I would not be surprised to see the #Cowboys target a WR in the first round to play alongside Dez Bryant. If Beckham or Lee are there at 16…
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 4, 2014
This Tweet doesn’t lock in the Cowboys taking a receiver. Far from it. But it does hint at an approach teams could take in the #10-25 portion of this draft.
By now we have a pretty good idea about who’s going to go in the top ten. Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan should go in that range — and Zack Martin could join them. We’ll see Jadeveon Clowney go early, probably at #1. Khalil Mack, Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans are safe bets and the top two quarterbacks — Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles — could be gone by #8. Aaron Donald should also be a top ten pick.
The 10/11 players named above are pretty established as the top prospects in the 2014 draft. But when you get outside of the top ten, things get a little murky.
This is nothing new. Often when you’re faced with a good quality draft the talent difference between #12 and (approximately) #26 is minimal. Picking in the mid-teens can be undesirable — you just miss out on several top tier players, and end up drafting someone who isn’t that much better than a guy you can get ten picks later.
Let’s say the Chicago Bears draft Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at #14. He’d be a solid pick. But he’s certainly not Earl Thomas, a previous #14 pick. And he probably isn’t all that better than the players who will go in the early 20’s. It’d fill a need, but the value would be slightly underwhelming.
Some of the other teams between #11-19 will struggle to fill their needs. Dallas are one of those teams. So what do they do?
They could consider trading up. Going after Aaron Donald would make some sense for the Cowboys. Jerry Jones has been aggressive in the past. Yet they have so many needs on defense I’m not convinced giving up a boat load of picks would be a wise idea.
Will there be a deal to trade down? Perhaps. The Ravens at #17 are a threat for anyone wanting a right tackle or specific receiver.
If no deal is forthcoming though, who do they take?
A lot of people, myself included, have mocked Anthony Barr at #16. He’s not a perfect fit for Rod Marinelli’s scheme and ideally you wouldn’t be banking on an immediate return on your investment. He needs further development having only played defense for two years. He needs to get stronger. His best fit is on a team that can mix him into a rotation in year one — not rely on him to provide an edge rush.
The Cowboys might think it’s too big a risk to put that pressure on Barr. They may need alternatives. He might even be off the board by #16. The Titans at #11 need a 3-4 OLB for Ray Horton’s new defense.
If we’re going to take Barr out of consideration for the purpose of this article, what other direction can they go in? Timmy Jernigan for me is totally overrated and won’t be considered anywhere near this early. Are there any other safety’s or defensive linemen you’d take at #16?
The receiver position is so rich in quality at the top end, you might as well consider it. Just add a really good player to your team.
“I told the head coach, there will be a team that comes out of this thing with five starters in the next three years.”
“If there’s ever a situation where you pick the best player available, it’s this year. There’s that many good players.”
The Cowboys could add Odell Beckham Jr or Marqise Lee as Rapoport’s Tweet suggests and feel very satisfied that they added a really dynamic weapon.
Dallas won’t be the only team that ends up in a situation like this. Tennessee with all their needs might see receiver as the best option. Pittsburgh could look at the position. So could Baltimore, the Jets, Green Bay, Philadelphia and Kansas City.
When faced with making a big reach or just grabbing a good receiver, I think many teams next Thursday will see it as an easy decision. And the overall depth in this draft will encourage this mentality.
There’s also the possibility teams like New Orleans and San Francisco (both with a history of being aggressive) will move up to make sure they get one of the top wide outs.
We could easily see seven receivers off the board by #22: Watkins, Evans, Beckham Jr, Lee, Cooks, Benjamin and Latimer. It could happen.
After that you get a run of teams who won’t see the position as a big need. Between #23 and #31 there’s probably going to be a mini-run on cornerbacks. This is the area where value meets need, there’s a real soft spot here for 3-4 defensive backs to leave the board.
But when you get into New Orleans (if they stay put) at #27, Carolina at #28, San Francisco at #30 (again, if they stay put) and Seattle at #32 — we could see even more WR’s going in round one.
I imagine there’s a consensus talent drop off after Benjamin/Latimer, but it wouldn’t be a total shock if Donte Moncrief and Martavis Bryant (for example) ended up sneaking into the back end of round one.
Some teams are going to say, “we’ll wait” for a wide out because there’s depth to match the first round numbers. But the thing is — it’s a weak draft for other positions. Defensive tackle is mediocre this year. Linebacker and defensive end might be even worse. It’s not a great cornerback or safety class. And after the top 6-7 offensive tackles leave the board, there’s a major drop off.
You can find players at all of those positions, but there’s either limited depth or little value in round one.
When you’re faced with a Marqise Lee or Odell Beckham Jr sitting there as a fall back — it’s going to be really difficult to pass.