What exactly is a "big board?"
Simply put, this term essentially describes the opinion of all players that are eligible for the NFL draft according to each NFL franchise. It is not an official board or ranking that all teams follow.
In other words, the Dallas Cowboys likely don't give a squat as to what NFL.com's Mike Mayock or ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. have to say. Sure, they might agree on many points, but America's Team has it's own opinion of the players available.
So why not follow just one board?
Simply put, teams play in their own systems and also have their own salary cap concerns that make it impossible for there to a be consensus regarding the ranking of all the players and positions available in the draft.
Perhaps the biggest reason why Dallas' big board will depart greatly from, for example, the New York Giants is one simple, four letter word: need.
Make no mistake, each and every team drafts much more out of need than out of focusing on the best players available, despite the fact they will all say otherwise. The Indianapolis Colts selected Andrew Luck first-overall in the 2012 NFL draft because he was the best player available. But also true was the fact that the franchise felt that opportunity had presented itself to replace it's best-ever quarterback in Peyton Manning, whose recent injury history was more than enough reason for concern.
But the Colts were in a very unique position that generally doesn't happen for most franchises. They were actually able to draft both for need and they were able to take the best player available.
So if I had to guess, which I will, what the Dallas big board looks like, I'd bet money I don't have that it will reflect team needs much more than it does the best player available approach. Then again, those two factors will fit nicely into the hands of the Cowboys, seeing as how this draft is pretty loaded with commodities that the team should be looking for anyway.
Complicating matters is the fact that Dallas has only six selections, thanks to last season's trade for offensive linemen Ryan Cook from Miami. So there's one selection that, thankfully, is still on the roster.
So here's a look at 20 players likely to reside on the Cowboys' own big board heading into tonight's first round of the NFL draft in New York City. This big board is only partial and might look like many others you may have already seen. But I think you'll see some key differences based on needs rather than talent—hopefully Dallas has meshed these two factors to perfection. But this is why a player like quarterback Geno Smith of West Virginia does not appear, seeing as how the Cowboys could care less about a quarterback early on—or at all—in this draft.
Following the big board, I'll rank additional players at each position and based primarily on fit. I'll discuss whether or not they have any real possibility to continue their football careers in Big D.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com
All contract data courtesy of Spotrac