It’s fun watching film, reading draft profiles, and checking out the pre-draft visitors as we eagerly attempt to guess the players the Cowboys will draft in 2017. Over the course of the time you start checking out prospects, to the days leading up to the draft, your favorite target is likely to change. That’s what we do - we change our minds. The player you loved in early April isn’t necessarily the one you love at the end of the month. Love at first sight starts to die down and eventually you find a new crush.
Here are my first loves and new flames over the last five years:
This was my first year doing extensive research of potential draft prospects. At the time, Tyron Smith was only the piece to the new great wall and adding another strong fixture would help the offensive line. David DeCastro had great agility and strength, but the real sell on him was how polished he was as a blocker. Melvin Ingram had great athleticism for a player his size and would’ve given DeMarcus Ware a partner in crime on the edge.
Why the change of heart? Watching Ingram take a fake punt for a touchdown is what put me over the top. His entire tape screamed athleticism and that was the final straw.
Actual pick: The Cowboys traded up to select Morris Claiborne. I learned a valuable lesson that day. Countless hours of draft preparation can be tossed in the garbage in a matter of seconds.
The Cowboys needed help at safety and Eric Reid was the best safety in the draft. He had the speed to cover receivers and strength to lay the wood on ball carriers. Star Lotulelei was an a standout defensive tackle that could get off the snap quickly. He had the power to bull rush his blockers.
Why the change of heart? I started developing an affinity towards winning in the trenches and spending a mid-first round resource on a lineman pushed Star ahead of Reid.
Actual pick: Once again, the Cowboys traded out of their spot and selected Travis Frederick with the 31st overall pick. Initially, this decision was met with criticism as draft experts claimed the Cowboys front office reached. While some might have regretted passing on Reid at first as he made the Pro Bowl his rookie season, it is Frederick that’s made it there ever since and is now an All Pro center.
In 2014, my very first pet cat was Ra’Shede Hageman, the defensive tackle from Minnesota. But it was that year that I started wising up to the connection between the players the Cowboys pick and pre-draft visitors. The selection of Frederick the previous year seem to come out of left field, but he would have at least been on my radar had I paid more attention to the players the team met with. Aaron Donald was the clear favorite that year not just by me, but many fans here at BTB. In fact, we had a good idea that he wouldn’t make it to pick 16 and some wanted the Cowboys to trade up to get him. Zack Martin wasn’t a player that got fans excited, but he was another talented trench player and would do wonders in revamping the offensive line.
Why the change of heart? It wasn’t really a change of heart as it was a change of mind. Donald wasn’t going to make it so it was just a matter of finding the most talented player left and that player was Martin.
Actual pick: Zack Martin. There was a big moment of celebration at my draft party when his name was called. It wasn’t because Martin was loved so much, but rather because Johnny Manziel’s name wasn’t called. Even though I didn’t think Johnny Football would be the Cowboys choice, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t tense up a bit.
Picking at the end of the draft meant that you’d have to come to terms that a lot of your favorites would be gone. While the pass rushing prospect from Kentucky, Alvin “Bud” Dupree, was a favorite target as well, the chances of him making it wasn’t very good. Sure enough, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected him 22nd overall, five spots before the Cowboys picked. My sights became set on guys that were expected to still be there at pick 27.
Why the change of heart? Became fascinated with SPARQ and just fell in love with the athleticism of Byron Jones. Man, that kid could fly through the air.
Actual pick: Byron Jones. The Huskies defensive back checked off a lot of boxes for the Cowboys. Besides exhibiting great athleticism, he was a team captain and locker room leader. His football IQ was impressive as he showed great instincts on the field. And it didn’t hurt that he filled a big need in the secondary.
After acquiring a solid player in Jones the previous year near the end of the first round, the Cowboys had a chance to get a special one near the top. And again, it looked like the stars were aligning to take another defensive back. Similar to Jones, Jalen Ramsey was another corner/safety hybrid type player. With the expiring contracts of Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr coming up the following year, Ramsey filled a greater need for the defense.
Why the change of heart? Ezekiel Elliott is just a special player. A player of that caliber could really maximize the skills of the Cowboys offensive line and would take a lot of pressure off of Tony Romo as defenses would have to start planning for him.
Actual pick: Zeke. It was my favorite draft day moment. I went ballistic. It’s fun when your guy gets picked, but it’s even more fun when he ends up with a rookie season of close to 2,000 scrimmage yards and taking it to the house 16 times.
For those keeping track at home, that’s three straight years of correctly predicting the Cowboys pick and I now put that streak on the line with this year’s final selection.
There are so many good players to like in this draft and it’s really difficult to know who’s going to still be available when pick 28 rolls around. The edge rusher from UCLA, Takkarist McKinley has been my favorite draft target for quite some time now and my love for him has grown so strong that I’m convinced he will be picked before the Cowboys are up.
Why the change of heart? Takk’s still my favorite, but he’ll be someone else’s favorite too and get snatched up. It would be real easy for the Cowboys to shift their attention to cornerback at this point, but over the last couple months we’ve seen three of them drop off the board. First, there were injuries to Washington’s Sidney Jones followed by UCLA’s Fabian Moreau. And now, one of the best remaining corners, Gareon Conley, is being investigated for sexual assault. This stroke of misfortune has dried up the first round tier of cornerbacks. While both Washington’s Kevin King and USC’s Adoree Jackson are explosive athletes, they are not quite at the level to jump ahead of the board’s top remaining pass rusher, Charles Harris.
Earlier in the month, I explained why Harris could be a sneaky good pick in the first round.
Harris possesses a lot of great edge rushing qualities. As far as get-off speed, he is lightening quick and offers up that great first-step Rod Marinelli looks for. He’s a missile off the line of scrimmage and maintains great balance throughout the rush. He doesn’t allow himself to be pushed to the ground despite making sharp turns and being in compromising angles. He can tear up interior linemen and has a great spin move that allows him to burst inside. His fundamentals are first rate and he has an arsenal of pass rushing moves. He’s one of the most NFL ready edge rushers in the draft.
He’s a player that can be a force on the edge and the Cowboys are still shopping for that.
Actual pick: Coming Thursday.
That’s it. That’s my last minute selection. Who was your pick early on and who is your pick now?