An interesting piece of information just came to my attention, namely a photo was recently leaked of Jerry Jones in front of the Dallas’ Cowboys’ big board .
More importantly, people have worked out the players listed in the majority of rounds one through four, and I’m sure Jones is livid that his board was exposed (Luckily for the Cowboys it looks like the picture was taken while the draft was going on, so its unlikely that any other teams gained any unfair information).
One of the biggest problems with mock drafts is predicting how teams value players. Fans can pretty easily spot out positions of need on teams (like the Packers needing a left tackle to take over for Chad Clifton), but it is much harder for fans to assess the value of incoming players to NFL teams.
For instance, Jevan Snead and Ciron Black were both highly touted (both showing up in the first round on some occasions) on many mock drafts but ended up being undrafted (Interestingly enough, Ciron Black has not been signed anywhere as far as I can find out).
I believe this partially has to do with hype; some players are hyped out of popularity and some players drop into obscurity for the lack of popularity.
It’s interesting to see how an actual team values players. While there will obviously be some differences between teams considering need and scheme, I believe that the Cowboy’s draft board offers the general population the most accurate assessment of the value of players. With the Cowboy’s draft board in hand, I think it is time to reassess and extrapolate the Packers draft.
Bryan Bulaga (actual pick: round 1, pick 23 overall/ Cowboys’ board: round 1, pick 13 overall)
Bulaga was an incredible value for the Packers, as he was ranked 13th overall by the Cowboys. I’ve seen some analysts put him anywhere from the top five to the second round, but I think the consensus was top ten, which is slightly higher then the Cowboys had him (perhaps this is due to Bulaga being more of a ZBS lineman, which the Cowboys don’t use).
Furthermore, this shows that Ted Thompson made the right move by not moving around at pick 23 and grabbing Bulaga. It took Dez Bryant falling 13 spots in order for Jones to trade up to get him. With Bulaga falling 10 spots already when the Packer took him, if he had fallen any lower, the Cowboys might have moved up to take him instead.
Add to the fact that the Cowboys were in the market for a starting tackle after releasing Flozell Adams in early April, and I believe the Packers grabbed Bulaga at optimal value, meaning at the absolutely last moment available.
Mike Neal (actual pick: round 2, pick 56 overall/ Cowboys’ board: round 3, pick 86 overall)
According to the Cowboys, only one DT was ranked higher than Mike Neal when he was drafted by the Packers: Corey Peters, who was taken round three, pick 83 overall. This means the Packers would not have had a chance to grab him in the third unless they traded up, so Neal was definitely the highest DT on the Packers board.
This is actually quite elucidating since the Cowboys are also a 3-4 team and they therefore are also projecting 4-3 DTs as 3-4 DEs. Most people who complained about this pick rationalized that most mock boards had Mike Neal as a fourth to fifth round prospect, but the Cowboys had him as a late third rounder.
Most likely, the Packers ranked him higher or projected him higher as a 3-4 DE, so picking Neal in late in the second isn’t as much of a reach as initially thought.
Morgan Burnett (actual pick: round 3, pick 71 overall/Cowboys’ board: round 2, pick 39 overall)
Again an absolute steal in terms of value with Burnett falling 32 picks before the Packers traded up to grab him. The Cowboys had him rated one spot higher than Taylor Mays who went round two, pick 49 overall. So even when considering his value in terms of May, Burnett was a value of +22.
Again, it seems like the Packers drafted Burnett at optimal value; there has been a rumor that the Bears were actually quite interested in Burnett and since they were not going to trade any picks to move up, the Packers were ecstatic when they saw him fall to the third round—the first round that the Bear had a pick.
Then, the Packers moved up only four spots ahead of the Bears to grab him, so on a personal note I’m sure that the Packers are laughing at stealing the player that the Bears wanted from under their noses, but on the economic side, they waited just long enough before making the moves to acquire Burnett.
Unfortunately, none of the other players that the Packers selected make it onto the list, probably due to the fact that some of the names are written on pieces of paper which are too small to read, coupled with the fact that Jerry Jones has his arm blocking some of the picks (In fact, the only reason we can tell that Bryan Bulaga is 13th overall is because the 13th rated player was selected in the 1st round at pick 23).
Furthermore, no round has a full 32 players (though you can assume that round one has 32 players, but the photo did not capture it all), so there is some vagueness there as well.
So what does this all mean?
Assuming that the Cowboys’ draft board is basically the same as other teams' draft boards (even if you don’t believe that it’s definitely better than any fan or analyst made draft board), it shows that the Ted Thompson is not actually lying when he says that he is drafting the best players available, especially considering the value that the Packers got from Bryan Bulaga and Morgan Burnett.
One of the golden rules of the draft is to select a player right before other teams are going to, since you pay the minimal amount of money for a player, and it looks like the Packers did exactly that in the case of Bryan Bulaga and Morgan Burnett.
Furthermore, we can assume that Mike Neal was higher on many NFL team’s draft boards than most people had predicted, and add to the fact that different teams will project differently when looking at a player who will switch from 4-3 DT to 3-4 DE, and you can assume that the Packers did indeed have Neal ranked that high.
(On a completely different note, since you will always get more comments by mentioning Stroh, the Cowboys had Jerry Hughes ranked higher than Sergio Kindle by a full round, so at least one team agrees with you :D)