The first-round pick brings with it such great responsibility as it’s every team’s best chance to grab one of the more talented players in a draft class. Landing a successful pick can make a huge difference in determining the direction of a franchise. We’ve seen a couple divisional foes go all-in to trade up for a franchise quarterback in recent years with contrasting results. The Washington Redskins flamed out with their heavy investment into Robert Griffin III, whereas the Philadelphia Eagles scored big with Carson Wentz.
The Cowboy paid a costly price for the misfire of Morris Claiborne, which has made them less likely to forgo quality draft capital in order to go after that one special guy. Instead, they have shown patience and just try to find that special player with their original draft pick. Making a good selection could be the difference in making the playoffs or sitting it out. You don’t have to convince Cowboys fans of this as they’ve watched their team select two All-Pro’s over the last four drafts (Zack Martin, 2014 and Ezekiel Elliott, 2016) which conveniently coincides with their two NFC East division titles in that span.
When the Cowboys are on the clock in the first round there are going to be some popular choices still available, many of which we’ve talked about extensively in the BTB community. We all have our favorites, but which candidate is the most probable sure-fire, can’t-miss prospect? In order to evaluate this from a less optimistic angle, I’ve called upon my fictitious alter-ego and licensed buzz killer, Phantom Menace, to help explain why each of them could be a bad pick.
Danny Phantom: Vita Vea was my favorite potential draft target a couple months ago and he’s still my favorite now. The idea of putting him in the trenches next to DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving, and Maliek Collins makes me start visualizing a dominating defensive line. If he makes it to 19, he’s the no-brainer pick, right?
Phantom Menace: Absolutely. No-brainer pick... as in, you don’t have a brain if you pick him. It’s not that Vea isn’t a great player. He is. It’s just that spending such high draft resources on a player whose primary job is to just to absorb blocks so that other defenders can make plays isn’t sensible. There are several big bodied 1-tech defensive tackles spread out throughout the draft. Be patient and take one later. You gotta come up big in the first round and that doesn’t mean taking a 300+ pound prospect who could end up being just a two-down player.
The last time the Cowboys took a DT in the first round was in 1991. There are a lot of people reading this right now who weren’t even born yet. And when they were considering it in 2013 with Shariff Floyd, all hell broke loose in the war room and it cost people their job titles. Vea is a fine player, but they can do better.
Danny Phantom: Calvin Ridley is the last of 14 first-round-graded players on my board. There is no secret that the team is trying to revamp their wide receiver group. Wouldn’t it make sense to take the top WR in this draft is he is still available at 19?
Phantom Menance: I want you to try a little math experiment. Think of a number between 1-100, now add how many cars you have parked out on your lawn, subtract the number of stray cats your wife has nursed back to health over the last year which you now own, and then multiply that by zero. You know what you get? You get the number of touchdowns that all of last year’s first round WRs had in 2017 combined.
My issue isn’t with Ridley, although he has his own warts just like any draft prospect does. He’s a little lean and could get pushed around by the much more physical corners at the next level, which has some scouts question whether or not he’ll have the toughness to hold up in the NFL. That’s not something you want to hear considering how each one of last year’s rookie receivers missed at least five games due to injuries. The real issue is the uncertainty of how a college receiver transitions into the NFL. I’d rather look for players like JuJu Schuster-Smith, Michael Thomas, or Jarvis Landry - all of which have been selected on Day 2 over the last few drafts. If you’re going to gamble with drafting a WR, why not do it with a less expensive draft resource. There are plenty of targets I’d be happy with taking after the first round of the draft.
Does Ridley blow you away with his playmaking ability? If the answer is no, then he shouldn’t be in the conversation for first-round consideration.
Danny Phantom: Some people are suggesting to take a serious look at linebacker in the first round. A player like Leighton Vander Esch has surfaced as a potential pick at 19. Do you think it is reasonable to consider him in the first round?
Phantom Menace: Did you know that linebacker Bobby Carpenter was selected at pick 18 in the draft? Did you know that he was 6’3” 255 lbs, which is almost the same size of Vander Esch? Did you know that both Carpenter and Vander Esch ran the exact 40 (4.65 seconds) and 3-cone drill time (6.88 seconds)? Eerie, eh? Oh, one more - did you know that Carpenter was one of the biggest first-round busts this team has ever had?
Strangely, those similarities aren’t what bothers me the most. If the Cowboys drafted a linebacker in the first round it would alarm me for reasons that have nothing to do with the player himself. It would tell me that they have their own reservations about Jaylon Smith. Why else would they invest such a premium draft pick for a third LB next to Sean Lee and Smith on a team that plays most of their snaps with only two linebackers on the field? And then to top it off, you select that player by reaching for him in the draft. That just adds insult to injury.
If the Cowboys want to just fess up and say, “hey, we messed up, Jaylon’s not going to be what we hoped for so we need a mulligan here” then fine - take a linebacker early. But at least try to drive yourself somewhere in the draft where you are taking him at the right spot. Drafting one of the second-round graded linebackers at 19 is drafting for need and that goes against everything this front office has been preaching about.
Danny Phantom: The more I think about it, the more I feel that taking another offensive linemen is the safest pick to make. With Isaiah Wynn and Will Hernandez both solid choices to help restore the dominance of the offensive line, is that the right move?
Phantom Menace: I think of the Cowboys offensive line as tug-of-war champions who on most days can pull the opposition into submission. You need a strong group to accomplish that, but does that mean every single cog in the wheel needs to be top-tier talent? The Cowboys can find a quality fifth member without having to invest another first-round resource. How many games will a first-round guard help you win versus a talented player at another position whose value will be much more utilized?
Another thing I don’t like about overloading the entire position group with top-notch talent is that it eliminates the opportunity to even consider a player at that position for years to come. What if another quality guard is the hands-down top player on their board in the second or third round? Or even in those same rounds next year? They would have to pass him up because they can’t invest a pick like that into a player who is going to be buried on the depth chart behind top-grade talent. Spread out the talent so a players upside can really be felt.
So, what do you think? Are there any arguments made that resonate with you? Let us know in the comments which potential prospect scares you the most in the first round.