On the Cowboys OT Draft Board, Who’s In, and Who’s Out?

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Sometimes you learn just as much from the people who don’t get in than from those who do.

In the case of Dallas’ drafts, this fact helps zero in on legitimate draft candidates.  Dallas is among the teams that uses a ”short board” whittling down the 400-500 possible draftees to 120-150 serious players of interest.  Last year, for instance, the Cowboys had 130 names on their draft board.  Compare that to the draft books sold over the counter.  Look at the National Football Post’s site and Wes Bunting has reports on 638 players.  Roughly 20% of them will get their names onto the Cowboys’ war room white board, and onto those of other teams using short boards.

How do they make the cut?  Let’s look at last year, when fans got a peek at the team’s list.  After a weekend spent using image blow-ups, a large magnifying glass and copious doses of visine, I have deciphered the full board.  This week, I’m going to break down the players who made the cut, and compare them to the full list of prospects in two major draft guides, the Sporting News Draft 2010 and Pro Football Weekly’s 2010 Draft Guide.

Let’s examine the offensive tackle position, since it figures prominently in this year’s Cowboys’ draft plans.  Here’s the full list of OTs who were on Dallas 2010 big board, with round ranking and overall ranking:

1-4  Russell Okung, 6’6”, 305 lbs.
1-5  Trent Williams, 6’5”, 306 lbs.
1-13 Bryan Bulaga, 6’5”, 310 lbs.
3-42  Anthony Davis, 6’5”, 325 lbs.
3-58  Roger Saffold, 6’4”, 312 lbs.
4-74 Vladimir Ducasse?, 6’4”, 326 lbs.
5-103 Sam Young, 6’7”, 305 lbs.
6-118  Jared Veldheer, 6’8”, 321 lbs.

That’s it, boys and girls, just eight possible offensive tackles on Dallas’ board.  What’s more, Ducasse drew a split decision in the amateur draft world.  Half the services claimed he was a guard only, while the other half felt he could play at right tackle.  That means just seven firm OT candidates.

Again, the ranking of these players explains why Young, the Cowboys 6th round pick, was the only tackle with a serious chance of being picked.  By the time Dallas picked in the 1st, 24th overall, the top four names on this list were gone.  The Cowboys took Dez Bryant, rated 12th on their board.  When the Cowboys picked again at the bottom of round two, Sam Young and Jared Veldheer were the only OT prospects left.  Sean Lee, a player rated 14th overall on Dallas board, was still around, so the Cowboys obviously went with him over the much lower-rated OTs.  By the time Dallas came on the clock again, in the early 4th, Young was it; the Raiders had nabbed the small-school standout Veldheer five picks into the 3rd round.

In other words, the Cowboys OT board was threadbare by the time pick 70 rolled around.   If this isn’t further cause for Dallas to go OT high this year, I don’t know what is.  That aside, lets put up the top 12 picks from each of my two books and lets consider the guys Dallas weeded out.  Tackle prospects who didn’t made Dallas’ board are in bold:

PFW
1. Bulaga
2. Okung
3. Davis
4. Williams
5. Ducasse
6. Bruce Campbell, 6’6”, 310 lbs.
7. Selvish Capers, 6’4”, 304 lbs.
8. Charles Brown, 6’5”, 300 lbs.
9. Tony Washington, 6’6”, 300 lbs.
10. Veldheer
18. Young
(Saffold is considered a G by PFW)