Dallas Cowboys: Billy Turner

IRVING, Texas -- If the past is any indicator, the Dallas Cowboys will make their draft selections from players that were among their national visitors.

In the past nine years, the only top picks not to visit the Cowboys were DeMarcus Ware (2005) and Morris Claiborne (2012).

Last year, five picks -- Travis Frederick, Terrance Williams, J.J. Wilcox, B.W. Webb and Joseph Randle -- met with the coaches, scouts, medical staff and front-office personnel before the draft.

Here are the 25 known visitors to Valley Ranch before the draft.

Keep this list handy over the next three days:

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Five Wonders: Never land at No. 16

May, 6, 2014
May 6
9:30
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- With the draft finally within site, unless there is some sort of rain delay, it’s time for Five Wonders to return.

We’ll keep them focused on the draft.

** I wonder if the Cowboys are in never-never land with the 16th pick when it comes to first-round defensive linemen. That’s what an 8-8 finish will do for you. You’re stuck right in the middle and have to do too much to move up significantly and won’t get enough (some of the time) to move down big either. After Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack, there is a drop-off on right defensive ends. Anthony Barr is a project and somebody I believe the Cowboys would pick at No. 16. Will he be there at No. 16? The rest of the options available, like a Kony Ealy, Scott Crichton, Kareem Martin or Demarcus Lawrence look more like second-round picks. That’s why I think if the Cowboys move up it’s only a couple of spots for a specific player. The more likely option is to move back where they’d have better choices at the right value. Now if only some team would be willing to move up.

** I wonder what the reaction of people who live in the best-player-available world would be if the Cowboys took North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron in the first round. If Ebron is there at No. 16 and is the best player, then the Cowboys must take him, right? If you live in the best-player-available world in which there is no gray area, then Ebron is your guy. Hooray. But after taking Gavin Escobar in the second round last year and seeing Jason Witten make another Pro Bowl in 2013, do the Cowboys need a first-round tight end? You might hate the word “need” but I don’t. Need has become the four-letter word in draft circles. If they take Ebron, they are saying the Escobar pick was a mistake and Witten is on his final legs. Ebron is a terrific talent, but the Cowboys can’t pick him. I do think, however, the Cowboys would take a tight end (more of a blocker than receiver) later on in the draft.

** I wonder how much scheme versatility will factor into the Cowboys’ decision making Thursday-Saturday. The elephant in the room is that Jason Garrett must win now. He is in the final year of his contract. If he doesn’t win, then Jerry Jones doesn’t have to fire him. He just needs to pick a new coach. But let’s say Jerry falls in love with a coach who has a 3-4 background or an offensive coach who wants to bring in a 3-4 coordinator. Can the Cowboys make the switch again? They felt they had the tools to move from a 3-4 to a 4-3 somewhat seamlessly and we saw how that worked in 2013. If the Cowboys picked Aaron Donald in the first round, then would he fit in a 3-4 scheme next year? He doesn’t look like a 3-4 player. It is a fatalistic view to have going into a draft, but the Cowboys could find some defensive prospects that offer versatility in a 3-4 or 4-3, like Barr, Ealy, Lawrence and possibly Ryan Shazier.

SportsNation

Which position should the Cowboys address first in the draft?

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Discuss (Total votes: 11,844)

**I wonder if third round is the area in which the Cowboys target an offensive lineman. Of the linemen not named Zack Martin who visited Valley Ranch before the draft, almost all of them are in that Rounds 3-4 neighborhood like Gabe Jackson, Trai Turner, Jack Mewhort and Billy Turner. To be clear, in just about every mock I’ve been asked to participate in, I have the Cowboys taking Martin at No. 16. If they go offense there, I think they need (there’s that word again) to go defense with the second- and third-round picks, provided the grades match up. I’m breaking all ties in the defense’s favor. I’ll add this note: The last middle-round (Rounds 3-5) offensive lineman to pan out for the Cowboys was Doug Free (fourth round) back in 2007. And it took him well into his third season to get on the field. Since then the Cowboys have missed on Robert Brewster (third, 2009) and David Arkin (fourth, 2011). I’ll give them partial credit for Sam Young (sixth, 2010) since he’s still in the league. Their best middle-round offensive lineman in the last 10 years has been Stephen Peterman (third, 2004) and his playing time came with the Detroit Lions after he was cut.

