Cowboys First Round Pick Pattern: Draft For Need On Day One

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Sep 22, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) wears a shoulder harness as he motions to get the crowd louder against the St. Louis Rams at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

2013, C Travis FrederickCowboys fill two-year void left by Pro Bowler Andre Gurode.

Last year the Cowboys traded down and drafted a center, a position of much consternation since five-time Pro Bowler Andre Gurode departed following the 2010 season. An unprecedented run on big men in the 2013 draft saw six offensive linemen taken in the first 11 picks. Bad news for the Cowboys, who were hurting at all three interior line positions and targeting O Line with pick 18.

Thanks to intrepid reporting from the folks over at Blogging The Boys, who leaked the Cowboys 2013 draft board, we know five players remained on the Cowboys board who the team felt merited the investment at 18. Instead the Cowboys traded down and used a low first-round pick on a player in whom they had placed a high second-round grade – at a position of need.

Not one of the remaining first-round grades played a position of perceived need:

Cowboys Draft Board Rank
5DTSharrif Floyd
11CBXavier Rhodes
13WRCordarrelle Patterson
15TETyler Eifert
17DEBjoern Werner

A disconnect between scouts and coaches in rating Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was revealed by Dallas Morning News writer Rainer Sabin to be a result of scheme change. The big-bodied Floyd projected as a first-rounder in the team’s old 3-4 defensive alignment, but he lacked the qualities to rate that high in the newly installed 4-3.

Even so, remember the Cowboys saw the defensive line as a “position of strength” in 2013, and likely weren’t interested in adding another would-be starter to what was perceived to be a solid group.

If we take the Floyd explanation at face value, and the Cowboys had stuck to a strictly Best-Player-Available model, cornerback Xavier Rhodes would be a Cowboy and not a Viking (he went to Minnesota at 25). Instead, the Cowboys traded down so they could add a pick and address a position of need in the first round by drafting Frederick, who won the starting center job immediately and made the NFL’s All-Rookie team.

In each of the past three years, Dallas has used its first-round pick to draft a Day 1 starter at a position of immediate need. They haven’t reached – trading down when the remaining talent on the board didn’t match the pick investment. They’ve been aggressive, trading away other draft assets when they felt they had a chance at an impact player. And they’ve stood their ground when the board and the need lined up.

If the trend continues this year, we can all forget about ever seeing a star on the helmet of Louisville safety Calvin Pryor or Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin. The pick this year appears to be D Line. Given what’s projected to be available at 16, another trade up or move down may be in the cards.

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