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ESPN draft predictor shows interesting possibilities for the Cowboys

The options are very good for the Cowboys in the first round.

NFL Draft Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

One of the biggest factors in looking ahead to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Draft is trying to figure out who is available when they make their picks. That not only defines the universe of available options for them, it can also be very important if they should be interested in trading back. At ESPN, there is a handy tool to try and sort out such things. While it is based on a variety of mock drafts, notably those of Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, it is does seek to figure out where players are likely to go off the board and who is left at a given draft spot. Since that is on everyone’s mind nowadays, here is a look at what it tells us.

Let’s start with Dallas’ current first round pick, 24.

ESPN Analytics

To refine who is more realistic, I will use 50% as a threshold. Any player below that cutoff is assumed to be most likely gone. That takes out some names that many find intriguing for the Cowboys, such as WRs Chris Olave from Ohio St and Treylon Burks out of Arkansas. I’m also focusing on OL, WR and EDGE for this exercise, since those are the main areas of concern for most. But look at the names that are above 50%.

  • OG Kenyon Greene - Texas A&M
  • WR Jahon Dotson - Penn St
  • C Tyler Linderbaum - Iowa
  • G Zion Johnson - Boston College
  • EDGE Arnold Ebiketie - Penn St

There is also a very good safety in Baylor’s Jalen Pitre, but we all know how Dallas never invests a lot of draft capital in that position.

That is a great slate to pick from, with a near certainty at least one of them makes it to 24, and a great chance they would be able to pick from among the two guards being linked to them.

But what does it say about the possibility of a trade back to net another premium pick? Let’s say the Cincinnati Bengals are interested in moving up for someone and will package their 31st and 95th picks to do so. What is then available for the Cowboys at 31?

ESPN Analytics

Things get a little dicey. Both Greene and Johnson are in the 40% range. But Ebiketie is still above 50%, and now WR George Pickens from Georgia might enter the conversation. WR Christian Watson of North Dakota State is probably intriguing to some, but he and OT Bernhard Raimann from Central Michigan are not from Power 5 conferences. The Cowboys tend to shy away from those in the first round.

However Dallas uses that first-round chip, they still have a couple more selections that can be evaluated with the ESPN tool. In the second round, they hold spot 56.

ESPN Analytics

The list of names gets a lot longer as the uncertainty is greater deeper into the draft. But there are some very interesting players. Depending on how they went earlier, here are some that could be fits for the Cowboys.

  • WR John Metchie III - Alabama
  • EDGE Nik Bonito - Oklahoma
  • EDGE Myjai Sanders - Cincinnati
  • EDGE Cameron Thomas - San Diego St
  • OT Daniel Faalele - Minnesota
  • EDGE DeMarvin Leal - Texas A&M
  • C/G Dylan Parham - Memphis
  • C/G Darian Kinnard - Kentucky
  • OT Abraham Lucas - Washington St
  • OT Nicholas Petit-Frere - Ohio St

This really looks like a sweet spot for a pass rusher in the draft. And it has some nice OL names as fallbacks if they don’t nab one in the first. But this group is surprisingly short of WR options, which most likely points to a run on them in the earlier part of the second.

On to round three, where Dallas sits at 88.

ESPN Analytics

In addition to Petit-Frere, who under this algorithm is still in the over 50% range, the Cowboys could be interested in:

  • WR Wandale Robinson - Kentucky
  • C/G Sean Rhyan - UCLA
  • WR Khalil Shakur - Boise St
  • WR Calvin Austin III - Memphis
  • OT Max Mitchell - Louisiana
  • EDGE Josh Paschal - Kentucky
  • OT Rasheed Walker - Penn St
  • C/G Dohnavan West - Arizona St
  • OT Luke Goedeke - C. Michigan
  • WR David Bell - Purdue
  • OT Kellen Diesch - Arizona St

This includes some smaller school prospects as the Cowboys might be more open to those by this point.

What is most interesting about this is how it may point to a three-round strategy for Dallas. With the top two guard prospects still likely to be on the board, they may well stick to the path they have already signaled and take one of them at 24, then still be able to get a good EDGE in the second and pick up a WR in the third. That would seem the best merging of best players and need in this year’s draft.

In any case, the tool at ESPN is fun to play with even though it only goes through the first three rounds, and might be handy for those of you spitting out mock drafts.