5 Creative Moves the Dallas Cowboys Can Pull on Draft Day
The Dallas Cowboys have 11 picks in the 2014 NFL Draft, so they certainly have the ammunition to get a little creative. That might be a necessity for the team, too. With so many holes on the roster, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, it might not hurt Dallas to try to pull off some creative draft-day moves.
Note that no draft-day decision is smart unless it brings with it a positive expected return. The Cowboys shouldn't try to get creative simply for the sake of being creative but rather as a way to garner value in a unique way.
With that said, let’s take a look at some potentially creative moves the Cowboys can pull off in the 2014 NFL draft.
Trade Up in the First Round Without Giving Up a Second- or Third-Round Pick
In most situations, it probably doesn't make much sense for the Cowboys to trade up from the No. 16 overall pick; the expected value just isn’t there. If a unique player like Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald falls, however, then the possibility might bring a net expected gain.
Moving up in the first round is expensive, but it’s a whole lot more costly in the top 10 than in the teens. Looking at the NFL Trade Value Chart, the Cowboys’ 16th overall pick is “worth” 1,000 points—the equivalent of about two early second-round choices.
Meanwhile, the 10th overall selection is worth 1,300 points, meaning, the Cowboys would need to “make up” for around 300 points if they want to jump on six spots in the draft. That’s a late second-round pick, which is probably a bit too rich for the team’s blood.
If the ‘Boys want to jump the Chicago Bears to get to the 13th overall selection, however, the cost would be only 150 points, which is worth about a late third-rounder. If the Cowboys could move up three spots without giving up that third, instead surrendering perhaps a fourth and a pair of seventh-round picks, for example, that’s a move they’ll need to consider if a player like Donald is on the board.
Acquire an Additional 2015 First-Round Pick
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett might not be too fond of this option since he’s in “win-now” mode, but teams like the New England Patriots continually capitalize on the fact that teams tend to value current picks much more than future picks. Some teams are willing to give up a future first-round pick and another high pick just for a first-round pick in the current year, for example.
It’s very possible that the Cowboys could get creative enough to move out of the first round of this year’s draft, grabbing a second-round selection in 2014 and an additional first-rounder next year. The drop from No. 16 to No. 50, for example, is “worth” 600 points on the chart, or the equivalent of a late first-round pick.
The move makes sense because, although this is a strong draft class, that “strength” lies in depth. The second-round options this year are nearly as talented as those players who will get selected in the first 32 picks.
Draft a Wide Receiver in the First Round
Unless Texas A&M’s Mike Evans falls to the Cowboys in the first round, they probably won’t entertain the idea of selecting a wide receiver at pick No. 16. Selecting a wide receiver in the first round is much more probable, however, if Dallas trades down.
If the ‘Boys were to move down to the back of the first round, they’d likely pick up an additional second-round pick (even though they accepted a third-rounder for a similar move in 2013). With three picks in the late first/second, the Cowboys would have a lot of flexibility, allowing them to capitalize on the abundance of talented wide receivers projected to get taken in that range.
There would be a whole lot of outcomes worse than the Cowboys landing Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson, Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman and Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence with three selections in the first two rounds, for example.
Wait Until the Third Round to Draft a Defensive End
With such an obvious need at defensive end, it’s assumed the Cowboys will draft a defensive end within the first two rounds of the draft this year. Because of the lack of elite top-end talent and some underrated mid-round options, however, it’s not a foregone conclusion that Dallas will make such a move.
Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence is a player the Cowboys should target as early as the second round, but there’s a chance that the underrated defensive end won’t even be available when the Cowboys are on the clock. If he’s there, that’s perhaps a no-brainer pick.
If the Cowboys miss on an end in the first two rounds, however, either Texas’ Jackson Jeffcoat or Arkansas’ Chris Smith should be available in the third. Both are long-armed defensive ends with a history of college production in a major conference.
Lastly, don’t forget that with Anthony Spencer unlikely to be signed before the draft, the Cowboys have a bit of a fallback plan there, meaning they don’t need to reach on players like Kony Ealy or Dee Ford in the first round.
Trade out of the First Round, Then Back into the First Round
The amount of value the Cowboys could acquire by trading out of the first round altogether is pretty massive. As mentioned, trading out of the first round could net Dallas an additional 2015 first-rounder or an early-second this year.
Well, with at least 12 picks following a first-round trade down, the ‘Boys would have more than enough ammo to move back up into the first round if they so choose. This is a great option if the Cowboys have a specific player they’d like who they think will be available in the back of the first.
An example: If Dallas moves down from No. 16 to the early portion of the second round, they should be able to acquire an additional second-round pick (or perhaps an early third and another pick). With that ammo, it really wouldn’t be prohibitive to move back into the first round; the cost of trading up from pick No. 35 to No. 28 is just a mid-fourth-rounder.
Thus, by trading down out of the first round and then moving back into it, Dallas would be swapping a mid-first and a fourth for something like a late first and late second yet still getting the player they covet. Given the depth of this class, that would be a shrewd move.