NFL teams typically prepare a "big board," which ranks all draft-eligible players, in the months leading up to the draft.
The following is my first-round big board for the Cowboys. Evaluations are based solely on prospects' tape, thanks to the good people at draftbreakdown.com. Team needs, scheme and player "type" are considered in the rankings, but unconfirmed rumors and hearsay — like those surrounding La'El Collins and Randy Gregory, for example — are not.
In essence, this big board is my "best player available" for the Cowboys. Whichever name is left atop this list when the Cowboys pick comes around is the one they should take.
- Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State - NFL ready. Can play in any offense. Potential franchise QB.
- Randy Gregory, Edge, Nebraska - High upside edge defender. Aldon Smith-level potential.
- Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon - Needs time to develop. Potential franchise QB.
- Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia - Best RB prospect in years.
- Malcom Brown, DT, Texas - Big and quick. Can play anywhere between the tackles.
- Bud Dupree, Edge Kentucky - Elite athleticism. Could start at weakside-DE Day 1.
- Vic Beasley, Edge, Clemson - Best edge prospect, but not a great fit for Dallas' front.
- Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin - Great zone runner. DeMarco Murray light.
- Dante Fowler Jr., Edge, Florida - Disruptive and athletic, but not as productive as others.
- Leonard Williams, DE, USC - Top run-stuffing DL. Average pass rush.
- Marcus Peters, CB, Washington - Top CB prospect of last few years. Tough and fluid.
- DJ Humphries, OT, Florida - Highly athletic LT. Shut down SEC defenders.
- Cameron Irving, OL, Florida St. - Would upgrade quality and depth of Cowboys' OL.
- TJ Clemmings, OT, Pitt - Powerful punch and athletic. Huge upside.
- Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington - Dangerous defensive weapon if used properly.
- La’El Collins, OT, LSU - Big, mean and athletic OL.
- Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford - Prototype LT size and athleticism, but maybe too passive.
- Kevin White, WR, WVU - Not a need, but nearly elite WR prospect.
- Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa - Maybe the top guard prospect available.
- Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama - Like White, too good to pass up at this point.
If all 20 players considered first-round grades are gone when the Cowboys are on the clock, they should try to trade their pick. If they can't, they'll have to reach for a second-round value.
Most Cowboys fans probably don't consider QB a need, but you have to take a franchise QB when you have the chance (think Green Bay selecting Aaron Rodgers in 2005).
Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
Danielle Hunter, Edge, LSU
Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA
Grady Jarrett, DT, Clemson
Preston Smith, Miss. St.
Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut
Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise St.
Quinten Rollins, CB, Miami (Ohio)
Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Demarious Randall, S, Arizona St.
Eric Rowe, DB, Utah
Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
If the rumors about the slide of Randy Gregory are accurate, he'll likely be the top player available at No. 27. That's as far as he should slide, though.
Other than Vic Beasley, there isn't a better edge rusher available in this draft. He probably won't be stout enough to start at defensive end for Dallas this season, but he's the type of player you adjust your scheme for.