clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cowboys 2017 Draft : A "Little Board" And Three Pre-Draft Mocks

We contruct a "little board" made up entirely of draft prospects the Cowboys have worked out or have brought to Dallas for a visit - and then we create three mock drafts based on it.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

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 Cowboys brought in for official pre-draft visits in recent years, we see a 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.

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

1 2 3 4 5 6/7 FA
QB Jerod Evans Seth Russell
Dane Evans
Skyler Howard
RB Brian Hill Aaron Jones Jahad Thomas
Donnell Pumphrey
WR Curtis Samuel Dontre Wilson
JuJu Smith- Schuster Kendall Sanders
TE Adam Shaheen Bucky Hodges
OT Julie'n Davenport
DE Derek Barnett Tyus Bowser* Tarell Basham Daeshon Hall* Chris Odom
Taco Charlton T.J. Watt Tanoh Kpassagnon
Takkarist McKinley Derek Rivers
Charles Harris
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
Marlon Humphrey
S Obi Melifonwu Marcus Williams Tedric Thompson Xavier Woods Money Hunter
Justin Evans

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

Safety first!

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), (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
Player POS School CBS
NFL O.S. Brandt Status Sparq %
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

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys