Conference Call

At this point, the upcoming NFL Draft has been sliced and diced and analyzed in every way imaginable. NFL "draftniks" (who came up with that word?) have dissected players and team's needs, looking for trends in draft history.

The Cowboys have pulled players from all over the place: from just about every school in Texas, and from some places that aren't exactly thought of as football powerhouses, like Cal Poly (Courtney Brown in 2007), Virginia Union (Pete Hunter in 2002), Central Missouri State (Colston Weatherington in 2001), Nebraska-Omaha (Martay Jenkins in 1999), Norfolk State (Kenneth McDaniel in 1996), Sonoma State (Larry Allen in 1994), Livingstone College (John Terry in 1992), Pomona-Pitzer (Nate Kirtman in 1992) and Humboldt State (Dave Harper in 1990).

Dallas, like most teams, have had far more luck going with players from the so-called major conferences, and it's not like the logic there is hard to follow: the best players generally make up the best teams, which win the most games, which brings about the largest crowds and television audiences, which … makes a conference more powerful than the leagues that feature teams like those listed above.

Since owner Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989, more players have been chosen by the Cowboys from schools that now make up three conferences than any other. The schools that now make up the ACC and Big 10 have had 27 players each drafted by the Cowboys since 1989, while the Southeastern Conference has had 34 players selected by Dallas.

So what if the Cowboys tried to put together a 2010 draft consisting only of players from the SEC? Call it an All-SEC mock draft.

First consider the players who undoubtedly will be gone by the time Dallas gets its chance with the 27th pick in the first round: Tennessee safety Eric Berry, Florida cornerback Joe Haden, Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain, Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap and Florida offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey.

So who would Dallas consider?

The next two SEC players on most boards are Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams and Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody. Williams is a true 4-3 defensive tackle who wouldn't fit with the Cowboys, while Cody is a massive space-eater who the Cowboys don't really need with Jay Ratliff firmly entrenched at nose tackle.

Ideally, the Cowboys would trade down here, but if forced to pick an SEC player at 27, give them LSU safety Chad Jones. The two-sport star (he won national championships in football and baseball at LSU) has good size (6-2, 221 at the NFL Combine). He has better speed and athleticism than instincts, but he has long arms, great hands and simply makes plays.

In the second round, Dallas could shore up the inside linebacker position by grabbing Florida's Brandon Spikes, a big (6-3, 249), hard-hitting inside linebacker who was the heart and soul of Florida's defense and plays with a mean streak. Give him a year or two to learn under Keith Brooking and Bradie James, and he could turn out to be a steal.

It's said that a team simply can not have too many cornerbacks who can cover, and there is talk around Valley Ranch that despite the presence of solid starters in Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins, and a useful backup in Orlando Scandrick, the Cowboys want to make a concerted effort to improve the depth at the position. One of the less-heralded players whose stock is rising as the draft approaches is Vanderbilt cornerback Myron Lewis. Lewis has excellent size (6-2, 203), and uses his bulk well, both in coverage and in run support off the perimeter of the field. He also should be a solid contributor on special teams.

Dallas desperately needs another offensive tackle, but there really isn't an SEC tackle remaining who is worth a fourth-round pick. So in this case, they go another direction, bolstering the wide receiver position with the addition of Florida's Riley Cooper. Cooper looks the part (6-3, 222 pounds), and isn't the fastest receiver out there, but he makes plays over and over again — as a senior, he caught 51 passes for 961 yards. He won't blow anyone away with blinding speed, but he has deceptive quickness, runs pretty crisp routes and has outstanding hands, and does a nice job using his body to shield the ball from would-be defenders.

Dallas has no fifth-round pick, so in the sixth, pencil the Cowboys in for a much-needed backup offensive lineman. In an ideal world, they would find a tackle to groom as Flozell Adams' replacement, but the tackle pickings are slim at SEC schools at this stage, so they get a guard here to back up Leonard Davis and Kyle Kosier instead. Mitch Petrus (6-3, 310), is a versatile athlete who is fairly new to the position — he played two seasons at guard after playing fullback and tight end — but he is a good athlete who shocked scouts by tying the all-time NFL Combine record with 45 reps on the NFL-standard 225-pound bench press. A smart player and very hard worker, Petrus would be a steal this late in the draft.

After cutting Nick Folk, the Cowboys went with Shaun Suisham, who was so good the team now hopes David Buehler can handle the field goal duties, and brought in Connor Hughes to provide competition. Translation: the team is none too confident about the kicker position, so in the seventh round of the RanchReport.com All-SEC mock draft, Dallas takes Alabama's Leigh Tiffin. He doesn't have the cannon of a leg Buehler does — not many kickers do — but he's consistent and reliable, having hit 86 percent of his field goals as a senior, and with range that reaches 50 yards.

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