2011 NFL Draft: Who Will the Dallas Cowboys Select at No. 40?

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2011 NFL Draft: Who Will the Dallas Cowboys Select at No. 40?
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With the Dallas Cowboys selecting so early in the 2011 NFL Draft, the number of potential first-round selections is limited. We “know” if they stay put, the ‘Boys will select a player like USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith, Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara or Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt (that is not a conclusive list). They might also trade down and grab a guy like Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi.

In the second round, however, things are a bit cloudy. I believe the Cowboys need to grab an offensive tackle in the first round because the likelihood of a premier one being available at pick No. 40 is very slim. I explained how the numbers back up this idea in my article on why selecting the best player available is a myth

The NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, one of the few draft analysts I respect and whose opinion I value, disagrees. He thinks the value of a tackle like Alabama’s James Carpenter or Miami’s Orlando Franklin is enough to justify spending an early second-round pick. He claims the lack of cornerback depth means the Cowboys should seriously consider Amukamara at No. 9.

While the Cowboys’ second-round selection will be heavily influenced by their pick in the first, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at who might be available at pick No. 40. Below, I have created a “bracket” with the 16 players I consider to be the most likely to end up in Dallas.

A couple notes:

  • The percentages behind each player’s name are the likelihood he will be available when Dallas selects in the second round.
  • You might ask why I would have any “upsets” since I am the one seeding the prospects. I have no good answer, outside of the fact that I need to make the winner a surprise.
  • I am assuming no free-agent acquisitions before the draft.

Sweet 16

Moore has pretty good range as the draft’s consensus top-rated safety. The Cowboys have shown interest in him, but that interest could fade if they sign a free agent like Michael Huff.


I love LeShoure, but he’s certainly the underdog in this competition. He would be a worst-case scenario for Dallas.

Winner: Rahim Moore


  • 8. Rodney Hudson, G, Florida State (95 percent)

I don’t like the value of any guard other than Mike Pouncey, but he won’t be available for Dallas.


Paea is a talented player who I believe can play the nose, but I don’t think Rob Ryan will target him because he would be a one-gap player. The ‘Boys already have that in Jay Ratliff.

Winner: Rodney Hudson


Williams may or may not be available for Dallas, but he is a real possibility if he’s on the board due to his versatility. I think he’s better-suited at safety.


Taylor is my top-rated player on this list, but he won’t be around.

Winner: Aaron Williams


  • 4. Danny Watkins, G, Baylor (85 percent)

I don’t like Watkins at all, but the Cowboys have been following him intently. He’s a favorite at this point.


The value would be tempting if Smith is still on the board in the second round, but I can’t see the Cowboys bringing in a player with such glaring character concerns.

Winner: Danny Watkins


  • 6. Orlando Franklin, OT/OG, Miami (95 percent)

Mayock thinks Franklin is a possibility. That’s good enough for me to rank him as the No. 6 seed.


Ijalana is clearly the superior player, but I really don’t think he will be available in the second round.

Winner: Orlando Franklin


Heyward’s availability, in my opinion, will be a true coin flip. I think he drops with players like Muhammad Wilkerson and Marvin Austin moving up boards.


Wilson is a long shot, but he’s a favorite of mine.

Winner: Cameron Heyward


  • 7. Marcus Cannon, G, TCU (90 percent)

Cannon makes more sense to me than Watkins, but I still don’t think the value is right.


  • 10. Christian Ballard, DE, Iowa (85 percent)

I haven’t talked about Ballard too much, but he’s a dark horse. Still, you have to think the Cowboys have Heyward rated higher.

Winner: Marcus Cannon


I’m really hoping Harris falls to the Cowboys’ second-round pick. It’s certainly possible, and despite other holes, I don’t think you’ll find much better value.


  • 15. James Carpenter, OT, Alabama (95 percent)

Not a legitimate option...I hope.

Winner: Brandon Harris


Elite Eight

  • 1. Rahim Moore vs. 8. Rodney Hudson

Winner: Rahim Moore


  • 5. Aaron Williams vs. 4. Danny Watkins

Winner:  Danny Watkins


  • 6. Orlando Franklin vs. 3. Cameron Heyward

Winner: Cameron Heyward


  • 7. Marcus Cannon vs. 2. Brandon Harris

Winner: Brandon Harris


Final Four

  • 1. Rahim Moore vs. 4. Danny Watkins

Winner: Rahim Moore


  • 3. Cameron Heyward vs. 2. Brandon Harris

Winner: Cameron Heyward



  • 1. Rahim Moore vs. 3. Cameron Heyward

Winner: Rahim Moore


What Have We Learned?

Even though I believe the Cowboys will make a serious push for free-agent safety Michael Huff, I haven’t simply assumed his presence in Dallas. Actually, this little tournament has taught us that the opportunity for a top free safety to be available in the second round is pretty good. If we assume the chances that Moore and Williams are available as those I have listed above (65 and 40 percent, respectively), then the combined chance that one of them is available at No. 40 is 79 percent, making it is likely, but not certain, that either Williams or Moore will be available for Dallas.

We have also learned that the likelihood of a top offensive tackle being available is slim. Actually, Ijalana is the only top-rated tackle I have listed in this bracket. There is zero chance of a player like Gabe Carimi or Derek Sherrod falling. I don’t see the value in a prospect like Franklin or Carpenter.

The Cowboys will have the opportunity to grab a guard in the second round, if they so choose. The chance of one of the guards I have listed above (including Franklin) being available is 99.96 percent. With such certainty, I think it would be smart for the Cowboys to wait until the third round, at the earliest, to address the position.

If we assume that Hudson, Watkins, Franklin and Cannon have just a 25, 15, 25 and 20 percent chance of being available in the third round, the overall probability of just one still being around is still 61.8 percent. I say bypass reaching for a guard in the second and “gamble” on one being available in the third.

There will be defensive linemen available for the Cowboys in the second round. This is one reason I believe they should pass on J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan in the first round in an effort to target an offensive tackle. The Cowboys may not be interested in Paea, Taylor, Heyward and Ballard, but the chance that at least one is available in the second round is 98.3 percent. Even if we throw out Ballard, that probability is still 88.8 percent.

Ultimately, though, it might be in Dallas’ best interest to look into trading up from the second round. The majority of the players listed above are nice, but not incredible. I have Taylor, Ijalana and Harris rated in my top 15 (No. 6, No. 11 and No. 15, respectively). The probability that just one of them is available, however, is just 60.4 percent. If we throw out Harris, who probably wouldn’t start immediately anyway, that number plummets to 28 percent.

Thus, I like the idea of the ‘Boys moving up a few spots from pick No. 40 to secure a prospect who can have an immediate impact. The likelihood of that scenario playing out increases dramatically if the Cowboys trade out of the No. 9 spot. Would you rather have Gabe Carimi and Phil Taylor, or Tyron Smith and Cameron Heyward? That’s not a rhetorical question.

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