It's a time-honored tradition here on Blogging The Boys, dating all the way back to 2011, to build a draft board populated with players the Cowboys have invited for official pre-draft visits or have otherwise interacted with. By necessity, the result is a "Little Board," as rabbelrousr used to call it, because the board should only contain names the Cowboys had more than a fleeting interest in.
When we review the list of players the strong correlation between the players the Cowboys invited to Dallas and who ended up wearing the star; other than Mo Claiborne, every one of Dallas' top selections since 2005 has been one of their pre-draft invites.brought in for official pre-draft visits in recent years, we see a
We know that the Cowboys traditionally whittle down the 450 or so draft-eligible players to 130 or so names that adorn their final draft board. If we assume that they are legitimately interested in the players they've brought in for visits, or players that had a private workout with the Cowboys (and not just random players the Cowboys talked with on the sidelines of a pro day or a bowl game, or one of the 60 interviews allowed at the Combine), we could know about 30-40% of the players on the Cowboys' board. That's some good information to work with. In addition, by looking at which positions receive the most invitations, we can get a better idea about which positions the Dallas brain trust is honing in on - not that that's a big secret this year.
Since 2011, rabblerousr has done yeoman's work in putting the "Little Board" together year after year; with his departure, that duty fell to me. And like the Cowboys, I have whittled down the names of potential prospects. Only instead of 130 or so names, I have 51 names on my board, which you will find below. The trickiest part of this exercise is correctly slotting the players, and my guesses may well be quite a bit off from where the team has a given player slotted on its board. A note on the color codes:
Players in blue are official pre-draft invitees
Players in green are all the known players the Cowboys have had a private workout with
Players in yellow are "Dallas Day" participants that rank in the top 999 on the CBS Board
|QB||Jerod Evans||Seth Russell
|RB||Brian Hill||Aaron Jones||Jahad Thomas|
|WR||Curtis Samuel||Dontre Wilson|
|JuJu Smith- Schuster||Kendall Sanders|
|TE||Adam Shaheen||Bucky Hodges|
|DE||Derek Barnett||Tyus Bowser*||Tarell Basham||Daeshon Hall*||Chris Odom|
|Taco Charlton||T.J. Watt||Tanoh Kpassagnon|
|Takkarist McKinley||Derek Rivers|
|DT||Malik McDowell||Jeremiah Ledbetter|
|CB||Gareon Conley||Adoree' Jackson||Cordrea Tankersley||Damontae Kazee*||Shaquill Griffin||Treston Decoud*||Lenzy Pipkins|
|Kevin King||Quincy Wilson||Jalen Myrick||Brian Allen||Brendan Langley||Raheem Wilson|
|Tre'Davious White||Fabian Moreau|
|Chidobe Awuzie||Teez Tabor|
|S||Obi Melifonwu||Marcus Williams||Tedric Thompson||Xavier Woods||Money Hunter|
A few attendant thoughts.
Defense is the obvious target, to absolutely nobody's surprise. Stephen Jones recently called this year's draft class "inordinately strong" on defense and that the Cowboys will be focused on defense in this draft.
"There's no question,'' Jones said. "We think some of the best depth in the draft is the defensive line and the secondary in our view.
"Now let me be real clear. If a great offensive player shows up that's of great value to us, that doesn't mean we aren't going to pick an offensive player.
"But our focus is on defense.''
The list of players the Cowboys have shown interest in is a direct result of that focus.
The challenge of drafting at the bottom of each round. There are 19 players listed here as potential first- or second-round picks. But drafting at the bottom of each round means only a few, if any, of the players listed in each round will still be available at the bottom of each round. Of the ten players listed as first-round prospects, eight or more could be gone by the time the Cowboys are on the clock. And of the nine listed as second-rounders, all could be gone by pick No 60.
The Cowboys might be well advised to think of their picks not as the bottom picks in each round, but the top picks in the next round. Some might argue that this is just a glass half full versus half empty distinction, but it does change the discussion from having limited options at the bottom of the each round to having almost unlimited options at the top of the next round.
