pretty much fits the bill for what the Cowboys were looking for in a speed rusher. He’s also a guy with high expectations heading into this season.
The point here is that there are plenty of ways the team could go and having an open mind may be the best plan. Some of us would hope it’s an edge rusher early in fear of missing out while others think that cornerback may offer the best talent available. Ultimately, you just never know how these things will shake out and what type of values or opportunities will present themselves. Maybe an incredible talent that you have highly ranked falls right in your lap. Then again, there is the possibility your top targets are wiped out and you have to go another route.
Stephen Jones and Will McClay have always reiterated the process of keeping an open mind and not pigeon-holing yourself. It definitely seems that the Cowboys have honored that code and certainly aren’t pressured into their picks. When they like someone, the front office has no qualms with taking him comfortably despite what outside influences would say. This year should be no different and you can bet that at some point, they’ll happily select a player that will defy the grades, analyses, and projections of all the aforementioned draft gurus. It’s the NFL Draft, the land of unpredictability but that’s what makes it so fascinating. Besides, don’t you love watching some of those major platform guys scramble on live TV to explain moves they never saw coming? Expect the unexpected because the only thing that is for sure about the draft is that nothing is for sure.