The 2018 NFL Combine is history. For the top prospects this year (at least in the eyes of those who extended invites), the numbers and measurements are now part of the database to go along with the all-important video study. The only thing remaining are the invites to come visit, something that fans of the Dallas Cowboys know to watch closely.
The work now starts on building the draft board, in Dallas and the 31 other franchises. We never know in advance what those boards really look like (although some pesky blog has occasionally deciphered the Cowboys’ board after the fact). But there are myriad draft boards and mock drafts out there trying to predict how the draft will go. While some of these are going to be wildly inaccurate, and most will change a lot in the next several weeks, there are a group of names starting to emerge that may be of particular interest to Dallas when they go on the clock with pick 19 of the first round. Barring trades, of course, but we’ll leave that can of worms closed for a bit.
Based on a highly unscientific examination of a few draft boards and mocks, one thing that has been noted before is just being reinforced: There are going to be several players taken ahead of the Cowboys’ turn that are not at all in the picture for Dallas. It is generally accepted that at least four and possibly five quarterbacks will go in the first half of the first round. Now, RB Saquon Barkley has become part of the top five overall conversation after a stellar combine, and Derrius Guice is thought by some to have a chance to be a second RB taken in the top 20. Additionally, this is seen as a weak year for OTs, which ironically could push a team or two that really need help at tackle into pulling the trigger on one.
All three of those positions are unlikely to tempt the Cowboys into using their first round pick on, so if seven or eight of the earlier teams take those positions, it just pushes down players Dallas would want. If you start eliminating some of the players that are just seen as “certain to go” before 19, then the names that may be in range for the Cowboys gets a little clearer.
And it contains some really interesting options. Here, by position, are some names that may be available This is not a prediction of who will actually get a first-round grade from Dallas, but a chance to look at who the staff is going to study hard to see if they fit.
There are many who just don’t see the Cowboys going for yet another first round offensive lineman, but Stephen Jones, for one, has sounded like he is open to the idea. Everyone and their socially awkward uncle think that Quenton Nelson is a clear top ten pick, or very close, so he is out of the picture. That leaves two names that have already cropped up a lot here at BTB: Isaiah Wynn and Will Hernandez. There is a mixed opinion on who is the better option, and just how high either should be ranked. But both seem to check off a lot of boxes for Dallas. And adding either would seem to be an almost sure path back to the Cowboys having the best offensive line in the league.
Stephen Jones was a lot less positive about this option, but he did caveat things with his remarks about the team wanting 1-tech DTs with some 3-tech traits. The defensive line is one place where position flex actually works, since the ability to move players around complicates the problem for the opponent. There are two players ranked high on many boards that fit that description, Vita Vea and Da’Ron Payne. Many mocks show Vea being gone before 19 - but often just a spot or two before. And the reluctance to take a 1-tech in the first round is not unique to the Cowboys. Vea may well slip just far enough. Payne is seen by many as a consolation prize, but he is almost as impressive as Vea and helped his stock at the combine. Both are far more athletic than is common for nose tackles. If the Cowboys can only become more flexible, either could greatly improve the performance of the defensive line.
The Cowboys have franchise tagged DeMarcus Lawrence, ensuring them of one top pass rusher going into next season. But the rest of the pass rushing group is in question, especially with the fate of David Irving still to be determined. And you can never have too many quarterback hunters.
Throwing out Bradley Chubb, a consensus top five talent, there are several names that could still be available for Dallas. Marcus Davenport is one, although Dallas may feel he may have too many questions concerning just how ready he is for the NFL. Arden Key is another EDGE that some are very high on, while others have him down in the second round. There are also widely varying views of Harold Landry. One player who does get widely mentioned as a mid-to-late first-round talent is Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. The Cowboys have some very specific things they look for in DEs, so if one of these players fits their profile, they may have him as a possibility.
Derwin James blew up the Combine, and some now have him as a top five pick. But one thing to remember is that those flashy numbers are best used as a secondary factor. Video evidence should always trump everything else, and Combine results should be used as a confirmation of what you see in the video, or a flag to go back and take another look if they don’t seem to align. While James is rocketing up those boards, that is no guarantee that teams are coming to the same conclusions. There is a chance he could slide in range for Dallas. It may be slim, but it is still not out of the realm of possibility.
If he is around at 19, and the Cowboys haven’t come up with a fix for safety in free agency or a trade (say, the Seahawks are just blowing a little smoke about keeping Earl Thomas), he may be too valuable to pass up. Things get a bit sketchy at safety after him.
There is one name that keeps showing up in mocks at or near 19: Tremaine Edmunds. He is a true freak of an athlete, whose video and Combine numbers really match up. He may go several picks before the Cowboys - but he may not, and could be the best option for them.
This is not a favorite idea of mine, since the draft looks deep at wide receiver. But if a wideout is the best player left on their board when they go on the clock, it would be a bit hard to criticize them for sending that card up. The names that could be on their board are many, including Calvin Ridley (who may slide after some meh Combine performances), Courtland Sutton, James Washington, and Marcell Ateman, all of whom get mentioned as first-round talents. (Sorry, Christian Kirk and Michael Gallup fans, but they seem destined for day two of the draft.) If the team is looking seriously for a WR in round one, they may have more than one to pick from.
This is similar to the offensive line situation, after the Cowboys did so well with Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis last season. But it is another place you really can’t have too much talent. Denzel Ward, Joshua Jackson, and Isaiah Oliver are three names that are generally considered to be first-round talent.
That is a list of names that seem to be in the right range, although some of them are almost certainly going to be gone. The thing is, that is seventeen names. If the predictions on QB, RB, and OT are correct, that means something like six or seven of the suggestions here have to be still there for the Cowboys to consider. Now, their staff may not like any of the remaining options enough to want to use a first round pick. But if they don’t trade back, it looks like there is going to be a quality player around for the Cowboys.
So who’s your favorite? Or do you think you can out-scout the various sites and come up with your own player to take at 19? Let us know in the comments.