No linebackers: DannyPhantom already pointed out that there is not a single linebacker among the players the Cowboys have shown interest in. This may be a sign of confidence in the players they have, but if they don't draft a linebacker, the team would break an eight-year streak of drafting linebackers, as the last linebacker-free Cowboys draft was in 2008.
The color scheme: Notice how the Cowboys spent most of their official visits on day one and day two prospects (marked in blue). They supplemented those premium prospects with later round options they worked out privately (green), and then brought in a lot of potential college free agents for Dallas Day (yellow). Some of this is obviously by default (there simply aren't that many highly ranked prospects that qualify as Dallas Day candidates for example), but the color pattern also suggests a clear strategy.
Note that Taeshon Hall*, Tyus Bowser*, Damontae Kazee*, and Treston Decoud* were initially marked as official visitors, but it's looking increasingly like they were brought in for private visits instead of official visits.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, here are three mock based entirely on players from the little board above.
A Sparqling Secondary: The first mock goes secondary early and often and gets some of the top athletes in this draft (with their Sparq percentile rank relative to other players at their position in parenthesis):
Round 1 (28): CB Chidobe Awuzie (98.5)
Round 2 (60): S Marcus Williams(92.5)
Round 3 (92): DE Daeshon Hall (76.7)
Round 4 (133): CB Shaquill Griffin (94.9)
Round 6 (211): RB Aaron Jones(64.2)
Round 7 (228): QB Jerod Evans
Round 7 (246): CB Brendan Langley (58.9)
Pass rush: The Cowboys get a pass rusher in the first and then go heavy after the secondary:
Round 1 (28): DE Taco Charlton (56.0)
Round 2 (60): CB Fabian Moreau (98.5)
Round 3 (92): S Justin Evans (- -)
Round 4 (133): OT Julie'n Davenport (26.7)
Round 6 (211): DT Jeremiah Ledbetter (66.0)
Round 7 (228): CB Treston Decoud (2.7)
Round 7 (246): QB Seth Russell
Round 1 (28): S Obi Melifonwu (99)
Round 2 (60): DE Tarell Basham(56.9)
Round 3 (92): CB Damontae Kazee (17.9)
Round 4 (133): CB Jalen Myrick (88.8)
Round 6 (211): QB Seth Russell
Round 7 (228): RB Jahad Thomas (2.0)
Round 7 (246): CB Brendan Langley (58.9)
And there it is, folks, three possible scenarios (without trades!) for the way the Cowboys draft might unfold.
Happy NFL Christmas, everybody!
If you want to create your own draft board, create your mock draft, or simply want to argue where a prospect should be ranked, here are all the prospects listed above as well as where they rank on four different draft board: CBS (999 prospects), NFL.com (487), Optimum Scouting (300), and Gil Brandt (150). The table is sortable so you can sort the table to your heart's content (just click on the blue column headers):
|2017 Prospects with documented Cowboys interest|
|Derek Barnett||DE||Tennessee||8||21||35||16||Official Visit||25.4|
|Kevin King||CB||Washington||22||58||64||28||Official Visit||99.3|
|Malik McDowell||DT||Michigan State||23||17||76||45||Official Visit||46.0|
|Taco Charlton||DE||Michigan||24||12||32||42||Official Visit||56.0|
