It’s here. The 2023 NFL Draft will be kicking off in just hours. We are going to be covering it wall-to-wall here at BTB as we find out who the newest Dallas Cowboys will be. Every year is unique, but some things are well-established practices for the team. To get you ready and maybe give some hints, here are some salient points to remember.
The draft board is set
Why do I mention this? In the Will McClay era, the team has done a good job of sticking to their board. It is not an automatic thing each round, because there will be times the best remaining player is at a position that has already been addressed. But the discipline the team has developed has paid off many times.
While the board often is not locked down until this week, the tweaks become less and less as the process unfolds. That means that any talk you see in the media about players moving up or down boards is more about the sources finding out what the teams have done in building their board, not an indication of them being influenced by new information. This is particularly true of the Cowboys. If you hear someone has supposedly climbed or fallen in their rankings, it really means they were probably already there to begin with.
The relatively weak draft class
This is not a strong crop, particularly in the first round, and some positions, like wide receiver, don’t have much value throughout the draft.
Dallas is currently scheduled to pick at 26 overall. But most analysts think there are only about 15 or so legitimate first-round picks. While this might seem a limiting factor, it can also give the team more flexibility.
We discussed all of these ideas on the latest episode of Ryled Up on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
Their first-round rated players could be wiped out at 26
That would make trading back a very viable option, particularly if they have a bit of a talent void when they come up in the first round. By that, I mean that they have no first-round prospects still on the board, but a lot of second-round rated players. While it would mean finding a willing partner, swapping their first-rounder for a couple of Day 2 picks makes a ton of sense in this case. Another argument for this is that some see all rounds as weak this year, meaning that by the end of the second round there is nothing but third-round talent available, and so on. Getting picks earlier in the second and third rounds could be very valuable.
They will want any first-round pick to start
Should they stand pat, or make just a small trade back to the end of the first round to retain the fifth-year control of their pick, they still want any first-rounder to be a walk-in starter.
That would seem to eliminate a lot of positions. What it doesn’t take out of the equation are the three that are most often talked about for them in the first round: Tight end, running back, and offensive line to solve the left guard position. There is more than one way they can do this, so they could take a player that was an offensive tackle to achieve this goal as well as one who worked inside in college.
This is another reason why, if these positions are washed by the time the Cowboys go on the clock at 26, it makes trading back so appealing. With the possible exception of defensive tackle and linebacker, there is no expectation that a defensive player would be a day one starter. Given the way Dan Quinn uses personnel, those would be more rotational pieces in any case. There is a weaker case to be made for wide receiver here as the WR3 behind CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks, but Michael Gallup’s contract argues against it. And contracts matter in roster decisions in Dallas. Tight end and running back are much more likely places a rookie could start. Jake Ferguson may have a bright future, but he is largely untested. Tony Pollard is playing on the franchise tag, but his future beyond that is unknown, and the well reported crush the team has on Bijan Robinson argues that he would be on the field for the first snap of the 2023 season if he falls to Dallas.
Expect this to be an offense heavy draft
Sometimes, the staff signals what they are going to do. While this was presented in a joking manner, don’t sleep on it.
Mike McCarthy joking in the Dallas Cowboys pre-draft press conference:— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) April 24, 2023
"As the play-caller I see us taking nothing but offensive players." pic.twitter.com/pbJk5OPRRw
The offense has more pressing needs than the defense. And the two positions that the team has a real allergy to taking before the last half of the draft are defensive tackle and safety.
With only seven picks as they now stand, it is not at all hard to see the Cowboys taking five offensive players in the draft.
The early rounds influence the later ones
This applies to all teams. With a limited number of chips you can use, you can’t often afford to double dip. Once they take, say, a tight end, they aren’t likely to go back to that well.
The further along in the draft the team goes, the lower the chances of a player becoming a significant contributor. This is why positions that have more value in the later rounds, such as RB and TE that keep coming up, the more reason there is to wait to address that position. In this year’s draft, it creates conflicting rationales for the Cowboys, some of the deeper positions are the ones they need the most.
In Will McClay we trust
While we are so completely fascinated by the draft, no one at The Star cares what we think. They have a very good scouting department headed by McClay, who has been one of the best in the business for several years. We have to depend on the board being right, and his input if they come up and have “tags touching” for the highest remaining names.
Tonight, the party starts, and goes on for three days. Then we will be dissecting every pick and looking at roster projections. It’s NFL Christmas, so let’s hope the presents under the tree are great ones.