**I wonder if the extra time in the draft has led teams to overanalyze things. The New Orleans Saints attempted to bust up the boredom by spending some time in Las Vegas. Some other teams took a week’s break earlier in the process. The Cowboys altered their schedule some but not that much. Too often we hear teams talk about the importance of watching the players play and not putting as much stock into the combine or pro days. And every year there are guys that come out of nowhere, like Pitt quarterback Tom Savage, and small-school gems, like Pierre Desir. Maybe they will be great finds. Who knows really? The extra time served up plenty of interest, which the NFL craves, and allowed for more mock drafts than ever before, but did it really serve the teams well? We’ll find out in a couple of years.
ESPN Insiders Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay held a three-round mock draft on Thursday in which they alternated picks.

You have to be an Insider to see all of the picks. If so, click here.Insider

Here were their rules:
1. We rotate picks: Todd has odds, Mel has evens, and picks are made for each slot through Round 3.
2. These are our picks: Each selection reflects our call, not what we think teams want.
3. It's about the board: The analysis is less a scouting report, and more about why the pick was made.
For the Dallas Cowboys, Kiper took Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round (No. 16 overall). In the second round, McShay took Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (No. 47) and in the third round Kiper took Stanford guard David Yankey (No. 78).

The picks hit on the Cowboys’ needs in the secondary and defensive and offensive lines.

Remember, this is what Kiper or McShay would do; not what they think the Cowboys will do.

In examining their mock, the Cowboys will not be happy with the St. Louis Rams. At No. 13, the Rams took Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin. In the second round (No. 44 overall), they took Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward, and in the third they took LSU guard Trai Turner (No. 75). All three were pre-draft visitors to Valley Ranch.

Let’s take a closer look at the picks:

First round

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Who would be the best first-round pick for the Cowboys?

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    49%
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Discuss (Total votes: 11,576)

In Cinton-Dix, the Cowboys get a safety to pair up next to Barry Church. In his reasoning for the selection, Kiper acknowledged he would rather take a defensive lineman here but he doesn’t see the value.

UCLA’s Anthony Barr did not go off the board until No. 30 to the San Francisco 49ers. Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy lasted until No. 37 to the Atlanta Falcons in the second round.

If those two are available – and Martin is gone – I’d go with Barr or Ealy before Clinton-Dix, but I’d really consider Ealy because of his position flexibility.

Second round

In Jernigan, McShay took a player that he twice projected to the Cowboys in the first round. If this scenario played out, then the Cowboys would be OK with it. They view Jernigan as a one-technique, which is not valuable enough to take in the first round. They would be getting a disruptive player in the second round.

But let’s say the Cowboys do not select a defensive lineman in the first round next week. In this mock they have Demarcus Lawrence (No. 54, Philadelphia Eagles), Daquan Jones (No. 61, San Francisco) and Dominique Easley (No. 66, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) available.

I’d go with Lawrence, who would be the best available right defensive end. Easley is intriguing but the knee injuries are troubling, even if the medical re-check went fine for him. To me, No. 47 is a little rich for Jones.

Since I went with Barr in the first, then I think Jernigan would be a good pick here.

Third round

The Cowboys can use a guard, and the third round seems to be a good chance to get one. Yankey had a good career at Stanford. He started 40 games. He is smart. But is he athletic enough? He was slooooow at the combine. Hey, so was Travis Frederick and that worked out for the Cowboys last year.

The Cowboys like Turner, but he’s gone. Brandon Thomas will require a redshirt year with his knee injury, but he was available, going to Cleveland at No. 83. Billy Turner, another Valley Ranch visitor, went No. 92 to the Carolina Panthers. He might be a better fit than Yankey.

There are some receivers available, like Penn State’s Allen Robinson. Princeton defensive tackle Caraun Reid is there, too. There is a safety I like, Minnesota’s Brock Vereen, available. If they don’t take Clinton-Dix, and can’t get Ward, then he would be a decent pickup but perhaps a little rich for him in the third. Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton was also available. I’d consider doubling up at end even with Barr in the first round.

I’d go with Robinson or Rutgers receiver Brandon Coleman, who went a pick later to the Baltimore Ravens.

So that would be Barr, Jernigan and a receiver (Robinson or Coleman) with the first three picks.

Thoughts?

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