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Cowboys 2023 draft: A “Little Board” and a pre-draft mock

We construct a “little board” made up entirely of draft prospects the Cowboys have worked out or have brought to Dallas for a visit - and then we create a mock draft based on it.

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It’s a time-honored tradition here on Blogging The Boys, dating all the way back to 2011, to build a draft board populated with players the Cowboys have invited for official pre-draft visits or have otherwise had significant interaction with.

And that significant interaction has to be more than just some random players the Cowboys talked with on the sidelines of a pro day or a bowl game, or one of the 45 18-minute interviews allowed at the NFL Combine. Why? Because those are not sufficient to get to know a prospect well enough.

We can assume the Cowboys are legitimately interested in the players they’ve brought in for visits, or players they had private workouts with. Which is exactly what happened with Tyler Smith last year.

We know the Cowboys traditionally whittle down the 450 or so draft-eligible players to roughly 130 names that populate their final draft board.

By adding up the players from the Top 30 visits and private workouts (with a smattering of Dallas day participants as well) we tend to get 40-50 names each year, and with that we should know 30-40% of the players on the Cowboys board, which is already some good information to work with.

In the past, we’ve summarized those names on what rabblerousr used to call a “Little Board,” a board only containing players the Cowboys had more than a fleeting interest in.

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.

On to this year’s little board: I have whittled down the names of potential prospects to 41, which you will find below. The trickiest part of this exercise is correctly slotting the players by round, and my guesses may well be quite a bit off from where the team has a given player slotted on its board. A note on the color codes:

POS 1 2 3 4 5 6/7 FA
OL Darnell Wright Steve Avila JuicyScruggs Antonio Mafi
Alan Ali
WR Quentin Johnston Josh Downs Marvin Mims Jonathan Mingo Malik Knowles
Zay Flowers Tank Dell Keilahn Harris
Jalin Hyatt Rashee Rice
TE Darnell Washington Cameron Latu Payne Durham Brayden Willis
RB Tyjae Spears Zach Evans Jarek Broussard
Roschon Johnson
Kendre Miller
QB Aidan O'Connell Clayton Tune Max Duggan
POS 1 2 3 4 5 6/7 FA
DE Viliami Fehoko B.J. Thompson
DT Jaquelin Roy Tyler Lacy Calvin Avery
LB Drew Sanders DeMarvion Overshown Marte Mapu Dee Winters
Trenton Simpson
CB Emmanuel Forbes Tyrique Stevenson Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson
S Tanner McCalister

A few attendant thoughts.

Wide receiver seems an obvious, early-round target, while the offensive line feels more like an afterthought this year.

Offense vs. defense. There are 27 players listed on offense, but only 14 on defense. Could this year be a reverse of the 2021 draft, where 8 of 11 picks were on defense? It’s quite possible the Cowboys could end up with five players for the offense and just two for the defense.

The challenge of drafting at the bottom of each round. There are 11 players listed here as potential first- or second-round picks. But drafting at the bottom of each round means only a few, if any, of the players listed in each round will still be available at the bottom of each round.

The Cowboys might be well advised to think of their picks not as the bottom picks in each round, but the top picks in the next round. Some might argue that this is just a glass half full versus half empty distinction, but it does change the discussion from having limited options at the bottom of the each round to having almost unlimited options at the top of the next round.

The color scheme: Typically, the Cowboys spend most of their Top 30 visits on day one and day two prospects (marked in blue). They then supplement those premium prospects with later round options they worked out privately (green), and then bring in a lot of potential college free agents for Dallas Day (yellow).

But not this year. Half of their Top 30 visits were with Day Three or free agent prospects. That feels like a questionable allocation of those scarce Top 30 visits, especially considering the relative lack of Top 30 players in the middle rounds.

Taking all of these factors into consideration, here’s a mock based entirely on players from the little board above.

Don’t like Zay Flowers as your top pick? How about Darnell Wright?

What do you think, BTB Nation? Taking the names and general slots from the chart above, what would your ideal *no-trade* mock look like?

If you want to create your own draft board, create your own mock draft, or simply want to argue where a prospect should be ranked, here are all the prospects listed above as well as where they rank on four different draft boards: the consensus big board at (537 prospects), CBS (400 prospects), (319), and PFF (401).

2023 Prospects with documented Cowboys interest
MDDB CBS NFL PFF Name POS College Status
17 13 28 10 Quentin Johnston WR TCU Top 30
25 23 20 35 Darnell Wright OT Tennesse Top 30
26 20 16 29 Zay Flowers WR Boston College Top 30
31 34 34 68 Darnell Washington TE Georgia Top 30
35 40 42 31 Emmanuel Forbes CB Mississippi State Top 30
38 65 10 77 Jalin Hyatt WR Tennessee Top 30
40 42 9 54 Drew Sanders LB Arkansas Top 30
48 59 77 78 Trenton Simpson LB Clemson Top 30
49 46 15 40 Josh Downs WR North Carolina Top 30
51 36 59 47 Steve Avila OL TCU Top 30
68 99 78 46 Tyrique Stevenson CB Miami Top 30
76 94 89 99 Tyjae Spears RB Tulane Private WO
77 89 72 44 Tank Dell WR Houston Private WO
79 103 68 109 Marvin Mims WR Oklahoma Dallas Day
85 160 120 59 Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson CB TCU Dallas Day
87 81 155 76 Rashee Rice WR SMU Private WO
89 187 175 112 DeMarvion Overshown LB Texas Top 30
107 156 76 148 Jonathan Mingo WR Ole Miss Top 30
108 154 73 135 Zach Evans RB Ole Miss Top 30
111 100 202 126 Roschon Johnson RB Texas Private WO
115 180 168 97 Kendre Miller RB TCU Top 30
125 97 65 113 Jaquelin Roy DT LSU Top 30
161 159 172 202 Aidan O'Connell QB Purdue Private WO
165 194 139 233 Cameron Latu TE Alabama Top 30
167 295 109 183 Tyler Lacy DL Oklahoma State Top 30
170 149 203 121 Viliami Fehoko DL San Jose State Top 30
171 175 226 168 Clayton Tune QB Houston Top 30
179 210 151 103 Juice Scruggs OL Penn State Private WO
193 291 242 194 Payne Durham TE Purdue Top 30
212 313 307 339 Max Duggan QB TCU Dallas Day
228 375 259 321 Michael Turk P Oklahoma Dallas Day
240 374 186 232 Dee Winters LB TCU Dallas Day
245 86 - - 139 Marte Mapu LB/S Sacramento State Top 30
268 206 - - 190 Atonio Mafi OL UCLA Top 30
276 223 268 295 Brayden Willis TE Oklahoma Top 30
295 258 246 355 Malik Knowles WR Kansas State Dallas Day
338 380 - - 231 B.J. Thompson EDGE Stephen F. Austin Top 30
373 - - - - - - Calvin Avery DT Illinois Dallas Day
377 353 266 322 Alan Ali OL TCU Dallas Day
435 - - - - - - Keilahn Harris WR Oklahoma-Baptist Dallas Day
458 186 - - - - Tanner McCalister S Ohio State Top 30
460 - - - - - - Jarek Broussard RB Michigan State Dallas Day
- - - - - - - - Ilm Manning OL Hawaii Top 30
- - - - - - - - Durrell Johnson LB Liberty Top 30
- - - - - - - - Jimmy Phillips Jr. LB SMU Dallas Day
- - - - - - - - Jason Shelley II QB Missouri State Dallas Day
- - - - - - - - Logan Bonner QB Utah State Dallas Day

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