The Hottest Names On Dallas' Board

IRVING, Texas -- And right about now comes the Paralysis-Through-Analysis portion of the preparation for the NFL Draft. In other words, we're on the eve of what I've long called "15 minutes of on-the-clock overwhelming 15 months worth of research.'' … and I've got some names of prospects who are presently under the Cowboys microscope.

Those 15 minutes are still more than a month away. But I've collected some specific thoughts from voices at Valley Ranch that begin to narrow down what might happen on April 25 when the Cowboys – possessing the Nos. 22 and 28 picks in the draft -- really are on the clock:

1. There is a very real movement among some in the braintrust to "draft for need.'' I've always considered this a mistake; I contend that teams should simply collect talent and sort it out later. "BAA!'' (sounds like what a sheep says, but stands for "Best Available Athlete.'') There are exceptions, of course. But you eventually "need'' everything.

2. And what would that "need'' be? Cornerback. And here's where the Cowboys take themselves off the don't-draft-for-need'' hook: There is quality and depth here, a handful of guys quite worthy of being late-first-rounders.

3. But there are also knocks on the guys who will be available. Dallas loves Leodis McKelvin (pictured above), the cornerback from Troy. He'll probably go 10 spots ahead of the Cowboys, but they can only guess at whether he'll make the leap from Troy to the NFL. (Of course, Demarcus Ware did exactly that.)

4. The lack of experience against top competition is the Cowboys' lone knock on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as well. The Tennessee State product faces a huge learning curve, in the opinion of the otherwise flattering Cowboys.

5. Mike Jenkins of South Florida has more than one blemish, in that there are some reported behavioral issues to go along with some small-school concerns. On top of that, there are some who see him as a safety – not a compliment to a potential cornerback.

6. At cornerback, the remaining possible name belongs to a guy who hasn't moved up or down Dallas' board. Kansas' Aqib Talib is a steady stud on the field. And he's been the same in the eyes of the Cowboys. Reporters are fond of saying "so-and-so's stock is rising or falling.'' But with Talib, he's been a mid-first-rounder to the Cowboys all along.

7. So what about wide receiver? As we reported earlier this week, the Cowboys are concerned about the immaturity of Michigan's Mario Manningham. Privately, the Cowboys do not downplay the wrist problem of Texas' Limas Sweed. And they even have a question about Michigan State's Devin Thomas, all because he only experienced one great season.

8. Finally, running back, which is considered a position of need. Felix Jones of Arkansas is the name most discussed by Cowboys watchers. And yes, he is highly thought-of by the Cowboys. But NOT because Jerry Jones is also a Razorback. Imagine if an NFL team ran its draft based on alma maters? The idea that Dallas' 18-year-veteran owner would actually consider such a notion – that he would draft Felix or swap up for McFadden – because they went to his school would be insulting if it wasn't so hilarious.

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