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Helman: Draft Visits Point Toward Telling Strategy

Posted Apr 16, 2014


IRVING, Texas – If you’ve been paying attention this week, you by now have an idea – if not the full picture – of the Cowboys’ thought process ahead of the draft.

Two top prospects - Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald and UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr - were interviewed by this very website during their visits to Valley Ranch. A slew of other potential draft picks, ranging from expected first-rounders to late-round prospects, have been through the facility in the past few days.

It’s interesting, because that can either mean everything or nothing at all as we prepare for next month’s draft. Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick all took visits with the Cowboys before becoming first round selections. But Morris Claiborne famously had no contact whatsoever with the team before he was taken sixth overall.

The Cowboys’ perilous position, right in the middle of the first round, is bound to make the process hard to predict. It seems like a safe bet that the Cowboys would take the likes of Donald, Barr or Ealy would at No. 16 overall – provided any of the three last that long.

And that’s the problem: do they have a favorable fallback option if the obvious choices fall through?

Frederick’s presence on the roster indicates that they do. The Wisconsin center was obviously highly thought of last spring, but the Cowboys only gave him a second-round grade. With that grade in mind, they traded back to No. 31 overall and took him close to the start of the second round.

With a similar positioning in the first round this year, I won’t be surprised to see the same plan go into effect.

My guess is that barring something unforeseen, the Cowboys’ eventual first selection in the draft has toured their facility in the past few days. Their location in the draft and the type of players that should be available to them gives them a pretty clear-cut strategy.

If unpredictable circumstances cause a truly special player, like Jadaveon Clowney or Johnny Manziel, to fall to the No. 16 spot, or if the Cowboys go for the gusto and trade up (something I highly doubt they’d do), you could see a surprise.

Otherwise, I think they’ve made their determinations. There’s a small but specific pool of players this team feels comfortable taking 16th overall. It’s not all that valuable of a spot, so I’d expect them to be wary of reaching if all of their primary targets are gone. If those guys aren’t available, I won’t be surprised to see another trade back and another less-heralded pick. 

But it seems obvious that this team has taken its pre-draft homework pretty seriously over the past few years. I like the odds that one of this week’s visitors will be getting a phone call from Jerry Jones early on in the draft next month.

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