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Combine: Guard-Heavy Draft Could Be Good For Cowboys

Posted Feb 21, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS – There haven’t been many drafts recently that have been described as “guard-heavy.”

But it appears this 2013 NFL Draft could be an exception. And for the Cowboys, that might be exceptional news, especially for a team picking No. 18 overall.

There are some teams that won’t draft guards in the first round, and history says the Cowboys have to be in that group. They’ve only drafted one offensive lineman since 1981 and that was tackle Tyron Smith in 2011.

In fact, the only true guard the Cowboys have ever taken in the first round was John Niland in 1966. Considering he went to six Pro Bowls, Niland was obviously worth the pick, even if it was No. 5 overall.

Now times have changed when it comes to drafting guards. In the last 10 years, only eight guards have been drafted in the first round. Last year, was the first time multiple guards were drafted in the first round since 1997. Pittsburgh took David DeCastro at 24 and Kevin Zeitler went 27th to the Bengals.

But still, in the last 10 years the highest true guard drafted has been at 17th overall when the 49ers took Mike Iupati, a player the Cowboys highly coveted but were too far back (27th) to consider trading up. They did move up a few spots to get Dez Bryant that year.

But this year could be a time where it makes sense to draft a guard. There could be two more drafted in the first round, with an outside shot at three guards.

“It’s definitely a deep class for guards this year,” said Gil Brandt, a former Cowboys’ personnel director and current NFL Draft guru. “There’s a chance three go in the first round. That’s rare for that position.”

Atop the list is Alabama’s Chance Warmack, who paved the way for Alabama’s national championship last year. Warmack (6-3, 320) will have some strong competition for the best guard though, as Kentucky’s Larry Warford (6-2, 332) is getting some first-round consideration. And the same goes for Jonathan Cooper, out of North Carolina.

Cooper (6-2, 312) said Thursday at his combine press conference said it would be an honor to become the first player drafted at his position, especially this year.

“I know there are a bunch of great guards in this draft,” Cooper said. “If we all get drafted high and I’m not the first guard taken, I’m not mad at all. I mean, I’m a competitor. I love to compete. So if I am drafted first out of the guards I’ll be ecstatic. If I’m drafted high and I’m not the first, I’ll be OK just the same.”

Obviously, the Cowboys could improve at guard after subpar play in 2012 from Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau. The Cowboys signed both players to free-agent deals last March. Neither player did enough for the Cowboys not to be interested in the top guards this year in the draft.

And fortunately for them, there seems to be a few to choose from. And better yet, they’re probably good enough to justify taking them at No. 18.

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