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Cowboys Draft: Assembling a Big Board

Dallas Cowboys Big Board


Prior to the draft, the Cowboys draft preparation culminates by assembling a big board of draftable players. Generally, they will split them into tiers and rate them as to which round they present a value. Most years, there are only 15 to 20 players who receive a 1st round grade in the scouting process. Obviously, there are 32 picks in the 1st round, which means several players with 2nd round grades are 1st round draft picks (ie. Travis Frederick).

Each team constructs its big board according to their own standards and preferences. Each board is completely different and specialized. A top priority player for one team may not even be on another team’s board. This can happen for a variety of reasons.

For one, character concerns play a major role in determining a player’s fit within a particular organization. A player may have had multiple run-ins with the law or even with their college coaches or teammates. For teams that put a heavy emphasis on character, this player may be taken off the board completely. Of course, some organizations may rate the same person highly and be willing to overlook these concerns due to his talent and fit with the team. Red flags can also be attached to medical concerns. Ronald Leary was graded as a 3rd rounder, yet he went undrafted due to concerns about a degenerative knee condition.

Another reason a player may not be rated highly on a team’s board is because he simply may not fit the scheme. Defenses that run a 3-4 system look for entirely different types of linebackers and linemen than 4-3 teams do. NT Danny Shelton is a perfect example of this. He widely seen as a top 15 pick in this draft. However, the Cowboys likely will not have him ranked among their top 50 players. He is a prototypical 3-4, two-gap, nose tackle. Dallas runs an attacking, one-gap 4-3 system. In other words, Shelton’s main job as a 3-4 nose tackle is to occupy two blockers and hold his ground against the run while the linebackers are freed up to make plays. Rod Marinelli likes for his defense to be quick and aggressive. They play in single gaps and try to shoot between blockers and disrupt the offense by penetrating into the backfield. That is why Shelton will be rated much lower than defensive tackles like Michael Bennett, Mario Edwards Jr., Grady Jarrett, Carl Davis and Malcom Brown. These players have the quickness and speed to shoot the gaps and cause chaos.

After evaluating the players and determining their talent and fit with the Cowboys, I believe Dallas will have around 19 players that they grade as 1st round worthy (in no particular order):

QB         Jameis Winston

QB         Marcus Mariota

RB         Todd Gurley

RB         Melvin Gordon

WR         Amari Cooper

WR         Kevin White

WR         DeVante Parker

OG         Brandon Scherff

OT/OG La’el Collins

DE         Alvin “Bud” Dupree

DE         Dante Fowler Jr

DE           Vic Beasley

DE           Randy Gregory

DT         Leonard Williams

DT         Malcom Brown

LB         Eric Kendricks

CB/FS Byron Jones

CB         Kevin Johnson

CB         Trae Waynes

Noticeably absent from the list, for various reasons, are NT Shelton, DE Shane Ray (injury), S Landon Collins, OT Ereck Flowers, OT DJ Humphries, OT Andrus Peat, DE Arik Armstead, CB Marcus Peters, WR Dorial Green-Beckham, OT TJ Clemmings and C Cameron Erving. All of these players will probably be selected in the 1st round and quite likely before the Cowboys come on the clock at #27. Which means there is a better than average chance that one of the players that Dallas has rated as a 1st rounder will be available to them at their spot.

The next tier that rate as 2nd rounders for the team may include 50 to 60 additional players. If none of the players from the above list are available, and the Cowboys find a willing trade partner, they could potentially trade down out of the 1st round into the top of the 2nd round while picking up an additional selection in the top 80. This would allow them to select three players from the second tier and potentially a fourth with their 91st overall selection.

Ben Hammons

@TexSR_Ben

hammonsb@texsr.com

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