As draft day gets closer and visits starting wrapping up, everyone is thirsty for some insight into what the Cowboys might do with their first round draft pick. Despite being so late in the first round, the depth talent in this year's class has most fans confident Dallas can add a year-one contributor with the 28th overall pick.
To narrow down the options, I recently published the three most likely defensive ends and cornerbacks to have their named called for the Cowboys on April 27th. I thought it would be beneficial to work out a more detailed draft board, however, highlighting and ranking which defensive ends to expect the Cowboys to covet the most during the entire draft process.
Over the last few drafts, three of the Cowboys' draft boards have been leaked to the public (2010, 2013, and 2016). Using the information provided by the team's rankings of players in those three draft classes, as well as the Cowboys draft tendencies in the Will McClay era, I have constructed this EDGE board for the 2017 NFL Draft.
I started these rankings by examining the Cowboys 2010, 2013, and 2016 draft boards. Here are the EDGE defenders with first round grades from the Cowboys during those three years.
- Jared Odrick, DE, 2010
- Jason Pierre-Paul, OLB, 2010
- Derrick Morgan, OLB, 2010
- Dion Jordan, DE, 2013
- Barkevious Mingo, DE, 2013
- Ezekiel Ansah, DE, 2013
- Bjoern Werner, DE, 2013
- Joey Bosa, DE, 2016
- Leonard Floyd, OLB, 2016
- Shaq Lawson, DE, 2016
- DeForest Buckner, DE, 2016
Next, I examined the measurables and athletic testing of each of these players, as well as the EDGE defenders drafted by the Cowboys during the same time span. Then, I compared the testing of these 11 EDGE defenders and the 6 drafted by Dallas to the prospects available in this class. And, lastly, I ranked the players using these thresholds and my own film evaluations to a certain degree.
Based on the height, weight, arm length, vertical/broad jump, and three-cone time (all provided by Mockdraftable.com and determined most important to being a “force player”) I did my best to compare prospects which Dallas was documented to love in the past to those in this year's draft class.
Dallas Cowboys EDGE Big Board
- Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
- Solomon Thomas, Stanford
- TJ Watt, Wisconsin
- Derek Barnett, Tennessee
- Jordan Willis, Kansas State
- Charles Harris, Missouri
- Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
- Taco Charlton, Michigan
- Carl Lawson, Auburn
- Tyus Bowser, Houston
- Tarell Basham, Ohio
- Derek Rivers, Youngstown State
So, those are, in order, the top twelve EDGE players I expect to be on the Cowboys draft board. Let's explain the listing.
First off, Myles Garrett is the number one overall prospect on just about everyone's board. He passes the minimum thresholds of each category the Cowboys hold for defensive ends and would be a slam dunk to be picked at 28th overall. Solomon Thomas is the same way, though his hands size is smaller than Dallas tends to look for in their defensive ends (and it shows on tape).
Number three is where things get interesting.
Wisconsin's TJ Watt possesses an athletic profile almost identical to Georgia's Leonard Floyd, who received a first round grade from the Cowboys in 2016. Passing every single athletic threshold for the Cowboys, Watt's three-cone time and broad jump make him an athletic freak by the Cowboys' standards.
6'4"-6'5" 245-260 lbs 33-34 in arms, explosive, bend like gumby pic.twitter.com/X1WP2fy4UI
— Joey Ickes (@JoeyIckes) March 31, 2017
As Joey Ickes described in this Tweet, Watt fits the Cowboys athletic profile for an EDGE defender to a “T.”
Despite my hope for Derek Rivers to be drafted by Dallas, his attendance of an FCS school greatly hurts him on the Cowboys draft board, and helps to push him down to 12.
The final two prospects which I'd like to discuss are Jordan Willis of Kansas State and Tyus Bowser of Houston. Like Watt, both players hit the threshold for every single category, and Willis excels in most. Willis' profile is very similar to that of Randy Gregory and Barkevious Mingo, each of which were targeted by the Cowboys in their respective drafts. Willis is also the best “SPARQ” athlete of this EDGE class, which the Cowboys tend to value heavily.
Bowser's profile is eerily similar to that of Watt's and Floyd's, making him extra attractive to the Cowboys. If the Cowboys were to trade back out of the first round to acquire another second round pick, I'd expect either Willis or Bowser to be their first targets.
With that being said, I don't believe Willis' athletic traits will over-value the tape of some of these other prospects who may not be as athletically gifted. Plus, players like Derek Barnett and Carl Lawson still hit most of their thresholds (besides height, mainly, as both are undersized for Dallas).
Of course, this is just my best guess at what their EDGE board may look like. But considering the Cowboys willingness to draft/target athletic players and look for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to mold them, I think it is a rather educated guess.