IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) – There are 32 first-round picks in Thursday’s NFL Draft. But that doesn’t mean there are 32 players with first-round grades.
The feeling inside Dallas Cowboys headquarters at Valley Ranch is that approximately 16 prospects are worthy of first-round grades (with two “on-the-bubble’’ guys right after them). Dallas picks at No. 18, with hopes that a couple of teams above them make selections that don’t jibe with the Cowboys’ rankings, thereby pushing talent down to 18. (Example: The possibility that Buffalo will take a quarterback at No. 8, even though Dallas doesn’t rank a QB in the top 18 prospects.)
If the board doesn’t fall the Cowboys’ way, they’ll be left with two options: One, trade down from 18 for equivalent value by getting a pick in the early 30’s and a late second-rounder; or two, if that fails, “reach’’ for a player at 18 who doesn’t truly merit that pick.
For now, what sources suggest to me are the 16 (plus maybe two) prospects earning first-round grades from the Cowboys (possibly clustered as below but not necessarily in this specific order):
Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M, 6-foot-6, 306; Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan, 6-7, 306; Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida, 6-3, 297; Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah, 6-3, 311; Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama, 6-0, 201
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma, 6-6, 303; Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU, 6-5, 271; Dion Jordan, DE-OLB, Oregon, 6-6, 248; Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina, 6-2, 311; Chance Warmack, G, Alabama, 6-2, 317
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia, 5-9, 174; Barkevious Mingo, DE-OLB, LSU, 6-4, 241; Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri, 6-2, 294; Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State, 6-1, 210; Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina, 6-3, 313
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame, 6-5, 250; Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee, 6-2, 216; Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas, 6-0, 214
Conspicuous in their absence from this list of first-round-graded prospects inside Valley Ranch are Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State, 6-3, 266), D.J. Fluker (OT, Alabama, 6-5, 339), Margus Hunt (DE, SMU, 6-8, 277), Tank Carradine (DL, Florida State, 6-4, 276) and Eric Reid (S, LSU, 6-1, 213), all of whom have some appeal to Dallas but not presently considered ideal value at No. 18.
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