When the Cowboys are on the clock in Day 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft, the hope is that a player with a first-round grade is still available. While that usually is a short list that equates to approximately 14 or so players, it’s going to come down to the wire whether or not one of their guys are still on the board when they pick. And even if they are, they also have to play a position that improves the squad. Last year, it was rumored that the Cowboys had one player remaining on their board with a first-round grade when they were up, but passed him up. Running back Dalvin Cook was rated high on their board, but the Cowboys already had Ezekiel Elliott so they opted to take a top player from their second-round board in Taco Charlton. So if the Cowboys have a first-round grade on Baker Mayfield, it’s not likely the team would turn in his card with Dak Prescott firmly planted as the team’s quarterback.
So not only are the Cowboys hoping a top guy falls, but they are also hoping he can step in and immediately provide a boost to this team. Most fans have conceded that the super-talented Derwin James won’t be available at 19. Defensive tackle Vita Vea is another “finger’s crossed” guy, but he also stands a good chance to be scooped up before the Cowboys pick.
Is there any of the first-round graded guys who can make it to Dallas? Dane Brugler recently did a complete 7-round mock for the Cowboys and it was surprising to see who was there at 19.
1 (19) - Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Talking with scouts at the combine, I would put the odds at 50-50 that Ridley will be available for the Cowboys at pick No. 19. The top three on the Dallas wide receiver depth chart (Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley) hasn’t changed the last five years and the position is overdue for an upgrade. Ridley can be a starter from Day 1, and his presence will provide immediate relief for Dak Prescott.
Ridley is a great talent, who not only has great speed, but is an exceptional route runner. Fans disappointed with a “limited” arsenal of routes would be happy to hear they would get the full tree with Ridley. The Crimson Tide were a run-heavy team so his numbers don’t do him justice and he’s not that big at just 6’0” 189 pounds, but he gets great separation and would give Prescott another huge weapon in the offense.
Is this a good use of their first pick? Well, first off - the fact that Ridley has fallen could be a result of another Cowboys target being taken off the board. There could be a gap in talent between Ridley and the next most enticing candidate. If you’re taking players based on pure talent, Ridley could win by default.
If the Cowboys front office are genuinely concerned about the future of Dez Bryant, they could be proactive and draft his replacement. This would give them some flexibility with how they want to proceed with Bryant and his contract. Maybe the Cowboys just roll with two really talented receivers or maybe Dez becomes a cap casualty sometime in the near future. Ridley would be under contract for four years at a much cheaper price.
The Cowboys may feel they can get a good wide receiver later in the draft. It’s a deep class and there should be a handful of appealing choices in each of the first few rounds who could come in and add strength to the receiving group. Maybe they could maximize their draft haul better by going a different route in the first round and taking a WR later?
Brugler would also talk about his performance at the combine:
”He didn’t have the best jumps, the vertical and the broad. But when you look at this game and what he does best his strength is the play-speed, the route running and the ability to get open. That matches what he did in the 4.43 40-yard dash and his under sub-7 3-cone drills. So, for me, his workout matched exactly what I saw on the tape and exactly why I believe he’s the top wide receiver this year and why he should be in consideration at No. 19 for the Cowboys.”
And he expressed his concern with Ridley’s size:
”The biggest worry with him is, the number at the combine that was most important was the weight. At 189 pounds, that’s really the biggest concern for me. Going over the middle, taking a big hit along the sidelines, just being able to hold up with the durability over a 16-game schedule for the next however many years, that would be my biggest worry with Calvin Ridley.
Recently, drafting wide receivers seems like risky business. It’s so hard to gauge how these players transition from their college team to their new team in the NFL. Last year, there were three receivers drafted in the top 10 of the draft - Corey Davis (5th overall), Mike Williams (7th overall), and John Ross (9th overall). Many people thought they were going to be exceptional talents in the NFL, but so far - they’re off to a rocky start. They all had a collective total of zero touchdown receptions last season. And it wasn’t just last year where they’ve underperformed. If you go back over the last three drafts, you’re going to find a great deal of teams disappointed with their first-round WR investments. That’s not to say all first-round wideouts are like that, but it’s something to be mindful of. How much of a sure bet is Ridley versus, say a player like Will Hernandez who is essentially guaranteed to help make this team better?
Does that mean the Cowboys should take a second-round graded guard before one of the blue-chip players in the draft? No, it shouldn’t.
Ridley’s a great talent and unless you believe otherwise - he’s the easy pick at 19 if he’s available. And if Brugler’s prediction is correct, he’s a coin flip away from being an option for the Cowboys in April.
If Ridley is there at 19, do you hope the Cowboys draft him?