In January, I wrote my 1st draft related piece for dalsportsnation.com entitled “Finding 17 Options for Pick #17.“
The object of the piece was to identify 17 prospects that Cowboys fans can live with at the 17th selection, so that everyone can be content, no matter what unfolds in the first round.
As we know, a lot happens between January and April. Prospects shuffle up and down in the rankings and projections after the February NFL Combine. We have movement again with Pro Days and interviews. This year, in particular, presented some pretty unique circumstances, as many prospects who looked to improve their stock at pro days and regional combines saw those opportunities intercepted by COVID-19 concerns.
All things considered, I’m no longer confident that there are 17 suitable selections for the Cowboys 17th pick. Guys like AJ Epenesa and Tee Higgins have slid down most boards after proving to be subpar athletes at the time. Most have cooled a bit on guys like Grant Delpit, Xavier McKinney, Jalen Reagor, and Neville Gallimore. All nice prospects, but pretty rich selections at 17th overall.
At this point, I believe there are only 9 players worthy of a collective “fist bump” at pick #17. Now, players will be selected in the first 16 picks that are of little use to the Cowboys, pushing some of these 9 players down the board. However, the prospect of all 9 being off the board when the Cowboys go on the clock is what I refer to as “The Doomsday Scenario.”
Let’s look at how this could possibly play out.
Pipe Dream Players
Chase Young, Jeffrey Okudah, Isaiah Simmons, Derrick Brown
Forget about it. These dudes are clear-cut blue-chippers, and it would be pretty surprising to see any of them escape the top 10. Don’t get excited about it, don’t allow yourself to daydream. It’s not happening, at least without a trade up. I promise.
Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jedrick Wills, Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton, Andrew Thomas
Quarterbacks, and offensive tackles. Positions of little use to the Cowboys, but highly rated prospects who have a great chance of being selected before the Cowboys go on the clock. If the Cowboys are absolutely cornered, they could bite the bullet and select one of the offensive tackles. What the Cowboys really need though, is for all 3 of these quarterbacks, and all 4 of these offensive tackles to eat up draft selections prior to pick #17.
CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy, Javon Kinlaw, C.J. Henderson
Four elite prospects the Cowboys can’t have, and 7 more the Cowboys shouldn’t really want, should be virtually certain to go in the top 16. Eleven of 16 spots filled. The problem is, however, that only leaves 5 worthy prospects for the Cowboys, with 5 teams still to pick before America’s Team goes on the clock.
If each of Lamb, Ruggs III, Jeudy, Kinlaw, and Henderson are snapped up before the Cowboys’ first selection, the Cowboys are left with some less-than-exciting options. Welcome to “The Doomsday Scenario.”
In this situation, the obvious move is to trade down. Unfortunately, there is no magic “trade down” button you can just press to bail out of your selection. It takes two to tango, and the Cowboys must find a willing dance partner. If the team’s desire to get out of the pick is strong enough, they may have to make peace with the idea of moving backwards at a discounted rate.
In 2013, the Cowboys traded the 18th overall pick to San Francisco for picks #31, and #73. By most trade value charts, San Francisco should have also had to cough up something in the neighborhood of a 4th round pick. Suboptimal negotiating on the part of the Cowboys in that example, but the precedent is in place.
So what on earth do the Cowboys do if doomsday arrives and they are unable to trade out?
The long-time Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome once said that one of the keys to his organization’s success was the idea of “just trying to hit doubles” in the 1st round. The Ravens enjoyed almost two full decades of perennial contention under Newsome building rosters not by swinging for the fences on high risk, high reward players in the early rounds, but rather just hitting doubles, being content with simply selecting good football players.
In my opinion, the players the Cowboys could hit doubles with at #17 are K’Lavon Chaisson, Denzel Mims, Justin Jefferson, Kristian Fulton, and Yetur Gross-Matos.
None of these selections would have Cowboys Nation high-fiving in their homes. They are not home runs, but after a night to sleep on it, Cowboys fans would likely be able to rationalize the pick knowing that the Cowboys did the best they could with who was available and that they added an immediate contributor.
There are a handful of bite-the-bullet options at #17 that would, and absolutely should make Cowboys fans groan. These players are either players at positions of low priority need for the Cowboys or just major reaches in terms of draft position.
In my eyes, those prospects would be Kenneth Murray, Grant Delpit, Xavier McKinney, Cesar Ruiz, Trevon Diggs, and Zach Baun.
All of these guys are pots and pans for Christmas. Yes, we needed new ones, yes they will get a lot of use, but it’s nothing close to what we asked Santa for. Any of those selections would probably take a good long time to get over, and fans would have every right to be frustrated.
Utah State QB Jordan Love is our hero. Quarterbacks always get pushed up, due to the value of the position. Cowboys fans should be rooting for that trend to continue in this draft. Jordan Love going in the top 16 would push one coveted position player down to our Cowboys. Hope for the Jaguars to pounce on him at #9, or maybe the Raiders at #12. Hope for a team like the Patriots or Dolphins (if they do not select a QB at #5) to come flying in with a trade.
If the Dolphins do not select a QB at #5, they sit one slot behind the Cowboys at #18 and would be the team to jump if someone wanted Love. So even if doomsday does arrive, Jordan Love could still become Dallas’ parachute to drop out of the 17th selection.
The Cowboys’ only other hope to have a coveted player fall to them would probably a team coming up for that 4th WR after the consensus top three of Lamb, Ruggs, and Jeudy. The Philadelphia Eagles have done absolutely nothing to address their abysmal group of pass-catchers since season’s end. Maybe they ascend to grab Jefferson or Mims.
The NFL’s annual player selection meeting is upon us. Every year we hypothesize and pontificate, only to eat our words after having our jaws dropped with surprise on draft day.
Hopefully, a shocker or two will push a stud down to the good guys.
Featured Image: ---