Despite a much earlier draft slot than usual in 2011, the fluidity of this particular draft class and the multitude of needs for Dallas has made predicting their draft choice a difficult task. The “consensus” seems to be that they will end up with USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith, but that is far from certain. I actually think there is a solid chance that Smith gets selected before the ‘Boys are on the clock, either by a team currently ahead of them or another looking to move up (Washington, perhaps).
Either way, Smith is far from a sure thing. I do think he’s the most likely of all the prospects to come to Big D (as evidenced by my last 32-team mock draft and Cowboys-only mock draft), but the abundance of targets and draft scenarios shifts Smith’s potential arrival from ‘likely’ to ‘most likely.’
So what are the Cowboys’ true plans? I really think it depends on how the top of the draft plays out. I wouldn’t rule out a trade up, a move down, or remaining at No. 9. Each situation could present the best value depending on how the prior picks pan out. Listed below are potential targets for the Cowboys if they do decide to make a move, along with suitable trading partners.
- Possible Trade Partners
Cleveland Browns No. 6
To move up three spots, the NFL’s draft value chart suggests the Cowboys would need to relinquish their third-round pick. Is it worth it? Perhaps for P-Squared.
San Francisco 49ers No. 7
If you have not deciphered it yet, I am writing the team names in their uniform colors. Why? I honestly don’t know, but enjoy it while it lasts.
The Cowboys would probably need to relinquish their third-rounder to move up to San Fran’s spot, but they would receive a pick in return (likely a fourth). Not a bad exchange if the right guy is still on the board. The problem is that the Niners will likely have interest in the same sort of prospects as Dallas. Why would they move back if Peterson or Dareus fell, for example?
- Possible Targets
The Cowboys are rumored to have Peterson at the top of their board. I don’t think he will fall, but if he drops to Cleveland, look for Dallas to at least inquire about a trade. The Browns could very well have interest themselves, but it is highly unlikely the Niners would move back if Peterson drops to them.
Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
This is a tough call for me. I have Dareus rated as the No. 2 overall player on my board, but I don’t think the Cowboys should trade up for him. My reasoning for this is lengthy, but I previously wrote an in-depth article on why selecting the best player available is a myth. In short, it deals with position scarcity. There aren’t any elite offensive tackles likely to be around in the second round, so grabbing one in the first (with such a huge need at right tackle) makes more sense.
Is Dareus’ value too much to overlook? It depends on how highly the Cowboys have him rated, but I am hearing they like Smith just as much, if not more. Thus, moving up even two spots for Dareus doesn’t seem that likely to me.
No one is talking about this, but I don’t think Smith’s presence when the Cowboys select at No. 9 is a foregone conclusion. With all of the Smith/Dallas connections floating around, why is it implausible to think a team will look to jump the ‘Boys for the USC tackle? The most likely candidate to do that, in my mind, is Washington. They could easily move up two or three spots to secure Smith. If the ‘Boys catch wind of this and truly covet Smith, they will need to make a move themselves.
- Possible Trade Partners
Minnesota Vikings No. 12
According to the chart, the Cowboys could swap their current fourth-rounder for Minnesota’s third if they elect to move back in the first round. The Vikings haven’t been mentioned as a potential trade partner for Dallas, but it could happen if either Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert shockingly falls.
In my opinion, any move down all but eliminates Smith from contention, so the Cowboys will need a backup plan.
Detroit Lions No. 13
The difference in compensation between Minnesota and Detroit highlights a flaw in the NFL’s draft value system, in my opinion. Instead of swapping third and fourth-round selections, the Cowboys would simply acquire the Lions’ third-round pick if they alternated first-round selections. With the Lions possibly interested in Prince Amukamara or even Robert Quinn, they appear to be a more likely trade partner for Dallas than Minny.
St. Louis Rams No. 14
Can you even read the yellow font? Oh well. The Rams are known to have interest in Alabama receiver Julio Jones and may want to jump Washington to secure him. They are the most likely partner for the Cowboys, in my view, and would need to relinquish their third and fifth-round round picks to make the move.
New England Patriots No. 17
Am I even choosing team’s true colors at this point? In any event, the Patriots are known to stockpile draft picks, but they already have a bunch, including two first-round selections. To swap first-rounders with Dallas, they would need to yield their second-round pick. Like St. Louis, a possible target for New England in this scenario is Julio Jones.
- Possible Targets
Carimi is listed first for a reason–if the Cowboys move down, it is Carimi who I think they will target. I have heard this “rumor” from a number of sources. I would personally rather have Anthony Castonzo or even Ben Ijalana, but Carimi is no slouch–he’s still No. 14 overall on my latest board.
I find it hard to believe the Cowboys have divulged as much information (about their views on Smith, for example) as they have without a reason behind it. I have heard very little linking Castonzo to Dallas, however. Of course this shouldn’t be used as evidence that the ‘Boys are definitely interested in him, but he will certainly be on their radar if they have him rated as I do.
Watt is considered a prototypical 3-4 defensive end, and only one team (Washington) between the Cowboys and Miami at pick No. 15 runs a 3-4 defense. The ‘Skins have a bunch of holes, so Watt may not be a priority for them. I don’t personally want Watt in the first round, but if he is the player the ‘Boys covet, I think he will still be around at St. Louis’ 14th overall selection.
See Watt, J.J.
Overall, I think the Cowboys need to be flexible in their draft plans. They should have a list of players for whom they would be willing to trade up, a group they would select at their current spot, and a list of prospects to target if they slide back. Those lists need not be long.
I wouldn’t consider trading up unless one of two scenarios plays out. The first is if Peterson drops to Cleveland. If the Browns are willing to deal, I would sacrifice a first and a third for the top player on my board.
More likely, Peterson won’t drop, and the Cowboys will target Smith. If he is truly the No. 2 rated player on their board, I would actually trade up for him (if possible). I think the depth of this draft class is solid enough that yielding a third for an early fourth is worth the ability to acquire an elite offensive tackle with the ability to play either side of the line. Here are four other reasons to target Tyron Smith.
If the Cowboys miss out on Peterson and Smith, I would desperately seek a trade down (assuming Dareus does not fall). Castonzo would be the player I target, but the ‘Boys will probably seek Carimi. The largest positive from a trade back is the possibility of moving up into the very top of the second of even the back of the first to acquire another instant impact player, such as Baylor NT Phil Taylor, Temple DT/DE Muhammad Wilkerson or Texas CB/FS Aaron Williams.