Dallas Cowboys' Draft Stock Watch: 8 Players Rising or Falling on Cowboys' Board
But they’d be lying. We know for a fact that boards change because teams continue to collect data, attend pro days and conduct interviews. Why would they do that if their boards weren’t mutable?
Much of the shifting stock for prospects that we witness is said to be the result of the media “catching up” with the teams. That might be the case at times, but it seems more likely that boards really do change, but they want to present a different front to the public that suggests they already have everything worked out.
The truth is that the predraft process is just that—a process—and players’ draft stocks change, as they should. So let’s take a look at eight players who are likely moving in one direction or the other on the Cowboys’ draft board.
Rising: Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt
It wasn’t long ago that Donald was routinely mocked to Dallas or even after the team's pick. Those times have changed; after he blew up the NFL Scouting Combine, his stock soared. The 285-pound defensive tackle ran a 4.68 in the 40-yard dash and bench-pressed 225 pounds 35 times.
Some have assumed that defensive tackle might not be on the Cowboys’ early radar since they signed defensive tackle Henry Melton, but that’s probably not the case. Remember, his deal is basically a one-year prove-it scenario with the potential for three more years added on. The Cowboys would be foolish to assume Melton will be on the team in 2015.
Plus, they still have a major hole at the other defensive tackle position. Although that’s considered the 1-technique and Donald plays the same 3-technique position as Melton, good teams draft good players and then figure out how to use them.
Donald should still be a target for Dallas.
Falling: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
Alabama free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had an underwhelming combine with a 4.58 40-yard dash and 11 reps on the bench. Perhaps more importantly, he’s now competing with Louisville’s Calvin Pryor to be the first safety off the board.
Pryor and Clinton-Dix are similar players, so that could limit the value of both of them to some teams, including Dallas. If the Cowboys have the two players rated similarly and they’re on the clock at No. 16, why not trade down? They could still grab one of them but at a cheaper price.
On top of that, something tells me that we might see an unexpected face starting at free safety for Dallas this year in Matt Johnson.
Rising: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
Auburn defensive end Dee Ford is a probable first-round pick, but he hasn’t been all that strongly linked to Dallas because he weighs just 252 pounds. That’s a little light for a 4-3 defensive end. However, he has been outstanding this offseason, running as fast as 4.53 at his pro day after missing the NFL Scouting Combine, per NFL.com.
Dallas could also bring back Anthony Spencer on a short-term deal. That could actually increase Ford’s value to Dallas because the team could bring him in as a pass-rush specialist in 2014 with Spencer and George Selvie as the starters. That would buy time for Ford to add some bulk to the point that he can be trusted on running downs, too.
Falling: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Analysts are split on Ealy: Some love his size and tape, while others are scared off by his 4.92 40-yard dash at the combine. His 34.25-inch arms are impressive, but the biggest concern to me is that he simply wasn’t productive at Missouri. In three seasons, he averaged just over four sacks and nine tackles for loss per year.
It’s easy to fall in love with Ealy’s size—which is ideal for the Cowboys scheme—but why wasn’t he able to dominate in college? When it comes down to it, the Cowboys are going to have at least a few concerns about drafting a player who had only 12.5 career college sacks.
Rising: Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Wide receiver is going to be a bigger need for Dallas than some people think. If the Cowboys move back in the first round, which seems probable at this point, they could easily grab an early-round receiver. The second round is the sweet spot where the cost isn’t exorbitant, but there will be a lot of talent.
Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, Fresno State’s Davante Adams and Penn State’s Allen Robinson will be on the Cowboys’ radar. Of those players, Matthews has had the most impressive offseason and is the most likely to vault himself into the first round.
After tearing up the SEC, he ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at 6’3”, 212 pounds. With elite college production and top-tier measurables, you have to wonder why Matthews even has the chance to drop into the second round. He’s the sort of player the Cowboys shouldn’t pass up if he falls into the mid-second round.
Falling: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Let me start by saying that Robinson hasn’t had a poor offseason, but his stock is likely falling on some boards because he turned in a lackluster 40-yard dash time of 4.60 at the combine. Teams will have concerns over that time when they shouldn’t; size matters much more than speed for receivers.
At 6’2”, 220 pounds, he has the requisite size to be a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL. He’s likely to drop for a perceived lack of explosiveness that (1) isn’t all that important and (2) doesn’t actually exist. Robinson’s 10’7” broad jump was one of the best among receivers.
Rising: Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
Missouri defensive end Michael Sam’s draft stock has taken a roller-coaster ride this year. When he announced he’s gay, some teams, whether they want to admit it or not, probably moved him down their boards. That says more about them than Sam, but it still affected his market value.
Plus (and this is the actual concern with Sam), he turned in a horrific combine showing. Running a 4.91 40-yard dash at only 261 pounds, some people (including me) expressed concerns that Sam might not be athletic enough to play in the NFL.
He showed something different at Missouri’s pro day, however, running a much better time of 4.73 seconds at a weight that was two pounds heavier, per CBS Sports. The Cowboys will need to figure out which time is most representative of Sam’s skill set, but if it’s the latter, he could be a great value in the draft. Either way, he helped himself at his pro day.
Falling: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Quarterback Aaron Murray might not be high on Dallas’ board, but he’s listed here as a representative of the quarterback position as a whole. After the Cowboys signed Brandon Weeden, their probability of drafting a quarterback at any point probably dropped substantially.
That idea was confirmed when Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas tweeted that Stephen Jones expects current backup quarterback Kyle Orton to return in 2014. Unless the Cowboys plan to carry four quarterbacks after recently having just two on the roster, the selection of one in this year’s draft seems unlikely.
Combine results courtesy of NFL.com.