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Where are the draft day sweet spots for the Cowboys needs?

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When is the right time for the Cowboys to pull the trigger on certain positions?

NFL: 2017 NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft is but two weeks and change away but it’s still hard to predict what will happen even if we’ve seen mock draft after mock draft throughout this long process. Lately, I’ve been consumed with determining where the sweet spots are in this year’s draft as it pertains to the positions of need for the Cowboys.

In this day and age of football, teams will look for the “best available at a position of interest” more often than not. That doesn’t mean that if a really good player falls in the Cowboys lap that they won’t take them. For instance, if say cornerback Denzel Ward gets pushed down because of teams going after quarterbacks, it would be hard to see Dallas pass even if they’re somewhat satisfied with their room right now.

So, here’s looking at the positions of need for the Cowboys in no particular order: offensive guard, defensive tackle, safety, linebacker, wide receiver, and even running back. Based off NFL Draft Scout’s prospect rankings, where Dane Brugler publishes his works, where are the perceived best spots for the Cowboys to attack these needs?

We decided to make charts for each position of guys that could be of interest to the Dallas Cowboys, (note: prospects with a star denote Pre-Draft, private workouts, or Dallas Day visits):

Offensive Guard

DS Rank Name School Proj. Round
3 Quenton Nelson OG, Notre Dame 1
18 *James Daniels C, Iowa 1
23 *Will Hernandez OG, Texas-El Paso 1
24 *Connor Williams OT, Texas 1
27 Isaiah Wynn OG, Georgia 1
42 Billy Price C, Ohio State 2
56 Austin Corbett OG, Nevada 2
84 Braden Smith OG, Auburn 2-3
108 Wyatt Teller OG, Virginia Tech 3-4
134 Sean Welsh OG, Iowa 4
147 Skyler Phillips OG, Idaho State 4-5
165 Taylor Hearn OG, Clemson 5
172 *Cole Madison OG, Washington State 5

Sweet Spot for Cowboys at LG: First Round

The Cowboys will or have completed visits with Will Hernandez, Connor Williams, and James Daniels. Dallas will love the position flex associated with Williams and Daniels but they aren’t the only guys that should be considered at 19. Those calling for a guard early have a substantial point because outside of Quenton Nelson, they will likely have their pick of some day one starters.

Personally, the starting potential for these prospects drops off significantly after Austin Corbett. Taking a guard at 19 may not be the most exciting pick but it’s probably one of the more valuable options. The Cowboys would be taking a guy that is a plug-and-play starter at a weaker position, at a decent price for 4-5 years.

Wide Receiver

DS Rank Name School Proj. Round
16 *Calvin Ridley WR, Alabama 1
29 *DJ Moore WR, Maryland 1-2
32 *Christian Kirk WR, Texas AM 1-2
38 DJ Chark WR, LSU 1-2
53 *Courtland Sutton WR, Southern Methodist 2
60 Anthony Miller WR, Memphis 2
64 Equanimeous St. Brown WR, Notre Dame 2
70 *James Washington WR, Oklahoma State 2-3
80 Dante Pettis WR, Washington 2-3
88 Deon Cain WR, Clemson 3
95 Michael Gallup WR, Colorado State 3
99 DaeSean Hamilton WR, Penn State 3
106 *TreQuan Smith WR, Central Florida 3-4
136 *Antonio Callaway WR, Florida 4
151 Deontay Burnett WR, Southern California 4-5
161 *Trey Quinn WR, Southern Methodist 5
196 *Daurice Fountain WR, Northern Iowa 5-6

Sweet Spot for Cowboys at WR: Second Round

Even though the Cowboys have addressed this position in free agency, it’s not going to stop them from looking early for a receiver and the second round is a prime spot. Nine receivers in the chart above have either been a pre-draft visit, Dallas day prospect, or took part in a private workout with the Cowboys. They are not done at receiver and quite a few great options that can immediately help on offense will be there on day two. There are some decent options in the third or fourth round but the Cowboys would be wise to get involved early if a run at the position starts.

Defensive Tackle

DS Rank Name School Proj. Round
10 *Vita Vea DT, Washington 1
14 *DaRon Payne DT, Alabama 1
25 *Taven Bryan DT, Florida 1
47 Harrison Phillips DT, Stanford 2
55 Nathan Shepherd DT, Fort Hays State 2
79 Trenton Thompson DT, Georgia 2-3
91 Tim Settle DT, Virginia Tech 3
98 Deadrin Senat DT, South Florida 3
100 Derrick Nnadi DT, Florida State 3
139 Folorunso Fatukasi DT, Connecticut 4-5
175 Justin Jones DT, North Carolina State 5-6
199 Poona Ford DT, Texas 6
226 P. J. Hall DT, Sam Houston State 6-7
265 Lowell Lotulelei DT, Utah 7-FA

Sweet Spot for Cowboys at DT: Third Round

Keep in mind, these are just projections of guys that Dallas could be interested in but it’s telling that the guys that they have visited with are all first-round guys. They had a private workout with Nathan Shepherd too, who is projected in the second. This tackle class is seemingly pretty deep where Brugler has stated someone like Poona Ford in the sixth round, has a good shot at starting with a team early.

The spot for the Cowboys is in that third round though where there are four guys in their range. These four guys are all good fits at the one but they do have pass rush ability which is a preference for the Cowboys. Tim Settle and Deadrin Senat are two guys to keep an eye on as they were very productive catalysts in their respective college defenses.

