The Cowboys have never been one to leak out what player they have true interest in, although leaked pics of their board have come out previously after the draft as outlined by BTB last year. We got a glimpse of how the Cowboys grade their prospect which differs in stark contrast to what the average fans thinks of player rankings. And if history is any indicator, this year’s draft board will be the same, but we’ll see how adding Will McClay into the mix levels out the rankings.
We all like Donald, Barr, Martin, and a few others; but as fans, we have been caught off guard in many of the Cowboys’ previous drafts. I wrote about this subject a few weeks ago (here), but I’d like to revisit it again. This time around, I want to take a look at five possible draft targets that could possibly catch many fans off guard and perhaps leave us scratching our heads.
No other pick better illustrates this same scenario than Travis Frederick at #31 in last year’s draft. He wasn’t on anyone’s radar, and he wasn’t even in the conversation the day of the draft. When the pick came in, there was a gasp of air, a ballon that was summarily released of all its air. It was a shock to Cowboys Nation in every living room around the world. The Dez Bryant pick was a welcomed trade up, but not a pick many had in their mock drafts. Then there was the Anthony Spencer pick. The hot positional pick was suppose to be a wide receiver that year, and the Cowboys pulled the trigger on Spencer. No one saw that or had it mocked in any mock draft, and not many, if any had Spencer even mocked as a 1st rounder.
The Frederick and Spencer picks are two classic selections where the consensus draft niks had them as 2nd-3rd round picks, but Dallas had them higher on their boards, so the selections made sense for “them”
Going off this logic, I’m going to look at five picks, and the assumption will be that the Cowboys will have traded down a few picks, down into the 20s-30s. Alright so, let’s take a look:
1. Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois
Ward would come in and start immediately next to Barry Church and will be that guy to help patrol the skies in the backfield. Ward is a physical player as well, and can play well in the box and run support. Slated to go in the 2nd-3rd rounds, selecting Ward in the bottom half of the 1st round could leave some wondering if this was a good pick considering other talent that will be on the board. With fans wanting the defensive line to be upgraded with a pass rusher, this pick could have some people in an uproar. Other fans, will actually like this pick as it will give us some closure to the question of who will play safety this year.
2. Bashaud Breeland, CB, Clemson
Another CB in the first round? Yes, don’t be too surprised if the Cowboys make that trade down, and go with a cornerback. But we have Claiborne! Exactly, and that will be why this would be one of those classic wth are we doing selections. Breeland is also projected by most draft niks as a 2nd-3rd round pick, but with questions around Claiborne’s mental and physical durability, the Cowboys may need to protect themselves. Will McClay sees what everyone is doing in the NFC East and has stated that our draft would revolve around what we need to do to help win games within the division. Secondary help of any sort would be good for us. If you have Carr and Scandrick starting, you get an upgrade in the slot by adding Breeland here and see if Claiborne steps up and competes.
3. Jimmy Garropolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
If a QB is drafted in the bottom half of the first round, then Cowboys Nation will be saying “There it is, that’s our next franchise QB” Again, drafting a player like Garropolo after a trade back scenario would be exciting for some, and very controversial for others. At issue would be why aren’t we drafting defense here, we need defensive lineman or just someone on defense period. Garropolo would immediately be penciled in as the heir to the throne, and it would give the Cowboys some insurance for this season, should Romo not in fact be ready to go this offseason. We all talk about the supposed changes we are seeing with the Cowboys free agency philosophy, and taking a QB here would further strengthen that rhetoric. The Cowboys simply have not drafted many QBs since Troy Aikman retired, and eventually the Cowboys need to get some youth in here. As far as Orton goes, he could be traded or kept around to help develop Garropolo. Weeden’s cap friendly contract makes him easily expendable at any moment during the offseason.
4. Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
Wth, another tight end, and now in the first round? This would probably be the pick Cowboys Nation would burn Dallas down to ground to. The Cowboys already used a 2nd round pick last year on Gavin Escobar and we still have James Hanna on the team. The Cowboys have asked Escobar to get stronger / bigger this offseason, so we’ll see if he follows through and does add some muscle to his frame. We know Escobar can’t block, and we know James Hanna has been on the team for a few seasons, and has yet to be effective in the pass game as well. Taking Niklas here at the bottom of the 1st round would give the Cowboys a true heir apparent to Jason Witten. Niklas loves to block and is very physical after the catch. Trust me when I tell you this, but once Niklas has the ball in his hands, DBs don’t want any business trying to bring down this herculean beast. The Cowboys brought in Mike Pope to coach the tight ends this year and he has developed some of the leagues better tight ends. Adding Niklas would bolster the passing game and give us some true help in run blocking.
5. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
It’s going to be hard to sell Cowboys fans on the notion of drafting any offensive player in the 1st round considering how much work has yet to be done on the defensive side of the ball, so taking Matthews here would be questionable by most. As with the Niklas prediction, Mathews would come into the fold just after the Cowboys used a 3rd round pick for Terrance Williams. Both players are similar in size, but they are big receivers. The Cowboys have seen how menacing a group of larger receivers can be in this league, and if we’re attacking the NFC East with all these big / fast receivers, we’re going to have similar success. I’m not so sure the Cowboys are sold on Harris and Beasley as the quasi #3WRs, they are good role players, but if the position can be upgraded, then the Cowboys will make the selection.
I believe the Cowboys are going to look at moving down a few slots in this draft. Aaron Donald probably gets snatched up by the Vikings at #8, but then could get selected by a few others before getting to #16. Same thing for Anthony Barr. I think Barr would be a great fit at DE for the Cowboys, but not sure he is on the board. Zack Martin could be on the board at #16, but we have to wonder if the Cowboys would be just fine traded out of the pick with him on the board. It’ll be interesting to see what the Cowboys have up their sleeves, we all seem to get it wrong every year. lol.