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Who Are the Experts Predicting to Cowboys in the First Round of the NFL Draft?

Jonathan BalesAnalyst IApril 7, 2014

Who Are the Experts Predicting to Cowboys in the First Round of the NFL Draft?

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    Michael Conroy

    Individual mock drafts can be a little misleading at times, but in aggregate, expert predictions regarding who the Dallas Cowboys will select in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, can be of use to us. The reason for that is because an individual mock draft displays just one possible way things could unfold, while the aggregate factors out biases; a “consensus” draft removes outlying opinions and provides a pretty clear glimpse into the “true” most probable path for the Cowboys and other teams this May.

    The “consensus” on the Cowboys is that there really is no consensus; there’s not too much agreement on what Dallas might do in this year’s draft. That’s probably due to the team possessing a plethora of needs. It’s difficult to determine which hole they want to tackle first.

    With that said, let’s take a look at the top five players the experts are projecting to come to Dallas in the first round, along with a little analysis and prediction of how likely such an occurrence might be.

Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt

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    Experts Projecting Donald to Dallas

    Mike Tanier, Sports on Earth

    Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com

    Dan Brugler, CBS Sports

     

    While there’s no agreement on who the Cowboys will actually take in this year’s draft, there’s not too much doubt that they’re interested in Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Even after inking Henry Melton to a deal, the Cowboys could covet the draft’s premiere interior pass-rushing threat to complement their free-agent addition.

    The problem is that a lot of other teams figure to like Donald, too, so there’s a good chance that he won’t fall all the way down to the 16th overall selection. Because Donald has been so closely linked to Dallas, though, there’s still a decently high chance that he becomes a member of the Cowboys in 2014.

     

    Expert Take: Tanier

    A Tampa-2 defense can never have too much talent at the three-tech position. The Cowboys are giving Henry Melton a long look there, and he could be great, but he is also coming back from an ACL injury. Donald is a younger, healthier, feistier Melton. They can rotate on rushing downs and play together to provide a dose of quickness on passing downs.

     

    Probability: 20 percent

Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville

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    Michael Conroy

    Experts Projecting Pryor to Dallas

    Charles Davis, NFL.com

    Matt Smith, NFL.com

    Dan Pompei, Sports on Earth

    Russ Lande, Sports on Earth

     

    Since signing Melton and seeing Donald’s draft stock rise, Louisville safety Calvin Pryor has become a popular pick for Dallas in mock drafts. He’s basically a clone of Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, so if the Cowboys want a safety in the first round, they’re basically guaranteed to be able to nab one.

    The problem is that people are underestimating how much the Cowboys like the young guys they already have on the roster, as the team should. With three highly athletic young free safeties, the Cowboys have power in numbers.

    For that reason, Pryor doesn’t seem as likely of a choice as others are suggesting.

     

    Expert Take: Lande

    While I believe the Cowboys will consider a pass rusher like Anthony Barr here, he is not a great fit for their 4-3 scheme, and they also need help at safety. Pryor is an explosive athlete who attacks the play and can be an intimidating force at the back end of their defense.

     

    Probability: 5 percent

An Offensive Tackle (Michigan's Taylor Lewan or Notre Dame's Zack Martin)

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    Expert Projecting Lewan to Dallas

    Walter Cherepinsky, Walter Football

     

    Expert Projecting Martin to Dallas

    Pete Prisco, CBS Sports

     

    The Cowboys need a right tackle. Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com reported the ‘Boys are considering moving Doug Free to guard if they can land an offensive tackle early in the draft. That might be a smart move.

    For that reason, the “off the map” selection of either Lewan or Martin is probably more likely than you think. Either one could very well be off of the board when Dallas is on the clock, but chances are one of them will be available as Free’s replacement.

     

    Expert Take (on Lewan): Cherepinsky

    This pick may not make much sense on the surface, but hear me out. Doug Free is coming off a solid season, but he has just one year left on his contract. He was also tried at the guard position before the 2013 campaign began, so perhaps Jerry Jones will want him to shore up a huge hole at one of those slots. Free would be able to move there with this selection. 

    Taylor Lewan has the talent to be the sixth pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but character issues could drop him some. Jones has proven recently that he's willing to take chances on players with concerns, provided they're not too egregious. 

     

    Probability (of Lewan or Martin): 15 percent

Anthony Barr, OLB/DE, UCLA

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    Expert Projecting Martin to Dallas

    DraftTek

     

    The Cowboys’ biggest need is defensive end. That could change if they re-sign Anthony Spencer, but they’re extremely bare at the position right now.

    UCLA’s Anthony Barr played outside linebacker in college but could fit nicely as a 4-3 defensive end. Ironically, Dallas’s selection of Barr could become more likely if they retain Spencer; since Barr isn’t experienced as a defensive end, the ‘Boys might not want to bring him in as an immediate starter.

     

    Expert Take: DraftTek

    DeMarcus Ware is a Denver Bronco, Anthony Spencer is receiving nibbles but no offers on the free agency market, Dallas signed Jeremy Mincey (whose former coach with the Jags stated his off-the-field activities seemed to take priority over football), and who knows how Tyrone Crawford will come back from his season-ending injury. George Selvie jumped off the sofa to perform well last year, but the 4-3 alignment requires 2 DEs to start. Although Barr played OLB in college, he is at his best rushing the passer . . . and with his quickness, draws comparisons to a young DeMarcus Ware. Could lightning strike twice?

     

    Probability: 6 percent

Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

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    Experts Projecting Ealy to Dallas

    Luke Easterling, The Draft Report

    Bucky Brooks, NFL.com

     

    Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy has the potential to be the second player at his position off of the board after South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney. At 6’5”, 275 pounds, Ealy is the prototypical build of a 4-3 defensive end.

    The problem is his production. If Ealy is going to excel in the pros, you’d think he would have done it in college against inferior competition. But in three years at Missouri, Ealy totaled 12.5 sacks and 27 tackles for loss. That’s actually around what Aaron Donald—a defensive tackle—posted in 2013 alone.

    Is Dallas smart enough to avoid the Ealy trap?

     

    Expert Take: Easterling

    The personnel overhaul continues on defense as the Cowboys look for better fits for their 4-3 scheme. Ealy has the perfect frame and skill set to play end, but could also slide inside on passing downs.

     

    Probability: 4 percent

A Trade Down

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    If you add up the previous percentages, you get just 50 percent. In others words, it’s probably around a coin flip that the Cowboys select one of the players listed in this slideshow.

    You can go ahead and give “other” a fairly high probability at around 25 percent. That would mean the Cowboys have a 75 percent chance to pick anyone at pick No. 16 in the first round. Their other option, of course, is a trade down.

    First-round trades typically provide the team moving down with the most value. Because the Cowboys need a bunch of different weapons on defense, trading down (and perhaps out of the first round) and picking up an additional pick or two is an underrated potential move.

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