Reading the Tea Leaves: Predicting the Dallas Cowboys’ Draft

Jerry Jeudy #4 of the Alabama (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jerry Jeudy #4 of the Alabama (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys have not-so-subtly tipped their hand and made their intentions known in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft. Let’s read the tea leaves…

The Dallas Cowboys aren’t exactly a smoke and mirrors team when it comes to the NFL Draft. If you know what to look for, you usually have a pretty good idea who the Joneses are honing in on by the time draft weekend comes around.

The Dallas Cowboys notoriously pull heavily from the candidate pool they’ve studied the most. Looking at who they’ve been talking to in interviews is important for those trying to predict Dallas’ draft day actions.

VP of Player Personnel Will McClay likes players who’ve been playing in big-time programs against big-time talent. He also likes players that meet certain athletic thresholds (thus nearly eliminating small schools and small/short/slow players from consideration).

Former scout-turned-broadcaster Bryan Broaddus tends to get the scoop around this time every year. Local sportscasters get a couple unofficial tips as well. Adam Schefter always connects some dots and the podcast group over at ‘The Mothership’ usually take it across the goal line in the moments before the pick is made. So there’s really no excuse to go into draft weekend without a pretty good idea who’s on the board and what’s likely to unfold.

Positions of Focus

The Dallas Cowboys are clearly honing in on a few specific positions as they head into the draft: Leading the way is defensive tackle, defensive end, cornerback, and receiver.

These comments are supported by the Dallas Cowboys interview list. Cowboys Wire has been compiling Dallas’ contact list, and while it’s incomplete, it’s known to be pretty darn accurate.

According to the Cowboys contact list (which they pull from heavily on draft day), they interviewed nine cornerbacks (6 of which are expected to go in rounds 1-3), 11 edge players ( 5 of which are expected to go in rounds 1-3), eight defensive tackles (5 of which expected to go in rounds 1-3), and seven receivers (6 of which are expected to go in rounds 1-2).

Dallas Cowboys Draft: WR

What may surprise some people is how seriously Dallas is taking the receiver position. Many felt with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup locked up for at least the next two seasons, Dallas was content with their WR corps. But recent comments and the interview list indicate they are not only interested in addressing WR3, but interested in doing it in the first two rounds. Keep in mind, of the seven WRs listed on their interview list, six are expected to go in the top two rounds. That’s more than any other position!

Dallas Cowboys: Edge

If one position jumped out in these predraft discussions, it’s edge rusher. We’re calling it edge because the Dallas Cowboys may be rushing the passer from areas other than the defensive line. They again confirmed they will be in an even-fronted base defense, but occasional looks in odd-man fronts appear to be possible, as such they won’t be only looking for just traditional 4-3 DEs in the draft.

John Owning gives an example in his tweet above. And the Cowboys have spoken recently about their interest in deploying a strong side linebacker/ designated pass-rusher combo.

Combining recent comments with their all-important interview list, it’s pretty clear the Dallas Cowboys intend on adding edge rushers in the draft. Not only are they looking at the position early, but they’re looking at edge in virtually every round of the draft.

Dallas Cowboys: CB

Cornerback is a position that needs no convincing in Cowboys Nation. Fans have been obsessed with drafting a cornerback in the first two rounds of the draft ever since Byron Jones departed for greener pastures.

Pro Football Focus studied the importance of great coverage in the NFL and determined good coverage is more influential in winning than a strong pass-rush. We discussed how the Cowboys value (rather “don’t value”) coverage last season and discussed it here in Are the Dallas Cowboys undervaluing Byron Jones and the cornerback position?

More from Cowboys Draft

Even though the Cowboys don’t appear to be as nervous about CB as the rest of us, it’s clear the position is a need. As mentioned above, they interviewed, in some capacity, six who are expected to go on the first two days. If you add in the interviews with Xavier McKinney and Grant Delpit, you have eight coverage players in the top-3 rounds.

What’s the Dallas Cowboys’ plan?

If you look at all of the news and information available you’ll probably find yourself where our favorite former Cowboys scout recently arrived:

K’Lavon Chaisson and C.J. Henderson are the optimal picks at 17. Sadly, neither are guaranteed to be there (In fact, Henderson is a tremendous long-shot), therefore a back-up plan must be in place.

If Chaisson is also gone, trading back would be the optimal course of action because they probably need one more top-100 pick to scratch all their itches we discussed above. They have been focusing almost exclusively on WRs from Rounds 1 or 2 so one would think they intend on drafting one extremely early (Henry Ruggs, Denzel Mims, K.J. Hamler, Jalen Reager, Michael Pittman, and Tee Higgins were all predraft focuses).

So any combination of these would make sense:

  • Pick1: WR, Pick2: DL, Pick 3: DB or
  • Pick1: DE, Pick2: WR, Pick 3: DB or
  • Pick1: CB, Pick2: WR, Pick 3: DL or
  • Pick1: WR, Pick2: CB, Pick 3: DL

While that appears to be the plan in some form or fashion, a lot can change before now and when Dallas goes on the clock at Pick 17. Teams are going to be moving and shaking a lot this year and one unforeseen trade promises to have a butterfly effect on the rest of the draft.


What we know is the Dallas Cowboys often draft players they’ve visited with before the draft so the list of interviews should carry extra weight. Paying attention to how many players they’ve interviewed in each round also tips their hand as to what round they are planning to pick what position. Finally, trusted sources like Bryan Broaddus are also notoriously correct, so take his word above all others.

Next. Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft: All 7-Rounds, Final Edition. dark

The Dallas Cowboys show us year after year who they’re zeroing in on in the NFL Draft – you just gotta know where to look.

  • Published on 04/22/2020 at 11:01 AM
  • Last updated at 04/22/2020 at 09:24 AM