clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Cowboys 2018 draft : A “Little Board” and four full-round mock drafts

New, comments

Four mock drafts based on a “little board” made up entirely of draft prospects the Cowboys have worked out or have brought to Dallas for a visit.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Every year since 2011 we've built a draft board here on Blogging The Boys 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.

We know that the Cowboys traditionally whittle down the 450 or so draft-eligible players to roughly 130-150 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.

This year, we've whittled down the names of potential prospects to 54 by listing the Cowboys' official Top 30 visitors, players who had private workouts with the Cowboys, and prospects that were invited to Dallas Day. We limited the names to players listed on NFLDraftScouts' Top 500 board.

A note on the color codes in the “Little Board” below:

  • Players in blue are official Top 30 invitees.
  • Players in green are all the known players the Cowboys have had a private workout with.
  • Players in yellow are “Dallas Day” participants.
Rd 1 Rd 2 Rd 3 Rd 4 Rd 5 Rd 6-7 FA
OFFENSE
RB Nyheim Hines Dimitri Flowers Ito Smith Chris Warren
WR Calvin Ridley Christian Kirk DaeSean Hamilton Antonio Callaway Davon Grayson
D.J. Moore James Washington Tre'Quan Smith Daurice Fountain Trey Quinn
D.J. Chark Michael Gallup
TE David Wells
OL James Daniels Kolton Miller Cole Madison Desmond Harrison Maea Teuhema
Mike McGlinchey Austin Corbett Matt Pryor
Will Hernandez Braden Smith Brad Lundblade
Connor Williams Patrick Morris
DEFENSE
CB Ranthony Texada
DE Harold Landry Arden Key Breeland Speaks Justin Lawler Sione Teuhema
DT Vita Vea Nathan Shepherd
Da'Ron Payne
Taven Bryan
LB Leighton Vander Esch Malik Jefferson Darius Leonard Travin Howard
Rashaan Evans Fred Warner C.J. Johnson
S Terrell Edmunds Tarvarius Moore Tracy Walker Nick Orr
Kyzir White DeShon Elliott Joshua Kalu

The trickiest part of this exercise is correctly slotting the players, and our guesses may well be quite a bit off from where the team has a given player slotted on its board. But so be it.

A few attendant thoughts.

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.

No corners and no quarterbacks: Outside of Dallas Day participant Ranthony Texada out of TCU, the Cowboys did not show interest in any cornerbacks this year. Same thing goes for QBs: Despite announcing that they are looking for a third QB, the Cowboys haven't shown any interest in QBs so far.

Too many priorities, not enough picks. Last year, the Cowboys broke an eight-year streak of drafting at least one linebacker in the draft when they didn't take a single linebacker. That wont happen this year, as they'll likely double-dip at the position.

But linebacker is just one of four priority positions. If the table above is even directionally right, the Cowboys are looking at taking a linebacker in the first three rounds. Leighton Vander Esch and Rashaan Evans are likely first-round picks, Malik Jefferson is projected to go in round two, Darius Leonard and Fred Warner will likely get drafted in round three. Apart from two likely college free agents who came in for Dallas Day, that's it in terms of the linebackers the Cowboys have shown interest in. Does that mean the Cowboys will draft a linebacker with one of their first three picks? Perhaps.

Judging by the distribution of names and colors in the table above, the Cowboys have three additional priority positions that they'd like to address with the first three picks: Offensive line, defensive line, and wide receiver. With three picks and four priority positions, something has got to give. Which position will it be?

There's a good chance the Cowboys could look to package some of their Day Three picks to move back into the third round (or at least to the top of the fourth), as there's a definite benefit in addressing your four key needs in the top 100 picks. An equally likely scenario is that the Cowboys could look to trade down and gain an extra Top 100 pick.

As an aside, this three-picks-but-four-priorities conundrum is a key reason why most Cowboys mock drafts don't feel quite right this year - almost all of them fail to address at least one key priority position. And it's also a reason why many fans and observers will downgrade the actual Cowboys draft in two weeks: The Cowboys will almost certainly fail to address at least one, and possibly even two, of the four priorities in the first three rounds.

Safeties late? In contrast to the four priority positions, it appears the Cowboys could be looking for a safety on day three, or at least they haven't invited any safeties that are projected for the first or second round.

But it doesn't make life during the draft much easier. If the Cowboys take a safety in round three, that will almost certainly come at the expense of one of the four priority positions.


Taking all of these factors into consideration, here are four Cowboys mock drafts from our writers based entirely on players from the little board above. There's a poll at the bottom of this post where you can vote on which mock you like the best.

Dave & OCC: Finding the All-Sparq.

The objective here is to find the hidden gems in this draft - players with above average athleticism and, where possible, a track record of above average production. This mock double-dips on the defensive line with the top two picks, and then addresses the remaining priorities later in the draft, with WR and OL getting less priority than many observers expect. All players have their Sparq percentile rank relative to other players at their position included in parenthesis):

Round 1 (19): DE Harold Landry (87.1)

Round 2 (50): DT Nathan Shepherd (64.7)

Round 3 (81): LB Darius Leonard (- -)

Round 4 (116): S Tarvarius Moore (ca. 87)

Round 4 (137): WR Antonio Callaway (61.5)

Round 5 (171): RB Ito Smith (- -)

Round 6 (192): OT Desmond Harrison (- -)

Round 6 (193): OC Matt Pryor (- -)

Round 6 (208): S Joshua Kalu (95.6)

Round 7 (236): LB Travin Howard (- -)


Tom Ryle: Games are won in the trenches.

