Thursday, April 28, 2016

Draft Day 1 Preview - Final Plans

Dallas Cowboys executive vice president/COO Stephen Jones, owner Jerry Jones, and head coach Jason Garrett discuss their picks in the second and third rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft at their Valley Ranch training facility  on Friday, May 1, 2015, in Irving. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)
The Dallas Morning News
Dallas Cowboys executive vice president/COO Stephen Jones, owner Jerry Jones, and head coach Jason Garrett discuss their picks in the second and third rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft at their Valley Ranch training facility on Friday, May 1, 2015, in Irving. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)
The blog archives indicate that the first entry written by this author for the 2016 Draft was on September 3rd, 2015.  They were sparse until January 10th when that became the sole topic and project here and since then nearly every day has been about preparing for this day.  Those 11o days have allowed us to look at all scenarios, all hypotheticals, and all the ridiculous premises.  For example, I collect early mock drafts to find how far we have come.  In August of 2015, there is one that has Cardale Jones #1, Joey Bosa #2, and Christian Hackenberg #3.  

There have been strong statements made and harsh arguments had.  There have been hundreds of games watched and notebooks filled.  Opinions have been carefully fashioned.  
And now, after 110 days of all of those opinions, I am going to spend the following paragraphs trying to ignore all of that.
You see, I have opinions.  Many, many opinions.  And like anyone who has tried to form their own opinions, I am relatively dug in on them.  I offered you my big board and I offered you the players I like more than the masses and and those I like less.  But, in the end, my opinions and your opinions don't much matter tonight at 7:40 (Sturm projected time) when the Cowboys are on the clock.  
Only their opinions matter.  For better of for worse, if you love this football team then you now have made your opinions heard and we sit back and see if they totally ignored them or followed your path to success.  
Problem is, they forgot to publicly post their big board this year on their own website (This is a joke based on 2 of the last 5 years, they have accidentally leaked out their own confidential information).  So, with hours left on the clock and a chance at a franchise-altering move, and after collecting information for months, here is what it looks like they are thinking.


I believe the most likely and most preferred scenario that has come in to focus because of those two massive trades to push the QBs to #1 and #2 is that Jalen Ramsey is a Cowboy by nightfall.  I think he is the best player in this draft, and it appears that the Cowboys do, too.  The fortune of having pick #4 and getting the best player is pretty exciting and all they need is the cooperation of the San Diego Chargers at #3 to make this happen.  If the Chargers go offensive line - which it seems they will - or address their 3-4 defense with DeForest Buckner, then the road is clear for the Cowboys to have their choice of what I believe is their four highest non-QB players on their board:  Jalen Ramsey, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Elliott, and Myles Jack.  Maybe even five if Laremy Tunsil is really still there (and Ronnie Stanley is taken at #3 as some are reporting).  
If that happens, then I assume Ramsey is the no-brainer choice.  This is always dangerous to assume what the Cowboys are thinking, but all the reports I get are rave from inside Valley Ranch.  And, let's be honest, they certainly weren't down-playing their affection during the Monday press conference.  
If the idea of having a horrible season is made somewhat better by selecting a player you expect to be one of your cornerstones to open the 2023 season, then I am pretty sure Jalen Ramsey will help heal those wounds.  And, if you desired a playmaker to help improve this defense with the insertion of special players, again, Jalen Ramsey is your guy.


Here is where things get complicated.  And again, I would like to once again express the idea that this is not my recommendation or opinion.  But, based on who I speak to and what they are saying, it sure looks like Ezekiel Elliott is the choice after Ramsey.
I say "after Ramsey" because I am not positive; this is a series of educated guesses.  For all I know, the love and affection for Zeke has grown out of control since the QB trades and now if the Cowboys have lost their minds (sorry, I promised no personal bias) and decided to go RB as the top player on their board, I can no longer act surprised.  
They love this RB.  I don't know how much of it is DeMarco Murray regrets and how much of it is an honest belief that this RB is the best thing they have ever seen, but the Zeke stuff doesn't appear to be a smoke screen.  Again, trying to piece together the thought process of an organization that shifts the decision making from person to person is next to impossible.  Especially if that organization changes philosophies from year to year.  But, as I sit here this morning, and after months of claiming it would be insane, I am willing to admit that I think they want to do it.  


With the possible exception of a trade back if someone gets a wild plan to try to get Laremy Tunsil, I don't think they are going to take Joey Bosa tonight.  I think that is a safe and smart pick, but it doesn't look like their plan.  Myles Jack is not on their radar anymore with the health situation, either.  So there is no "everyone else".  I think it is Ramsey #1, Elliott #2.
How sure am I?  Not sure at all, anymore.   But that is what the bread crumbs say.  And we have learned that bread crumbs matter.
Why do the bread crumbs matter?  In 2010, Dez Bryant was destined to be here.  In 2011, I knew it was clear they were taking Tyron Smith.  2012, the trade up caught everyone by surprise (Mo Claiborne) and the 2013 trade down did, too (Travis Frederick).    In 2014, they practically told everyone they wanted Zack Martin and in 2015 Byron Jones was at worst in their top 3 on the lead-up to the draft despite picking #27.  
They don't exactly hide their cards very well.  Some franchises hide their intentions with amazing security.  This one almost seems to float stuff out there to see what everyone thinks before they do it.  Crowdsourcing their way to the top.  


So, tomorrow morning, when I sit down to write a "Draft Day Morning After", am I writing about Jalen Ramsey or Ezekiel Elliott?  I assume so.  Which one?  I sure hope it is Ramsey, but like I said, there is no longer room for surprised faces if they take a RB at the #4 pick.  Despite all the indications that they need a RB at #4 like a fish needs a bicycle (sorry, another personal opinion), it seems they cannot resist it.
And what does that tell me?  
It tells me they are not worried about 2023 or even 2020.  They are intent to push all the chips in for the next 12-36 months of Tony Romo's career.  They are going all-in.  Conservative thinkers are not admitted.  The Jerry Jones clock is ticking and he isn't worried about post-Romo.  
Is it what the smart franchises would do?  Who knows and more importantly, since when has that ever mattered?  This is the franchise we cover and this is what they do.  
The good news is that they think how most fans think so this should be a popular news item.   Immediate payoff and instant results over long-term security and planning.  
I say it is Ramsey.  But, not with great conviction.
Here we go.  Good luck to all.

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