I am quite surprised how many experts believe the Dallas Cowboys want David DeCastro with the 14th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. I do not think the Cowboys want DeCastro at 14, nor do I think that they should pick DeCastro.
1. There is not enough value in a Guard to justify using a top 15 pick. Compared to just about every other position on a team, an excellent Guard is easy to find.
2. There is a reason that in the 13 drafts since 2000(and probably more, I just stopped at 2000 because more than 10 drafts seemed like a reasonable sample size), no one (not even the Raiders) have used a top 15 pick on a Guard. The closest was last year when a Center, Mike Pouncey, was chosen with the 15th pick. That being said, Centers rarely get drafted in the first 15 picks, and they have more relative value than Guards.
Here is a list of when the first interior Linemen have been drafted since 2000. If a Center was drafted before a Guard, I included both.
|2010||17th pick||Mike Iupati (Guard)|
|2009||21st pick||Alex Mack (Center)|
|2009||51st pick||Andy Levitre (Guard)|
|2008||39th pick||Chilo Rachal (Guard)|
|2007||29th pick||Ben Grubbs (Guard)|
|2006||23rd pick||David Joseph (Guard)|
|2005||26th pick||Chris Spencer (Center)|
|2005||32nd pick||Logan Mankins (Guard)|
|2004||45th pick||Jake Grove (Center)|
|2004||46th pick||Justin Smiley (Guard)|
|2003||21st pick||Jeff Faine (Center)|
|2003||33rd pick||Eric Steinbach (Guard)|
|2002||30th pick||Kendall Simmons (Guard)|
|2001||17th pick||Steve Hutchinson (Guard)|
|2000||37th pick||Travis Claridge (Guard)|
3. Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989; he has been at the helm for over 20 drafts. In more than two decades, Jones has used his first pick on an O-Lineman once (last year with Tyron Smith). The chances of him using his first round pick on a Lineman two years in a row is infinitesimal.
4. The Cowboys have more pressing needs than Guard. Moreover, the other needs they have are much more difficult to fill than at Guard. It is much much harder to find a starting quality CB, pass-rusher, or DT, than it is to find a Guard.
5. The Cowboys have Phil Costa, Kevin Kowlaski, Bill Nagy, David Arkin, and Kyle Kosier under contract for next year. They only have 3 starting positions to fill.
6. The Cowboys will likely sign a veteran Guard in free agency who will compete to start.
7. The O-Line was not horrendous last year. The looked much better when DeMarco Murray was healthy and the offense actually had a reasonable balance of run and pass.They scored 369 points last year, which is just over 23 points a game. Only 4 teams scored more than 406 points; only 4 teams averaged over 26 points.
8. The coaching staff believes that all of the young O-Lineman (the 4 ‘near-rookies’) should improve considerably with a full off-season of working out with Strength and Conditioning guru Mike Woicik.
So, if there is not enough value in a Guard, especially when measured against the value of other positions that are as big or bigger needs on this team, who should they take with the 14th pick?
You start by identifying the biggest needs, and then consider 2 things: first, the potential utility a player at any position would add to the team; second, their relative value based on the scarcity of excellent players available at those positions in this year’s Draft class.
If you assume that the Cowboys will roll with a free agent pick-up plus some of the 5 players mentioned above at Guard and Center, then it is not a pressing need. The three most pressing needs then are: CB, pass-rusher (OLB or DE), and a DT who can man the NT position in a base 3-4.
Of the three, I think that the DT position is the one that needs to be filled in the 1st round because:
1. It is possible to snag a decent pass-rusher in the 2nd and/or 3rd round.
2. This Draft is fairly deep at CB, and therefore you should be able to get a decent one in the 2nd round.
3. Rob Ryan needs a prototypical 3-4 NT to run this defense properly.
4. A true NT will allow Jay Ratliff to be played at DT and DE.
5. True 3-4 NT’s are extremely rare and difficult to find.
6. A mammoth NT will instantly improve the run defense, and it will improve the pass-rush by freeing up Ratliff, which in turn will improve the secondary.
7. As Greyson Jones pointed out, selecting a CB in the 1st Round is risky. Click here to read his analysis and persuasive conclusions about drafting a CB in the 1st round.
It is possible that the best NT in the draft will still be available at 14. If not, you would have to decide whether any of the remaining NT’s were good enough to justify taking at that spot. If there was not a NT talented enough to have good value with the 14th pick, then I would take the best CB or pass-rusher (OLB or DE).
As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments section, or by email:[email protected]
WRITER’S UPDATE: Since I wrote this article, SI.com has released its list of the top 3 needs for every NFL team in the Draft. You can view the entire article here. The good news is that none of the 13 teams picking before the Cowboys are projected to have a need at DT or interior lineman. The strange part is that they do not list DT as a need for the Cowboys; they list CB, DE, and LB.