My strategy reflects my position since January - go OL/DT as the top two priorities. I am strictly opposed to taking a WR in the top 2 rounds. After pick 50, Warner and Moore were the best values for the team in their rounds, and Fountain brought in a WR. After that, it was strictly looking for what seemed the best fits. Smith looks very solid at his spot, and I double dipped at safety because I think they need numbers there more than any other position. Plus thee are no QBs on the list to look for a developmental/camp arm.

Round 1 (19): OG Will Hernandez (66.1)

Round 2 (50): DT Nathan Shepherd (64.7)

Round 3 (81): LB Fred Warner (80.4)

Round 4 (116): S Tarvarius Moore (ca. 87)

Round 4 (137): WR Daurice Fountain (- -)

Round 5 (171): OT Cole Madison (13.5)

Round 6 (192): RB Ito Smith (- -)

Round 6 (193): S Tracy Walker (28.2)

Round 6 (208): TE David Wells (22.9)

Round 7 (236): DE Justin Lawler (- -)


Danny Phantom: Linemen galore!

Danny takes five linemen (4 OL, 1 DL) at both ends of the mock and adds two wide receivers in the middle.

If you subscribe to the idea of this “wide receiver movement” that consists of a complete overhaul to the position group, then the team could benefit by taking advantage of the upside offered by Kirk and Callaway.

You’re getting a lot more than just a burner with Christian Kirk. The former Aggies receiver is shifty out of his breaks and reaches his top speed quickly. He’s going to be a threat any time the ball finds his hands. Kirk is a high character guy that any coach would love to have.

Callaway on the other hand has heavy character red-flags, but the team invested an official 30 visit in him so it will be interesting to find out what conclusions they come to. One thing is for certain – his skills as a receiver make him a steal at this point in the draft.

And if you’re keeping score at home, you'll notice that I have four offensive linemen in this mock. The Cowboys missed out on some talented offensive linemen early in the draft, but capitalize by grabbing some nice talent that falls to them late. The Cowboys are throwing all kinds of darts at this position in hopes of finding a couple of players who'll stick and can give them some depth along the offensive line.

Round 1 (19): DT Vita Vea (- -)

Round 2 (50): WR Christian Kirk (31.0)

Round 3 (81): LB Darius Leonard (- -)

Round 4 (116): S Tarvarius Moore (ca. 87)

Round 4 (137): WR Antonio Callaway (61.5)

Round 5 (171): OT Cole Madison (13.5)

Round 6 (192): OT Desmond Harrison (- -)

Round 6 (193): RB Ito Smith (- -)

Round 6 (208): OC Matt Pryor (- -)

Round 7 (236): OG Patrick Morris (- -)


Michael Sisemore: How to make Rod Marinelli happy.

There are not a lot of players that I think Rod Marinelli would stand on a table for, Taven Bryan seems like one of them. I’ve long been a proponent of getting a WR in the second round, Kirk will give them someone that creates his own separation. The Cowboys are looking for a potential starting linebacker and Warner is certainly that. Moore is an interesting guy because I believe he can compete for the starting free safety position immediately. I double up on receiver here with the privilege to add a talent like Fountain. Guard didn’t fall as some may wish but Madison can compete with Marcus Martin and we doubled up by grabbing the troubled but talented Desmond Harrison in the sixth. To close out, let’s add a hard-hitting safety to the depth chart. The Cowboys need a shifty back with explosion and Ito Smith will fit. Justin Lawler is added depth for a churning pass rush rotation.

Round 1 (19): DT Taven Bryan (97.1)

Round 2 (50): WR Christian Kirk (31.0)

Round 3 (81): LB Fred Warner (80.4)

Round 4 (116): S Tarvarius Moore (ca. 87)

Round 4 (137): WR Daurice Fountain (- -)

Round 5 (171): OT Cole Madison (13.5)

Round 6 (192): OT Desmond Harrison (- -)

Round 6 (193): S Tracy Walker (28.2)

Round 6 (208): RB Ito Smith (- -)

Round 7 (236): DE Justin Lawler (- -)

And there it is, folks, four possible scenarios (no trades allowed!) for the way the Cowboys draft might unfold.

Happy NFL Christmas, everybody!


Here's a summary of the four mocks. Let us know in the poll and comments below which one you like the most or hate the least.

Dave & OCC Tom Ryle Danny Phantom Michael Siesmore
Round 1 (19) DE Harold Landry OG Will Hernandez DT Vita Vea DT Taven Bryan
Round 2 (50) DT Nathan Shepherd DT Nathan Shepherd WR Christian Kirk WR Christian Kirk
Round 3 (81) LB Darius Leonard LB Fred Warner LB Darius Leonard LB Fred Warner
Round 4 (116) S Tarvarius Moore S Tarvarius Moore S Tarvarius Moore S Tarvarius Moore
Round 4 (137) WR Antonio Callaway WR Daurice Fountain WR Antonio Callaway WR Daurice Fountain
Round 5 (171) RB Ito Smith OT Cole Madison OT Cole Madison OT Cole Madison
Round 6 (192) OT Desmond Harrison RB Ito Smith OT Desmond Harrison OT Desmond Harrison
Round 6 (193) OC Matt Pryor S Tracy Walker RB Ito Smith S Tracy Walker
Round 6 (208) S Joshua Kalu TE David Wells OC Matt Pryor RB Ito Smith
Round 7 (236) LB Travin Howard DE Justin Lawler Patrick Morris DE Justin Lawler

Poll

Which mock draft do you like the most?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Dave & OCC
    (221 votes)
  • 38%
    Tom Ryle
    (614 votes)
  • 38%
    Danny Phantom
    (619 votes)
  • 8%
    Michael Sisemore
    (141 votes)
1595 votes total Vote Now