Linebacker

DS Rank Name School Proj. Round
9 *Tremaine Edmunds OLB, Virginia Tech 1
12 Roquan Smith ILB, Georgia 1
22 *Leighton Vander Esch OLB, Boise State 1
36 Rashaan Evans OLB, Alabama 1-2
54 Uchenna Nwosu OLB, Southern California 2
62 *Malik Jefferson ILB, Texas 2
74 Micah Kiser ILB, Virginia 2-3
75 Jerome Baker OLB, Ohio State 2-3
85 Shaquem Griffin OLB, Central Florida 3
93 Josey Jewell ILB, Iowa 3
115 *Fred Warner OLB, Brigham Young 3-4
143 Oren Burks OLB, Vanderbilt 4-5
156 Azeem Victor ILB, Washington 5
169 *Darius Leonard OLB, South Carolina State 5
177 Marquis Haynes OLB, Mississippi 5-6
178 Jack Cichy ILB, Wisconsin 5-6
189 Hercules Mataafa OLB, Washington State 5-6
197 Tegray Scales ILB, Indiana 5-6
216 Kenny Young ILB, UCLA 6
221 Mike McCray OLB, Michigan 6-7
229 Davin Bellamy OLB, Georgia 6-7
241 Nick DeLuca ILB, North Dakota State 7
242 Garret Dooley OLB, Wisconsin 7

Sweet Spot for Cowboys at LB: Day Three but it’s complicated

We hit our first snag here as the Cowboys look for linebacker help. If they’re looking for a starting MIKE linebacker to move Jaylon Smith to SAM, then they should consider taking one at 19. If the Cowboys are just looking for a backup option with upside that plays special teams then they should wait until Day 3. The drop-off begins after Fred Warner for potential immediate impact in one way or another. Guys like Darius Leonard and Jack Cichy were productive starters but Leonard’s competition level is questionable and Cichy couldn’t stay healthy.

Linebacker will be a position the Cowboys weigh against a few others in the early rounds. Much like the Cowboys did with Taco Charlton last year, they could go linebacker at 19 if they believe that their later options are a substantial drop in talent.

Safety

DS Rank Name School Proj. Round
11 Derwin James SS, Florida State 1
33 Ronnie Harrison SS, Alabama 1-2
59 Justin Reid FS, Stanford 2
67 Marcus Allen FS, Penn State 2-3
81 Rashaan Gaulden FS, Tennessee 2-3
96 *Terrell Edmunds SS, Virginia Tech 3
104 Jessie Bates III FS, Wake Forest 3-4
125 Jordan Whitehead FS, Pittsburgh 4
131 *Kyzir White SS, West Virginia 4
140 Godwin Igwebuike FS, Northwestern 4-5
149 *DeShon Elliott SS, Texas 4-5
-- *Tarvarious Moore FS, Southern Miss 4-5
166 Quin Blanding FS, Virginia 5
173 Troy Apke SS, Penn State 5
200 Trayvon Henderson SS, Hawaii 6
218 Siran Neal SS, Jacksonville State 6
322 Tracy Walker SS, La-Lafayette 7-FA

Sweet Spot for Cowboys at S: Fourth Round

First, we haven’t determined what type of safety help the Cowboys are even looking for. Is it a box safety or center fielder or both? The fact that the Cowboys haven’t pounced on any solid free agent safeties suggests that they really like their own in Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, and Kavon Frazier. Dallas is unlikely to sniff a shot at playmaker Derwin James which leads you to the fourth round. A new name in Tarvarious Moore is interesting as he’s become BTB’s new pet cat at free safety and could be a steal in the fourth round.

The top two names in this class are far above everyone that comes after them but those next ten guys are not as far from each other in skill set. It would be a really wise move to go with a guy like Moore, who has the tape that matches the athleticism.

Running Back

DS Rank Name School Proj. Round
87 *Nyheim Hines RB, North Carolina State 3
101 Jaylen Samuels RB, North Carolina State 3-4
107 John Kelly RB, Tennessee 3-4
119 Royce Freeman RB, Oregon 4
127 Mark Walton RB, Miami (FL) 4
155 Josh Adams RB, Notre Dame 4-5
160 Bo Scarbrough RB, Alabama 5
168 Kalen Ballage RB, Arizona State 5
174 Akrum Wadley RB, Iowa 5
230 *Ito Smith RB, Southern Miss 6-7
257 Phillip Lindsay RB, Colorado 7-FA
306 *Chris Warren III RB, Texas 7-FA

Sweet Spot for Cowboys at RB: Fifth Round

Running back is a need in terms of filling out the roster but it’s not something the Cowboys would spend a high pick on. This is a story that begins and ends with Nyheim Hines, who the Cowboys really like a lot. Hines is the vision they always wanted to come true with Lance Dunbar but he couldn’t stay healthy. Hines is much more than just a change of pace back, he’s an explosive player for an offense looking to spice some things up. Hines has the jets with his 4.38 speed and is a quality receiving threat despite his small stature.

Running back is going to be somewhat devalued as these rounds go on so there’s a favorable chance that Hines is still around on day three. The Cowboys seem like they’ll start shopping in the fourth round for running backs unless they’re just head over heels for Hines. However, they have the luxury to be patient with this position as there are plenty of talented guys that will be around even past the fifth round, where it makes the most sense for them to think about that move.