|Gareon Conley||CB||Ohio State||25||32||58||11||Official Visit||86.2|
|Chidobe Awuzie||CB||Colorado||28||53||90||32||Official Visit||97.2|
|Takkarist McKinley||DE||UCLA||29||18||25||24||Official Visit||33.1|
|Tre'Davious White||CB||LSU||33||33||16||30||Official Visit||11.5|
|Obi Melifonwu||S||Connecticut||35||73||48||68||Official Visit||99.0|
|Charles Harris||DE||Missouri||36||34||51||17||Official Visit||45.9|
|Tyus Bowser||DE||Houston||38||47||31||67||Official Visit||91.3|
|Marlon Humphrey||CB||Alabama||39||25||17||43||Official Visit||85.2|
|Adoree' Jackson||CB||USC||41||41||34||26||Official Visit||79.5|
|T.J. Watt||DE||Wisconsin||44||44||68||60||Official Visit||93.4|
|Curtis Samuel||WR||Ohio State||45||59||85||35||Official Visit||59.6|
|Quincy Wilson||CB||Florida||46||66||26||27||Official Visit||37.2|
|Adam Shaheen||TE||Ashland||49||52||258||119||Private WO||72.8|
|Marcus Williams||S||Utah||50||56||50||38||Official Visit||92.5|
|Cordrea Tankersley||CB||Clemson||51||74||80||120||Official Visit||26.5|
|Tarell Basham||DE||Ohio||57||92||79||126||Official Visit||56.9|
|Fabian Moreau||CB||UCLA||59||77||98||103||Official Visit||98.5|
|Teez Tabor||CB||Florida||66||80||22||65||Official Visit||10.8|
|Derek Rivers||DE||Youngstown St.||78||117||37||128||Official Visit||80.1|
|Jalen Myrick||CB||Minnesota||82||269||264||144||Private WO||88.8|
|JuJu Smith-Schuster||WR||USC||95||42||95||36||Official Visit||57.8|
|Daeshon Hall||DE||Texas A&M||104||113||43||57||Official Visit||76.7|
|Julie'n Davenport||OT||Bucknell||108||199||208||96||Private WO||26.7|
|Justin Evans||S||Texas A&M||110||54||27||53||Official Visit||- -|
|Shaquill Griffin||CB||Central Florida||113||167||137||93||Official Visit||94.9|
|Xavier Woods||S||Louisiana Tech||151||254||- -||- -||Official Visit||51.4|
|Tanoh Kpassagnon||DE||Villanova||158||100||153||95||Official Visit||66.9|
|Brian Hill||RB||Wyoming||160||159||179||80||Private WO||49.8|
|Bucky Hodges||TE||Virginia Tech||173||55||101||106||Private WO||94.5|
|Donnel Pumphrey||RB||S.D. State||174||208||167||129||Private WO||- -|
|Damontae Kazee||CB||San Diego State||175||97||86||- -||Private WO||17.9|
|Jeremiah Ledbetter||DT||Arkansas||201||195||247||- -||Private WO||66.0|
|Jerod Evans||QB||Virginia Tech||214||484||129||- -||Dallas Day||32.4|
|Aaron Jones||RB||UTEP||225||295||208||- -||Dallas Day||64.2|
|Tedric Thompson||S||Colorado||243||114||128||59||Official Visit||15.0|
|Brendan Langley||CB||Lamar||244||193||- -||- -||Private WO||58.9|
|Treston Decoud||CB||Oregon State||293||288||238||- -||Private WO||2.7|
|Seth Russell||QB||Baylor||302||485||254||- -||Dallas Day||- -|
|Jahad Thomas||RB||Temple||435||311||286||- -||Private WO||2.0|
|Dane Evans||QB||Tulsa||486||- -||- -||- -||Dallas Day||29.3|
|Chris Odom||DE||Arkansas State||518||- -||- -||- -||Dallas Day||4.3|
|Money Hunter||S||Arkansas State||589||- -||- -||- -||Dallas Day||- -|
|Dontre Wilson||WR||Ohio State||714||- -||- -||- -||Dallas Day||10.9|
|Skyler Howard||QB||West Virginia||753||- -||- -||- -||Dallas Day||- -|
|Kendall Sanders||WR||Arkansas State||796||- -||- -||- -||Dallas Day||14.5|
|Lenzy Pipkins||CB||Oklahoma State||870||- -||- -||- -||Dallas Day||9.6|
|Raheem Wilson||CB||S.E. Oklahoma||893||- -||- -||- -||Dallas Day||35.4|