Carpenter a Reach at No. 18 brings you the latest regarding the Dallas Cowboys and the upcoming 2006 NFL draft.

With the upcoming draft now less than 72 hours away, rumors are flying around the inner circles of the National Football League at a record pace.

For the Dallas Cowboys, this year's draft is particularly intriguing simply because the team has already addressed so many needs in free agency.

In fact, the Cowboys signed a team-record eight free agents this off-season in WR Terrell Owens, LB Rocky Boiman, TE Ryan Hannam, OL Kyle Kosier, FS Marcus Coleman, OL Jason Fabini, LB Akin Ayodele and PK Mike Vanderjagt.

Sure, the organization still needs to get younger at wide receiver, it needs additional depth on the offensive line and defensive tackle, not to mention a pass rushing outside linebacker, but those needs aren't quite as looming as they were just two months ago.

Indeed, the Cowboys have positioned themselves well for the upcoming draft.

And that brings us to the No. 18 overall pick.

Simply put, the Cowboys don't have to reach to fill a position of need this year, and yes that includes one of the most often heard names in association with that pick- former Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter.

The fact is that Carpenter could likely be scooped up near the bottom of the first round, or later. If owner Jerry Jones is able to work his magic in the war room as he has so often in previous years, the Cowboys could easily find themselves trading down a few spots to pick up a fourth round pick while also still getting the player they want.

That's no knock on Carpenter mind you, that's just the state of affairs with outside linebackers entering this year's draft.

Carpenter, who currently ranks as the fifth best outside linebacker available in the 2006 draft, finds himself competing with players such as N.C. State's Manny Lawson, UTEP's Thomas Howard, Alabama's DeMeco Ryans and Florida State's Ernie Sims at the outside linebacker position.

The Cowboys have already shown significant interest in Lawson (Senior Bowl), Sims (visit) and Howard (visit), so why make a reach for Carpenter at No. 18 if he's likely going to be there later on

That answer to that question is a simple one- they won't.

Too much talent will be available at the No. 18 pick to force the Cowboys' hand with an outside linebacker prospect that could still be on the board with the No. 22 selection or later.

Of course the key to such a scenario is the Cowboys have to find a trading partner willing to get into that No. 18 spot. If they don't, then all bets are off and the Cowboys will go with their top ranked player still on the board.

Even then, that's not a bad thing. The Cowboys could elect to draft a wide receiver such as Florida's Chad Jackson or an offensive tackle such as Miami's Eric Winston.

The possibilities are limitless.

But going with Carpenter at No. 18 is a stretch at this point, especially when additional picks could be there for the taking if the Cowboys trade down.

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