The 2013 NFL Draft is only 22 days away, and it's been years since I've seen so much disagreement regarding who will be picked where in the opening round. Barring a trade, the Dallas Cowboys will be on the clock with the No. 18 overall pick, and the experts remain quite divided on what "America's Team" might do with that selection.
Inspired by colleague Andrea Hangst, I've scanned some of the most recent mock drafts from around the interwebs in order to see if there's any sort of consensus regarding the Cowboys' first-round pick.
Spoiler alert: There isn't.
Here are some of the names being thrown around...
Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas)
Vaccaro leads my draft board for the Cowboys, so if he's there when they're on the clock I'd favor him. Dallas still isn't sure what it has in Barry Church, and there's really nobody to start at free safety.
He might not play a high-priority position, but Vaccaro is clearly the best safety in this year's class and it's hard to see a player with his skill set becoming a bust at the next level. His cover skills are superb and he has the tools to start from the get-go.
I've seen enough on tape to believe Vaccaro can be a top-tier starter in the NFL, and he would be a great addition for a Dallas secondary that has been searching for a do-it-all safety. Plugging him in alongside 2012 first-round pick CB Morris Claiborne would make for a nice foundation on the back end of the defense.
Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
Cooper is fighting with Alabama's Chance Warmack for the right to be the top guard selected this year, but both are considered to be beasts.
Usually I'd be against drafting a guard in Round 1, but the Cowboys are desperate for offensive line help. So if each of the top three offensive tackles are off the board when Dallas is on the clock, I'd have no problem with them taking Cooper or Warmack.
All three writers have Warmack going ahead of Cooper, so it's safe to assume they're in the same boat. But Schrager and Banks actually have Dallas passing on Vaccaro to draft Cooper. If both are still around at that point, the Cowboys would have a very difficult decision to make.
Cooper is a versatile prospect who could play guard or center in the middle of the Dallas line—both areas of need. As the most athletic interior lineman in this year's class, Cooper could be a fit at left guard or as the team's center. He shows great ability to move off the ball and impact the defense in the run game.
Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
Like I said, Cooper and Warmack are neck-and-neck, so the Cowboys would have a hell of a decision to make if they're thinking guard and both players drop to the No. 18 spot. Unlike Miller, Schrager, Banks and Galko, Prisco and Brinson think Cooper will be selected first, so the majority seem to feel that Warmack would be a better pick than Cooper.
Warmack might indeed have a little more upside, but both look like they're going to be studs.
The mauling Alabama guard would do a lot to a) improve the run game and b) protect Tony Romo, even if Jones says the latter isn't important despite the large extension he just handed out.
Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)
The Cowboys clearly have to address the trenches on both sides of the ball, and Richardson would be a very nice fit, as well as a potential long-term replacement for Jay Ratliff.
The only reason why I'm not totally sold on this pick is because Richardson wouldn't contribute a ton in 2013. Ratliff is expected to benefit from the support he'll receive in the new 4-3 defense and Jason Hatcher is too good to be benched for a rookie right now. Considering that Anthony Spencer is already on the line and a solid run defender, this would seem like a bit of a luxury pick for a team that has bigger needs.
I don't think you go this way unless both top guards, all three top offensive tackles and Vaccaro are all gone. But Silva has the 'Boys passing on Vaccaro, while Kadar has them passing on Cooper.
A defensive lineman of Richardson's caliber would be difficult to pass up – particularly with Vaccaro off the board. The other option could be a guard like Jonathan Cooper or right tackle like D.J. Fluker, but Richardson grades out as the better player.
D.J. Fluker (OT, Alabama)
Doug Free just hasn't gotten the job done the last two years, and many expect the well-paid veteran to be swimming with the football fishes as a June 1 cut. The Cowboys can ensure that such a thing happens by drafting a future right tackle early.
Two things: First, this would arguably be a reach with Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson all off the board, and second, it's been argued that you can get right tackles later in the draft or in free agency. Eric Winston and Andre Smith are quality right tackles, and both have been sitting on the open market for nearly a month.
Interestingly, though, Walter Football believes Fluker would be an option for the 'Boys at guard. That versatility never hurts.
The Cowboys just sank a zillion dollars in Tony Romo. The next move is to protect the guy, and Fluker is the ideal choice for right tackle.
It's sort of an odd year for Dallas. Vaccaro appears to be the fan favorite, but there are no viable No. 18 picks at safety beyond that. If the Cowboys really want him, do they have to trade up for a defensive back for the second straight year?
Vaccaro is the one piece that doesn't fit in the list above. The rest are bodies. They're mauler-types that will toughen up the team in the trenches. Dallas needs help in that area, but its number one weakness is at the safety position.
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